Desperate times call for desperate measures and a deep rethink of some existing mores and practices. As the deadly wave of the coronavirus currently sweeping across the country leaves a long trail of dead bodies and consequential depleting space and wood for burials or lighting pyres, it begs one to reconsider the traditional modes of laying the departed loved ones to rest. That the last rites are sacred and sentimental issues to persons of all religions and give solace to the grieving families is understandable. It is the main reason why few — whether they be Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains or of other faiths — opt for the electric and gas crematoria, though they have been around for many years now in most big towns and cities of the country.
Even when last April, at the onset of the pandemic, experts recommended that the bodies of the Covid-infected be cremated in the electric or gas chambers, many picked the other choice given: of burying/cremating in large open grounds so the fumes emitted do not affect the nearby colonies. That is, until the last couple of weeks. Electric crematoria are working round the clock as people are flocking to this medically safe, clean, quick and eco-friendly mode of bidding adieu to their kin. Those lying unused or defunct all these years have been revived and cremation staff quickly learning to handle them, for the sudden manifold increase in the numbers of people succumbing to the virus has led to an acute shortage and black-marketing of wood and space, as also long waiting periods. Incidentally, in a reverse desperate measure, city administrations, like Pune, have been constrained under the weight of the influx of deaths to relax the electric cremation rule and open all crematoria for Covid victims.
While trickles of people have all along been individually amenable to adopting the electric/gas eco-friendly mode (each pyre requires 300-500 kg of wood), the pandemic calls for a collective rethink. The leaders and mandarins of all faiths must find ways of consecrating the practice.