CITING THE Covid-19 pandemic, the civic administration on Thursday said Ganesh mandals will not be allowed to do decorations during the 10-day Ganpati festival and urged mandals to install idols in their temples instead of erecting pandals. Tourists from across India and other countries visit Pune during the festival. The decorations are the main attraction, for which mandals work tirelessly.
Mayor Murlidhar Mohol convened a meeting of Ganesh mandals to decide on the strategy for celebrations during the festival. “It is the responsibility of the administration to project a factual situation in public interest. More are getting infected in PMC areas than in Mumbai, and if cases from neighbouring PCMC areas are included then it would be double the number,” said Ravindra Shisve, Joint Police Commissioner of Pune.
He said the state government earlier took some crucial decisions even when the number of patients were one-third of the present count. “The age-old tradition of going on a pilgrimage from Pune to Pandharpur was called off, considering the seriousness of the pandemic. Bakrid was also not celebrated,” he added.
Shisve said the festival will take place but had to be observed in a simple manner. “The Ganesh mandals with temples are being urged to keep their idols in their temples to perform rituals during the festival. This is an extraordinary situation and it needs an extraordinary decision. If Lokmanya Tilak were there, then he would have taken an extraordinary decision in public interest,” he said.
The police officer said some mandals would not like the stand but such is the demand of the situation that restrictions were necessary. “It is difficult to discipline people and control a crowd,” he said.
“There is no peak in the city so far. If the situation was under control, then the administration would not have gone in for the construction of a jumbo treatment facility. Everyone should realise this. Festivals should be celebrated but in a simple manner,” he said.
The Kasba Ganpati Mandal, deity of the city, and Dagdusheth Ganesh Mandal, another popular mandal, will accept the administration’s request for installing idols in their temples.
“Major Ganesh mandals should not put up decorations and they should influence others to follow suit,” Shisve said.
On traditional processions during the first and the last day of the festival, Shisve said considering there were five lakh installations, allowing even four people from each would mean 20 lakh people on the streets.
He also said there was a misunderstanding that the administration would not permit Ganesh mandals to erect pandals next year if they did not celebrate the same way this year. “I am prepared to give it in writing that all those who got permission in 2019 for pandals will get it in 2021 as well, irrespective of whether they put up pandals this year,” he added.
Mohol said the main Ganesh mandals had decided to observe Ganesh festival in a simple manner and not have processions, and this was a welcome step in the present situation.
“This year, Ganesh mandals need not make the rounds for getting any permission from the PMC and traffic police for erecting pandals or even from the local police for loudspeakers. The permission of 2019 will be considered,” he said.
Mohol also said there should be steps to avoid crowding by not holding processions on the first and last day of the festival. “We are trying to make an appeal to mandals to immerse idols at their pandals or temples, instead of in water bodies or artificial tanks. The PMC will provide sufficient sodium bicarbonate for proper dissolution,” he said.
He further said members of Ganesh mandals should not crowd pandals, and that pandals should not create hurdles for traffic.
Various mandal representatives urged the PMC to provide them financial assistance to make them keep alive the the long tradition of the festival. “The main revenue for Ganesh mandals comes from advertising boards alongside pandals. Also, traders give donations, but this year commercial activities were completely shut due to the lockdown. It is also not possible to raise funds from citizens. The PMC should provide Rs 1 lakh each to small Ganesh mandals and Rs 5 lakh each to big ones to celebrate the festival,” they said.
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