The Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, which represents Ganpati mandals in the city, has for the first time published a set of “dos and don’ts” to check violations by organisers. Among the guidelines are — warning against exceeding noise pollution levels and to consider playing devotional songs in place of film remixes belted out by hired DJs during the 10-day-long festival.
The samiti published the guidelines after a meeting with Mumbai Police earlier this month. Police were concerned by flagrant violations of noise pollution regulations by mandals. Over the last five years, police, accompanied by social activists, have been measuring noise levels from loudspeakers at mandals. In line with Bombay High Court orders, criminal cases are filed every year under the Environment Protection Act against mandals found violating noise rules. Last year, after the HC banned the use of sound systems and DJs, police registered 202 complaints of noise pollution against mandals.
The legal consequences of violations prompted the samiti to publish the “dos and don’ts” for mandals this year. “Last year, I received phone calls from parents of volunteers at mandals who had been booked by police for violating noise pollution norms. Having an FIR against you spoils job and academic prospects. No one should put their future in jeopardy over a 10-day festival. To make mandals aware of noise pollution norms and safety precautions, we published the guidebook for the first time in our history,” said Naresh Dahibavkar, who heads the samiti.
The booklet begins with a brief summary of the Environment Protection Act and reminds mandals that each year, the deadline to use loudspeakers is extended to midnight for 15 days, four of which are reserved for Ganesh Chaturthi. Mandals have been instructed to switch off loudspeakers by 10 pm during the other eight days of the festival.
The samiti has recommended entering into written contracts with contractors providing sound equipment. “We have recommended to mandals that they should take it in writing from contractors that noise levels during the day will not exceed 55 decibels and 45 decibels at night, and similarly 50 decibels in the day and 40 decibels at night in silent zones. If the sound still exceeds these levels, the contractor should face criminal action instead of the mandals,” said Dahibavkar.
The samiti has also recommended that volunteers at mandals download sound measuring apps on their phones in order to personally monitor decibel levels. In another set of recommendations aimed at keeping noise levels within permissible limits, the samiti has recommended that mandals play traditional and devotional music instead of film songs. “Not only does traditional music create the atmosphere of a festival being celebrated in the right manner, we have also observed that it keeps noise levels in check. But we cannot enforce any rules about not hiring DJs,” Dahibavkar said.
Mandals have also been asked to refrain from making any political statements as the state Assembly elections are round the corner and from hurting any religious sentiments, said Dahibavkar.