Probably for the first time, cremation workers at the Pashupati Aryaghat went on strike delaying cremations forcing bereaved kin to cremate their deceased family members and relatives by themselves. They resorted to agitation complaining that the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) continued to ignore their demands for pay and perks.
Around 20 dead bodies were cremated by their family members on Tuesday due to the strike by the cremation workers.
There are 80 workers at the Crematorium Management and Service Committee (CMSC) at the Pashupati Aryaghat. They have put forth nine various demands including better pay and perks.
The workers have also demanded that the PADT recognize the committee as part of the trust and provide them all basic facilities just like other PADT employees.
As of now, the cremation workers are paid on daily basis. The committee pays them wage on the basis of the number of bodies they cremate on a particular day.
“We are not provided any benefits except for the wages. So, we have demanded that the PADT bring a provision to provide us gratuity on retirement,” said Bidur Budhathoki, coordinator of a committee formed by the workers to organize the protest. Their other demands include life insurance and necessary safety arrangements as they have to work with fire every day.
The CMSC was formed in 1997 and since then, the committee has been continuously pressing the PADT to address the demands but to no avail, said Budhathoki.
The workers also demanded that the PADT arrange them alternative employment arguing that many of them will become jobless once the newly constructed electrical crematorium comes into operation.
The workers have also denounced the PADT for raising the environment conservation tax from Rs 200 to Rs 3200. PADT collects this tax from the bereaved family members who cremate the bodies of their kin at the Aryaghat.
“PADT should immediately roll back the tax hike decision,” Budhadhoki demanded.
The workers called off their protest on Tuesday evening after the PADT officials assured that they would address their demands within the next two weeks. The workers have warned of more stringent protests if their demands are not heeded within the given deadline.
Govinda Tandon, member-secretary of the PADT, said that a taskforce will be formed to address their demands.
“Likewise, a directive is being drafted to provide the cremation workers minimum monthly salaries,” he said.