Where to keep silent?

With Ganpati mandal organisers worried about stringent laws, the State has written to the Centre asking it to clarify the silence zone laws

After the State government's crackdown on various Sarvajanik Ganesh mandals last year for flouting silence zones rules, mandal organisers in the city are a worried lot.

Agreeing with organisers that the rules need to be looked into, Valsa Nair Singh, the state's Environment Department Secretary said on Saturday that the State government had written to the Central government asking it to look at the laws again, and furnish clarifications.

According to Nair Singh, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had met Ganesh mandal organisers on Thursday, and shared that the State was in talks with the Centre about the issue.

Singh said, adding that there is much confusion over silence zone rules, "We have appealed to the Central ministry asking for clarifications over silence zone laws."

According to the current rules, courts, hospitals, educational institutions, and religious places fall under silence zones, and here, within 100 meters, no loud noise (above 50 Db during daytime; above 40 Db during 10 pm and 6 am) or firecrackers are permitted.

However, according to mandal organisers, small dispensaries and nursing homes also claim to fall within silence zones, and with most roads lined with numerous temples and mosques, visarjan becomes virtually impossible.

According to a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation survey, there are 2,237 silence zones across the city.

Last year, the State government had reportedly asked former Union Minister for Environment Jairam Ramesh to
clarify the laws but nothing came of the request.

Some mandal organisers have asked for an exemption from the silence zone rules during visarjan, but Nair claimed that a relaxation was not possible.

"We can't make any exemptions because the law has been passed by the Centre."

Ravindra Kashalkar, President of Parel Naka's Nav Maharashtra Utkarsh Mandal, who was fined Rs 5,000 last year for flouting the rule, says he should be exempted from the rule because in his neighbourhood, the silence zone ceases to apply just seven buildings away, so the same should apply to them too.

Naresh Dahibawkar, Secretary of the Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, the coordination committee that handles all Ganesh mandals in the city, said, "There is either a nursing home or a school or college at every nook and corner in Mumbai. If all these areas are marked as silence zones, how can we carry out our procession?"

Last year, in a well-known case, the Shivaji Park police station confiscated all musical instruments belonging to the Bhavani Mitra Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandal in Shivaji Park and the mandal was fined a total of Rs 1 lakh.

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