x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

India contributes half a million to Sharjah crematorium

The Indian government has contributed to the Dh5.2 million crematorium in Sharjah that has been built for Hindus and Sikhs.

DUBAI // A crematorium being built in Sharjah for Hindus and Sikhs has received Dh500,000 from the Indian government.

But it is hoped the authorities will donate more to the facility, which is costing Dh5.2million and due to open in January.

"The government of India has given half a million but we need Dh500,000 more," said YA Rahim, president of the Sharjah Indian Association.

He received the funding on Sunday from Vayalar Ravi, minister for overseas Indian affairs, who is touring Arabian Gulf states to invite Indians to the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, or the Indian diaspora event, in Kerala in January.

"We have requested the minister for more funds and he has promised to do his best," Mr Rahim said.

Mr Ravi made the donation from the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), created by the country's government for expatriates in the UAE. He said further funding would hinge on several factors.

"It would depend on the availability of funds and on the Indian ambassador's report," Mr Ravi said. "It is for the community's welfare and will be used whenever the community needs anything.

"It is their money and has been raised from them."

The ICWF has collected more than Dh15m through a Dh10 fee levied on expatriates by Indian missions for issuing and renewing passports and providing attestation services.

In March, Mr Ravi ordered some of the Dh10m surplus be used to build cremations in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

The Sharjah facility is the fourth to be built for Hindus and Sikhs in the UAE and sits on 10 acres of land gifted to the Sharjah Indian Association by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah.

More than Dh2m has already been spent on the crematorium, which is due to be finished by January.

The Sharjah Indian Association said it would try to raise the rest of the construction costs from philanthropists and businessmen if not the Indian government.

"Finance is not a problem. If the government does not pay, we are confident we can do this with the support of people here," Mr Rahim said.

Initially, one gas-fuelled incinerator will be used. Three more could be added, depending on need.

A burial ground will be created for children under five, in accordance with Hindu customs.

Last year, about 950 Indian deaths were recorded in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, with more than 850 registered this year.

Many people repatriate the bodies of their loved ones but Mr Rahim estimated that "two to three bodies" would be cremated at the Sharjah facility each day.

The cost of cremating is about Dh3,500, almost half the expense of shipping a body home.

But it can be difficult to get permission to cremate or bury in emirates other than the one in which the deceased's residence visa was issued.

The association said it would request that Sharjah's Ruler allow the facility to be used by Indians in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

pkannan@thenational.ae