The middle of the night is no time for anyone to keep awake but residents of rural areas near cities and towns in Punjab are being forced to do just that with blaring DJ-led music from 'marriage palaces' (marquees) leaving them sleepless.
With most marriage palaces - essentially large halls in the middle of a fenced green patch - on the outskirts of towns and cities, the ban on playing loud music (through loudspeakers) in urban areas imposed by the Supreme Court a few years ago is literally going up in smoke.
Residents complain that the police and authorities in various districts across Punjab have not bothered to implement the Supreme Court decision disallowing loud music after 10 p.m.
"Life has been hell for people living in villages near marriage palaces. The noise pollution from the DJs playing at marriage and other functions disturbs our sleep. The nuisance continues throughout the year but it becomes acute during the winter months when more marriages take place and one tries to go to sleep early," Ravinder Singh, resident of a village on the outskirts of Jalandhar town, told IANS.
There are nearly 3,000 marriage palaces and other facilities across Punjab. The marriage palaces are venues which people book to hold weddings and other functions. These venues are preferred as they have big halls and open grounds to accommodate 500 people and more.
"There is a ban on playing loud music after 10 p.m. I have complained to the police by calling on the number 100 so many times, but no action is ever taken. People sometimes play loud music till 2 pm. The authorities are just turning a blind eye to this blatant violation of the Supreme Court directions," Harkirat Ahluwalia, who lives at his Kinnow farm at Chaunni Kalan village on the outskirts of Hoshiarpur town, told IANS.
Harkirat, who runs a successful farm-stay resort at his property, says that guests, especially from abroad, find the nuisance of the loud music "disturbing" - to say the least.
In Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, police strictly enforce the ban on playing of loud music.
While the police in Punjab have failed to provide relief to residents from the blaring music, district authorities blame marriage palace owners for the nuisance.
"The marriage palace owners should ensure that loud music is not played after the 10 p.m. deadline. But they don't take any action," a district administration official in Amritsar said.
But owners of marriage palaces don't agree.
"We can only tell the people not to play after 10 p.m. We cannot enforce the ban as the organizers start arguing and even fighting with us if we stop them from playing music late in the night. The police and district authorities have to enforce that. The loud music is very disturbing late in the night," Kultar Singh, owner of a marriage palace, told IANS.
Till the time that ban is properly enforced, residents of the affected areas hardly find the songs played by DJs as music to their ears.