IN A “unique” community policing initiative, the Aurangabad Rural Police deployed over 170 vehicles in coordination with local civic bodies to collect over 51,000 Ganesha idols across the district, and also sensitised Ganesh mandals to bring down public idol installations, which dropped by 70 per cent as compared to last year.
To celebrate Ganesh festival this year, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state government and local bodies had issued directives for safe conduct of the festivities focusing on minimising movement.
In the Aurangabad Rural Police jurisdiction, officials took the initiative of deploying over 170 vehicles to collect Ganesha idols from households and mandals installed for public celebrations. In the jurisdiction of 23 police stations in the predominantly rural and semi-urban jurisdiction, these vehicles collected 51,065 idols from households and 282 from mandals.
Police stations in the district also encouraged people to use idols made of environmentally sustainable shadu clay, instead of Plaster of Paris, and to also immerse them in artificial ponds instead of natural water bodies like rivers or lakes.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Superintendent of Police (Aurangabad Rural) Mokshada Patil said, “Behind this initiative was a clear goal — to minimise movement of people outside homes during the festival and, especially, on Anant Chaturdashi when idols are immersed. We decided to deploy trucks and school buses for collection of idols. Local civic bodies helped us a lot in organising the vehicles, and staff from police stations coordinated the efforts. Many times, there are unfortunate incidents, such as drowning, during immersion; we reduced that risk as well.”
Aurangabad Rural Police have reported more than 70 Covid-19 cases and one death. After collection of idols from homes and mandals, police officials also ensured that these were immersed in artificial water tanks with proper rituals.
Officials said the planning for these initiatives started at least three weeks before Ganesh festival. As part of another major initiative, Patil and Additional Superintendent Gorakh Bhamare held online meetings with members of Ganesh mandals, local community leaders, women’s representatives, and officials from police stations across the district.
Along with making them aware of safety directives, the mandals were also encouraged not to install idols. Due to this, 70 per cent mandals chose not to celebrate in the usual manner. The number of public Ganesh mandals came down from 1,524 last year to 446 this year.
Patil further said, “Many mandals that did not celebrate the festival donated money to Covid care centres, some others distributed safety utilities among people. To keep up the tempo, we too organised various online competitions such as rangoli, essay writing, dance with a special category for family members of police personnel. We were overwhelmed by the response.”
Inspector Machchindra Suravase of Gangapur police station said, “Along with deploying vehicles for idol collection, we also set up an artificial tank for immersion. The local gram panchayat also came in support of us and passed a resolution not to immerse idols in natural water bodies, thus making the festival not just safer but also environmentally sustainable.”
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