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Monday Musings: Turn Ganesh Mandals into a positive force

Most Ganesh Mandals are disliked, at best, grudgingly tolerated

pune Updated: Sep 04, 2017 17:25 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Monday musings,ganesh mandals,pune
Tulshibag Mandal in Pune.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Over the last few decades, Ganesh Mandals in Pune have acquired a terribly negative reputation. While the people of Pune love the Ganesh Festival dearly, the same can’t be said about the way this festival is celebrated in the city. Ganesh Mandals and the people behind them are disliked and despised, at best tolerated grudgingly. There are valid reasons for this.

In the months preceding the festival, almost all of them go about collecting the “vargani,” literally ‘voluntary contribution’ to raise funds for the celebrations. They go in groups on collection drive in the neighbourhood shops and households and people pay-up simply because they have no choice. Sometimes fights break out over this and police complaints are filed as happened this year too.

The mandals then put up their pandals on the city roads causing gross inconvenience to the commuting public and spend public funds on garish, flashy lighting and décor of the pandal.

Their loudspeakers are used to blare the most popular Bollywood hits of the season, unmindful of the sound pollution they are causing. This, by and large, has been the story of the Ganesh Festival in Pune over the past two decades, if not more. There has been rising disappointment from the general public against all of this, but not much could be done because, firstly, these mandals are quasi-political bodies enjoying political patronage and secondly, the police prefer not to confront them to maintain the peace in the city. This year, however, police commissioner Rashmi Shukla decided to be firm on the issue of noise pollution and that has truly helped reduce noise levels this season.

The fact of the matter is that there are as many as 4,000 Ganesh Mandals in the city, all of them populated with young, active and energetic youth who believe that they are contributing to society through their efforts. Most of them are simply unaware that much of what they do is unproductive and their traffic-obstructing pandals and blaring loudspeakers hurt those around them and not help.

A small number of these mandals are sensitive to public criticism and they have changed their ways by becoming ecofriendly, by not polluting the rivers and by undertaking a number of positive initiatives. Over the last week, Hindustan Times wrote about such mandals, specifically on Sunday, September 3, ‘For them, social good is supreme’.

It is extremely important that well-meaning individuals and NGOs in the city team up with the Ganesh Mandals to transform them into a positive force for the good of Pune. These mandals can take up a number of positive initiatives of their choice, be it the Swacch Bharat Mission, preventing river pollution, better solid waste management, water conservation, or any such The entertainment programmes that they organise during the festivals can also be based on social themes to influence a change in the mindset.

The Ganesh Mandals of Pune seem to exist in a world of their own, insulated from the rest of the city. That needs to change. The Mandals need to be engaged through dialogue and discussion, and then transformed into a positive social force. All it needs is a small beginning to set the ball rolling.

abhay.vaidya@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Sep 04, 2017 17:08 IST