While the cash crunch in the wake of the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes by the Modi government has created an uproar in the nation, it has not upset those who have lost their near and dear ones. Kolkata’s oldest mortuary and a funeral services start-up that became operational earlier this year worked efficiently in times of demonetisation.
This was owing to the flexibility of both these establishments in accepting the banned denominations, apart from online payment. Over a century old Peace Haven and Anthyesti funeral services which started operations in March this year, continued to offer their services.
These are two crucial service providers in the city which operated unhindered as markets and other business establishments were hit by the cash crunch.
“After the announcement (on demonetisation) was made, for a couple of days we accepted the banned Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. After that, we stopped accepting them. People began paying in new currency or Rs 100 notes. Payment was even made online and through cheques,” said George Michael, the manager at Peace Haven.
“Our establishment is 150 years old. We have provisions for keeping 11 bodies. At present, we have four bodies,” added Michael. The charge for keeping a body at Peace Haven is Rs 1,800 for a day while the cost of embalming the body is also Rs 1,800.
“We can keep a body indefinitely. But it has to be embalmed every three days. People keep their deceased’s bodies with us while waiting for relatives to arrive in the city,” added Michael.
For Anthyesti, it was a humanitarian cause they couldn’t say no to. They accepted Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from the relatives of the deceased.
“When people lose their near and dear ones, they are devastated. We just could not say no to them when they brought Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. We also had online bookings. It was business as usual for us. Since the announcement was made, we conducted a number of funeral services. Apart from funeral services, we also keep bodies and arrange for transport out of India,” said Pratik Mukherjee, marketing and operations manager at Antyesthi.
Shruthi Reddy, a former techie who hails from Hyderabad and lives in Kolkata, launched an end-to-end funeral services providing agency earlier this year. The services can be booked online as well.
As of now, her company provides helpers at four crematoriums in the city — Keoratala, Nimtala, Garia Adimahasmashan and Ramakrishna Mahasmashan.
Among Hindus, they provide services for Bengalis, Arya Samajis, Biharis, Marwaris, Sindhis and Punjabis.
The package for Bengalis is the cheapest as they have less funeral rites to be performed. It ranges between Rs 40,000 and 45,000, which includes everything from hiring the hearse van to the completion of the shradh ceremony with a vegetarian meal for about 60 guests. However, the package for Biharis and Gujaratis ranges between Rs 75,000 and Rs 80,000. The package for Marwaris is above Rs 1 lakh.