India has been among the worst hit nations amid the pandemic. In April last year, the country became the epicentre of a devastating wave of ever increasing COVID cases, leaving many industries burdened and neglected.
Among those who suffered most were the deceased. With crematoriums running out of wood, open spaces, and even personnel at the speed of light, many lost out on the chance for a respectful funeral.
Witnessing this loss of basic human dignity, Harjinder Singh Cheema was moved to come up with a system that could facilitate cremations.
Cheema, a Punjab native, runs Cheema Boilers Limited to manufacture boilers for various industries. He says, “I saw in the news that people were being forced to dispose of the remains of their loved ones in water. Some people were performing the last rites of people unrelated to them. I wanted to do something to help.”
The birth of ‘Noble Cause’
Cheema’s first step was to gain a basic understanding of the major problems related to cremation. Then, he worked on a technique to solve these effectively, with help from IIT-Ropar.
The result of the 72-year-old’s efforts was an eco-friendly and mobile crematorium called Noble Cause. “Our aim was to make a system that is eco-friendly and, at the same time, easy to transport anywhere, as per the user’s needs. We were inspired by the ‘wick stove’, which is mobile and smoke-free,” explains Harjinder.
The manufacturing of the crematorium began in April 2021. It has been designed in a way that it takes less time to cremate a body, Harjinder says, adding that stainless steel was used to build the final prototype within a month. The crematorium is a cart that has been fitted with wheels.
Dr Harpreet Singh, professor from IIT Ropar says, “The system takes less time to burn the dead body. It uses less wood than usual, as the steel plates attached on both sides do not allow heat loss. There is also a tray at the bottom in which the ashes are collected.”
Harjinder Singh opines that people are hesitant to use electric crematoriums. He hopes that they might find his invention helpful. “The best part is that it can be taken anywhere, whether to homes, temples, or gurudwaras. It is especially a boon for those who have a shortage of space,” the Mohali-based businessman says.
The crematorium was first installed at the cremation ground in Mohali and received a good response, Harjinder says. Ramratan, the guard of this ground, was given this system to use. He says, “Due to the pandemic, so many cremations are taking place and air pollution has become a concern. But in this device, wood burns completely and a very less amount of smoke is produced. Also, it takes about 4 quintals of wood to perform a regular cremation, whereas here, only 2.5 quintals are used.”
He adds that it normally takes about six hours for a cremation to be completed. But using ‘Noble Cause’ takes 3-4 hours. Family members can come and pick the ashes on the same day itself. He considers the innovation was useful in bidding farewell to your loved ones respectfully amid such precarious times.
Harjinder Singh has built 10 such crematoriums so far. His clients include IIT Ropar, Patna Municipality and Gurugram Municipality. Recently, Chandigarh Municipality also contacted him for collaboration.
This septuagenarian, who has a degree in marine engineering, worked for about 12 years and started his own company in 1990. In 1999, he also started manufacturing boilers for industries, and today works with international clients as well.
By collaborating with IIT Ropar, Harjinder is planning to execute some other ideas that he says will be helpful for society at large.
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Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Divya Sethu