As over a thousand Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals await permissions less than a week ahead of Ganeshotsav, the organisers are anxious. With five days to go for Ganpati Bappa’s arrival, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is yet to process almost 87 per cent of the total applications received from Ganesh Mandals.
For the 10-day festival that will begin on August 25, the BMC had received 1,312 applications for setting up Ganesh pandals. While 1,153 applications are still pending with the civic body, 74 have been rejected. Till Friday evening, the BMC had granted permissions to only 85 mandals.
According to the civic body, of the 24 administrative wards, maximum applications are pending in G South (Worli, Parel and Currey Road), M East (Chembur east, Deonar and Govandi), G North (Dadar, Mahim and Dharavi) and D wards (Tardeo, Girgaum, Walkeshwar, Mahalaxmi and Nana Chowk). Most of the rejected applications were from G North and P North wards (Malad East and West).
Deputy Municipal Commissioner Anand Waghralkar, who is co-ordinating with the Ganesh Mandals’ committee, said: “Each mandal is expected to submit all relevant documents and information needed in the form, including maps and location sketches. These are verified by the traffic department and the police by personal site visits. Our junior engineers ensure that they call the mandal office-bearers and make them fill up all empty columns and that the forms are not rejected. We are working proactively to help the mandals. It takes at least a month’s time to process the required clearances from the traffic police, local police and fire-control department for giving permission to set up pandals. But if the forms are incomplete and maps and sketches of the location are not submitted, we have to ask them to submit those and the process gets delays further.”
He added: “It is mandatory for the mandals to follow the rules stipulated by the civic body as per the High Court order and the government. If the rule does not allow them to set up banners ahead of the festival, we cannot allow them to do so.”
Apart from pandals, the civic body received applications from 518 murtikars (sculptors) to erect pandals for their workshops of which, the BMC has approved 155 and rejected 161 applications. As on Saturday morning, 201 applications were pending.
Waghralkar said: “Permissions for Ganesh murtikars and mandals were being processed in 24 wards as per the approved policy. Many police stations and the traffic department have deputed staffers to grant NOCs through a one-window system.”
After a new festival policy was framed in 2015, the BMC is granting permission to organisers only after receiving NOCs from the police and traffic department.
Naresh Dahibaokar, co-ordinator, Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), the umbrella organisation of all mandals in the city, said the delay is due to lack of co-ordination among BMC officials and not because of the mandals. “The BMC promised us a single-window clearance. But in several cases, nodal officers in the police and traffic department are not available in office as they have duties to attend. Besides, we have been applying for permissions every year and have given undertaking that our pandals will not affect traffic. Then why are they taking so much time to process the applications?” he asked.
A BSGSS member said many major mandals have other problems. The pandals have to be erected well in advance. “Mandap contractors can provide labour only before Ganeshotsav. Since most pandal decoraters are from Konkan and have to complete multiple mandaps and decoration contracts, the mandals cannot wait till the BMC gives permission. They have already invested so much money on stage and decorations.”
There are more than 11,000 Ganesh idols belonging to various Ganeshotsav Mandals across the city that are immersed every year. Ironically, the number of applications received by the BMC to erect pandals is fewer compared to the number of idols that are immersed.