Upset at civic body’s apathy in setting up a final resting place, over 150 Santacruz senior citizens join hands to build one on their own
Over 150 senior citizens from Santacruz West have come together to set up a first-of-its-kind green crematorium on Linking Road Extension that will utilise LPG for the last rites. The service, which will be operational by early 2016, will also provide free cremation services to people from all strata of society.
An artist’s impression of the crematorium
The estimated cost of this state-of-the art crematorium, which will be spread over 5,000 sq feet, is Rs 3.6 crore. The mega project will also be equipped with special facilities including live video coverage with Wi-Fi, to relay the final rites to the deceased’s kin who are based across the globe and are unable to attend the funeral.
The current infrastructure at the space dedicated to the site at Linking Road Extension
“Our plan has been approved by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). It will comprise hearse service with suitable stainless steel stretchers, which will help people to bring the deceased’s body to the crematorium.
A provision has also been made for refrigerated coffins in special cases, if the family of the deceased wants to preserve the body for a few days before the cremation. This will eliminate the need for transporting it to and fro from the morgue.
Work in progress at the green crematorium on Linking Road Extension. Pics/Shailesh Bhatia
These extra services will be provided at highly subsidised rates,” informed 68-year-old Nagin Shah, who runs a retail outlet in Santacruz and is an advisor and chief co-ordinator for the entire project.
Shah added that the project has been on the anvil for the last two years, but they have managed to procure all the permissions from the BMC only recently. The civic body has waived off all government charges.
“This was a big boost for us and we initiated the project with a bhoomi pujan last week. We plan to finish the first phase and make the project completely operational by early 2016. The second phase would include creating a corpus fund to maintain day-to-day expenses which will enable us to give free services to one and all,” Shah said. Volunteers will also go around the vicinity urging residents and the deceased’s kin to pledge their organs for donation.
An eco-friendly move
According to Umesh Sheth, project co-ordinator of the crematorium, around 1,800 trees are required for the traditional form of cremation per year for the Santacruz crematorium. It is estimated that 85 lakh trees are consumed as funeral pyre in India every year, thus causing huge ecological imbalances. Sheth, who is a caterer by profession, said that every cremation in a gas furnace saves a tree and it will go a long way to save the environment and reduce the emission of smoke and harmful gases.
Umesh Sheth and Nagin Shah are involved with the construction of the project.
“So far, we have collected nearly 50 per cent of the requisite funds from our personal and private funds. We will have well-trained, uniformed staff, who shall work round the clock in shifts, to cater to all basic requirements regarding the last rites thus making it comfortable for the grieving family members,” he said.
Sixty eight-year-old Bharat Shah, who is the architect of the futuristic project and a member of Senior Citizen Club, informed that they had opted for natural gas over the traditional and electrical crematorium methods, as it was cost effective as well as eco-friendly.
“The crematorium will house two furnaces and have provisions to collect the sacred ashes and follow the highest hygiene standards,” he said. Bharat added that the entire infrastructure would have rain-harvesting facilities making the last rites even more eco-friendly. “As per the understanding with the BMC, we would run the operations and in turn get paid Rs 1,200 for each body cremated by the civic authority, which would ease the operation and maintenance cost of the infrastructure,” said Bharat Shah.
Deputy mayor Alka Kelkar described the project as futuristic. “The senior citizens have actually devoted a lot of their time to make a detailed plan of the project. Ideally, it should be replicated in other traditional crematoriums in the city.”
Vivek Wagh, a local resident, said that for years they had endured the smoke and odour emitting from the neighbouring crematorium which led to respiratory ailments. He added the new project would put an end to their woes.
Mumbai BJP president and local MLA Ashish Shelar, who is aiding the project, said, “With all permissions now in place, the BMC has agreed to waive off official charges and deposits pertaining to development survey, sewage and water, which amounts to over Rs 37 lakh.”