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Ever-increasing dahi handi heights worries Bombay High Court; Maharashtra government asked to intervene

Saturday, 9 August 2014 - 7:20am IST | Agency: dna

The Bombay High Court on Friday suggested to the state government to regulate the height of human pyramids during Janmashtami festival, when “govindas” form these pyramids to burst dahi handis in honour of Lord Krishna. The festival will be celebrated in the state on August 18 this year.

What worries HC?
Locals practice for days to get the height and balance of the human pyramid right so as to safely reach the dahi handi. Often times, the govindas fail to get the balance right and the pyramid comes crashing down, severely injuring the participants and even resulting in their deaths. Dahi handi organisers are even known to compete with each other for the “highest” dahi handi, which helps them attract local advertisers as well as pull-in crowds.

“Every year, a couple of people die and several are injured,” a division bench of Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode said on Friday. “This needs to be regulated, ultimately it is a festival but now it has become commercial. Unless there are statutory regulations the height will not controlled.”

Can pyramid height be regulated?
Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde informed the court that that the police can stop acts which are dangerous in nature under section 140 of the Bombay Police Act. But he added that it would have to be checked if human pyramids can be regulated under this provision. To which the court said: “Most dahi handis are on the street, and are put up by private organisers. If it is a festival, then we cannot pass orders to regulate it. The government can, through some executive order, ensure regulation either by the police or the home department. Something has to be formulated to act as a deterrent.”

Who is the petitioner?
The court made these observations while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Chembur-based social worker Swati Patil, secretary of NGO Utkarsh Mahila Samajik Sanstha. The petition was argued by advocate Nitesh Nevshe who said that, “Last year, two persons died and around 365 were injured during the festival. There has to be some regulation to avoid deaths and serious injuries.”

The petition prays for directions to dahi handi organisers to restrict the human pyramid layers to five, and in case of injury or casualty to govindas in very high handis, the organisers face penal action.

About guidelines on the issue
Advocate Shinde pointed out that in case of summer camps, a petition was filed in the high court acting on which, the government has now laid down guidelines for conducting summer camps for children. Justice Kanade, while adjourning the hearing to August 12, directed the government to suggest ways in which dahi handis can be regulated and said: “We hope some govindas life is saved this year.”

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