The burgeoning metropolis of Bangalore has little time to spare a thought for its dead. The civic authorities appear to have a distinct apathy towards our cemeteries and crematoria. A visit to Kalpalli cemetery and the crematorium therein is a pointer to this indifference towards not only the dead, but also the grave diggers, who have been in the profession for generations.
The Kalpalli electrical crematorium is the only one for most of the populace residing in the eastern parts of the city and has, on an average, at least 10 bodies to be cremated in a day. But disturbingly, the coils in the electric crematorium do not function properly.
More serious is the shortage of water at the cemetery and crematorium. All the three borewells at the cemetery have dried up. There is no Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) connection to the burial grounds. The relatives of the dead who come to conduct the final rites are at a loss as to how to take a bath, which the priests insist upon. Further, the cemetery doesn’t have a toilet. Three generations of grave diggers have been working at the cemetery and they suffer because of the lack of basic facilities. Worse, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), that maintains the cemetery, has left them to fend for themselves.
“I have suffered a severe lung infection because of the smoke inhaled in the crematorium. None of the authorities came to my rescue. I had to foot the bills myself as we are not even paid our monthly salary by the BBMP,” said Anthony Raj, assistant, Kalpalli crematorium.
People like him are compelled to sustain on whatever money they get from the relatives of the dead. These families have also been entrusted with the task of guarding the cemetery. Earlier, the place did not even have a proper wall around, which resulted in the cemetery turning into a den for anti-social elements.
While the BBMP recently built a six-foot wall, those working in the cemetery complain that the authority has failed to install lights inside even after repeated requests. This has made it difficult for these workers to guard the place at night.
“I have visited the cemetery many times and am aware of the issues plaguing its workers. However, there is a severe shortage of funds to take up any development work in the ward. We are striving to sort out all issues in a phased manner,” said G. Bhuvaneshwari, corporator, Sarvagna Nagar.
In a city where every inch of land is precious real estate, there is a serious paucity of space to bury the dead. Despite a ban on erecting stone tombstones, the cemetery is dotted with them. These objects occupy much space. However, most of the graves are reused, with many dead being buried in the same grave, said Dinakaran, in-charge of the Kalpalli cemetery.