Janmashtami mandals say that Govindas are insured for the day of the festival but not for practice sessions which start a month in advance

Mumbai : Sunday’s incident where a Govinda was paralysed after falling from the fifth tier of a human pyramid for Janmashtami raises concerns not only about safety of the Govindas but also about the insurance cover for them.

Janmashtami mandals say that Govindas are insured for the day of the festival but not for practice sessions which start a month in advance. This leaves in the lurch Govindas such as Raju Baikar, who was paralysed on Sunday. Baikar (35) has two children and is the sole breadwinner of the family. His mandal, Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Vyayam Mandal at Currey Road, said they would take care of his hospitalisation bills.

Admitting that Baikar did not have an insurance policy drawn through the group, a member of the Mandal said that he was not sure if the group would participate in the celebrations this year. “Rajesh is receiving treatment at KEM and we are sure he will recover very soon.  This is the biggest injury the group has seen since it was instituted 84 years ago,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Vinay Shetye of the Lalbaug Market Govinda Pathak said,

“Our mandal has been participating in the Janmashtami celebrations for the past 24 years. Every year we draw a policy for 100 boys participating as Govindas in the event. But we don’t have insurance for practice sessions since these sessions are held on a small scale. We take utmost care during these sessions as well as during the event and have never had any major accident.”

Dnyandeep Kasavkar, treasurer of Raje Shivaji Yuva Mandal, said that they provide insurance as well as equipment such as helmet, body cover, harness etc during the event. But have not insured Govindas for their practice session. He believes that dahi handi is a sport where people may sustain minor injuries, but also does not forget to add that they did not have any major injury last year.

A number of private insurance companies such as Oriental Insurance, Cholamandalam etc have offered a one month insurance cover for Govindas since the past few years.

“I have been organising Janmashtami celebrations in Girgaum for the past 8-10 years, with about 80-90 mandals participating  each year. We make every Govinda enrol for a policy at a nominal premium which gets them a cover of upto Rs 1 lakh. But if anything happens to them during the practice sessions, it is the group’s responsibility,” says Bala Ahirekar, Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena. Ahirekar has an ambulance stationed near the venue on the day of Janmashtami.

Tanvi Deshpande

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