Mumbai: Even as the Ganesh mandals of Mumbai have been demanding that their permission to use loudspeakers be increased from four days to six days, this year, the number of days granted to them has been reduced to three days. The Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), the umbrella body of sarvajanik (public) Ganesh mandals in the city, has written to the city and suburban collector, demanding that mandals be allowed to use loudspeakers for four days, as permitted every year.
The use of loudspeakers during Ganeshotsav is a contentious issue in Mumbai, where public celebration of the festival dates back to 126 years. The city has 13,000 Ganesh mandals. Members of several mandals had protested against rules banning loudspeakers and demanded the relaxation of the restrictions, saying they should be allowed to enjoy the festival. However, accepting that something was better than nothing, they accepted the four days of relaxation give to them. The noise rules are relaxed for the four immersion days and mandals are allowed to use loudspeakers beyond the 10pm deadline.
“The relaxation given to us is just during the four immersion days. We have been demanding an additional two days reserved by the state government to be added to the Ganeshotsav festival for cultural programmes etc. However, during the four days of relaxation, we cannot organise any cultural events, owing to immersions,” said Naresh Dahibavkar, president of the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS).
After the Centre amended the noise rules on August 10, 2018, the state directed the district collectors to allocate 15 days in a year to relax the norms from 10pm to 12am. Earlier, the state had reserved the right to select the 15 days. Later it notified and assigned relaxation norms on particular festivals. However, of the 15 days, 13 have been assigned to various festivals to utilise the noise rules relaxation. The state government has reserved two days for ‘essential’ reasons. The decision is taken by the city and suburban collector.
This year, Gauri Visarjan, which falls on the seventh day of the festival usually, will be on the fifth day, thus reducing the days of immersion to three, instead of four days. Hence the collector’s office allowed three days’ relaxation for Ganesh Chaturthi and the one day was added to reserved days. This decision has not gone down well with the Ganesh mandals, who have demanded they already have followed too many restrictions owing to Covid-19, and reducing the relaxation on using the loudspeaker would kill the charm of the festival, they have stated.
There are 13,000 sarvajanik mandals in the city, of which 3,070 mandals are the big ones.
Dahibavkar added, “DJs etc were banned by the government and we accepted. Our mandals are following all rules stipulated by the government. The rule banning the use of loudspeakers after 10pm should be extended for six days, instead of four days. The three-day relaxation of loudspeakers and other restrictions owing to the pandemic will ruin the fervour of the festival. The authorities need to consider this, as it will help expel the notion among the youth volunteers in our mandals that the government is against Ganesh mandals and their celebrations.”
What the law says:
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 and The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, state that loudspeakers or public address systems are banned from 10pm to 6am.
The government of Maharashtra can extend the deadline up to midnight on 15 days during a year:
Shivaji Jayanti (1 day) - February 19, 2021
Dr Ambedkar Jayanti (1 day) - April 14, 2021
Maharashtra Day/ Labour Day - (1 day) - May 1, 2021
Ganpati Chaturthi (4 days) - September 11, September 14, September 19, 2021.
Navaratri (Ashtami and Navami, 2 days) - October 13 and 14, 2021
Eid-e-Milad (1 day) - October 19 or October 20 2020 (depending on the moon sighting)
Diwali – (Laxmi Pujan) ( 1 day) - November 4, 2021
Christmas (1 day) - December 24, 2021
New year (1 day) - December 31, 2021
The remaining three days have been reserved by the government for ‘essential’ reasons.
A person not adhering to the restrictions put in place by the Maharashtra government can be punished under section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, for a maximum period of five years in jail and a maximum fine of Rs1 lakh. If the offence is repeated frequently, a fine of Rs5, 000 a day can be imposed.