Alarmed by the 4,000 fire incidents that have occurred in Mumbai in the past six months, including the major Mantralaya fire incident, the city’s biggest Ganpati mandal, Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, has decided to ensure the safety of the devotees.
Every year, more than 1 crore devotees visit the mandal, which has increased the number of fire fighters from four to 20 this year. The professionals will be well-equipped with a fire-fighting kit for 24 hours throughout the 11-day festival.
Half the fire fighters will be on duty during the day and the other half at night. Out of the 10 working in the morning, about five will be in the main pandal where the idol is and the rest in other pandals, where devotees queue up to seek the Lord’s blessings. The mandal will instruct the fire professionals about where the queue starts and the locations where the crowd is at its peak.
Three years ago, the mandal had requested the fire brigade to deploy an engine for the festival’s 11-day duration and the fire brigade had granted them the relevant permission. Since three years about four fire officers are present at the mandal, but this year there will be 20 more professionals to safeguard the surroundings and the mandal.
The mandal has decided to opt for the fire fighters because they think the bylanes of Lalbaug where the idol is placed is very narrow, which make them difficult to access in an emergency.
Ashok Pawar, president of Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, said, “We decided to hire private fire fighters because of the increase in the number of fire incidents. The Mantralaya fire was one of the main reasons. We don’t want the devotees to suffer in any way. Retired fire officers have advised us to hire experts fire fighters who will be well-equipped.”
Last year’s Ganesh idol returns to Lalbaug
Lalbaug’s Tejukaya Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal Trust will have a replica of last year’s Ganesh idol. The idol had accidentally fallen during last year’s immersion. This year, the idol will be remade following the same design but will be smaller (in accordance with the rules of the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvaya Samit).
“The design of last year’s idol was very dear to me, so when the mandal gave me a go ahead, I jumped at the opportunity,” said Rajan Zaad, the sculptor who has been making this mandal’s idol for the past 27 years. This year, too, idol will be made to stand on a pole. But Zaad is going to take precautions such as fixing more support to the idol.
The mandal and the residents of Lalbaug’s Tejukaya area took this decision because they wanted their lord to be immersed properly, as the accident occurred before the idol reached the immersion spot.