Dahi Handi: I’m all for tradition but safety comes first
It is the Dahi Handi tradition that makes Goklashtami what it is– a colourful, joyous and fun filled celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. Crowds of people watch on as Govindas form multiple tiers of human pyramid with an aim to break the dangling pot of buttermilk.
The story behind DahiKala runs back to Shri Krishna’s childhood, when he and his friends used to form human pyramids to break pots hung from the ceilings of neighborhood houses, in order to steal curd and butter. What used to be a quiet gathering and prayer at home or in the immediate neighborhood has now acquired many alarming dimensions. There are games, teams, prize money and many sponsors with vested interests. The entire gamut has become less about the auspiciousness and more about the sponsorship. Every year, the height of the pyramid and the prize money keeps increasing. Also, the number of injuries and the occasional fatalities grow. Not to mention that most of these celebrations break the noise pollution norms in our city.
I am and have always been for tradition, culture and celebration. However, pushing boundaries of safety and physical strength in the name of tradition is not acceptable. Especially in the case of our children, their safety will always come first. The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) was right in calling for a ban on children below 12 years of age to participate in the human pyramid. Children can get hurt and there have been cases where people suffer heavy bruises too.
I wrote to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to take the matter seriously and direct the State Government to ensure strict implementation of this ban throughout the state. In response the Hon’ble Minister wrote to the State Government and urged them to implement the ban.
Dissatisfied by the Government’s decision some Dahi Handi organisers went to court and the court increased the age of ban from 12 to 18. But the SC has again brought down from 18 to 12. I feel the decision of 12 years is apt and must be adhered to by all Dahi Handi organisers throughout the state. But for children between 12 to 18 there must be special attention towards their safety.
I have proposed to the Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs that Dahi Handi be recognised as a sporting activity by the Government. Doing so will invite stricter rules and regulations and proper sporting gear hence increasing safety standards for children. Including Dahi Handi as a recognized sporting activity will also ensure professional training for youth participating in such events. It would also give them access to public sector employment and other such benefits.
Hence keeping in mind the festive celebration of Dahi Handi and the interest of youth who participate in it I have urged the Government to consider the proposal of including Dahi Handi as a sport.