A vast majority of Ganpati mandals in the city have violated Supreme Court directives regarding judicious usage of space on the road for erecting pandals for the festival season.
While motorists and residents continue to face much inconvenience as a result of the roads being bottlenecked by pandals that have been observed taking up more than 80 per cent of the space meant for vehicles, civic body officials and traffic police personnel are busy blaming each other for not taking appropriate action.
The PMC anti-encroachment department has been turning a blind eye due to political influence of mandal organisers and chose to blame the traffic police for not taking any action. According to the Supreme Court directives, pandals erected for the Ganesh festival or any other religious activity, should not occupy more than one-third of the road to avoid traffic congestion. But many pandals have been observed occupying over 70 per cent of the road space.
“It is assumed and understandable that due to the Ganesh festival, roads will be blocked or closed in the evenings. But traffic is getting affected in the morning as well. Everyday, I take the Bajirao road where Natubaug Mitra mandal has blocked almost 80 per cent of the road. PMPML buses plying on this road take 15 and 20 minutes to get through the stretch. This affects traffic on Tilak Rd,” collegian Anmay Kulkarni said.
In the evening hours when devotees throng the various pandals in the city, traffic flow is severely affected and the traffic police have been forced to close down roads in prime areas of the city. However, pandals that are occupying most part of the road create traffic congestion at areas like Tilak road, Bajirao road, Shivaji road and parts of Kothrud.
Ramesh Shelar, head of the encroachment department, PMC, said, “We are only responsible for giving permission for the pandals, but cannot take action. As per the rules, they should not occupy more than 1/3 of the road. The traffic police have the right to take action against mandals that violate norms. People can also complain to the PMC or traffic police, but till now we have not received any complaints.”
The traffic police on the other hand claim that the encroachment department is entirely responsible for giving permission and taking action against erring mandals. “We don’t understand how they give NOC to mandals which occupy major part of the roads. It means they are not scrutinizing space properly while giving permissions. Traffic police cannot take action under the Motor Vehicle Act as pandals are not included. The roads are the responsibility of the PMC and if they can take action against hawkers who encroach upon roads, why not against these pandals?” said PI Mahadev Gawade, Traffic Planning.
Sham Mankar, president of the Hatti Ganpati Mitra Mandal said, “How is it possible for every mandal to follow a strict size constraint? It means that if the width of a road is only 10 feet, then the size of the pandal should be not more than three feet. I don’t know the exact rule for pandal size. I will have to check and then will be able to comment. But no one has not informed us about any such rule.”