The reopening of the Bansilalpet Electric Crematorium has spelt worry and anxiety for residents of Arun Jyothi Colony, adjoining the electric crematorium in Secunderabad. After six years of not being in use, two weeks ago, a COVID-19 patient’s body was cremated at this electric crematorium. The residents, who had believed that the crematorium was shut down for good, were shocked to know that it has been opened up to cremate a COVID-19 patient.
About two weeks ago, officials reopened the crematorium and cremated the body of an unidentified person. 10 days later, a PPE-clad (Personal Protection Equipment) team brought a COVID-19 victim’s body for cremation, confirming speculations that the crematorium would be used for COVID-19 bodies. Immediately, the residents stormed the crematorium in protest, insisting that the crematorium should be shut again.
“People from neighbouring Gandhi Nagar, Devi Nagar, CC Nagar colonies joined us in the protest on Wednesday. We are also planning to submit a representation to the National Human Rights Commission," said CH Sudheer, Secretary of Arun Jyothi Housing Board. There are around 800 families living in and around this crematorium. “The smoke and suspended particles escape through the cracks on the tower of the chimney and enter into our homes. We are really worried," he added.
Residents protesting outside the crematorium
M Bikshapathi, a resident of the colony, claimed that residents were leaving their homes in fear. “Several families, including two landlords, have vacated their homes out of fear. Several others are also contemplating shifting if the government continues to cremate COVID-19 bodies here. We request the concerned authorities to not cremate COVID-19 bodies in the electric crematorium," he said.
Houses of families who vacated in fear
NS Shravan, another resident, who lives in the lane adjacent to the compound wall of the crematorium, said, “We take turns on a daily basis to make rounds of the colony. We are alert day and night and are always on the lookout to check whether COVID-19 bodies are being brought here. It is mentally and physically very disturbing.”
However, dismissing the fears of the residents, Dr Prabhaker Reddy, COVID-19 Nodal Officer at Gandhi Hospital, said, "There is no way that the virus can survive the high temperatures in an electric furnace. The residents are unnecessarily worried. This electric crematorium is centrally located. We have requested the government to provide us more electric crematoriums to dispose of the bodies. It is the easiest and the quickest way of disposing bodies."
The chimney of the electric crematorium adjoining the residential colony
Right outside the crematorium, police personnel have been deployed to ensure that the angry residents don’t cause any law and order problems. An Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) posted on duty says, “We have been deployed to ensure that the crematorium staff do not face any issues from the residents.”
Meanwhile, the residents of the colony have received assurance from Talasani Srinivas, who represents the area in the state cabinet. The residents have their hopes pinned on the assurance given by the minister that he will raise the issue with the concerned authorities and protect their interests.
Residents protesting outside the cremtorium when the COVID-19 body was brought to be cremated