Emphasising the priority to human lives, the Maharashtra government on Monday declined permission for multi-tiered ‘human pyramids’ to various dahi-handi groups to celebrate the festival next week, officials said.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Dahi-Handi Coordination Committee with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, cabinet ministers, MLAs, top police and civic officials, District Collectors, besides members of the Covid Task Force and Covid Child Task Force.
While a majority of the dahi-handi organisers have agreed to comply with the government directives, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leaders have strongly criticised the move to restrict the celebrations.
The government reiterated that the state has just recovered from the 7-month long Covid-19 second wave, and cited the NITI Aayog’s latest precautionary warning on the upcoming ‘third wave’ which can hit children in a big way.
“Let’s set aside festivities for some time and prioritise saving lives of people. The government’s first priority is to protect the people as the dangers of Covid-19 has not ended,” Thackeray said.
He appealed to the dahi-handi mandals to celebrate the festival differently by way of social and health related activities, to which a majority of the organisers have agreed.
The CM pointed out how some people agitate against Covid-19 restrictions and said that such people should think of the people first since the world has had a bitter experience with the coronavirus.
Even countries where both doses of vaccinations are given, restrictions are being imposed again as the third wave has wreaked havoc, so Maharashtra would need to be very careful.
“Though the infection seems to have subsided now in some places, it’s a ‘window period’ for us to prepare for the next round by arranging for Covid beds, oxygen, medical infrastructure, finances, etc.” Thackeray said.
On his part, Pawar urged all the organisers to cooperate since the ongoing Delta Plus variants is deadly and spreading fast, and if it gets out of hand, the achievements of the past 18 months would be wasted.
BJP leaders like Ram Kadam and MNS spokesperson Bala Nandgaonkar slammed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government for not permitting the festivities with full protocols in respective localities instead of the ‘Govinda’ troupes moving around to participate in competitions.
Mumbai is renowned for the some of the most ostentatious, colourful and tall multi-tiered human pyramids of six to nine levels, during Dahi-Handi, with separate troupes of women, children, and foreigners participating.