Mumbai: Lalbaugcha Raja mandal sparks gender bias row, excludes women from committee

Sep 01, 2018, 19:00 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

Explicit use of word 'male' in eligibility criteria to enter managing committee lands Mumbai's Lalbaugcha Raja mandal in soup with charity commissioner

Mumbai: Lalbaugcha Raja mandal sparks gender bias row, excludes women from committee
Women help with decorations, crowd management and other tasks, but don't get to make important decisions. Pic/Ashish Raje

It's a man's world, even when it comes to Ganpati mandals. At the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, hundreds of women members toil day in and day out for the perfect celebrations, but not a single one of them has a seat on the managing committee.

In fact, a local activist has alleged that they have never had a woman on the committee in the 84 years since the mandal was founded. A quick glance at Lalbaugcha Raja's website throws up the list of managing committee members — 35 names prefixed with Shri, and not a single Shrimati or Kumari.

Mahesh Vengurlekar, an activist from Lalbaug has now filed a complaint with the Charity Commissioner to point out that the committee does not have a single female member. More shockingly, the mandal's charter specifically states that any 'male' who has been a member of the mandal for more than three years can apply for a spot on the managing committee.

Former mayor Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar being manhandled by the crowd at Lalbaugcha Raja pandal during Ganeshotsav in 2013. Pic/Rane Ashish
Former mayor Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar being manhandled by the crowd at Lalbaugcha Raja pandal during Ganeshotsav in 2013. Pic/Rane Ashish

Doors closed to women
"They have never had a woman in the management committee, and with this statement in black and white, they have nullified the chances of women participating in decision-making in the future as well," he alleged.

Lalbaugcha Raja is one of the richest mandals in the city, but women don't get to make any financial or core decisions. Vengurlekar said, "In today's time, when women are being given equal opportunities and even reservations, then should mandals not do the same? This is a renowned Ganpati mandal that people visit from far; so what example are we setting for other mandals?"

Lalbaugcha Raja is already infamous for exposing women devotees to molestation and manhandling in the crowd. Some have suggested that woman committee members will be more sympathetic to devotees and likely to come up with a solution. Vengurlekar also alleged that there were a lot of irregularities in the mandal's operations, and suggested that if a woman were to step in, the malpractices would reduce.

Mandal says
The mandal refuted all allegations, stating that there were no irregularities nor any bias against women. Sudhir Salvi, mandal secretary, said, "All of these allegations are untrue. In fact, our mandal has 1,200 female members working during the 11 days of the festival. They are all free to join the committee whenever they want to; we will always welcome them."

mid-day checked with Charity Commissioner Shivkumar Dige, who said there was no mandate in the law to have a woman in the managing committee, but added that he would have to check trust's constitution to rule out bias or any violations. He said, "I will enquire into this complaint and, if it has merit, like the complainant alleges, I will accordingly take action."

More power to women
Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar,
former mayor (Congress)
'I had a bad experience during my visit there few years back due to manhandling of devotees. The committee should be at least one-third female, so they can manage things better. The charity commissioner should take up this complaint seriously and pass an order that forces the mandal to involve females'

Vishakha Raut,
former mayor and Shiv Sena group leader
'A woman member will definitely understand the needs of women devotees better. I will put this demand before the mandal personally, so that there is no question of bias'

Also Read: Mumbai: Metro Dividers To Make Way For Ganpati's Smooth And Safe Journey

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