Despite several attempts to find NGOs to manage and run its funeral centres, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has found few takers to run cremation grounds located in remote rural areas.
A letter written by SDMC commissioner Gyanesh Bharti to the standing committee dated February 3, 2022, states the corporation invited ‘expression of interest’ from NGOs and self-help groups to manage 22 of its cremation grounds and burial grounds twice over the last six months but the civic body received applications for adopting only seven cremation grounds for development and day-to-day maintenance.
“Out of the seven applications, six were found to be meeting the criterion set by the municipal corporation,” said a senior public health official.
In a meeting held on March 31, the standing committee of the SDMC granted approval for adoption of only six cremation units, including two facilities at Harkesh Nagar and Sarai Kale Khan CNG; an electric crematoria under the central zone; two crematoria in Chhawla and Dwarka Sector-24 under Najafgarh zone; and another one in Bindapore under the west zone.
A second public health official, who was part of the selection committee, said most of the unallocated funeral centres are located near rural belts. “NGOs do not prefer to take up these units as they are located in remote areas and receive very few bodies on an average. Moreover, we have also received several complaints of interference in operations from local villagers, who prefer to bring their own wood and make their own arrangements,” said the official.
Over the last three years, the municipal corporations have been trying to outsource the operation of funeral centres to reduce the manpower deployed at the units.
Of the 42 funeral centres under the SDMC, 20 are already run by self-help groups.
“We have seen improvement in operations and maintenance of crematoria managed by NGOs as earlier, people complained about the quality of wood and there were allegations of extra charges…,” said an official.
Leader of the house Inderjeet Sehrawat said alternative arrangements in the form of making local gram samiti or local charitable organisations will have to be made to address the issue of non-adoption of village crematoria. “We will work out arrangements with residents of these villages,” he added.
Suman Gupta, general secretary of the NGO Badi Panchaya, which operates Nigambodh Ghat, said, “The number of platforms has gone up from 70 to 120 since we took over in 2011.”