Seek corporate donations to build electric crematoriums: HC

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Mumbai, May 3 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government and municipal authorities in Aurangabad to make an appeal to industrialists and local corporates to donate and help construct electric and LPG crematoriums in the district.

When told about high cost involved in constructing LPG /electric crematoriums, the Aurangabad bench of the HC cited the example of Israel, saying the West Asian country bought the COVID-19 vaccine at more than the market cost to inoculate its citizens and save on losses from a nationwide lockdown.

The HC said the authorities must make an appeal to key industrial sectors in Aurangabad to make donations as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spendings to help build crematoriums.

The direction, from a bench comprising Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Bhalchandra Debadwar, came after the court was informed that at present Aurangabad district did not have a single electric or LPG crematorium.

The central Maharashtra district in the Marathwada region is also an industrial hub.

The bench was hearing a suo moto (on its own) PIL initiated on the basis of several news reports, to address issues such as compulsory wearing of face masks, proper funeral rites of COVID-19 patients, shortage of medical oxygen supply and black-marketing of Remdesivir, among other things.

Public prosecutor DR Kale told the HC that electric or LPG crematoriums were expensive to construct and maintain as they needed regular power supply and a certain temperature needed to be maintained at all times.

Kale said people were using wood for funeral pyres.

This prompted the court to say that the current situation would result in indiscriminate tree felling and destruction of the environment.

'Take a leaf out of Israel's book. It paid 30 dollars instead of 15 for each vaccine dose to ensure it got enough stock. It vaccinated over 90 per cent of its population and managed to save manifold by avoiding a nationwide lockdown,' the HC said.

'And here we are told that electric crematoriums are expensive. They are the most cost effective in the long run,' the judges said.

The HC noted that LPG crematoriums were comparatively more cost effective.

The HC said recently a Swedish company had donated ventilators to the Aurangabad medical college and hospital as part of its CSR initiative.

'We call upon Divisional Commissioners of Aurangabad and the advocates representing the municipal corporations to make a statement as to whether they are inclined to invite industrialists and philanthropists to bring in LPG and electric crematoriums,' it said.

'In our view, chopping fire wood for lighting funeral pyre is disastrous to nature mother earth & larger interest would be served & saving natural resources would be done by converting from normal conventional methods to electric/LPG crematoriums,' HC said.

The bench also sought to know the charges invoked against Sanjay Shirsat, a local MLA who had participated in a 'bhoomi pujan' ceremony recently, in violation of the restrictions imposed on citizens in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shirsat had performed the ceremony pertaining to a development work in his constituency.

Reports showed photos of several persons crowding at the spot, some wearing masks, some not, the HC said.

The bench also sought details of the number of offences registered against citizens for their failure to wear face masks, helmets and carry Aadhaar cards when stepping outside of their homes during the pandemic.

Kale submitted that an offence was registered against the MLA and 40 to 50 people who had participated in the ceremony.

The HC said three serving judges from the court had witnessed people riding motorbikes without masks, helmets, three persons sitting on one motorbike and other such incidents.

'At least three serving judges have seen this. Early in the morning at 6, not a single police personnel, constable is seen there. People are moving around outside absolutely freely without masks, helmets,' the bench noted.

It directed the state government and the Aurangabad municipal authorities to inform the court of the steps taken so far to address issues related to implementation of COVID-19 norms and use of helmets while riding two-wheelers.

The state authorities, meanwhile, informed the court that Aurangabad had a surplus of at least 200 metric tonnes of oxygen in all hospitals, nursing homes, COVID centres to ensure no patient suffered on account of lack of oxygen.

The state submitted that about 2.34 lakh people in Aurangabad district had been vaccinated. The first vaccine dose has been administered to 87 per cent of the eligible people in the district.

'We are in a better position for oxygen. Private hospitals have started generation of oxygen now,' Kale said.

The bench on April 26 had made it mandatory for everyone under its jurisdiction venturing out on road, barring the four-hour morning relaxation between Monday and Friday (from 7 am to 11 am), to carry Aadhaar cards.

It had also asked people to wear helmets and face masks while riding two-wheelers.

The HC asked the authorities to consult medical experts and inform it as to whether they can 'authoritatively advise' the medical fraternity in Maharashtra to refrain from over-insistence on Remdesivir, a key COVID-19 drug, and fall back on alternatives.

The HC directed that all those who succumbed to COVID-19 be given a proper funeral and that their bodies were not dumped together in body bags while being carried to crematoriums/cemeteries as was done on some previous occasions.

The HC will hear the matter further on May 6. PTI AYA RSY RSY