The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Grave crisis in room for the dead

For those who wish to rest in peace within the limits of the city, the options are shrinking every day with not a square inch added to the burial grounds in Calcutta in more than 100 years. Even as the authorities sound an alarm, a search has begun for space to set up a new burial ground, and the quest may well end at land owned by the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT).

“The problem of shortage of space in burial grounds has reached an alarming stage,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Thursday. The problem has become more acute as the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has been unable to provide any space for setting up a new burial ground.

“We have sent a proposal to the CPT seeking space for a burial ground. If we get the land, we can develop it,” Mukherjee told Metro.

CPT chairman Anup Chandra said the port and civic authorities recently went on a joint visit and the process had been started.

The problem has assumed such proportions that people have been prompted to break the rule of allowing the dead to rest in peace in a particular grave for at least five to six years. Officials said at a number of burial grounds, people were forced to use graves within a few months of a particular burial. Going strictly by the rules, a gap of at least five to six years should be maintained between burials. That is the time required for complete decomposition of the previous body.

“We have received reports that while digging the grave for a fresh burial, bones of the body buried previously are revealed. This is not right from a religious point of view,” said Mustaq Hussain, secretary of Muslim Burial Board. The problem is acute in Sola Ana in Kidderpore, according to him. The 20 cottahs have become inadequate and a grave is likely to be reused in less than one year.

“People consider this burial ground to be sacred and so the pressure is tremendous,” Hussain said. At Gobra Muslim Burial Ground, too, the problem persists. The Muslim population in the area is very high. Although there are three burial grounds in Gobra covering around 146 bighas, officials said it would soon prove inadequate.

“On an average there are 10 burials here every day. So, in the near future, problems are bound to crop up,” an official said. In Bagmari, though there is no shortage of space, a large number of people choose not to go there as it is far off.

According to Qamaruzzaman Qamar, a senior member of the burial board, the problem would become severe if concrete steps were not taken immediately. He said the board has decided not to sell space to individuals for burial. “Although there were some problems initially, this board has decided to implement it strictly,” added Qamar.

The board does not allow people to build concrete graves any longer in view of the space crunch.

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