Crematorium records deaths in birth registers

Life comes a full circle at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) offices, sometimes for the mere lack of stationery. Which is why many city crematoriums are cataloguing deaths in birth registers supplied to them by local ward offices.

Sion crematorium
Both the electric furnaces at Sion crematorium are out of commission. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

According to employees at the crematoriums, they have not received death logs for the last few years. The notebooks provided to them have columns to record date, time and place of birth, apart from the name of the child. So, crematorium employees tweak these headers to document date, time and place of death (hospital or home), and name of the deceased.

“This has been going on at Sion crematorium for the past 8 years and they are recording deaths in birth registers only,” said Vinod Shelar, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator, who has written to the municipal commissioner about the mess. Bhoiwada crematorium is in the same state, but only since the last three years. “We have also approached employees unions, but they don’t seem to care,” said a member of the health department on condition of anonymity.

Vinod Shelar, who recently attended the last rites of a person at Sion crematorium, said, “Not only is there a problem with the registration process, but there’s no supply of basic articles like soap to wash hands, towels, uniforms etc.

BMC should look into these issues and should not neglect the crematoriums.” All BMC crematoriums come under the jurisdiction of the health department. However, Arun Bamne, executive health officer of BMC, was not aware of the registration issue. “I will check with Sion crematorium,” he promised MiD DAY.

Municipal Mazdoor Union says it has been tracking this subject over the last two years. Ramakant Bane, assistant secretary of the outfit, said, “It’s a fact that because of unavailability of proper stationery, employees are forced to use birth registers for logging deaths.”

Technical snags
Apart from this, Sion crematorium has the facility of electric incineration, but due to technical snags both furnaces are out of order. “One of the furnaces has been lying idle for about 18 months, while the other stopped working on February 1. People are forced to go for traditional cremation,” said Shelar.

All this while BMC has made provision of Rs 4.94 crore for ‘green crematoriums’. The basic idea is to popularise natural gas-based cremation rather than the wood-based one. The corporation has also set aside Rs 2 crore for beautification of city crematoriums. “BMC will, in the next 5 years, endeavour to convert all its wood-based crematoriums into ‘green’ ones,” said Sitaram Kunte, Mumbai municipal commissioner, in his budget speech on Monday. 

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