The Allahabad High Court has, for the third year in a row, relaxed the ban on immersion of idols in rivers Ganga and Yamuna during the festival season. The court, however, has directed the state and the district authorities to ensure that the immersion was carried out as per the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) passed in 2010.
It said that Allahabad authorities have already come up with a plan and directed that the remaining 21 districts (situated along the banks of the two rivers in the state) to also follow the same guidelines. The court further directed the state government to place the reports regarding arrangements being made in these districts by September 26 when it would pass further orders.
The HC had in 2012 and then in 2013 ordered complete ban on immersion of idols in these rivers to curb pollution. While sitting on the orders in the interim, the state government had twice raised the spectre of law and order situation just before the onset of the festival season, to seek relaxation in the ban for that particular year. The HC granted relaxation in both the years.
Allowing the modification application filed by the state for this year too while hearing a PIL related to pollution in River Ganga, a division bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Dilip Gupta on Friday said: “Once an event has taken place, the emergency of the situation is lost to the state and the matter is taken into cold storage until the next year, when the court is confronted with a human situation and is informed that unless a relaxation was to be granted, the situation would not be capable of being managed on the ground. This, in our view, is a violation by the state government of its obligation to enforce the orders of the court.”
Last year in October, the state government had made ‘solemn promise’ before the court that the idols would not be immersed in the rivers from next year.
However, the court noted that the first meeting in this regard took place only on August 19 this year, barely a month before the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which kickstarts the festival season leading up to Durga Puja in early October.
In the meetings of the state government, the district collectors were asked to adhere to the CPCB guidelines of 2010 and make arrangements in their respective districts.
The court pointed out that, from the records, it was not clear as to what arrangements were being made in the remaining 21 districts.
In Allahabad, it has been proposed that 100X50 metre areas at a distance of nearly 480 metres from the river would be earmarked for immersion. Pits would be dug up and the area would be barricaded. A synthetic liner will be placed in the bottom of those pits filled with water. After immersion, the refuse material would be disposed of as per CPCB guidelines.
Some of the salient features of the CPCB guidelines are: No use of chemical paint or plaster of paris; use of natural dyes; removing worship materials from the idols before immersion; making public aware about ill effects of direct immersion; collection of bio-degradable and plastic waste and disposing it through composting/ recycling; and clearing of all the waste material within 48 hours of immersion.
The court said it hoped that the state government would take necessary steps, including release of funds, in the wake of the urgency of the situation.