On Sunday night, New Modikhana resident Sachin Bhalerao brought the body of his mother-in-law to Mukti Dham -- the only crematorium in the entire Pune Cantonment area. However, the operators present bluntly asked Bhalerao to go to other funeral parlours in the city limits, citing power failure and unavailability of diesel to run the electric incinerator with the help of a generator.
After Bhalerao expressed unwillingness to try his luck elsewhere, the operators asked the grieving family to source diesel, as the stock at the crematorium had been exhausted to the last drop. Bhalerao, son-in-law of 65-year old Sarala Kawade who died of natural causes on Sunday evening, said, “It was raining and we had no option but to proceed with the last rites at Mukti Dham.
However, the crematorium was pitch dark due to power failure and it was impossible to cremate the body in the electric incinerator facility owing to shortage of diesel. To my consternation, when I told the workers that I wanted to carry out the last rites of my mother-in-law here, they nonchalantly told me to obtain diesel.”
Bhalerao added that the operators even advised the relatives to approach local Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) member Karansingh Makwana and borrow money from him to purchase diesel. “When I contacted Makwana, he asked me to procure the diesel and said he would reimburse me later,” he said.
Finally, the last rites were performed at 11.30 pm, three hours after the family had reached the crematorium. “It’s unfortunate that my relative had to suffer from administrative apathy even after her death,” Bhalerao said, adding, “What about those who are unable to bear the cost of 20 litres of diesel, as many families from underprivileged sections of society conduct last rites at Mukti Dham?”
When MiD DAY contacted PCB member Karansingh Makwana, he said, “I was trying to call the officials who look after the crematorium on Sunday night when Bhalerao told me about the incident. However, no one picked up my call. The operators were insisting that the body be taken to other crematoriums, but considering the trauma in which the family was, I insisted that the process be completed there and even offered to pay for the diesel from my pocket.” Makwana added that he would take up this issue in the next PCB meeting, and said, “It is sheer negligence on the administration’s part.”
Exactly 20 hours after this incident, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) sent a wireman to restore power supply at Mukti Dham, but the relief lasted only a few hours. Satish Shinde, an operator with the electric crematorium, said, “There has been power loss at crematorium since Thursday and owing to this even the diesel stock was exhausted on Sunday.” Shinde added that they had lodged a complaint with MSEDCL, but to no avail.
“I had purchased 40 litres of diesel on Sunday morning, but it was all used up. So, we had no option but to request the family to source the fuel,” he said. MiD DAY tried to contact Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) CEO K Venkat Nagi Reddy on his cellphone and sent him an SMS requesting his reaction on the matter, but he remained unavailable for the comment.
‘Power not a problem’
Chief Executive Officer, Rasta Peth MSEDCL office, Atmaram Khandekar, however, denied there was any disruption in power supply at Mukti Dham.
“We always attend to Mukti Dham’s calls whenever representatives lodge a complaint. The supply was fine, and it was only on Monday afternoon that there was some disruption owing to a fault in the electrical feeder,” said Khandekar.