Cremation fee put on hold

Cremation fee put on hold
Amid uproar and criticism from opposition political leaders and several other quarters, the Darjeeling district administration has asked the agency concerned at the Sahudangi crematorium to not charge any fee for the cremation of bodies of Covid-19 patients.

Though the agency had stopped taking the fee for Covid deaths earlier, it had on 16 August decided to charge a sum of Rs 1150 for such cremation. It cited financial problems, especially in paying its employees.

The state government crematorium at Sahudangi under the New Jalpaiguri police station is built by the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA), which has allowed the private agency to operate it.


 Darjeeling DM S Ponnambalam had to take such a decision following instructions from state tourism minister Gautam Deb and other Trinamul Congress leaders, including SJDA Chairman Bijoy Chandra Barman. Addressing reporters today, Trinamul Congress party president for Darjeeling (Plains), Ranjan Sarkar, said Minister Gautam Deb, who is in Kolkata at present, will hold a meeting on this issue tomorrow.

“The agency collecting cremation charges at the Sahudangi Electrical Crematorium has been asked to stop charging the fee temporarily, based on proposals received from the tourism minister, SJDA chairman, and SJDA member Ranjan Sarkar. A meeting will be convened shortly by the minister involving all stakeholders, including the SJDA, to find a permanent solution to the financial issues facing the crematorium,” Mr Ponnambalam told reporters today.

Notably, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista yesterday issued a statement, criticising the decision to collect the cremation charges. “I am thankful to the Darjeeling DM for his decision to waive off the cremation fees for Covid bodies. This fee should not have been imposed by the WB Govt to begin with. Since the crematorium is in the SJDA jurisdiction, and s nearly Rs 4.7 crore of public funds were used to establish this crematorium, I request both SJDA and the West Bengal government to work towards a better system and solution to run the crematorium,” Mr Bista said today.

Darjeeling district CPI-M party secretary, Jibesh Sarkar, also criticised the decision to collect such cremation charges. “The decision to collect charges for cremation is inhuman, immoral and illogical as the Chief Minister has spent a lot for Covid management and to provide free treatment. Though she intended to showcase her work globally, what message the world has received finally! We condemn the decision and urge people to protest against it,” Mr Sarkar said.

Reacting to criticisms, Trinamul leader Ranjan Sarkar said: “A section of opposition leaders have no job staying at home but to criticise the state government. The cremation charges were supposed to be only for Covid patients who died in private nursing homes. However, no charge was collected by the agency from anyone.”

“As the state, under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, is working well to fight the Covid- 19 pandemic, the Board of Administrators at the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) has done nothing to make proper arrangements for more Covid tests. People have forgotten who the MLA of Siliguri is. People have also not seen the Darjeeling MP for a long time,” he added.

A member of the SMC BoA, Sankar Ghosh, however, said: “People know Siliguri means Asok Bhattacharya. Massive criticism has demoralised Ranjan Sarkar who is not able to make comment on a serious issue properly.

Amid uproar and criticism from opposition political leaders and several other quarters, the Darjeeling district administration has asked the agency co

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