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Cremation at Ganga : A grim situation
For people who go to the banks of the Ganga in Patna to cremate their near and dear ones, it is one horrendous ordeal, thanks to the apathy of the concerned authorities.
THIS IS TO share my experiences about the sad state of the banks of the river Ganga in Patna. The holy river is missing from the famous Bans Ghat and Buddha Ghats of Patna. The river has moved seven to eight kms away from Ashok Rajpath.
It has changed its course over the years and the route on which once the Mahendru Ghat-Pahlezaghat-Hajipur passenger ships (Pani-Jahaj) of Bachcha Babu used to sail has turned into farmland, as the river route on which the ferry service operated is now dry. Today no one would believe that the Pani Jahaj, which carried even four wheelers between Patna and Pahleza, was frequently stranded mid-way in the Ganga several times.
The then union industries minister George Fernandes, the then Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur and several ministers used to visit North Bihar only on the Pani Jahaj as that was the only medium which connected North Bihar to the other parts of the state. The worst sufferers of the shifting away of the Ganga are the friends and relatives of the "dead" whose bodies are taken for cremation to the banks of the Ganga.
Few would believe that India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad or Jayprakash Narayan were cremated at the famous Bans Ghat, which was the most favourite spot for thousands of worshippers of the Sun God during the Chhat festival.
The state government and the Patna Municipal Corporation, in particular have remained indifferent. The platform on which Rajendra Babu was cremated has become a leisure spot for gamblers and drunkards at Rajendra Park near Buddha Ghat. Drunken people get involved in brawls with the mourners. There is no water tap on the banks of the Ganga. The Sulabh operated hand-pump is also dry on the bank of the Ganga.
There are incidents of robbery of the pallbearers going and returning from the crematorium, seven to eighty kms away from Patna, as they have to pass through the farms of local villagers. Robberies take place even in the day hours between Bans Ghat and the crematorium on the bank of the Ganga. There is no management by the government or civic authorities. The mourners are cheated, fleeced and robbed by different groups of people - right from the purchase of woods to the final rites. They demand and charge hefty amounts from the mourners. Unlike the crematorium at Buxar or Benaras, there is no arrangement by the local civic bodies.
The locals engage professional pallbearers who charge for chanting Ram Naam Satya Hai from friends and relatives of the dead. They are found to be in a hurry, as they have to participate in another ‘last journey’.  
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