Schools in Maharashtra want exemption from the Supreme Court’s ban on minors’ participation in the upcoming Dahi Handi festival. Many schools in the state organise dahi handis in their premises for ‘educational and recreational purposes’ and take steps for the safety of their students, they argued.
On Wednesday, the apex court stated it was dangerous to allow small children to participate in such feats in response to a clarification sought by the Maharashtra government over the August 2014 verdict that limited the height of pyramids to 20 feet.
At least 250 to 300 schools in Mumbai and others across the state celebrate the festival. However, principals said the height of the pyramid rarely exceeds two to three tiers. “Many schools have govindas. It is a fun activity that is a form of exercise and teaches students about Indian culture,” said Anil Bornare, senior teacher, Swami Muktananda School, Chembur. He added that schools use it to spread social messages. “Last year, schools in Bhandup had a govinda in which books were placed inside the ‘handi’ instead of ‘dahi’. After breaking the handi, students were asked to read,” he said.
Schools said that since the activity is conducted in a controlled environment, there is no chance of students being injured. “The pyramids are not very tall and no child has ever been injured,” said Prashan Redij, spokesperson of the Maharashtra School Principals Association, which had demanded exemption for schools ever since the issue was raised in 2014. “We met Rajendra Darda, former education minister, when the Maharashtra child rights commission recommended the ban and put forth our point of view,” said Redij.