The capital's civic authorities started CNG-run pyres in three crematoriums last year, but they have been shut for many months. The reason? The head technician has undergone a heart surgery!
"The contract for the three pilot projects was given jointly to a Delhi-based company and Gujarat-based Alpha Equipments. The technician handling the project on behalf of Alpha Equipments recently underwent a heart surgery, so in his absence work is stalled," explained MK Paul, a senior official at Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (MCD) health department.
Adding to technical barriers, a third party can't be roped in to maintain the three crematoriums because such a move would be a 'breach of trust' of the current 10-year contract with the two firms.
The MCD, which manages over 90 per cent of the capital's land area, runs over 100 crematoriums. Most have wooden pyres, while a few have electric crematoriums.
In a move to reduce pollution and provide an environment friendly option, the civic agency started three pilot projects in 2008 - the Bela Road crematorium near Rajghat, the Sarai Kale Khan crematorium near Nizammudin and the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium near Civil Lines.
The Bela Road crematorium, which has provision for four CNG pyres, has been closed for six months now, while the one at Sarai Kale Khan has been shut for over two months. The one at Nigambodh Ghat just opened last week after being closed for months.
"We are facing technical problems and repairs were needed - so the crematoriums were shut," Paul told IANS.
MCD has sent a notice to Alpha equipments and sought an explanation, the official said.
"We reckon that the they will do something in a week and from then on the crematoriums will be operational," said NK Yadav, director of MCD's health department.
Yadav also said that these projects were MCD's way of promoting environment-friendly alternatives.
Paul added: "Based on the functioning of these crematoriums we were looking to introducing CNG pyres at other sites as well - so this technical difficulty has stalled that also."
Another snag in the success of the CNG pyres was the recent strike of Indian oil companies when petrol pumps across the country had run dry.
"The oil workers strike had also caused a fuel crunch for the pyres so at that time they were closed," Paul said.
On another front, the crematorium staff are not too upbeat about the CNG pyres. This is because while the electric pyres cost Rs 3,000, the eco-friendly alternatives are cheaper at just Rs 500.
"The staff is resentful as there is little incentive and no scope for profits," an MCD official said on condition of anonymity.