From this year, Mumbaikars will have to celebrate Ganesh festival without plastic

Mumbai: There are two things in Mumbai that are ubiquitous — festivals and plastic — and they often go hand in hand. But during Ganesh Chaturthi, however, cruel the truth maybe, both these often go in the sea. Every year, the number of Ganpati idols keep increasing. Environment-friendly Ganpati idols provide some respite but that is only a minor trend with most citizens preferring the traditional way of making murtis.

But this year, with the plastic ban in force in Mumbai, there are caps not only on the height of idols or eco-friendly Ganpatis but also on festivities. Ganesh mandals are now not allowed to use plastic or thermocol as a part of their decorations. The same applies to home-bound Ganpatis as well. But many idol workshops in the city still cover the idols with plastic sheets. They claim their murtis would otherwise get dirty and be of no use and that they would then have to make the idols from the scratch again.

“Also, there is no other alternative to plastic which can shield these idols from rainwater. And if the murtis are made of shadu maati (clay), it is all the more difficult to sustain,” said Raju Shinde, a Lalbaug idol-maker who was under late Vijay Khatu’s tutelage, the famous artisan who passed away last year, for more than 38 years.

Many workshops across the city unapologetically cover idols with banned plastic. Surprisingly, no civic official has taken any action whatsoever, at least as yet.  However, the mandals got some respite last week in a meeting with the umbrella body of Ganesh mandals across the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had decided to allow the use of plastic for ‘aagman’ and ‘visarjan’ in order to shield idols from rains.

The members of the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS) had met BMC officials to voice their demands and suggestions. The mandals already feel their festival spirit has dampened after the Bombay High Court order of them not able to use plastic and thermocol for decorations. “The plastic ban has already led to heightened rates of other alternative decorative materials for the festival. The festival is not about business as much as it’s about culture,” said Harish Jadhav, another murti maker.

The mandals will, however, not be allowed to use plastic while giving prasad to devotees in plastic zip bags or hand mementoes in plastic carry bags. The same should be given in butter paper or paper similar to that material. Mandals have been demanding a relaxation in the thermocol ban for Ganpati decorations this season, which was junked by the high court.

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