LAHORE - Committees, formed to look after graveyards, are dead, letting cemetery workers do (property) dealing to feed the hunger of land mafia and encroachers.
Lahore, the capital of most developed and populous province, has about 350 graveyards in 150 union councils to cater to burial needs of more than 12 million residents. Authorities formed bodies to look after the graves but to no avail.
Established in the Mughal era, the 1,206-kanal Miani Sahib graveyard is the largest graveyard of Lahore. The first committee to look after the largest graveyard was formed in 1962. Graves are being desecrated in this largest graveyard of the city while land mafia and encroachers are ruling the roost.
In February 2005, former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi approved a 17-member management committee, comprising officials and local notables, for the Miani Sahib graveyard but the committee introduced a ‘slip’ system only.
A Miani Sahib graveyard committee member said on the condition of anonymity: “We usually resale sites for new graves after levelling the unvisited old ones. However, the cemented graves remain safe.”
The situation in other graveyards of the city is much-worse. Black magic and crimes like drug pushing are also reported from the graveyards.
Downplaying negligence on their part, the district administration officials suggested allocation of more areas for graveyards. CDGL official Nadeem Babar said that city’s urban union councils needed new graveyards.
A former Lahore commissioner issued directives to allocate 10 new graveyards against the need of 15. New graveyards will be set up near Shahdara (163 kanals), Ganj Kalan (168 kanals), Mauza Bhamma (132 kanals), Shalimar Mauza Mari (750 kanals), Mauza Barki (144 kanals), Model Town (242 kanals) and Chuhng (1,049 kanals).
As many as 290 kanals of land were needed to bury 63,375 people dying in Lahore every year, whereas 10 kanals were needed for passages and other facilities at graveyards. Another option is a larger graveyard that must be doubled of Miani Sahib graveyard, a official said, adding that people are likely to show their resentment over establishing graveyards away from the city.
On the other hand, an official also said: “CDGL issued standing orders to housing scheme developers to leave ample space for graveyards.” A gravedigger told this scribe that a kachi (mud) grave occupied 21 square feet of land while a pakki (marbled) grave occupied 25 square.