First, a bribe to cremate, then a bribe to get the death certificate


Ward with beds in a hospital
Filling forms at the hospital. Representational image: DFID (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

My mother passed away on May 31st. It was all very sudden. She had been in the hospital for a week and passed away peacefully on the day she was supposed to get discharged. Though the last week of her life was spent in the hospital, it was spent with her loved ones and she truly appreciated the care and support she received from the hospital staff. Our mother’s passing is an irreplaceable loss for all of us in her immediate family and extended circle of family and friends whose lives she touched with her warmth and infectious laughter.

But this article is not an ode to my mother. In my time of grief, I sit to write about the callousness and insensitivity of the state. When the families are trying to complete the last rites of the deceased while dealing with their own grief, for the BBMP staff it is a time to milk the opportunity that somebody’s death provides.

The crematorium staff charged a 100% bribe to cremate my mother’s body. The crematorium fee is Rs 250 but the demand is for Rs 500 which is paid without question as the body of their loved one is waiting to be cremated. The last thing one wants is to get into an argument with the state employees at such a time.

Patient in a hospital room
When a loved one passes away, the last thing one needs is corruption-ridden processes. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Read more: How to get a birth/death certificate in Bengaluru 

The process of getting a death certificate

The actual death registration certificate needs to be obtained from the BBMP office on the 14th floor of Utility Building on MG Road. In this office, no information is publicly displayed for the benefit of citizens. One needs to interact with the staff to find out the process.

I asked for ten copies of the death certificate. I was told that the fee for ten copies is Rs 400 and I can give whatever I wish over and above that. It was one of the most shocking and humiliating experiences of my life. I know that state institutions are steeped in corruption and hopeless beyond redemption. But somewhere in my mind, there was a flicker of hope that they would not ask for a bribe for a death certificate.

I refused to pay the bribe and also asked for a receipt. I was provided with a receipt printout for Rs 300. I did not know how much the death certificate actually costs and I had no way to find out the same. Apparently, BBMP is supposed to issue at least one copy of the certificate for free.

Read more: “The bribe and I”

Bribes at every level

Trying to fleece people while they try to give a decent send-off to their loved ones needs impudence and brazenness of another level. I wonder how many people in the system at what levels receive shares of such bribes.

I am an educated person and I am moderately aware of my rights. I shudder to think of the plight of the poor and the vulnerable while dealing with such situations. Neither do they have the money or influence nor the wherewithal to deal with the authorities demanding bribes. If this is the situation for deaths where bribes are demanded with impunity from the grieving, I wonder how it would be for obtaining a birth certificate which is a joyous occasion.

I think at the end of the day for the BBMP officials, it doesn’t matter if it is birth or death, happy or sad, it is just another day at the office. And just another day to fleece citizens.

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About Rakhi Anil 4 Articles
Rakhi worked with the corporate sector for more than two decades. She then left her job to pursue a full time MA in Public Policy & Governance from Azim Premji University. She recently joined an NGO as Program Manager.