Visakhapatnam: Cemetery full, graves of loved ones reused

Deccan Chronicle.  | Kiran Reddy Althuru

Nation, Current Affairs

Vizag’s only inter-denomination graveyard preferred by all.

A view of the Waltair Cemetery on Thursday.

Visakhapatnam: Christians in Vizag are being increasingly frustrated when it comes to finding a proper place to lay to rest their dearly beloved. Most of the spaces in cemeteries have been booked in advance.

The Waltair Cemetery appears to be the most preferred for the final resting place of Christians in Vizag; there is hardly any space left unreserved here.

The Waltair Cemetery is being maintained by Visakhapatnam Christian Cemetery Board (VCCB). Being the only inter-denomination cemetery in the city, most of the Christians give preference to this particular place. The cemetery was established in 1804 and the tombstones show that the burials took place at least from 1864.

More than 500 churches in and around the city and their branches are registered with VCCB and most members of the congregation at these churches prefer to lay their dearly beloved to rest in this cemetery. There are over 10,000 graves in the cemetery that is spread over 12 acre and there is no space for the dead now.

The 20 to 30 vacant plots have been booked well in advance by paying `250 before 2003. VCCB chairman George Cheedi says that they are still receiving receipts of the reservations made before 2003.

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Cheedi said, “Due to proper maintenance and also due to sentiments attached to the place, people come here to bury their loved ones. But we don’t have space. Arguments between people who have lost a loved one and the management are now an everyday affair. People who lost their mother say that they want to bury her here since their father is laid to rest here, and vice-versa. I have been the chairman of this cemetery since 2009, and this was the year we stopped accepting reservations.”

He added, “Even now, many people approach us requesting a plot for themselves. They offer us lakhs of rupees for development of the cemetery. But we don’t encourage them. We are requesting the government to allow us some land to expand the cemetery.

The lack of space is now forcing people to reuse the grave of their ancestors.

Potnuru Lakshmi, a 53-year-old woman wants space in the cemetery, near the grave of her husband Potnuru Bhaskar who was laid to rest six months ago.

She approached the VCCB with the request, but was told that it was impossible. “It is sentiment. I want to be laid to rest near my husband. But, I’m worried that this would not happen. If there is a chance of reusing a grave, it’s fine by me. But what if it cannot be reused?” she said.

Mr Cheedi has toured various states like Kerala to look for options. In 2016, when there was little space left, the VCCB came up with the proposal of a ‘group plot’ where five members of a family are buried close to each other to save space. According to Mr Cheedi, the Visakhapatnam district administration has already allotted two acres of land. “But, the allocation was stayed by the court and we are still struggling to identify space,” he said.

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