Introspect! urges Raj as laser lights, DJ boom boxes mar Ganesh festival

Oct 03, 2023 07:48 AM IST

Loss of partial vision reported from Pune, Nashik while high decibel blamed for heart failure in Sangli

Mumbai: The increasing politicisation of Ganpati mandals which has led to political parties pouring in crores towards organising lavish, high-decibel visarjans is now coming at the cost of public health.

Mumbai, India – Sept 28, 2023: Devotees take part in a procession for immersion of a huge idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Lord Ganesha into the Arabian Sea, on the streets, at Lalbaug, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, Sept 28, 2023. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India – Sept 28, 2023: Devotees take part in a procession for immersion of a huge idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Lord Ganesha into the Arabian Sea, on the streets, at Lalbaug, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, Sept 28, 2023. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

On Monday, the Nashik Ophthalmological Association (NOA) expressed concern over the extensive use of laser lights during Thursday’s Ganesh immersion procession after 6 men reached hospitals complaining of ocular disturbance. All 6 men, aged under 30, had been part of the immersion festivities in Nashik.

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“Three of these six men came to my clinic with complaints of decreased vision the day after the immersion. Upon examination I found marks of laser burn on their retina, bleeding in the frontal part of the retina. It will take more than a month for treatment to take effect and in some cases, they may have to live with this disability,” said Nashik’s leading retina surgeon, Ganesh Bhamare. In Pune, two residents of Katraj had their vision affected by 70 per cent on account of the laser lights they were exposed to during immersion processions, said their treating doctor Anil Dudhbhate. Both men, he said, had lost partial vision in one eye permanently.

Dr Arjit Khune, president of the Nashik Ophthalmological Association (NOA) said they issued a public warning against the use of laser lights in public places after Thursday because in 2022 as well 65 men from Kolhapur had reported laser burns during the immersion festivities last year. “We want to create public awareness about unregulated laser displays and its dangers,” he said.

In Sangli, two men with weak hearts died following high-decibel procession helmed by a disc jockey. Shekhar Pawashe, 32, a resident of Tasgaon tehsil began to feel uneasy due to the noise in the visarjan procession he was part of, and suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after. Similarly, a resident of Walwa tehsil Pravin Shirtode who had just recovered from an angioplasty, suffered a heart attack participating in immersion procession that played music on boom box. “He had complained that the noise really bothered him,” local papers reported quoting a member of his family.

On Sunday, Raj Thackeray took note of these incidents and posted on the social media saying there was need for the populace and the political class to introspect about the scale of these immersion processions. “We should celebrate the festival in a decent and traditional manner. This will preserve the sanctity of the festival and also increase the joy of celebration. During the 10 days of Ganesh festival and mainly during the immersion processions we know some young men died due to the extremely loud music being played by DJs while in Nashik some people suffered visual disability due to laser lights. Even people living in the areas near the Ganesh Mandals and procession route suffered severe discomfort.”

Thackeray also took note of an incident in Talegaon Dabhade area in Pune district where a mob attacked members of a family that was mourning the death of their 16-year-old son, Aryan Prashant Shinde. The family had requested the devotees to turn down the volume during the procession. Instead of complying with their request, the revellers attacked them. 21 persons were subsequently arrested for the attack but as Thackeray pointed out, the insensitivity shown by the volunteers is alarming. “Isn’t this price too high to be paid for our happiness and celebration?” he wrote in his post on X.

“Political leaders, the government, intellectuals of the society and of course the Ganeshotsav Mandals should take the initiative and stop these excesses. The entire government and all political parties should think beyond the politics of votes,” he urged.

While the Ganesh festival celebrations in Mumbai were relatively quiet this year, noise pollution in Pune increased despite restrictions and public awareness.

Santosh Patil, 20, a resident of Ahmednagar, was dancing in front of the dhol-tasha troupe, unaware that the constant exposure to high decibel noise would leave him deaf. He was brought to Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune on September 30, where he is undergoing treatment.

Dr Murarji Ghadge, ENT consultant and surgeon at Ruby Hall Clinic, said, Patil is currently undergoing treatment and is on steroid therapy.

“During the Ganpati festival we come across 40 patients with several issues like noise-induced hearing loss, trigger tinnitus, headaches, heart palpitations. Most of the patients are aged between 30 to 50 years of age,” he said.

BJP, Pune, office-bearer Sunil Mane too expressed displeasure at the noise pollution in the name of religion. “These volunteers dance on item songs, their high-decibel affects the health of all local residents. It is necessary to control them as it is harming people,” he said on social media.

On Sunday, writing in this newspaper, anti-noise activist Sumaira Abdulali pointed out that while over the years people have become more careful, it’s the politicians who continue to flout all noise norms. “(This year) very few DJs were visible in Mumbai but some of the highest decibel levels were recorded by politicians making speeches while welcoming the processions and playing music well after midnight.”

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