SUNANDA MEHTA: In the wake of recent bomb explosion at Faraskhana police station, is the trust planning extra security arrangements around the Shrimant Dagdusheth temple, especially with the annual Ganesh festival round the corner?
The upcoming Ganesh festival will be the 122th in the series since the tradition began in Maharashtra, way back during pre- Independence days. The present Dagdusheth Ganesh temple had come into existence in 1984, and since then security has became a perennial issue in different magnitudes. After the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Maharashtra emerged as a target on the radar of international terrorism. The ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad) often shares their intelligence inputs with us as do the government agencies on their security plans during festival season.
They also recommend certain measures that we follow diligently. We cannot disclose our security plans publicly for obvious reasons. However, we have installed 90 CCTV cameras from Lal Mahal to Rameshwar Chowk and in the by- lanes right up to the main road. The control units of these cameras have been placed in the main temple, Datta temple along with Zone-1 office of Pune police and two other police stations.
The coconut suppliers and other vendors sitting around the Ganesh temple attract a large number of devotees and pose a major challenge to security arrangements. In the past we had successfully foiled two untoward incidents planned by the anti-social elements.
We also carry out counselling of these vendors and ask them to maintain proper vigil. We have our security force of around 350 people. It may sound exaggerated, but around 2.5 crore to three crore devotees visit the Dagdusheth temple during the 240 hours of Ganesh festival spanning over 10 days. Along with the security agencies we take all possible safety measures for devotees and by the grace of Lord Ganesha, no untoward incident has happened till date.
Also, we have opted for an insurance policy of Rs 50 crore to offer a security cover to devotees. Those who have been injured in the recent Faraskhana blast will get the benefit of this policy. However, it is unfortunate that we are getting no cooperation from police in processing the insurance claims.
ANURADHA MASCARENHAS: What are the areas that need to be worked upon to ensure adequate security?
After recent blast at Faraskhana police station, we had a fresh round of talks with the Pune police Commissioner. The police department has drawn our attention to some weak areas. The police has advised us to put sirens in place to sent out alerts in case of any emergency. They have also asked for more strict checking of the devotees while entering the temple though we feel this will inconvenience the devotees.
The police have conducted mock-drills near our temple four to five times and we have caught all decoys that the police sent to check our security systems. But continued…