Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cremation at Ganga: A Grim Situation

This is to share my experiences about the sad affairs on the banks of the river Ganga in Patna. The holy river is missing from the famous Bans Ghat and Buddha Ghats of Patna and has moved 7 to 8 kms away from the Ashok Rajpath.

It has changed its course over the years and the route on which once the Mahendru Ghat-Pahlezaghat-Hajipur passenger ships (pani-jahaj) of Bachcha Babu use to sail has turned into farm lands as the river route on which ferry service operated is now dry. Today no one would believe the "Pani Jahaj" which carried even four wheelers between Patna and Pahleza was frequently stranded mid-way in the Ganga several times .
The then union industries minister George Fernandes, the then Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur and several ministers used to visit North Bihar areas only on the Pani Jahaj as that was the only medium which connected North Bihar to the other parts of the state.

The worst sufferers of the shifting away of the Ganga are the friends and relatives of the "dead" whose bodies are taken for cremation to the banks of the Ganga.
Few would believe that the first President Dr Rajendra Prasad or the dreamer of Total Revolution Jayaprakash Narayan were cremated at the famous Bans Ghat which was the most favourite spot for the thousands of worshippers of the Sun God during the Chhat festival.
The government, the Patna Municipal Corporation, in particular has remained indifferent . The platform on which Rajendra babu was cremated has become a leisure spot for gamblers and boozers at Rajendra Park near Budha Ghat. Drunken people create brawl with the mourners. There is no water tap on the banks of the Ganga. The Sulabh operated hand-pump is also dry on the bank of the Ganga.
There are incidents of robbery of the pall-bearers going and returning from crematorium, 7 to 8 kms away from Patna, as they have to pass through the farms of local villagers. Robberies take place even in the day hours between Bans Ghat and the crematorium on the bank of the Ganga.

There is no management by the government or civic authorities. The mourners are cheated, fleeced and robbed by different groups of people - right from the purchase of woods to the final rites - permission from the Dom Rajas. They demand and charge hefty amounts from the mourners. Unlike the crematorium at Buxar or Benaras, there is no arrangement by the local civic bodies.
The locals engage professional pall bearers who charge for chanting the last journey mantras - Ram Naam Satya Hai - from friends and relatives of the dead. They are found to be in hurry as they have to get engaged with another round of the "last journey".
BJP, the 'Hindu party' as it prides itself in being called, is one of the coalition partner in the state government and yet it has turned a blind eye to a place where all the Hindus finally rest.

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