Lakhs of people die in India every day. The Muslims bury their dead; the Hindus burn theirs. Conventionally, firewood, electricity or liquified gas is used to cremate human bodies all over the world. But "waste” wood is no longer easily available.
In Delhi, they have found a unique "solution" to this crisis. The government gardeners, on the pretext of "trimming" the trees, lop off most of the large branches (often killing the tree) and sell them to Nigambodh Ghat. The profit is handed over to the whole department – similar to how the traffic policemen share their bribes with the entire thana.
In rural India, a death in the village means a tree is cut down, and the most common victims are mango trees. So, wild mangoes are disappearing and with them will go the entire pickle industry. It takes about 600 kilos of wood to burn one body and the cost to the survivor is above Rs 15,000 or more. The act itself of cutting a tree is illegal, but who cares when a family member needs to be cremated?
A separate problem is the cow who doesn't give milk anymore. The farmer does not want to sell her to the butchers, but he still does. If not that, then he leaves her on the road to fend for herself. She wanders into the fields only to be beaten, at times even to death, with lathis by farm owners. Or her legs are cut viciously by the barbed wire that most farmers use illegally.
Hundreds of terribly-wounded cows come to my hospital in Bareilly everyday, with their skin stripped off their thighs and their bones exposed.
'Gaushalas' or cow shelters are few and far between. And most of them are prison cells for this gentle animal, who often starves to death in the gaushala itself. There is no proper management of any gaushala; no doctors, and often the owners show the same disdain towards the milkless cow that her previous owners did.
There is a business solution to both problems, which involves changing our attitude towards the cow: Milk is not the most important part of the cow, it is her dung. This dung should be used in the cremation grounds to replace wood. Since the cow is sacred to the Hindus, using cow dung instead of wood should not be an issue.
There is a machine for making cow dung logs. My gaushala in Delhi bought one two years ago and we, too, sell the logs to Nigambodh Ghat. Even though we don't do this regularly — because we are often occupied with actually saving cows — we earn Rs 60,000 a month. The quantity of logs we provide is a fraction of what Nigambodh needs; they could take in a hundred times that amount.
Cow dung logs also cost less. There was an visual problem until recently, since people did not want to burn their relatives with round kandas/uapalas. But now they are being converted into long logs by this machine which makes them with minimum manual intervention. While putting fresh cow dung into the machine, we also put a little fragrant “havan samagri”.
The cow dung log-making machine is very reasonably priced: between Rs 25,000 – Rs 35,000. A combination of dung and straw (or any agro waste/harvested crop residue) is fed into the hopper of the machine. A screw mechanism used by the machine mixes the raw materials thoroughly, compressing them and extruding them out. There are different moulds to make different log sizes. The logs are then exposed the sunlight to get rid of the moisture, making them hard and sturdy.
The machine can be operated on electricity, one horsepower motor, or even manually. It is easy to operate, requires little maintenance and no hard labour. Even women can operate it efficiently.
A cylindrical hole in the centre is provided to facilitate easy drying and efficient combustion. The machines available are capable of making one log per minute of three-by-three inch and three-feet-long. The logs can also be cut into small pieces for use in chulas and havans. The slurry from biogas units can also be used for making logs, by mixing it with straw of any harvest residues.
Almost every village in India has a cremation ground. Every town certainly has two. If someone were to take a contract to supply the logs to them, they could earn lakhs for their gaushala and for themselves. Cows would stop dying of starvation and be treated with more respect.
Cow dung can also solve another very important problem. The forest department is responsible for planting the trees in India. They get crores of rupees every year to grow trees and plant them. However, their success rate – according to their own figures – is 2 percent.
One of the reasons (apart from the fact that they never grow plants in their nurseries, and pinch the money) is because they grow the seedlings in thick black plastic bags which they buy for Rs 4 each. This is expensive, but, even worse, these plants are usually planted along with the plastic by careless forest labour, resulting in 100 percent mortality.
Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh supposedly planted 1 crore trees each in 2018. Less than a few hundred have survived. Think of the waste of the taxpayers' money.
The same manufacturer makes another machine which creates cow dung flowerpots of different sizes. These can be offered commercially and sold to the forest department for their nurseries, and to private nurseries as well. The pots will give nutrition to the plants, withstand the rain, and can be planted in the soil along with their plants.
We would have a dramatic increase in number of trees and be able to reverse climate change if we used cow dung flowerpots and state governments changed their policies.
If you are reading this, please suggest these alternatives to the chief ministers and the forest secretaries. To tell you the truth, I tried doing this with one state. When the chief minister agreed to my idea, I sent the machine. The local forest officers, however, said it didn’t work. I later found out that the plastic sellers pay them a rupee per bag.
(The logs and pot making machines can be purchased from: Dip Technologies, 10-11 Umiya Estate, Near Bharat Party Plot, Rabari Colony, Amrai Wadi, Ahmedabad, Gujarat: 380026. Phone no: 8048018796.)
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Updated Date: Mar 21, 2019 00:10:58 IST