Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has asked that religious occasions like Gokulashtami, Ganeshotsav and Ramzan be toned down to avoid crowds and reduce the chances of swine flu spreading, but organisers said they are helpless.
They, however, assured the administration that they would do their best to help.
Take the case of Lalbaugcha Raja, one of Mumbai’s biggest Ganesh mandals, visited by 1 crore devotees every year. Many spend up to 22 hours in queues for darshan.
“What precautions can we take? At most, we can appeal to the ill to stay away,” said Rajendra Lanjwal, the mandal’s treasurer.
He said providing masks to so many devotees was not possible.
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, who is organising a mega dahi handi at Borivli with prize money of Rs. 11 lakh, said he would provide masks to visitors. “Despite the infection, people are enthusiastic about Gokulashtami,” he said.
Legislator Jitendra Awhad, known for organising mega dahi handis, said: “We will take all the necessary precautions, including deploying ambulances and doctors.”
Shiv Sena leader Pratap Sarnaik said he would abide by state directives.
“People’s lives are more important and if the government wants us to stall festivities, we will,” he said.
As far as Ramzan was concerned, Ibrahim Tai, president of the Muslim Council Trust, said awareness programmes are being held. “We are trying to educate people to take precautions like wearing masks during prayers,” he said.
Tai added the council was talking to various religious organisations, urging them to appeal to the community to take precautions.