Monday, September 12, 2011

Cremation grounds a burning issue

by N.J. Nair
Efforts of local bodies to set up crematoriums face hurdles

The increasing pressure on land resources and growing public resistance are thwarting the initiatives of local self-government institutions to set up cremation grounds in their locale.

This is despite the fact that the demand for public cremation space is being raised mostly by the landless Scheduled Castes, Tribes, and BPL families.

Official sources told The Hindu that instances of impoverished SC/ST families being compelled to dig up their kitchen for burying their kin in places with no such facility had been reported from different parts of the State.

On learning about their plight, the government had apportioned funds to the civic bodies to identify and buy land for the purpose.

Government norms

As per the norms, residential buildings are not allowed within 50 metres of a cremation ground.

During the tenure of the previous LDF government, the Kunnukara panchayat at Parakkadvu block in Ernakulam district had set up a public cremation ground. But cremation of bodies was disputed by the families residing in its vicinity.

This led to protests and a Scheduled Caste family in the panchayat cremated a body before the panchayat office as a mark of protest. In order to prevent such incidents, the Local Administration Department made a provision to give funds for the panchayats to procure land for the purpose.

Securing land at prohibitive cost was not a viable option for many panchayats. With the urban-rural divide gradually vanishing, land prices too have gone up in the panchayats and municipal areas.

The public resistance in setting up burial grounds was also one of the main impediments.

The funds sanctioned for the purpose was thus remaining unutilised in the majority of panchayats. There was not let up in the plight of the landless poor.

It was in this context that a proposal was mooted for providing a common space for three or four panchayats which came under a block.

The challenges in tackling public protests against identifying land forced the civic chiefs to put the proposal in cold storage. The government as well as the civic chiefs seem to be at a dead end in solving the issue, the sources said.

Source :