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Dahi handi injuries fell by 78% after height restrictions: Mumbai petitioner to SC

The Bombay high court, in August 2014, ruled children must not be allowed to participate in celebrations in view of the danger and taking into consideration the ever-increasing height of dahi handi.

mumbai Updated: Aug 03, 2017 18:36 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,dahi handi,supreme court

Injuries during Dahi Handi have reduced substantially in the past two years after height restrictions were imposed in 2014, the Supreme Court was told by the petitioner, who had asked for a limit on the height of human pyramids and the age to participate in the festival.

Swati Patil, the petitioner who collected data on injuries from government hospitals such as Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion hospital, KEM and police records, said 292 people were injured in 2014 from Mumbai and Thane, 29 of whom had serious injuries. In 2015, the figure dropped to 142 and then to 64 in 2016.

Another report, based on data from KEM hospital, submitted to the Supreme Court, said an average of 200 people suffered injuries every year between 2011 and 2013. “We also submitted a study by the Journal of Indian Medical Association that identifies that dahi handi celebrated on large scale carries a high risk of injuries. A majority of the injuries (84%) were observed during the descent phase or climbing down after breaking the pot that led to spinal fractures or paraplegia (partial paralysis),” said Patil.

On Tuesday, the SC asked the Bombay high court to hear the Maharashtra government’s plea, challenging the Apex Court’s order capping the height of the human pyramid and barring the participation of minors during the festivals. The matter will be heard on August 7 by the high court.

“Apart from the drastic reduction in injuries, we will tell the high court that security guidelines such as cushioning the base of pyramids, adequate medical facilities, building human pyramids on main roads and the use of helmets are not being followed by the mandals, even after the state made several promises to the SC,” said Patil.

After Patil filed a PIL, the Bombay high court, in August 2014, ruled children must not be allowed to participate in celebrations in view of the danger and taking into consideration the ever-increasing height of dahi handi. It also limited the height of the human pyramid to four tiers or about 20 feet. The state government challenged the order in the Supreme Court, which upheld the judgement, saying that participants should above 18 years of age.

Dahi handi mandal members said they will follow all guidelines listed by the state to the SC. “We have already issued directions to all mandals in the state to ensure they follow each guideline mentioned by the home department to the SC. We also welcome the SC’s decision to push the matter back in the form of a fresh plea back to the HC since all restrictions prior to the hearing now, stand invalid and the fresh plea will help highlight our plight during the festival,” said Kamlesh Bhoir, secretary, Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti, umbrella body of mandals.

The petitioner also filed an application under Right-to-information (RTI) Act to find out the steps taken by the state to ensure safety of Govindas following the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court verdicts.

In its response on Monday, the home department said it has constituted eight departments to keep a watch on events to ensure safety of citizens and Govindas. “I have been told that separate departments will be overseeing that no minors participate during the festival. The Mumbai police will be checking the height restrictions and the state information department will conduct awareness drives based on HC and SC orders at different locations,” said Patil.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra state home ministry submitted a list of guidelines (see box) to be followed by the Dahi Handi mandals this year in the form of an affidavit to the SC during Tuesday’s hearing.

“The state has deployed adequate police force and personnel during the festival. The state has also taken all preventive measures to avoid untoward incidents regarding Dahi Handi festival,” read a document undersigned by Vijay Patil, deputy secretary, state home department.

First Published: Aug 03, 2017 09:51 IST