Uttar Pradesh: Manikarnika Ghat Witnesses Overcrowding, Over 400 Bodies Arrive For Cremation Amid Heatwave

Uttar Pradesh: Manikarnika Ghat Witnesses Overcrowding, Over 400 Bodies Arrive For Cremation Amid Heatwave

On Thursday night, people queued with multiple times the usual number of bodies, far exceeding the ghat’s capacity to handle cremations.

BISWAJEET BANERJEEUpdated: Friday, May 31, 2024, 07:51 PM IST
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Manikarnika Ghat (Representational Image) |

A day before polling the Manikarnika Ghat, the ancient cremation ground in Kashi, witnessed an unprecedented surge in the number of bodies arriving for last rites on Thursday, May 30. Over 400 bodies were brought to the ghat, tripling the usual daily number and causing a massive jam on the streets leading to the cremation site.

Varanasi will go to polls on June 1 where Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be in the fray for third time in a row.

Dom Raja Om Chaudhary, who oversees the cremation process at Manikarnika Ghat, attributed the sudden increase in bodies to the severe heatwave that has gripped the region. Om Chaudhary, son of the late Dom Raja Jagdish Chaudhary, now shoulders the full responsibility of managing the last rites at the ghat.

By midnight on Thursday, the streets from Maidagin to Mokshdwar were lined with bodies, leaving little space for movement. The influx was so overwhelming that bodies had to be stacked one on top of another due to the lack of space.

Records suggest that on May 24, 147 bodies were cremated followed by 161 on May 25, 159 on May 26, 88 on May 27, 133 on May 28, 169 on May 29 and over 400 on May 30.

On Thursday night, people queued with multiple times the usual number of bodies, far exceeding the ghat’s capacity to handle cremations. Typically, Manikarnika Ghat can manage 25 to 30 cremations simultaneously. However, the sheer volume led to long waiting times, with some families waiting up to five hours for cremation.

Mahendra Kumar Gupta, who brought a relative's body to the ghat, described the dire situation. "There is no wood available at the ghat. We never imagined it would be like this," he said. The shortage of wood forced some families to consider burning two bodies on a single pyre. Others, unable to procure wood, took their deceased to other ghats.

Dom Raja Om Chaudhary pointed to the extreme heat as the reason for the increased death toll and subsequent rise in bodies arriving for cremation. However, there has been no official confirmation linking the deaths directly to the heatwave.

Local authorities have acknowledged the situation. SDM Sarthak Agarwal stated, "The Municipal Corporation is responsible for the ghat. If there is any problem, it will be fixed." Additional Municipal Commissioner Dushyant Maurya added, "When the number of dead bodies increased, additional employees have been deployed. It is the responsibility of the Municipal Corporation. Work will be done immediately to end the problems of the people."

As efforts to manage the crisis continue, the situation at Manikarnika Ghat remains a stark reminder of the challenges faced during extreme weather conditions and the urgent need for better infrastructure and resource management.

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