Mangalore: Poor, middle class less likely to opt for cremation

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Mangalore, 10 October 2011: The poor and middle class are less likely to go for cremations for fear of being classified as niggardly, says undertaker Neville Noronha, who has been in this business since two decades.


He has conducted about 25 cremations and majority of the cases was from affluent class. If the affluent do it, it is fancy or trendsetting but if a poor does it they are ridiculed. Perhaps this is the reason why they don’t go for it,’’ he notes.


For what reasons a deceased consider cremation instead of burial? Noronha says there are a variety of reasons but chiefly the deceased did not want their body to putrefy and eaten by maggots.


Noronha reasons that if a crematorium is established by the church, many, especially from middle and lower middle class, may go in for cremations. Even when we take the bodies to corporation crematorium at Boloor, we ensure that the surroundings are cleaned before the family arrives with the body for cremation,’’ he says. While cremation with wood costs Rs 2,500, an LPG fired or an electric cremation costs Rs 250 at the corporation crematorium. This is a much cheaper option. The church on its part should make small pigeon hole vaults, like done in Milagres cemetery so that the costs of burial (of the ashes) can come down considerably,’’ he adds saying that this will also reduce strain on the cemetery land which is fast disappearing due to permanent graves.


Fr Santosh Kamath of Fatima Retreat House says of late people are opening up their minds and are considering it as an option. I myself have written a letter for person who wanted his body to be cremated after death,’’ he added.


Fr Kamath also abhors wasteful expenditure on funerals. See the amount spent on headstones and making the tomb grand? We always don’t recommend permanent graves and suggest simple funerals. But people have mind of their own in certain matters and don’t listen to the Church,’’ he adds.


 Parishes do away with permanent graves


Mangalore, 10 October 2011: With cemetery land getting scarce and parishes having to contend with addition of more families in the recent years, some parishes in the Mangalore Diocese have done away with permanent graves.


Milagres parish in the heart of the city, established in 1680, is one such parish. Parish priest Rev Fr Walter D’Mello says since a decade there have been no permanent graves in their cemetery. Instead, we provide pigeon-hole vaults (akin to columbarium) where relics from the non-permanent graves could be deposited inside it after a period of time,’’ he said. The family will have to forego the grave after the relics are removed. The parish has 1,078 families. Sources said the district administration had offered Milagres cemetery land off city limits at Neermarga, but the offer was not taken as it was too far from the city.


Vaults/ Crypts have been established at Derebail Holy Redeemer Church since a decade. The vault costs Rs 20,000 and unlike Milagres vault which is for relics, the Derebail vault is for bodies. But the catch is that the next family member’s body can be put in it only after a gap of 12 years. After 50 years, the vault will be given to others, parish priest Fr Peter D’Souza said. The church was established in 1939 and has 850 families under it.


The redeeming factor of having a non-permanent grave is that it attracts minimal amount between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. The undertaker’s fee is Rs 800 for the pit and for the coffin, the cost ranges from Rs 2,500 to Rs 12,000.


Fr Victor D’Mello, parish priest, Immaculate Conception Church, Urwa, which has 620 families, says permanent graves have been discontinued since year 2000. The church has about 70 cents of cemetery land, but it shares the cemetery with Ashoknagar’s St Dominic Guzman Church, which has 400 families under it. Urwa church was established in 1865, the latter in 1971.


Fr D’Mello is also planning for a vault. The process is long and has to be decided by both the parishes, then decreed by the Bishop,’’ he said. As there will be no permanent graves, the older permanent graves in Urwa cemetery have been allowed to bury five direct members of a family.


Permanent graves cost Rs 50,000!


Mangalore, 10 October 2011: While land above the ground for a shelter for a common man is becoming dearer, so is the ’ground under’ in prime parish localities in the city. A permanent grave in most of the parishes in the Mangalore diocese ranges from Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000. If the cost of building the grave, putting up marble fixtures is included, the cost runs up to nearly a lakh.


The parishes have been upping the rates in order to discourage people going in for permanent graves. Older parishes have about one to two acres of cemetery land. Newer parishes, which have bifurcated from old like the Blessed Teresa of Kolkata Church at Paldane from Cordel Church, Kulashekar, still depend on its parent Church for burials.


In Cascia Parish, if a permanent grave cost Rs 12,000 before 90’s, it is Rs 50,000 now. From 1990 to 2010, there was no option for a permanent grave in that parish. A permanent grave is used to bury three or five family members (in the same grave). The subsequent burials, second to fifth, in the permanent grave will attract 50% cost of permanent grave; which in case of Cascia Parish is Rs 25,000. The money is used for the upkeep and beautification of the cemetery.


Rt Rev Msgr Denis Moras Prabhu, vicar general of Mangalore Diocese, told TOI that the intention of the diocese is to discourage permanent graves as cemetery space is getting scarce. The church wants no discrimination between the rich and the poor. Once a couple of parishes wanted to charge Rs 1 lakh for permanent graves and the Bishop’s House shot it down,’’ he said. We also discourage building of monuments over graves,’’ he added.


Moreover, a Bishop House Circular in the 70’s has made it clear that permanent graves are not for perpetuity. Fifty years after the last burial the Church has the right to the grave. But we have not used that option so far,’’ Msgr Prabhu added.



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Comments on this Article
Patrick J Rego, Mangalore Thu, October-13-2011, 4:44
Yes, this is a good idea ... the lay people may not be left with an option. However, will this also apply to our religious (priests and bishops) ??? Time that we rationalized this to suit our times.
Victor Castelino, Boliye/Dubai Mon, October-10-2011, 12:59
To be buried or not to be buried is the point! This "grave" problem will become more acute if we insist on burial and not cremation. It is Ok if we allow our loved ones to be buried in our backyard if you have one. Or else our "consecrated" places shall not be enough to cope with the need as the time passes on. The need of the hour is that we think of the future rather than attend to present demands and supplies.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Mon, October-10-2011, 8:14
Very intersting...Life / Fate after death!?
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