Pundit, MP want funeral grants for Hindus denied right to open-air cremation

An attendant tends to a burnt funeral pyre of a non-covid victim at the Caroni Cremation Site, North Bank Road, Caroni on Friday. - ROGER JACOB
An attendant tends to a burnt funeral pyre of a non-covid victim at the Caroni Cremation Site, North Bank Road, Caroni on Friday. - ROGER JACOB

BOTH the Paramachyra of Hindu organisation SWAHA, Pundit Hardeo Persad, and Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh have welcomed the lifting restrictions on open-air pyre cremation for Hindus who have died from covid19.

Now that the ban has been lifted, with no solid reason for its imposition in the first place, they are asking for some form of compensation for families who would have experienced considerable financial losses for cold storage and indoor cremation.

While open-air pyre cremation costs under $10,000, Hindu families found themselves having to pay upwards of $30,000 to bury their loved ones given the limited number of indoor cremations and cost to keep the bodies until disposal.

Persad commended Government, “for finally seeing the light to allow open-pyre cremations.”

He also thanked the Hindu organisations which collectively fought to ensure this age-old practice of Hinduism is maintained.

“This united effort is indeed commendable. The issue of the ban on open-pyre funerals for victims of covid19 was long overdue and we are very happy to have been finally relieved of this problem.”

Persad added, “To date, there is no evidence to tell that persons have become infected by exposure to dead bodies of covid19 victims. In India, thousands of bodies have been cremated openly. In fact, additional makeshift funeral pyres were built there as the death numbers grew.”

He said SWAHA extended sympathy to the families "subjected to the crematorium" for the disposal of their dead and what he said were the exorbitant costs that followed.

“Such a misfortune has been a strain on the families. Is there some way that reimbursement can be done?"

Indarsingh, who had been one of the advocates for the lifting of the ban, greeted the government's decision with a mixture of satisfaction and concern.

He said much of the financial and social injury caused by the ban could have been avoided had there been thorough and meaningful consultations with religious agencies from inception.

“After hundreds of covid19 victims have been denied their right to an open-air pyre cremation, and after thousands of dollars spent by poor families on increased funeral prices, this Government should be ashamed and condemned for insinuating that it had solved a problem for which, incidentally, it was solely responsible.

“If the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Health Minister and the PNM followed the science to ban open-air pyre cremations, then what new science revealed itself to cause the Government to reverse its ban?" Indarsingh questioned.

"Now that open-air pyre cremations are permitted, I am mindful of the families of covid19 victims which faced tremendous financial hardships to bury and cremate their loved ones at higher-than-usual prices.

“I am calling on the Government to show tangible remorse for its poor decision making, and to institute a covid19 Compassionate Funeral Grant, which would refund a portion of the funeral costs paid by the families of covid19 victims.”

He suggested that these monies can be paid either in the form of a grant or in the form of a tax return which can be claimed by the deceased's next of kin.

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"Pundit, MP want funeral grants for Hindus denied right to open-air cremation"

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