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To shift or not to shift the Manimajra cremation ground

Both the area councillor and the NGO running the cremation ground are opposed to this move, forcing MC to tow the line. They say it will hurt the sentiments of large number of people who come here to perform the last rites of their dead.

punjab Updated: Sep 12, 2018 12:00 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
cremation,Manimajra cremation ground,Punjab and Haryana High Court
Once on the outskirts of the city, the Manimajra cremation ground is now in its middle.(HT photo)

“If a city can boast of ultra-modern facilities, why can’t it think of having a modern cremation ground?” Punjab and Haryana High Court had made this observation while taking up a suo motu petition on the deteriorating condition of the city’s crematoriums last November. Ever since the court’s intervention, the Municipal Corporation has taken several initiatives to upgrade the Sector 25 cremation ground. But the court’s directions asking the MC to shift the Manimajra cremation ground remains a bone of contention.

Both the area councillor and the NGO running the cremation ground are opposed to this move, forcing MC to tow the line. They say it will hurt the sentiments of large number of people who come here to perform the last rites of their dead. But Chandigarh administration does not think so.

Chandigarh ordered closure in 2016

Before the court took up the matter, the administration had ordered the closure of the grounds in 2016, on the plea that the area around it had become urbanised. The move followed an MC resolution seeking regularisation and expansion of the cremation ground.

Chandigarh has not included the ground in its 2031 master plan, arguing that once on the outskirts of Manimajra village, the ground now falls on the busy Chandigarh-Kalka road, and is close to a market.

Planners in favour of shifting the cremation ground contend that its proximity to the Chandigarh Housing Board chowk, which is the main entry point to Panchkula and a junction for Shimla and Baddi-bound traffic, leads to frequent traffic bottlenecks that will only aggravate in future. However, the move is yet to be finalised since MC councillor of the area is opposing it.

Interestingly, the cremation ground came up without any permission. The land on which it sits is ‘shamlat deh’ (village common land), which was given by then cultivators for last rites long before it became part of the MC and the heavily populated area surrounding it.

MC not keen to shift it

The HC proceedings revealed that the cremation ground is not managed by the MC or the administration but by the Panchkula-based Maharaja Aggarsein Sabha that has spent generously on its beautification and also pays for its daily maintenance.

On July 26, the court asked the Chandigarh administration to tie up with MC to consider taking over the ground’s management before exploring the possibilities of shifting it. But MC is in a fix on the issue.

During the August housing meeting, it placed on agenda renovation of the Industrial Area-Phase 1 cremation ground as an alternative to the Manimajra ground as proposed during the HC hearing.

The court had also proposed to convert the existing place into a garden or even a war memorial.

However, Manimajra councillor Jagtar Jagga opposed the move with other councillors. Jagga said this cremation ground not only caters to Manimajra residents but also to people from Mauli Jagran, Panchkula and Western Command. Nearly 200 bodies are cremated here every month.

“Industrial Area is far away. Instead of closing down the Manimajra ground, the Chandigarh administration should regularise it. MC should take over its reins to run it better for the convenience of the residents,” he demanded.

While the House passed the agenda to renovate the Industrial Area cremation ground following HC pressure, MC chief KK Yadav said the civic body will file an affidavit in the court, conveying the sentiments of councillors who are against shifting it. Besides this, it will also request the administration to regularise it.

The matter is listed for hearing on September 17.

Ashok Goyal, president of Maharaja Aggarsein Sabha, has also opposed the move. The arguments that it creates blockage for traffic and affects the growing urbanisation in the area is misconceived, he said. No one in the vicinity has any problem with the cremation ground, he claimed.

Manimajra Vyapar Mandal president OP Bhudiraja too said that shopkeepers in the area do not have any problem with the ground.

Panchkula silent

Meanwhile, the Panchkula administration is yet to propose an alternate cremation ground in case the Manimajra ground is shifted.

The court was informed about the possibility of a cremation ground in Saketri village but the final decision is awaited.

Panchkula MC commissioner Rajesh Jogpal said they have no objection to setting up a cremation ground at Saketri if HUDA transfers the land to them.

Awaiting a revamp

But if the court decides to let the Manimajra cremation ground stay, it would need a revamp. For one, it does not have a place to stock firewood. There is no arrangement for an electric crematorium either. Acharya Ashwini Kumar, who conducts last rites here, said there isn’t a place to bury bodies of children, and they often send them to the Sector 25 cremation ground.

But he hastened to add that these problems should not be the basis to close down the ground.

“There is scope for further expansion here. Until now it’s been running on donations. The authorities must come forward to modernise the facilities here,” he said.

“People’s faith must be considered before taking any decision,” he added.

First Published: Sep 12, 2018 12:00 IST