The Dahihandi Utsav Samanvay Samiti (DUSS), a federation of all Dahi handi mandals in the city, has opposed the ban on participation of children aged below 14 in human-pyramid formations during Gokulashtami.
In March, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) had banned children taking part in these pyramid formations. Children, being lightweight, are made to climb to the pyramid peaks to break the handis or mud pots. Often, these children fall down and hurt themselves.
Bal Padelkar, office bearer, DUSS, told dna on Wednesday, "We held a committee-member meeting recently and decided to oppose the ban. We plan to meet the commission and persuade them to lift the ban.
We too are concerned about the safety of these children and that is the reason we provide them complete security gear and take other adequate precautions. In fact, we hold practice sessions more than one month before Gokulashtami." "We do not pick kids at random and ask them to head the pyramids," he explained.
Over 1,200 mandals are affiliated to the DUSS from Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. He said the decision to oppose the ban was taken unanimously by representatives of all mandals.
This year dahi handi falls on August 18 and most of the mandals will start practising from Gurupoornima (July 12). Every mandal has around 500 members and each mandal breaks at least a dozen handis on the auspicious day. These handis contain milk, curd, butter, fruits and water and dahi handi the highlight of Janmashtami festivities.
Over the years, organisers have started offering bigger prizes and have also raised the height where the handi is placed, increasing the risk for kids as well as others climbing up the multiple tiers.
Cases of Govindas — pyramid climbers — suffering serious injuries or even death are common, raising safety concerns.
Ujjwal Ukey, acting chairperson of the commission, warned "We will take legal action (against those defying the ban). We passed this order after a police report. There are no safety measures in place when children participate in the human pyramids. Hence, we decided to ban the use of children under the age of 14."
The MSCPCR had passed the order after Pawan Pathak, a resident of Saki Naka, complained that lives of many children were endangered by Govinda groups who are lured by big prizes promised by political parties which organise these festivities.
Siddesh Mangaonkar, member of Gopal Krishna Krida Mandal, Tardeo, assured, "We practice hard for at least a month before the festival and take all precautions."