One of Mumbai’s trademark festivals, dahi handi, ended up being a dull affair with crowds choosing to stay away due to the swine flu scare.
Major political parties also abstained from celebrations. Events organised by politicians — which traditionally draw big crowds and mean big prize money — were cancelled.
“The sense of social responsibility is more important,” said Nationalist Congress Party legislator Jitendra Awhad who is known to organize one of the biggest dahi handi festivities in Thane. “We did not have any kind of celebrations this year.”
While politicians chose to donate the prize money to hospitals or towards tackling swine flu, organisations like the Sai Krida Dutta Mandal in Dadar in central Mumbai used the opportunity to generate awareness about the flu through announcements and hoardings.
Across the city, govindas (members of teams that form the human pyramids) — many of them sporting masks — looked disappointed. “There is absolutely no fun this year,” said Shretij Jadhav, a member of Tadwadi Mandal, Mazgaon, which is a contender for the top prize every year. “We have to literally go around searching for handis to break.”
The state has agreed to avail services of 17 private hospitals to tackle the situation. But most will take at least a week to set up the screening and isolation facility.
While 11 hospitals are from Mumbai, five are from Pune and one from Navi Mumbai.
Pune low on panic
The city that saw the maximum number of swine flu deaths did not report any fresh casualties on Friday.
Only one patient was admitted to Sassoon Hospital’s intensive care unit, while three admitted patients showed improvement and were taken off the ventilator.
Fewer people turned up at the testing centres. “I can say there is no bad news today,” said Sassoon Dean Arun Jamkar.
Pune District Collector Chandrakant Dalvi said the situation was under control. Dalvi said the decision to administer tamiflu pills even to suspects and patients helped. The state had decided two days ago to administer tamiflu even to suspects in an effort to contain the epidemic.