How citizen action changed Kudlu crematorium

Kudlu crematorium was dirty and ill-maintained, with a damaged chimney that fanned smoke into the neighbourhood ... until the community intervened.

With COVID second wave, there has been a lot of attention on how crematoriums in Bengaluru are being managed. According to a report in The News Minute, between April 18 and 22 alone, 860 bodies were cremated in six facilities in the city — Kudlu, MS Palya, Peenya, Sumanahalli, Kengeri and Panathur — plus the Christian and Muslim burial grounds. However, BBMP has had to temporarily close a few crematoriums so as to repair damaged furnaces. Authorities have now been forced to restart the traditional open-air crematoriums to manage the increasing number of deaths. 

The question one is left with is — what does one do when the civic redressal system fails to solve critical issues, especially those that invoke unsettling feelings? The citizens’ collective CTF (Citizens Task Force) in HSR Layout helped resolve some major concerns with Kudlu crematorium before the second wave, and plans to do more.

CTF is a community of like-minded citizens who address civic issues. What began as a small activity last December, with just four people, is now backed by around 150 community members. CTF’s aim is to empower communities and bring people together to solve the problems in their neighbourhoods.

An unplanned visit

A few months ago, during a casual morning discussion on neighbourhood issues, we paid a visit to the Kudlu crematorium. (It is now being used as a COVID crematorium.)

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The nearly two-acre electric crematorium is located off Kudlu Main Road and is relatively easily accessible, but there is no sign-board on the main road pointing the direction one should turn off at, to reach it. The facility is located adjacent to the waste management plant of the KCDC (Karnataka Compost Development Corporation).

The walkway leading to the crematorium was strewn with garbage, and was flanked by dry-waste segregation centres on both sides. The premises were so shabby that any visitor would want to leave immediately. The crematorium had two furnaces, and the chimney was partially damaged. The dome emitted smoke which was harmful to residents nearby.

Our first unplanned visit to the Kudlu Crematorium. Pic: CTF

The crematorium has a garden, but without proper maintenance it seemed like a sheer waste of tax-payer money. Parthenium had spread wild in the garden. Twenty six new benches had been installed, but garbage, PPE kits and used masks were lying around these.

Garbage, PPE kits and used masks lay around the benches in the garden. Pic: CTF

Reaching out to BBMP officials

During the ward committee meeting of ward 190 (Mangammana Palya), CTF members and other citizens requested the Nodal Officer to visit the crematorium. He did, with a delegation of around 20 officers from various departments including BBMP, BESCOM and BWSSB, who accompanied him and noted down the action points we suggested.

CTF team with the officials. Pic: CTF

Before and after

Since the visit by officials, here’s what has been done: 

  • Waste management: The transfer point for segregated waste was moved to one side of the road. Earlier the waste was being segregated on both sides of the road, making it dirty and difficult to access.
The transfer point for segregated waste was moved to one side of the road after CTF’s intervention. Pic: CTF
  • The road leading to the crematorium was re-laid
  • New streetlights were installed in the premises
  • The damaged chimney was repaired
Authorities fixed the damaged chimney based on citizens’ request. Pic: CTF

Plans for future

Everyone deserves a clean resting place at the end of life. So, while many of our requests have been acted upon, we have demanded further action: 

  • Making the toilet facilities in the crematorium functional, and making drinking water facilities available.
  • Cleaning and maintenance of washrooms and toilets

Read more: Why the COVID surge calls for immediate attention to public toilets in our cities

  • Testing water quality, since there could be contamination from the adjacent KCDC plant
  • Opening up the gate from the KCDC side, for easy access to the crematorium
  • Installation of sign boards indicating directions to the crematorium 
Washrooms at the crematorium are in a dilapidated state. Pic: CTF

We also plan to plant saplings to improve the green cover here, and to join hands with the Swachh Survekshan team to paint and beautify the place.

In any community, there are active, enthusiastic people who wish to contribute to a cause. To take this forward, they often need a forum, a push or some guidance. We, at CTF, believe that when we function as a team, wonders will happen.

[Ekta Sawant also contributed to this article.]

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  1. Abhishek says:

    Awesome work by community. Praiseworthy.

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