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Shatter handis, not kids' lives

With all the back and forth about dahi handi mandals and rules in the city, there is much confusion about the festival happening on August 18.

Two big dahi handi organisers are irked at the decision by the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) to ban kids below 12 years of age from being a part of dahi handi pyramids.

Then, there is also the fact that the Mumbai police are declaring that they will act against dahi handi mandals that allow children below 12 years to be part of the human pyramids.

While it is true that mandals rely heavily on children to form the top tier of the pyramids, given their light weight, it is also true that there have been a great many accidents in the past. Some have resulted in deaths, like the very recent one, where a 14-year-old boy died during dahi handi practice. Others have resulted in young men becoming paralysed and other forms of grievous injury.

Irked though they may be at these decisions, it is time the mandals obey these diktats, simply because they are made not to play party pooper, but in the interest of children’s safety.

While it is good that a festival is celebrated, safety has to be of paramount concern. Mandals can surely lessen the height of the tiers if they do not find a young person light enough to go to the top. What is important in the larger picture is the spirit of the festival joy, devotion, camaraderie rather than simply the height of the pyramids.

Even politicians and leaders who put in huge money into the festival and award prizes to different mandals for the height of the pyramid, may do all a service by awarding prizes for safety.

The mandal which takes the most precautions in terms of nets and safety helmets should be the one sweeping the prizes.

By changing the accent of the festival, one could ensure that the overall aim is certainly not obfuscated. Mandals must have a change of perspective, and instead of getting aggressive or even going on the back foot to protest these orders, see them in the correct light.

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