While the gasifier crematorium at Moolakkarai is serene, the Thathaneri cremation yard is in a decrepit state

The Madurai Corporation cremation yard at Thathaneri and the gasifier crematorium at Moolakkarai are a study in contrast.

The cremation yard at Thathaneri, maintained by the Madurai Corporation, remains in a decrepit state with spiralling fumes and odour from burning corpses, rags and garbage strewn around, stray cattle and dogs sniffing about.

On the other hand, the gasifier crematorium at Moolakkarai, managed by the Rotary Club of Madurai Mid-Town and named Anjali, is serene, neatly landscaped and sports a fountain and high-mast lighting. It was inaugurated on January 22, 2010.

The credit for its upkeep goes to the Anjali Trust floated by the Rotary Club. Other amenities available include toilets for men and women, ritual and meditation halls and a room for tonsuring and provision for drinking water. The 100-foot tall chimney ensures smoke-free premises.

The crematorium is geared to meet the needs of grieving families.

In sharp contrast, the Thathaneri cremation yard serves as an open defecation ground. There are no toilet facilities available on the premises. Among the seven cremation sheds, three are concrete structures while the rest have tin-sheet roofing. A single borewell hand pump is the only source of water. Tonsuring is done on the dusty roadside under the shade of trees. “If it rains, the mourners have to run helter skelter seeking shelter in the vicinity,” said an elderly person who had come to attend a funeral.

A gasifier crematorium set up at Thathaneri has been under repair for over two years.

While a care-taker said that the work was going at a snail’s pace, a representative of the contractor said that there was a dispute over funding. “We were orally asked by the former officials of the Corporation to use costly tiles to give a better look for the crematorium. But now we are being questioned as to why we deviated from the contract specifications. We have already incurred huge expenditure in the work,” he said.

With the Corporation-run crematorium being dysfunctional, its competitor has greater public demand. Cremation of bodies that undergo post-mortem at Government Rajaji Hospital are done here as well. “Friends and relatives of these people come from far away and they prefer the gasifier crematorium where the work gets over quickly. They can take the ashes home the same day ,” said V. Murugan, manager of Anjali.

On an average, nine bodies are cremated every day. With the facility for cremating two bodies simultaneously, a total of24 bodies are received on a single day, Murugan added.

A board displayed on the premises informs people only to pay the specified Rs. 1,350 for the rites. This include use of an ambulance for carrying the body from the homes within city limis.

Rotarian, K. Rama Bharathi, chairman of the project, said that the corpus fund created by the club has helped the trust to subsidise the cost of cremation. The cost used to be as high as Rs. 2,100 for each body cremated initially. “However, as more bodies are being received, the cost has come down to Rs. 1,500 a body. We have ensured that the people are not forced to pay anything more than Rs. 1,350 for which receipt is given,” he added.

Secretary K. Madan, said in the last three years over 8,500 bodies were cremated at Anjali. “On many occasions, we have either charged less for people who cannot afford Rs. 1,350 or even perform it free of charge for the poor. Our men make all the enquiries before giving the relief,” he said.

Unlike the open yard at Thathaneri, Anjali is secured by a boundary wall. “We have installed closed-circuit television cameras to monitor the activities on the premises,” Mr. Bharathi said.

Thathaneri has been serving as a site for anti-social elements .

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