The Ganapati immersion procession this year broke last year’s record of 27 hours and continued for 29 hours despite the city police meeting several mandals and being assured that the rules would not be broken. Team MiD DAY covered the entire procession over two days and observed that the traffic conditions were chaotic, as there was no barricading in the bylanes leading to main roads like Laxmi Road, Kumthekar Road, Shivaji Road, Kelkar Road, Tilak Road and Shastri Road, which come together at Tilak chowk, from where the procession proceeds to the immersion point.
The mandals crawled along the procession routes, which are from eight to 10 kilometres long and around two kilometres from Tilak chowk to the immersion point. The police relaxed several rules this year and gave the go-ahead for mandals to play traditional musical instruments throughout the night with the deadline relaxed to 6 am. Mandals went overboard this year as dhol pathaks, some consisting of over 150 drummers each, laid siege to the roads and some mandals even had huge speaker stacks blaring music despite having been told not to do so.
These groups stopped at each spot for over 30 minutes and according to the police, this is what led to the immersion procession taking so long to conclude. Volunteer of these groups failed miserably to maintain self-discipline and many were observed behaving boisterously with the crowds, thereby leading to inconvenience to many for 29 long hours. Last year, several mandals including Dagadusheth, Bhau Rangari and Akhil mandai were slapped with cases for violating the deadline for playing music and for using bullocks to pull the chariots of Lord Ganesha. The incident had put these mandals and the authorities at loggerheads.
This year, Commissioner of Police Gulabrao Pol decided to relax the rules and did not implement rigid restrictions and even allowed mandals to play traditional musical instruments like dhols, and have music bands playing throughout the night. Before the immersion procession kicked off, Pol met several mandal officials, who in turn ensured that they would comply with the deadline and try to complete the immersions quickly. Saturday’s immersion procession however proved otherwise.
A police inspector, who was deployed at the Belbaug chowk said, “The mandals were not cooperating with us and were taking too much time to go forward. Though we had given them a free hand and showed leniency, they took it all for granted.” He added that every mandal had at least five dhol pathaks and each pathak consisted of around 100 to 150 artists. These drummers failed to move forward and ignored requests from the police to proceed, and continued to play at each stop for over half-an-hour.
At Belbaug chowk, the Bhau Rangari Ganesh mandal had seven dhol pathaks. Additional Commissioner of Police Chandrashekar Daithankar took objection and asked three pathaks not to participate in the procession, which led a face-off between the cops and the artists. The police were unable to keep a check on the number of dhol pathaks performing before the mandals and the groups virtually hijacked the immersion procession.
Besides this, groups of unorganised volunteers added to the chaos and the so-called Police Mitra volunteers wielded sticks to manage the crowds. The police had not framed any rules and guidelines to be followed by volunteers of these pathaks. Every dhol pathak has 60 dhols and around 100 volunteers on average. Each pathak blocked Laxmi Road while performing, because of which crowd management became a difficult task.
In the late evening, mandals like Balvikas, Babugenu and Jilbya Maruti mandal each had booked two dhol pathaks. Bhau Rangari mandal on the other hand booked four dhol pathaks because of which, the mandal took more than an hour just to reach Belbaug chowk. Finally at around 12.50 am after three pathaks had performed, the police decided to step in and asked the other pathaks not to continue with their performance at the spot.
The police remained firm on their decision and even resorted to a light cane charge on the pathaks to ensure the procession could move on. Adding to the chaos, many first-time Police Mitra volunteers were little or no help to the police. Hisamuddin Shaikh a resident from Raviwar Peth, who was volunteering from Faraskhana police station, said, “This is my first time as a volunteer and I enjoyed it. I faced some problems though I was given some instruction about the task, but it has been a learning process for me.”
Akash Gaikwad, a student of Wadia College and volunteer from Vishrantwadi police station said, “This is my first year as a volunteer in the Ganesh festival. We really need to learn a lot.” Volunteers from Chanykya mandal created confusion by diverting crowds from one place to another, from where other volunteers of the same group were redirecting them back to where they came from.
Team MiD DAY covered the event throughout the day and night and also observed that the traffic conditions were chaotic, as there was no barricading in the by lanes leading to main roads like Laxmi Road, Kumthekar Road, Shivaji Road, Kelkar Road, Tilak Road and Shastri Road, which come together at Tilak chowk, from where the procession proceeds to the immersion point. A vast number of smaller mandals and devotees were seen using these narrow lanes throughout event.
Parking norms were blatantly flouted with motorists parking vehicles in a haphazard manner along the procession routes. When contacted yesterday evening, Pol refused to comment on the procession and said, “I am too tired to speak on the issue, as I had a rough day on the field. However, I will be briefing everybody about the procession tomorrow.” The five most revered city mandals took the most time for the procession on Laxmi Road in the morning and the Mandai-Dagdusheth did the same in the late evening. These seven mandals took around 16 hours to complete the immersion procession.
A total of 253 mandals were registered on Laxmi Road for immersion, but till 5 am yesterday, only 42 mandals had passed Belbaug Chowk. The remaining mandals reached the immersion point by 3.20 pm yesterday. With inputs from Sandip Kolhatkar, Niranjan Medhekar, Anup Satphale, Sukirt Gumaste and Kaumudi Gurjar
10:30 am The time the procession began on Saturday
3:20 pm Time last mandal reached immersion point yesterday