NELLORE: Ever imagined children playing cricket in a grave yard using human skulls as balls and bones as bats and stumps? That is what the children of about 400 families who have made the grave-yard cum burial ground, which is about one km from the town as their home for the last 25 years.
The burial ground—Bodigani Thota—appears to be the destination of those who have migrated from far off Tamil Nadu and Chittoor and Prakasam in Andhra Pradesh. Playing cricket in the graveyards in between tombs is quite common and the children do not feel out of place. They live with their parents right there next to the tombs in makeshift shelters. Elders do not mind sleeping on the tombs without a care in the world.
Though the area stinks to high heavens and the surroundings are highly unhygienic, people living in the graveyard feel as if they are living in paradise. This is because they have nowhere to go as there are no shelters in Nellore town for them. Most of them are rickshaw pullers, and some are rag pickers. Women work as domestic helps.
Most of the children spend their time wandering in the burial ground collecting clothes like sarees used for covering the dead, and other material like sticks pots which are used during cremation instead of going to school “Why should we be afraid of dead bodies? Living with them is part of our life. We walk around the burial ground even in the middle of mid night freely for attending nature’s calls,” said Vedera Neelaveni, who hails from Arambakkam in Tamil Nadu.
B V Ramana Kumar, when he was superintendent of police Nellore district in 2012, had taken an initiative to provide a better life to the children by setting up an organisation—Child and Police at Kondayapalem Gate in Nellore (CAP project). This organisation was recognised by the state government, which even allotted some funds for running it. As many as 300 children joined the school run by CAP. After Ramana Kumar left, subsequent officers did not take much interest in the set up and as a result children started dropping out.
Additional Joint Collector S Rajkumar says that a special team has been formed to study the issue and the administration is keen on providing better life to them. “We will provide house sites at YSR Nagar in Nellore town very soon,” he said.