Mumbai: The BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra has asked the BJP-led government at the Centre to give its nod to relax noise norms during the 10-day Ganesh festival in August.
The Sena in particular has requested Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to come out with an ordinance against the curbs imposed by the Bombay High Court on noise levels.
This is one way of bypassing the court’s directive to the state government that all police stations across Maharashtra should not issue a licence for the use of loudspeakers in ‘silence zones’ — 100 metres from schools, colleges, hospitals, courts and religious places.
But with the arrival of the Dahi Handi and Ganesh festival season, both the BJP and Sena are eager to please the various Ganesh associations or mandals which have a huge local following during the celebrations. Moreover, Ganesh festivities are an integral part of the cultural identity of Maharashtrians.
While the Sena has had a long-standing association with the mandals, the BJP too wants to patronise these popular organisation by relaxing the norms.
Both parties met Fadnavis last week to seek his intervention on the matter.
According to Kundan Agaskar of Samanvay Samiti or Coordination Committee for Ganeshotsav, “This problem has been festering for two years, but the parties did nothing and now — when the festivities are just a month away — they want to act, Nevertheless, we hope the government can pass an ordinance so that rules are relaxed during religious festivals.”
He told Gulf News, “The festival will certainly be celebrated in full gusto and we expect that rules to be eased in the use of loudspeakers — since almost all the 2,000 Ganesh mandals in crowded Mumbai are located in Silence Zones. Without a loudspeaker, there can be no festivities as we have so many religious, musical and cultural programmes with thousands of devotees as well as others participating. We have nothing against the court order but the question is, are we expected to shut down our celebrations?” he asks.
But activists who have fought hard to reduce noise levels in Mumbai and Maharashtra are not taking it lying down and have shot an emergency letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Environment Minister Harsh Vardan, “We very strongly object to the proposed relaxation of Noise Pollution Rules which ban loudspeaker use in Silence Zones by the Maharashtra State Government. We write to you in anguish, on behalf of citizens of Mumbai already suffering from the highest noise pollution levels in the world according to Central Pollution Control Board studies,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.
In her appeal, she has also said, “The Supreme Court has clarified, in its order dated 5 October 2005 that no loudspeaker can be used within the Silence Zones at any time, and has re-iterated its orders several times. The Bombay High Court passed a comprehensive order in August 2016 and the Maharashtra state government gave an undertaking to the court that it would ensure that loudspeaker permissions are not given in Silence Zones.”