For several months, those looking to cremate the dead at the PNG (piped natural gas) crematorium at the Ghatkopar Hindu Smashan Bhoomi (GHSB) were being inconvenienced as the gas fired furnace was not in operation. Similar options are at least 5 km away.
On Tuesday, when the Free Press Journal visited the crematorium, the furnace was still inoperative. Attendants at the site said work was on to restart it, a claim also made by GHSB trustees through a notice at the site that said work was underway on a war footing to fix the machine in two months.
But some locals said the facility had been shut for many months, something the N ward office of the BMC confirmed. However, after this correspondent left the premises, a trustee called up to inform The Journal that they had managed to restart it. The ward office confirmed the development.
Attendants at the facility, which offers both wood and gas cremations, said the latter was shut after the COVID-19 pandemic. "A large number of bodies would come daily during the pandemic,” one of them said. “We would burn bodies all day. Probably due to overuse, the machine stopped. At that time preference was for PNG and wood cremation was done only if the furnace was occupied."
Jains, who have a good presence in Ghatkopar, prefer gas crematorium as do those who are conscious about environment. Besides, cremation by gas takes an hour and a half or so while cremation on the traditional wood pyre takes at least twice as much time.
"Most opting for PNG cremation would go away after seeing that the machine was not working,” said one attendant. “Some who opted for wood cremation would ask us to dust the firewood properly so that there are no living things in it."
Nimish Timbadia, a GHSB trustee, said, "The PNG crematorium stopped working in February. It burns at a very high temperature and needs time to cool. But that did not happen during COVID and it stopped working. The machine and chimney had to be opened and cleaned. We spent nearly Rs 12 lakh. Once the work to fix the machine started, there was a problem with the gas meter. I had just come to start it. It is working now and we even cremated a body today."