Burial grounds at city centres may become envy of land sharks

Located conveniently between Kolkata’s biggest cemetery and largest morgue, a bone-collecting firm is doing brisk business illegally, an online tabloid reported. And there are many others as well who have hit a goldmine stealing dead bodies in the shadow of the night. But somewhere, these body snatchers seem to have missed the point.

“Don’t publish these figures,” a young Parsi man warned, as SundayET snooped around to gather an estimate of real estate values of some prominent burial sites across the country. “There are land sharks waiting to pounce.”

And here’s why: Located in Malabar Hills, Mumbai, a 55-acre Parsi funeral ground stands a mute spectator to the transition of life into death. At present, the area is valued at around Rs 12,000 crore. And according to Dr Jairaj Thanekar, executive health officer at BMC (Bombay Municipal Council) there are around 140 burial grounds in the city today.

 

Then close to Delhi’s Fleet Street, a nondescript Muslim burial ground stands hidden from public glare, thankfully. According to the current real estate rates, this 185-acre property is worth Rs 11,000 crore today. And as per a 1970 gazette notification, 488 Muslim graveyards exist in the Capital alone of which 27-28 are still operational.
Similarly, down south, a 200-year-old cemetery in Chennai’s Kilpauk Garden was in the news for not having space to bury the dead. This overcrowded 18-acre burial ground is today worth Rs 500 crore in real estate terms.

And then Kolkata, which arguably is the favourite resting place for Europeans in the country, boasts a decent number of burial grounds. The biggest possibly is the Lower Circular Road Cemetery at 33 acres, the current price of which would be roughly Rs 600 crore.

But at the same time, if one has to compare the sheer size and value of burial grounds in India with that of the ones abroad, one might come back a little dazed. The Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia is a military cemetery in the United States.

Spread over an area of 624 acres it would command a real estate price of around Rs 1.2 lakh crore! Or how about a stroll in the beautiful tree-dotted 27-acre Zoshigaya Cemetery on the Yurakucho Line in Japan whose real estate value would perhaps touch Rs 5,000 crore today. In hindsight, these are grave amounts!

Original article in the Economic Times.