VARANASI: A raging Ganga has hit those living in the city but now it has started affecting the dead.

Not only the Manikarnika Ghat, the cremation ground where pyres never cease to burn, but also the lanes leading up to the ghat are submerged, forcing funeral processions to hire boats to reach the only available elevated platform for last rites. That is also happening in shifts.Performing the last rites has become difficult and all the people who are part of it; be it the wood sellers or the dom (who provides fire to burn pyres), have been having a tough time.

“Around 75-100 bodies arrive here on a daily basis but the elevated platform can accommodate only six pyres at a time. We have no other option but to burn the pyres in shifts. Except this elevated platform, everything else is submerged,” said a member of dom community, Guru Prasad Chowdhary.

As a pyre takes about 2-1/2 hrs to burn completely, there’s a queue of bodies waiting for their turn.

“For over an hour, we have been waiting to move to the platform but we don’t know when our turn will come,” said Premchand Srivastava who had come with a funeral procession. “We have nowhere to even sit because of the flooded river,” said Om Prakash. He added that prices of wood and other articles needed for the rituals have also shot up.
Once the platform has space for a body, it is ferried there with four-five people accompanying it. About five boats are there to ferry bodies as well as wood to the cremation place. The boatman charges Rs 100 or more for the trip. “As the lane is submerged, a boat is the only option to carry bodies to the cremation platform,” said boatman Rambabu Manjhi, adding that they had experienced a similar situation in 2013 as well when the lane was flooded by Ganga.
Meanwhile, wood sellers, whose stocks aren’t accessible even by boats, have been sitting idle. “For a week now, our sale is almost nil as there is no way to transport wood to the cremation place,” said wood sellers Guddu Singh and Santosh Ram. “We have nothing to do till the flood water recedes,” they said.


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