The bustling Silchar town in Assam is reeling under the worst floods in its memory for over a week and its citizens are faced with the problem of cremating the dead as the grounds meant for it are inundated. Families who have lost their members during the flood are also unable to take the bodies to the crematoria because of the high flood waters and the Cachar district administration is also unable to reach them.
The unprecedented waterlogging in the Barak valley town is due to a breach in a dyke at Betkundi on June 19 allegedly by miscreants. Nearly three lakh people in the town are are affected, an official said. Instances of families unable to cremate the dead in the town are aplenty.
Niren Das, a resident of Chutrasangan village near Silchar, had died on June 24 but the floods prevented his cremation for nearly two days. It was only when a samaritan Ramendra Das, a college teacher, came to the aid and set out in a boat with the body accompanied by a few members of the bereaved family that the last rites could be performed.
Das had to row about 15 km through flood waters till he found a dry place at Baburbazar outside Silchar town.
A photograph of a bier held high by a few men wading in neck deep in the flood water in Silchar town went viral on social media recently.
A woman’s body was found floating in the town late last week by local volunteers with a letter attached to it purportedly by her son appealing to anyone who finds it to perform the last rites.
The letter said the son, who is a resident of Rangirkhari area, was unable to take his mother’s body to the crematorium due to the flood and that he did not have the required manpower for it. The task of incremating the body was completed by the volunteers.
The caretaker of the town’s main crematorium, Dilip Chakraborty said that the entire area was flooded and he himself had to move to a safer place.
"It is not possible to cremate a body as the entire ground is flooded. It is impossible to set up a pyre", he said.
The locals have alleged that the administration and elected representatives have failed to address the problems being faced by the marooned people.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma during his visit to the town on Sunday to review the situation conceded that it has not been possible to reach all the marooned people.
Members of several non-governmental organisations and individuals have come forward to help the ailing, the senior citizens and also in carrying the dead for cremation in view of the deluge.
Silchar’s well known surgeon Kumar Kanti Das has provided a dry space for cremation adjacent to his hospital, Sundary Mohan Seva Bhawan at Banglaghat, which is around six km from here.
The space provided for the purpose has a pond adjacent to it in which people can bathe and wash after the rituals, said Rupak Chakraborty, the general secretary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Seva Sangstha, an NGO which is working to help the people during this trying time.
Some wood for cremation is provided by the forest department free of cost for the cremation and a former vice-chairman of Silchar Municipal Board, Bijendra Prasad Singh has taken the responsibility to get the death certificates issued from the civic office after the flood waters subside.
A volunteer engaged in relief and rescue operations said that while many NGOs come forward to help in cremating bodies at a dry place, reaching the place is very expensive as boat owners demanding a minimum of Rs 3,000 for about a six km journey.
Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli said that the administration is making all out efforts to address various problems being faced by residents and warned traders that strong action will be taken if anyone was found charging higher rates during this crisis.Jalli said that the district authorities are distributing drinking water and water purifying tablets in some reachable areas and keeping close vigil on the health of the flood affected people to prevent water borne diseases. Sanitation drives are also being carried out in relief camps, which have been set up in schools and colleges in Silchar town to prevent outbreak of diseases, she said.