Delhi Police have taken over the Lodhi Road crematorium in preparation for Wednesday morning’s last rites of President Pranab Mukherjee’s wife Suvra Mukherjee, that is likely to see a host of VVIPs, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attending.
Suvra Mukherjee, who was ailing for some time, passed away on Tuesday morning. The cremation will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Though sources said the last rites would be performed on the electric furnace, the caretaker of the crematorium said Rashtrapati Bhavan booked both the traditional wooden pyre cremation and the electric furnace.
“They have booked for both kinds of cremation — the electric furnace and the traditional one,” caretaker Pandit Arun told IANS.
Delhi Police officials and Special Branch officials have taken over the crematorium, which sees around 10-12 bodies being cremated every day.
The crematorium has been instructed not to receive any bookings from 7 a.m. till 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, in view of the large number of VVIPs, including ministers, top political leaders, and others who are set to attend the cremation.
Overnight repairs are being undertaken at the crematorium — officially called Dayanand Muktidham Cremation Ground and Electric Crematorium — due to the sudden VVIP focus.
A broken down stretch of the fencing facing the road was being repaired on Tuesday evening, clumps of grass and weed were being cleared from the car park, and all broken down stuff and rubbish were being cleared.
Maroon collapsible cloth partition was being put up to block the outside view to the crematorium premises.
Preparations were on to put up a large marquee at the premises in view of the monsoon rain and the hot sun.
Caretaker Pandit Arun told IANS that they have arrangements for sandalwood, too, in case it was required. “We have 1,000-1,500 kg of sandalwood ready all the time, in case it is required,” he told IANS.
The crematorium has two electric furnaces, of which only one is working. Around four bodies are cremated in the electric furnace every day on average, he said.
The traditional wooden pyre sees around 10 cremations every day, he said.
The crematorium has 40-plus platforms for bodies to be burnt.
Around 350 kg of wood is required per body, costing around Rs.4,000. For the poor, the money for cremations is waived, he said.
The crematorium is attached to the Arya Samaj, Jor Bagh, he said.
Delhi Police have put up metal detectors at the entrances to the traditional crematorium as well as the electric one.
All 35 staff members who work at the crematorium were being made to go through the detector.
The road in front of the crematorium and some others will remain blocked on Wednesday morning for the cremation.
“In view of the visit of VVIPs at Lodhi crematorium on Wednesday, general public is advised to avoid Lala Lajpat Rai Marg from Moolchand to Lodhi flyover and Lodhi Road between 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.,” Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Muktesh Chander told IANS.
According to the official, commuters can use Aurobindo Marg, Bhisham Pitamah Marg, Mathura Road and Ring Road for commuting from south Delhi to central Delhi.