Last rites: an expensive deal

City Covid-19 Pandemic Social and Religious

Crematoriums are demanding three times the usual cost per cremation, ambulances too have hiked their charges.

Ghaziabad: The last rites of COVID-19 victims are costing three times the usual price in Delhi, Ghaziabad National Capital Region (NCR) and Meerut. Where it usually costs Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 3,000 for a cremation, the crematoriums are now charging Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 15,000 per cremation.  Ambulances, on the other hand, are charging varyingly hiked prices, along with additional fees on kilometre or hourly basis.  

Manoj K, a Ghaziabad resident said, “After losing my friend, I had a hard time looking for an ambulance for the crematorium. Most of them were charging Rs. 15,000, I somehow found one driver who agreed on Rs. 6,000. But he demanded an extra charge of a thousand per hour. We had no better option at that moment.”

“The crematorium charged us Rs. 6,000, and we were in no state to negotiate. There were many waiting with the bodies of their loved ones, I could understand their situation too,” he added.

Raja Hashmi, manager for former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Jitendra Singh Shunty, who leads the organization “Shaheed Bhagat Singh Seva Dal” for free of cost cremation service, said, “It costs us Rs. 2,400 for cremation per body. This cost is mainly for the wood pyres needed for the cremation.”

Kapil Kajal, a journalist reporting from Delhi NCR said, “The pyres themselves are being sold at high prices of Rs. 5000 to Rs. 10,000. I have seen people paying even Rs. 15,000 for the last rites.”

“Even ambulances are charging Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000 extra, depending upon the distance,” he added.

People have been voicing their  concern on twitter too. A tweet said, “It is very shameful that an exorbitant amount of Rs. 7,100 is being charged at cremation ground, near DND by employees of @noida_authority for performing last rites. Although, wood for last rites is provided free of cost by some Non Governmental Organisation (NGO). Take some action against them. @NoidaNovra”

Another tweet said, “This has never happened before in India. Please help if you can help the needy. India is going through a rough phase. Vultures are taking benefits of the suffering of common people, by overcharging. Hospital, Ambulance, Pharmacy, Crematorium, everyone is looting us.”

Opportunity seeking amidst crisis

“Many crematoriums also ask for additional money in the name of pooja or other rituals, it is totally a voluntary decision to pay that. People should complain to the designated municipal corporations and bring such acts of local crematoriums into their notice,” Raja Hashmi added. 

Ghaziabad police officer Sarvesh Kumar said, “These times are tough, the spaces to cremate the bodies are also running out. Some people are using this as an opportunity to earn more money from the last rites. People should definitely reach out to us or their nearest authorities to address this issue.” 

He added, “People don’t want hindrances in the last rites of their loved ones and hence, their helpless situation is used to mint money like this.” 

Atul Dubey, a social welfare worker said, “This is purely an example of seeking opportunity in a crisis. It’s not just happening in crematoriums or ambulance services, but also in drugs’ administration.”

He added, “ It’s important for the government to declare an authentic window for such services as soon as it can, given that every such act has been brought to their notice.” 

The Delhi High Court  had previously asked the Delhi government to represent a plea alleging there was overcharging for cremations and ambulance services.

Another plea by a Delhi-NCR based NGO Distress  Management Collective to the Supreme Court, has emphasized an urgent need to control overcharging in cremations and ambulance services, citing corpses floating in the Ganga.