Odishatv Bureau

Puri: Conducting funeral rites at Puri Swargadwar, of late, has turned out to be costly affair owing to illegal collection of money by the staff. This has triggered discontentment among people.

People usually come to Swargadwar to perform last rites of their loved ones with a belief that a person cremated here will attain mokhsya (salvation). But now they are having a harrowing time as they are forced to cough up a hefty amount for the last rites here.

The Harischandra Yojana, that was launched on August 15, 2013 from Puri, to provide financial assistance of Rs 2,000 to the poor and destitute people for conducting the last rites of their family members is not helping them.

Under the Harischandra Yojana, a financial assistance Rs 2000 is provided at the time of death of a family member to meet the cremation expenses. A beneficiary can get the money after filling an application form available at the local municipality.

Under the scheme Rs 300 is allotted for the staff, also called Sabadahakas who conduct the last rites. But it is alleged sabadahakas at Swargadwar are demanding Rs 1000 to carry out the funeral rites. The amount doubles if the dead body arrives at night.

"They (staff) demanded Rs 1,500 to cremate the dead body. The government should take some action on it as people are being forced to pay more," said Sukant Sahu, who had come to perform last rites of his relative.

"The rates during day and night differ.  During night the caretakers are exploiting people by demanding a price ranging between Rs 2,000 and 2,500 for assisting in the conduct of last rites," said another relative, Surendra Sahu.

After repeated allegations, district administration and municipality had a discussion and soon alternative measures will be made to check such incidents, said Puri Collector.

"Daily 100 to 200 bodies are arriving at Swargadwar and the problem is taking place at two to three places where some staff are demanding money only after midnight. Police have been asked to keep a vigil," said Puri Municipality Chairman Jayant Kumar Sarangi.

"The concerned police station has been communicated and a helpline number will be provided. People can lodge a complaint at the concerned police station if they face any problem.  Efforts are on to ensure that such illegal extortion of money is checked and  other alternative measures are also being considered," said Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal.