Make safety the topmost priority this dahi handi

Govindas may miss the glamour quotient and prize pools totalling crores of rupees during the dahi handi celebration this year, which will take place on the September 5-6 weekend. Mumbai and Thane’s costliest ‘Sangharsh’ dahi handi, will not take place this year because its organiser, NCP legislator Jitendra Awhad, wants the money collected for it to be used to help drought-affected people of the state. Most of the major organisers of dahi handis are politicians, and Awhad’s recent announcement caught them off guard, said a front-page report in this newspaper yesterday.

Awhad got plenty of flak and was accused by other politicians of doing some kind of ‘drama’ and not being genuine in his sudden concern for the drought-affected. There was also a dash of communalism, with a leader accusing Awhad of being ‘anti-Hindu’ because he scrapped the celebrations. While the political matches may be on, it is important to note that the courts have laid down strict rules for Govindas, which must be followed to the letter.

The state government has accorded dahi handi the status of an ‘adventure sport’ because of the human spirit behind govindas. Let children below 12 not participate in dahi handis, as the rule says. Organisers must make all protective equipment available. This should apply in practice too. One often sees that organisers make token attempts to ensure safety at the handi events. Yet, many grievous injuries occur during practice too, so all equipment has to be provided to participants during the run-up to the big day.

Ensure that there is access to some medical facilities. All dahi handi pyramids must have a first aid box, on all days. This is the bare minimum. Besides that, politicians who are associated with these dahi handis,
must ensure that in case of serious injuries, every participant can be taken to a hospital or clinic. There should be some kind of vehicle on standby for that. Safety first, knowing one’s limits and where to draw the line, plus medical amenities will make these festivities, bestowed with the impressive ‘adventure sport’ status, really professional.

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