Bala Padelkar, president of Dahihandi Utsav Samanvay Samiti (DUSS), said on Saturday, "This year we will only accept mementos from the organisers. We appeal to the organisers not to spend money on celebrities, but instead use the funds to help those who may have been injured during the celebrations in previous years and are confined at home."
Apparently stung by criticism that mandals risked the lives of participants, particularly little children, in human pyramids, Padelkar said safety would be the priority in the celebrations this year.
Over the years, the growing popularity of the celebration has drawn local politicians – vying to cultivate support in their neighbourhoods – to offer bigger cash rewards for groups able to reach earthen pots which are strung higher up.
The prizes are upward of Rs25,000 and can go to over Rs1 lakh. More than 1,200 mandals in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai are affiliated to DUSS and they have been preparing for the event for over a month.
Earlier this week, the Bombay High Court banned children under 18 from participating in the pyramids and limited their height to 20 feet. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court lifted the height restriction and said children above 12 could participate.
"We were a bit upset with the HC order. It is good that the SC has heard our side," Padelkar told a news conference.
Explaining the decision not to accept cash prizes, he referred to the criticism that the mandals were eager to get money saying, "We want to send a message that we just want to celebrate the festival and don't care about the money. Therefore, it was decided unanimously that we will not accept any cash prize this time."
According to information available, the Siddhivianyak Charitable Trust, Dadar, has organised four ambulances that will be available in case of any emergency in Parel, Worli, Dadar, Byculla and Lalbaug. Medical teams on the ambulances would attend to any one injured during the celebrations and take them to hospital if necessary. The number to call for assistance is 9224245709.