Janmashtami celebrations are likely to be low key affair with the courts refusing to relax the 20-feet restriction on the height of the human pyramids. Dahi handi mandals said that they will participate in the festivities, even though they are likely to be subdued.
On Thursday morning, a few govindas were seen on the streets of Central Mumbai and music was being played at a few places. The celebrations are likely to pick up by noon and would peak late in the evening.
However, police presence was significant as early as 9 am and police were seen guarding various points in the city. The programme is likely to continue till late in the night.
“All the traffic police officers have been asked to be on the ground and more importantly, around dahi handi venues. These spots will require enough police personnel to ensure traffic is smooth,” said Ashok Dudhe, deputy commissioner and Mumbai police spokesperson.
“We have sent a copy of the Supreme Court’s order to all police stations and have asked them to be extra vigilant,” said Dudhe.
The Supreme Court has restricted the height of human pyramids for dahi handi to 20 feet and banned children below 18 from participating.
The Mumbai police will also videograph all dahi handi venues. The policemen will videograph revellers who participate in forming human pyramids and halt celebrations if a particular mandal flouts the new rules. There are 3,387 dahi handi organisers in the city with around 1,000 considered as big players.
“We have given them conditional permission with clauses mentioning strict action if they fail to follow the apex court’s orders,” added Dudhe.
“In case the noise levels are above permissible limits, the police will also take action. These things have already been communicated with organisers,” said Dudhe.
The police have also issued legal notices to some mandals on the basis of their track record and blatantly violated rules in 2015. All the police stations had carried out a similar exercise last year and maintained a list of the organisers who did not pay heed to rules in 2015. They have been served a notice already.
Most mandals said they are not offering big rewards. While there will be no prizes for the highest human pyramids, dahi handi teams will get small cash prizes based on the ease with which they created tiers. The restriction on height will allow teams to form at the most four or five human tiers. In the past, teams competed to form nine tiers.
Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik from the Ovala-Majiwada constituency, said, “We have followed the rules last year and we will follow them this year too. Mandals daring to form higher pyramids will not be allowed. We have decided to give out Rs5,000 to Rs25,000 based on the performances of the mandals.”
BJP MLA from Magathane, Prakash Surve, whose Taramati Charitable Trust conducts major dahi handi activities in Borivli, is also keeping it lowkey. “We will offer Rs. 2,000 each to all the participating groups forming five-tier pyramids. We will make sure the Supreme Court’s rules are not broken,” Surve said.
Meanwhile, Ram Kadam, BJP MLA said, “We will organise an ‘addiction-free’ dahi handi this time around. We are in talks to call Anna Hazare to help in the social cause and break the handi himself,” Kadam said. He said that the Supreme Court verdict is welcomed and accepted. “The verdict, however harsh or sweet, has to be accepted. We welcome the verdict and will make sure the order is followed,” he added.
Other politicians have stopped sponsoring the festival. Jitendra Awhad, Thane NCP MLA, who used to organise competitions and offer big cash prizes, has opted out. “We are not going to organise any event. We have stopped completely,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state government has declared a holiday today (Thursday) on the occasion of Janmashtami, all Mumbai schools have been told to remain shut by the education department.