February 8, 2014 1:05:01 am
Stating that the involvement of young children during Dahi Handi celebrations, in which they are made to climb human pyramids, is risky and can also be fatal if they fall, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) observed during a hearing on Thursday that there was a need to ban involvement of children below the age of 12 years at such events.
“Using young children is dangerous and if they fall, there is also the risk of death,” observed the commission, which has now directed the police and resident deputy collector of Mumbai to submit their reports within seven days.
“Any form of activity where the life or safety of a child is involved has to be looked into carefully, and necessary orders will be passed after a scrutiny of the reports, which we have sought from the police and collector,” said Ujjwal Uke, acting chairperson of MSCPCR.
Dahi Handi is celebrated on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. The festival involves Govindas, who form a human pyramid and try to break suspended clay pots of butter or curd, defying crowds that splash water on them. Preparations to form the tallest pyramid begin months in advance. Last year, the prizes on offer crossed Rs 1 crore.
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MSCPCR Secretary A N Tripathi said the commission was exploring the possibilities to stop the misuse of children during Dahi Handi celebrations.
The commission took cognisance of a complaint filed by Pawan Kumar Pathak, a resident of Sakinaka, that states that children were being used for commercial purposes in the name of breaking Dahi Handis, to earn prize money and goodwill.
“Several political parties participate in the Dahi Handi competitions. This lures mandals, which are playing with the life of minors, aged between four and 10 years, by making them climb human pyramids, up to eight layers. There have been several occasions where children have fallen from the top and have lost their lives or become handicapped.
Audience enjoys the spectacle, but no one cares for the life of these children. The mandals, who employ them, give a meagre amount to the family of children, who have met with accidents and thereafter, everyone forgets and plans for the next Dahi Handi, only for the sake of earning money,” said the complainant.
A police personnel, who was present during the hearing, said while mandals approached the police to obtain permission to use loudspeakers and play music, no one addresses the issue of the involvement of children.
R Garud, resident deputy collector of Mumbai, said a report would be submitted to the commission next week. “The concern raised by the complainant is valid as there are no safety measures for children. We will submit our report to the commission in the next few days. We will also request the government to disallow the use of children,” he said.
Surendra Jondhale, professor of political science at Mumbai University, however, said it was a tradition and no issue of child abuse was involved. “There is no coercion, compulsion or harassment involved in these celebrations. Child and parents have the option of turning down the offer. Insurance cover should be made mandatory for groups, including children, that participate in Dahi Handi,” he said.
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