Aryaghat cremators complain of low pay and perks facilities

- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Jan 15, 2019-

Cremating bodies at Aryaghat certainly is not an easy job, and those involved in carrying out funerals have their plight doubled because the concerned authority has failed to pay heed to their concerns.

As per Hindu tradition, bodies are cremated at Aryaghat for the longstanding belief that the departed souls of the mortals rest in peace if they are cremated here.

The Pashupati Area Development Trust, which oversees all the activities related to the Pashupatinath temple, manages Aryaghat. But those working at Aryaghat cremating bodies say their concerns for long have remained unaddressed by the PADT.

The PADT at present has around 30 persons to cremate bodies that are brought to Aryaghat. Most of them have spent over two decades working there. There are a dozen areas—10 for common people and two for VVIPs—to perform funerals at Aryaghat.

 “We have sent letters three times to the newly appointed member secretary of the PADT, Pradeep Kumar Dhakal, for a meeting so that we could put forth our demands. But we have yet to hear from him,” said Bidur Budhathoki, coordinator of Crematorium Management and Service Committee (CMSC). He said the committee would be forced to resort to protest against the PADT’s indifferent attitude.

The PADT had appointed Dhakal as the member secretary in August last year.

Earlier in 2015, the committee had put forth its nine-point demands, which included better pay and perks. But after their demands were not addressed, they resorted to protest.

"Then PADT member secretary Govinda Tandon had given assurances that our demands would be met and we called off our protest, but we are still waiting for that to happen," said Budhathoki. “The PADT didn’t do anything for us. We are trying to approach Dhakal again, but he has been ignoring us.”

The CMSC was formed in 1997 with a view of bringing all those involved in cremation together in an organised way so that their common concerns could be addressed in an easier way.

The committee has been demanding improving safety measures, listing them as PADT staff and providing them salary on a monthly basis.

However, the PADT has not done anything except providing Rs150,000 in lump sum to those who leave the job after serving for two decades. The committee is demanding at least Rs500,000 on their retirement, besides a monthly salary.

“This is an odd hour job and demands a lot of effort. The PADT should make us its staff, give us a basic monthly salary because we are working here for years,” said Chandra Dhakal, 49, a father of two, who has been working at Pashupati Aryaghat for the past 31 years.  

A bereaved family pays Rs2,800 to PATD plus another Rs200 as environment conservation tax when a body is brought at Aryaghat for the last rites. The family also has to pay for other stuff required for the last rites, including firewood, ghee, and others which usually cost around Rs9,000.

“Our job also involves risk as we have to work with fire,” said Chandra. “PADT officials must take into consideration the difficult nature of our job and the services we provide,” he added, showing the burn injuries on his boy he got while doing the job.

The Post’s multiple attempts to talk to PADT member secretary Dhakal went in vain.

On an average, 30 dead bodies are brought to Aryaghat daily for the final rites.

Although the PATD has been running an electric crematorium for the past two years, the flow of people coming to cremate the bodies in the traditional method has not decreased. 

Published: 15-01-2019 08:28

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