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Lucknow: Heavy rains lead to cremation crisis

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
August 25, 2008 18:33 IST
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With heavy rains having flooded all major Himalayan rivers and their tributaries across large parts of Uttar Pradesh, a serious crisis has erupted in Lucknow, where inundation of all major cremation grounds was obstructing cremation of dead bodies.

Since three of Lucknow's four main cremation grounds were situated on the banks of the local river Gomti, its overflow has left two of cremation grounds completely submerged while one was partially flooded.

Being the capital of India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow records an average of about 40-50 deaths a day. Of these, the larger chunk are Hindus, who necessarily have to opt for one of the four cremation grounds where dead bodies are burnt.

"The rising level of the Gomti river has inundated large parts of Bhainsakund cremation ground for the past week; we have managed to shift the burning of bodies on a mound that was still above the water level," said priest Ashok Misra who performs most of the funerals at Bhainsakund.

"Fortunately, there has been very little rain over the past three days, so we have been lucky, but if it resumes again, we will have no choice but to start cremation of dead bodies along the road over the river embankment," he added .

Lucknow District Magistrate Chandra Bhanu said, "We are taking every possible step to ensure that cremation of dead bodies is not obstructed because of the flood waters; if necessary we will create temporary structures at a higher ground for the purpose."

Misra recalled how similar heavy and incessant rain a few years ago had compelled people to carry out cremations on the road.

Meanwhile, the nearly 72-hour respite from rain has reduced the misery of people.

"Only seven deaths were reported from different parts of the state since Friday, taking the cumulative toll since June 1 to 717," state Principal Revenue Secretary Balwinder Kumar said.

"The dry spell has given us some useful time to speed up our relief work in all the 21 flood affected districts of the state where an estimated total of 1.6 million people were victims of the flood fury," he said. UP has as many as 70 districts.

According to him, "Water level of most of the rivers that were in spate had also remained stationary over the past three days."

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow