Maha Sabha writes funeral homes for cremation-cost clarification

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


Three bodies burn on open-air pyres at the Caroni Cremation Site. (FILE PHOTO) –

WITH open-pyre cremations remaining banned by Government – an issue which is being legally challenged – the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) has written to funeral homes asking for disclosure on the cost of indoor cremation services.

In a letter addressed to the Association of Funeral Professionals of TT, specifically to Keith Belgrove of Belgroves Funeral Home and David Simpson of Simpsons Memorial, acting SDMS secretary general Vijay Maharaj said the organisation was requesting information which could help it better understand the present financial requirements of indoor cremations.

“It has come to our attention that the cost of an indoor cremation can range from about $10,000-$15,000. Recently however, some estimates have put this cost at between $27,000-$50,000 per corpse.”

Maharaj asked for an indication of the following costs in the funeral agencies represented by the association so the SDMS could clarify the varying figures.

“The cost of incinerating one corpse, the daily cost of keeping a corpse, the average length of time a corpse is kept before an available date is found, the calculation of the cost of incinerating a body based on weight, and any other costs related to incineration.

“In addition, we would like to find out what is the average waiting time for families before they are given the ashes of their loved ones, which we presume will vary amongst funeral homes. This is important as the Hindu rituals that are done with the ashes usually take place the day after the cremation.”

The SDMS said it would be sending the letter to the 31 funeral homes it has identified, although it appreciated not all would be outfitted with the infrastructure and/or incineration chamber needed for cremations.

“In those instances, we would still appreciate receiving their information as to the services they provide, the procedures undertaken, and the associated costs of same.”

It said the Hindu community has been carrying the burden of the government’s ban on open-pyre cremations for covid19 fatalities.

The Maha Sabha said while the funeral homes were under no obligation to provide the information, it felt confident the association would see the need to offer humanitarian assistance to those who have difficulty burying their dead.

“Unfortunately, we can safely guess that given the ongoing ravages of this pandemic, the death rate is likely to escalate alongside the other difficulties that arise from it.”

Head of the Inter-Religious Organisation Pt Mukram Lloyd Sirjoo said an open-pyre cremation normally costs $6,000 – 7,500.

“That is based on the selection of the box and what other paraphernalia you want to add to it. That has tripled because you have to have in-house cremations. Once you have covid19, you have to wait until you get a date for in-house cremation, and a cost factor is attached to the days that you have to wait, they don’t do it for free.

“What we want to know is why is it costing so much, because the CMO had said the bodies should not be interfered with because they’re coming in a sealed packet and it should remain in a sealed packet.”

He said the reason for the pileup of bodies is that death certificates are showing that people have died from covid19.

“I personally don’t believe that all the deaths are covid-related, and so many people all of a sudden couldn’t be dying from covid19. Because there are many people who are saying their family members went in for other issues to the hospital and they end up getting a covid19 death certificate.”

The CMO has previously said the ban on open-air pyres is limited to covid19 victims.

Owing to a backlog in the collection of the bodies of covid19 victims by families in quarantine, the association is creating a mass storage facility.

The maximum amount of a funeral grant is $7,000. A burial order is issued to a funeral agency to facilitate a pauper’s burial.

Newsday was told by one person that it cost them $20,000 to cremate their relative in-house at a funeral home in Trincity. The person did not die from covid19.

Newsday attempted to reach Belgrove, but all calls went unanswered.