AHEAD OF THE fifth day of Ganesh immersion in the city, sound vendors expressed fear over being slapped with fines and punished for playing loud music. The vendors claim they are finding it difficult supplying sound equipment to the mandals with police keeping a strict watch over the decibel limit.
Last year, the Bombay High Court directed mandals to abide by the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, and guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in this regard. It had been said that sound limit was to be kept below 60 decibels (dB) in residential areas and loudspeakers could be used with due permission in silence zones.
“Although the state government does not recognise the presence of silence zones in Mumbai as they told the HC, all mandals are mandated to follow the decibel levels when using loudspeakers or sound amplifiers for processions. In the past few days, the noise limits have been exceeded,” said anti-noise pollution activist Sumaira Abdulali from Awaaz Foundation, an NGO said.
The rules stated that non-compliance could attract imprisonment for up to five years and a fine, which might extend to Rs 1 lakh, to the mandals and sound equipment providers. As a result, many vendors are apprehensive to part with their equipment and are thus losing business, they claim.
“We had observed a Mute Day during Dahi Handi festival to oppose the decibel limit. Although we just provide equipment, the mandals end up playing those louder than the prescribed sound limit. But our sound equipment get confiscated in the process and we are saddled with fines, sometimes around a lakh,” Manuel Dias from Professional Audio and Lighting Association (PALA) said.
Three festivals, Ganeshotsav, Dahi Handi and Navratri, bring most of the business to the sound vendors. Dias claims that around 80 per cent of the vendors lost out on business during the Dahi Handi festival this time. He added that when it comes to “traditional sound equipment” all pleas of violations fall on deaf ears. “They believe that having a DJ and loudspeakers raise the volume to above 75 dB in the city. But we have seen that the sound of dhols and tashas, which are very much is use in residential areas, exceed 100 dB,” he said.
According to data collected by Awaaz foundation, the highest sound level on Saturday was recorded at 116.8 dB. “Equipment providers will be fined for Saturday’s noise levels. While we have written to the chief minister about this, we want each sound vendor to send a personal application to the minister informing him about our cause. Through social media, we are trying to reach all vendors in the state,” Dias said.
Sanket Sawant, an LED and sound equipment contractor for a few Ganesh mandals in the city, said: “For a few functions,we have to up the volume to cater to the proceedings. We are trying to abide by the rules. They must also help us.”
He added: “For the fifth, seventh, ninth and tenth days of Ganesh immersion, the government must relax the restrictions or at least be a little lenient about the rules without which, retaining business would be difficult.”
Asked about the developments, Mumbai Police spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Rashmi Karandikar, said: “We take action as per law”.