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Dahi Handi: 'Kids under 12 cannot be part of pyramids'

The state child rights panel’s order came on a complaint by an activist, who had said children are used for the uppermost tiers without any safety measures being put in place

Eight and nine-tier human pyramids during dahi handi celebrations, which usually have children in the uppermost tiers, may soon be a thing of the past.

Dahi handi mandals say the number of tiers in the pyramids will be reduced, making the festival less competitive. File pic
Dahi handi mandals say the number of tiers in the pyramids will be reduced, making the festival less competitive. File pic

The Maharahstra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR), in an order on Monday, has recommended a total ban on the participation of children below 12 years of age in the formation of the pyramids. Law enforcement authorities have been asked to take appropriate steps to ensure that the ban is implemented in the true sense across the state.

Earlier this year, the panel had received a petition from activist Pawan Pathak, who had highlighted the plight of children as young as five being used by the mandals. He had said the kids were used to form the top tier of the human pyramids, often without any safety measures being put in place.

“Most times, young children are lured into such dangerous activities with paltry sums of money, and even this is denied to them eventually. The children are chosen due to their low weight,” Pathak said in his complaint. The Commission issued summons to the offices of the additional commissioner of police and the district collector.

While the district collector’s office mentioned that no major complaints had been registered in connection with the practice, officials agreed that it was a menace. The police, in their report, expressed concern over the issue and highlighted the political agenda behind dahi handi events. “Many political parties pledge lakhs of rupees for various handis, pushing mandals to form taller human pyramids and endanger the lives of little children,” said the police report.

Hazardous
Taking all this into consideration, the panel issued its recommendations on Monday and sent copies to the state government, police, and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

“Taking into consideration the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Juvenile Justice Act, 2006, and Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, it is understood that no consent can be termed free consent if given by a person below 18 years of age. In this case, even if children agree to work with the mandals, the onus is on the mandals to not use them for such hazardous activities,” said the order.

The panel recommended that no child below 12 years of age should be made to be a part of dahi handi pyramids and any mandal flouting this rule should be taken to task by law enforcement agencies. It also said that the agencies should frame guidelines to ensure the safety of children between 12 and 18 years of age who participate in such activities.

'Hurting competition'
With Janmashtami barely a month away, members of dahi handi mandals across the city expressed unhappiness at the recommendations. Prashant Surve, a member of a Tadwadi mandal, said, “The problem is that we need someone who is light for the top tier, which is not possible with boys above 14 years of age. This move will hamper the nine-layer formation.”

Pallavi S from a dahi handi mandal in Thane, said, “We prefer having someone who does not weigh much for the uppermost tier. This order will ensure that the number of layers will be reduced and we won’t have a competitive dahi handi festival.”

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