Mayor Subrata Mukherjee is finalising plans to impose a heavy fee on bodies being brought from the districts for last rites in the city’s crematoria. This, he feels, will help meet the skyrocketing running expenses.
“An average of 60,000 bodies are cremated a year in the 15 electric furnaces at the seven burning ghats run by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), and 55 per cent of them are brought from outside,” said Mukherjee.
The seven burning ghats are Cossipore, Kashi Mitra, Nimtala, Keoratala, Birju Nullah, Siriti and Garia. Of the seven, Keoratala and Nimtala are known as mahasashans and the rush of outsiders is more.
The civic authorities charge Rs 170 for cremating the body of a person above 12 years of age. In the case of those below 12, the fee is Rs 70. But no charge is levied if the local councillor certifies the body as that of a ‘pauper’. In the death register, about 40 per cent of the cremations are recorded as ‘pauper’.
According to the civic accounts department, more than 100 bodies are burnt at Keoratala and Nimtala every month and the CMC realises Rs 12,000 for the service, though the power bill per month for the two burning ghats is more than Rs 50,000. Add to that the salaries of the employees manning the ghats round the clock and other amenities, and the cost of maintaining the two ghats totals about Rs 5 lakh, they say.
“I am ready to slash the rate for cremating city dwellers, but outsiders must have to pay more if they want to cremate a body in a mahasashan,” said Mukherjee.
Hindus believe salvation is easier attained in the after-life if a body is cremated in a mahasashan on the banks of the Ganges. “That is why people from far-flung areas, like North and South 24-Parganas and even Burdwan and Krishnagar, bring the bodies of their kin to Nimtala or Keoratala,” the mayor said.
Marxist MLA and councillor of the Nimtala ghat area Sudhanshu Sil, however, pointed out that since five medical colleges and several popular nursing homes are located in Calcutta, people from other parts of Bengal and even the northeastern states arrive here for treatment. Some of them die in the hospitals and, obviously, are cremated in the city’s burning ghats. “If the mayor imposes a heavy fee on the cremation of outsiders, it will be penalising the kin of these ailing people,” Sil added.