The Kshetra Bajaja Committee of Agra has been known for conducting the last rites of people who lost their lives and the bodies remained unclaimed. With passing time, that role changed to performing the last rites of people who lost their lives in road mishaps and their bodies were not claimed.
Amid these pandemic-ravaged times, the organisation continues to serve the city quietly and selflessly to grant dignity to the dead.
For three years, urns containing the ashes of the unknown are preserved with the organisation before they are immersed in the Ganga at Soron, near Kasganj. Even for Covid-19 fatalities, Kshetra Bajaja retains the ashes of the dead so that if a bereaved next of kin turns up, they may be handed over the ashes of their loved one.
Kshetra Bajaja Committee is a body active since 1885. At that time, the cloth merchants of Agra gathered together and decided that instead of doing charity on a small, personal level, the society would benefit more if a collective effort, channelled towards a single cause was made. And thus, was born the Kshetra Bajaja Committee.
Over the years, so concerted and well-directed have the efforts been that they were asked to manage the traditional crematorium, and in 1996, when the electric crematorium was built, the Agra district administration immediately handed over affairs of its functioning to the Kshetra Bajaja Committee.
Today, its members – some 700 cloth merchants of Agra – contribute to arrange for the requirements of the electric crematorium and wood for the traditional crematorium and other requirements, like the running of the five vehicles used to take bodies to the crematorium.
And it is not just the crematoriums the organisation runs but also an ayurvedic hospital in the city and is also actively involved in meeting the needs of the impoverished sick in the city’s hospitals, like providing medicines, arranging for oxygen cylinders, etc.
At the electric crematorium, there are 15 to 25 bodies cremated every day in its three furnaces. “Sometimes, the number goes up to 30 as bodies of Covid-19 patients are also brought for cremation,” said Kshetra Bajaja Committee president Sunil Vikal.
“Our members are selflessly contributing to this service despite them facing a tough time themselves in these times. In such a situation, we do expect the administration to extend a helping hand to the Kshetra Bajaja Committee in serving mankind,” Vikal added.
He said that when the lockdown was imposed, there was a restriction on vehicles which drastically brought down the number of fatalities in road mishaps and the number of unclaimed bodies coming for cremation dropped.
“We have been preserving the ashes of those unknown or unclaimed bodies which we cremated and immerse them in Ganga at Soron near Kasganj after every three years. In these times of the pandemic, family members of a deceased Covid-19 patient are in quarantine and are unable to attend the last rites or collect the ashes. We have been p