There is no place for the dead in this coastal district. This is the view among relatives of the dead who have been denied use of community crematoriums built with government funds as politicians are yet to inaugurate them.
Before announcement of panchayat polls, a number of proposed or completed government projects had either been inaugurated or their foundation laid by political party leaders. The crematoriums were not exempted from the list.
But now the situation is such residents in a village in the district have either to bury or cremate their dead in open fields adjoining the newly-constructed cremation grounds.
In places like Golarhaat, Endara, Kuapada and Mallikeswarpur under Derabish tehsil and Talasanga, Bhusaranga and Manikunda under Marshaghai tehsil, crematoriums built a month or two ago with 14th Finance Commission grants are out of bounds for the people.
Khageswar Sahu (48) from Golarhaat said the new crematorium there refused to perform his mother’s last rites. As the crematorium was locked up, he had to cremate the body in the adjoining ground.
“It was the biggest shock of my life. I had to light the funeral pyre of my mother in the ground next to the crematorium. Later I was deeply dismayed knowing that the crematorium would be put to use only after the local MLA inaugurates it,” Sahu said.
“It is disconcerting that politicians are not sparing the dead. It is with taxpayers’ money that cremation grounds have been renovated and new ones built,” said retired Kendrapara College principal Harish Chandra Prusty.
News of denial of last rites to the dead are being heard in other parts of the district as well. A new crematorium at Talasanga village under Marshaghai block is a case in point.
“Construction of the (Talsanga) community crematorium ended two months back. However people have not been able to perform the last rites there. It will be thrown open for public after its inauguration by the local MLA. Till then, people have to patiently wait”, said a local Pratap Mohanty.
Asked about the complaints, District Collector Muralidhar Mallik said infrastructure development projects are immediately dedicated to people for public use.
“No official complaint regarding the crematorium issue is received so far. However, administration is looking into the matter expeditiously”.
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Funds under the Finance Commission grants had been sanctioned for construction of 194 crematoriums spread across the district. Work on 116 crematoriums have already come to an end.
Grants of Rs 2.38 crore were pumped in for the community crematoriums, said officials of district rural development agency (DRDA).
Ex-sarpanch of Golarahaat gram panchayat Trilochan Rout, however, put the things in a different perspective.
The crematorium structures with a roof over them would only be used during rainy season when people would face difficulties in cremating the dead in the open, he said.
Formal inauguration of the crematorium would take place shortly after the place is properly fenced.
For the time being cremations are taking place in the nearby ground, Rout added.
When asked, Patkura MLA Bed Prakash Agarwal said “I am not aware of denial of last rites in completed crematoriums. I have never interfered in the gram panchayat functioning in my four-decade-long political career.”
Mahakalpada MLA Atanu Sabysachi Nayak “If people are being debarred in such a manner, it is very unfortunate. Crematoriums are always prioritised public utility project. I have never inaugurated crematoriums in the past”.