Chennai

There's little resting space for the dead in Chennai

Kilpauk Cemetery is short of space — PHOTOS: R. RAVINDRAN  

When Angel Samuel visited St. Mary’s Cemetery, Mandaveli, she carefully trod on a pathway overgrown with vegetation. Moments later, she retreated having realised that she had stepped on someone’s grave. Many undergo a similar experience in graveyards as the fast-developing city seems to be having little space for its dead.

Amidst the trauma of the loss of a loved one, grieving relatives often have to undergo anxious hours just scouting for space for a burial. The once-sprawling Christian cemeteries now are facing acute shortage of land. One of the biggest Christian cemeteries in Kilpauk has been closed since 2005 and so has the Quibble Island cemetery in Foreshore Estate. They have to either go to the St. Mary’s Corporation cemetery, Mandaveli, or Kasimedu or travel to Poonamallee.

The Madras Cemeteries Board (MCB) Trust has two cemeteries under its fold in Kilpauk and Kasimedu. It has slowly given away maintenance of burial grounds that have reached their full capacity to the neighbouring churches.

“The only burials taking place in Kilpauk are those of family members of those who have already been buried here. Even they are buried over the existing graves,” said members of the Trust. People will have to fulfil several criteria, including proof of a grave in the cemetery or a no-objection certificate from family members, before a space gets allotted.

“Purasawalkam’s four cemeteries and the ones in St. Thomas Mount and Poonamallee have reached their full capacity. The one in Kasimedu has 30 per cent of space,” said D. Bosco Alangar Raj, secretary of MCB Trust.

The trust had introduced multi-tier vault system, which resembles rows of safety lockers, in 2007, modelled on a practice being followed in Kerala. Of the 450 chambers, only a few are left. “But, this was not popular. We even tried to introduce niches where person’s remains can be accommodated in a smaller space with a plaque on the lines of those in Mumbai. But we dropped the idea later,” he said.

The cemetery receives four or five ash burials in a yearResidents in Keelkatalai demand that the government allot a burial ground in their area. “We have to either travel for seven km to Alandur or Medavakkam for a burial. It also involves huge expenses,” said H.S. Shiekh Ibrahim of Keelkattalai.

Members of the Tamil Nadu Wakf Board, who maintain Muslim burial grounds, say many burial grounds are growing out of space. There are nearly 50 burial grounds both attached to mosques and independent ones. “Many of them manage with available space as there is no practice of building a tomb. The trend of reusing graves is catching up,” said a Wakf Board member. The board had recently recommended that the government allot burial space at Medavakkam and Pallikaranai.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 10:49:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/theres-little-resting-space-for-the-dead-in-chennai/article7667655.ece

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