Agra: Motivated by ecological concerns, enlightened Hindus here are promoting electric cremation of the dead.
"Each year we need a minimum of 55,000 trees to burn bodies in Agra," Vipin Gupta, manager of an electric facility called Baikunth Dham, told IANS.
"We are therefore promoting the electric crematorium and requesting families to use the facility," he added.
The electric crematorium and a conventional crematorium called Moksh Dham are run by a 130-year-old body known as Kshetra Bajaja Samiti, which also provides vans to transport bodies for cremation.
Gupta described the prejudices they are attempting overcome.
"The biggest problem is the mindset because people think the old way of burning the dead with firewood is a sure passport to heaven. But very soon we will have no choice but to switch over to the electric process which is cheaper, efficient and saves time and unnecessary hassle."
During monsoon, and even in winter, firewood logs take up to three or four hours to fully consume the body. Electric cremation takes less than an hour.
Greens and the Supreme Court have suggested shifting the old cremation ground as the fumes and smoke are seen as threats to Agra`s heritage monuments.
A pollution control official told IANS on condition of anonymity that Hindu activists have stalled moves to shift the crematorium, whenever such a demand was raised.
Agra has four cremation grounds for its approximately one and a half million Hindu citizens.
Though the electric facility costs much less, it gets an average of only two to three bodies a day.
The conventional ones daily service 25 to 30 bodies. Generally, only unidentified bodies are brought by police to the electric crematorium.
"We charge Rs.470 per body while the cost at the conventional one comes to around Rs.2,000, firewood being too expensive these days," Gupta said.