Citizens cry foul over hike in insurance for festival injuries

Jan 23, 2013, 06:49 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

After BMC hiked the indemnity cover for victims of Dahi Handi and Ganpati festivals, ALMs says it is unfair to tax citizens more and ask that organisers pay for the injuries instead

Citizens are not entirely happy with having to fork out more tax for the knockabout merriment seen during the Janmashtmi ritual of Dahi Handi, which invariably ends up maiming a few participants, even killing a few. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has increased the insurance paid to those injured or bereaved during Dahi Handi and Ganpati immersion festivities.

Dahi Handi

The civic administration passed the proposal made by House leader Yashodhar Phanse last week to increase insurance cover of the victims of Dahi Handi and Ganpati festivals from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh for the dead and from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 for the injured. But Mumbaikars are not entirely convinced of the logic of spending their tax money on indemnifying the fallout of these oft-unruly pageants. The advanced locality managements (ALMs) in the city say the organisers of these activities should foot the insurance bill as well.

Chairman of H-West Federation ALM, Anandini Thakoor, asked why politicians who arrange these events do not pay the insurance covers. “Dahi Handi has become very popular in the city and it needs to be insured. Why not have it through someone who organises it? Why should we pay for it? This is the taxpayer’s money. And now you are taxing us more,” Thakoor said.

With organisers announcing big prizes for forming 10-notch pyramids, many govindas pitch in at the last minute to practise in order to seize the rewards, sometimes as high as Rs 25 lakh. The lump sums draw in the govindas to compete fiercely to scale new heights, often leading to bone-crushing crashes. It was last year that the BMC announced the insurance cover for the participants so injured. And now it has been increased by
50 per cent, which is unfair, say citizens.

House leader Phanse said, “My proposal was accepted a few days ago. The additional cover won’t make a huge hole in the pockets of BMC. An increase of Rs 50,000 in compensation for the next of kin of those who died during the festival is not a lot. The injured would also get some extra money for treatment.”

The Opposition corporators in the BMC, however, are put out by what they call the administration’s bias towards the ruling Shiv Sena, as many of their proposals were shot down by it. These included:
>> In place of the resolution of the insurance where it is mentioned that the person should be involved in breaking a handi (or forming layers) or should be a part of the immersion, we should have a simple resolution where anyone in whichever way involved in breaking a handi should be benefitted.
(Proposed by Pravin Chheda of Congress)
>> Every Mumbai resident involved in breaking a handi in or outside the city should benefit from the insurance scheme.
(Proposed by Dhananjay Pisal of NCP)
>> Just like BMC hospitals, the BMC should consider enlisting help of private entities during the Dahi Handi festival.
(Proposal made by Dilip Lande of MNS) 

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