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Fuel price hike hasn't spared even the dead

By Afshan Yasmeen



Hearses parked at the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's Y. Muniswamappa Doddamma Maternity Home in Ulsoor. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

BANGALORE, MARCH 18. Did you know that the increase in petrol and diesel prices over the past few months has had an effect on the dead in the city?

Because of the hike, the fuel expenses of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's hearses have gone up steeply. As the civic body is yet to sanction the additional expenditure, citizens across the city, who want to give their loved ones a decent farewell, are finding it difficult to hire a hearse.

Sources in the BMP Council told The Hindu on Wednesday that last week family members of a dead person in Richmond Town found it difficult to transport the body to the crematorium as the hearse stopped midway because the diesel tank went dry.

When the vehicle was taken to a petrol station near Poornima talkies on Lalbagh Road, which is the official petrol station for BMP vehicles, the authorities refused to fill diesel into the tank on the ground that the civic body had not cleared earlier bills, the sources said.

It was only after the Ulsoor Medical Officer of Health (MoH), L.T. Gayatri, intervened that the tank was filled and the body was taken to the crematorium. "This caused a lot of tension to the family members and delayed the funeral," the sources said.

While officials disagree that people are being put to hardship because of the hike, sources said the Ulsoor MoH had written two letters to the BMP Deputy Commissioner (Administration) on February 19 and March 9 asking him to release additional amount to meet the increased fuel expenses. The plea is yet to be considered, the sources said.

"The fuel expenses of the eight vans came to around Rs. 63,000 a month before the hike. But the bills have crossed Rs. 73,000 in January and Rs. 69,000 in February (after the hike)," the sources said.

The BJP Floor Leader in the BMP Council, B.M. Mangala, has criticised the BMP for not being able to bear the extra expenses. "It is ridiculous that the file pertaining to release of extra amount for an essential service is pending with the officials," she said.

`Problem sorted out'

When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner (Health), V.P. Ikkeri, said: "The problem has been sorted out now."

Though corporators, who represent wards where crematoria are situated, have raised at the BMP Council meetings several times issues regarding improper maintenance of crematoria and shortage of hearses, little has been done to improve the situation.

The Prakashnagar corporator, G. Padmavathy, whose ward is adjoining the Harishchandra Ghat crematorium in Gayatrinagar, said the BMP should have at least one hearse per Assembly constituency.

Of the 10 new vans the BMP purchased last year, two were donated to the Ramanujam Seva Trust in Malleswaram.

"The remaining eight have to be shared between the city and Cantonment areas. Poor people find it difficult if the vans are not available as they cannot afford to pay for private vehicles," she added.

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