When the municipality set up an electric crematorium at Payyambalam in November 2008, residents in the vicinity, who had long complained about the stench of burnt bodies and smoke, were much relieved.

The feeling did not last long, though. Now, the room is being used for storing firewood for traditional cremation.

Come December, and the electric crematorium will complete a year of lying idle. The facility had hardly completed four months before it was wound up in March 2009. Thirty bodies were cremated in this period; each was charged Rs.1,200. The power charges were considered too high.

After the crematorium was closed for a few months, the service was resumed by Citizens’ Forum, a private group. They continued the service for nearly three years, but shut down in December 2012, again due to losses.

K.P. Jayaprakash, who operated the crematorium under the private group, says the location itself is a problem. Lying close to the sea, the steel covering of the chimney has corroded.

Lack of maintenance was another factor that led to the closure, he says. Moreover, the coils need to be pre-heated, a process that will consume a lot of electricity. Hence, at least three cremations need to be conducted a day for the project to be viable.

Lobbying alleged

The lobbying of those who ran the traditional crematorium nearby has not helped the modern facility’s cause, says T.O. Mohanan, municipal vice-chairman. Notions such as ‘the soul will not attain salvation if burnt in an electric crematorium’ took roots among a section of people who opposed it, he says.

The present problem confronting the crematorium is that the plot lies in a portion of a contentious land of the cremation ground, which was handed over to the Pallikkunnu panchayat as per a High Court order in July. A revision petition has been filed by the municipality and a verdict is being awaited, Mr. Mohanan says. With this, the revival of the electric crematorium seems to turn more uncertain.

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