Even as the state government repeated a familiar story for the third consecutive year, the Allahabad High Court has allowed relaxation in connection with immersion of idols during the festival season near the banks of Rivers Ganga and Yamuna.
The district and state authorities have been asked to ensure that the immersion was carried out in strict adherence with the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) passed in 2010.
The court has directed that the authorities in Allahabad should be helped by the state, as they have already come up with a plan to ensure immersion of idols as per CPCB-2010 guidelines.
It further added that the remaining 21 districts (which are situated along Rivers Ganga and Yamuna in the state) would also follow the same guidelines.
However, the state government was directed to place the reports regarding arrangements being made in these districts by September 26, when it would pass further orders.
The high court had in 2012 and then 2013 ordered complete ban on immersion of idols in these rivers as a measure to curb pollution.
However, while sitting on the orders in the interim, the state government has twice raised the spectre of law and order situation just before the onset of the festival season to seek relaxation for that particular year. Reluctantly, the high court has granted relaxation in both the years.
Allowing the modification application filed by the state for this year too on Friday while hearing a PIL related to pollution in River Ganga, a division bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Dilip Gupta, said: “Once an event has taken place, the emergency of the situation is lost to the State and the matter is taken into cold storage until the next year, when the court is confronted with a human situation and is informed that unless a relaxation was to be granted, the situation would not be capable of being managed on the ground. This, in our view, is a violation by the state government of its obligation to enforce the orders of the Court.”
Last year in October, the state government had made “solemn promise” before the court that the idols would not be immersed in the rivers from next year.
However, the court noted that the first meeting in this regard took place only on August 19 this year, barely a month before the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which kickstarts the festival season leading up to Durga Puja in the early part of October.
In the meetings of the state government, the district collectors were asked to adhere to the CPCB guidelines of 2010 and make arrangements in their respective districts.
The court pointed out that, from the records, it was not clear as to what arrangements were being made in the remaining 21 districts.
In Allahabad, it has been proposed that 100-metre-by-50-metre spots at a distance of nearly 480 metres from the river would be ear-marked for immersion. Pits would be dug up and the area would be barricaded. A synthetic liner will be placed in the bottom of those pits filled with water. After immersion, the refuse material would be disposed of as per CPCB guidelines.
Some of the salient features of the CPCB guidelines are: No use of chemical paint or plaster of Paris; use of natural dyes; removing worship materials from the idols before immersing it; making public aware about ill effects of direct immersion; collection of bio-degradable and plastic waste and disposing it through composting/ recycling; and clearing of all the waste material within 48 hours of immersion.
The court said that it hoped that the state government would take necessary steps, including release of funds, in the wake of the urgency of the situation.