Mumbai welcomes the Elephant God and Traffic, Chaos, Pollution
Mumbai reverberated all night to the beating of drums, cymbals and dancing as nearly 200,000 big and small idols of Lord Ganesh were brought in trucks, tempos, cars, two-wheelers or carried on heads, to public pandals or private homes at the start of the 10-day GaneshUtsav Festival here on Monday. The night was punctuated by cries of welcome "Ganpati Bappa Morya" and singing of the favourite bhajan, "Sukh-karta Dukh-harta" and other "aarti" by millions of devotees amidst fireworks, as the elephant-headed god was welcomed in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra on his annual sojourn. The soaring inflationary trends and the truant weather have not dampened the enthusiasm for the state's biggest popular festival, started modestly by freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak way back in 1893 to unite people on a common platform. This year, Mumbai has around 11,400 public Ganeshotsav mandals, including around 6,000 which have huge Ganesh idols and a few with gigantic idols.
Festivals are supposed to bring in happiness, but celebrations have been invariably bringing in miseries, increasingly at that. The onset of Ganesh festival is no different. It is not about planning roads and infrastructure, even the basics like parking and traffic management still remain as primitive as in many parts of congested Mumbai. Ganesh pandals on the sides of main thoroughfares, in lanes where you have hospitals have all become routine with the total absence of civic sense of any kind. We have begun to witness miles and miles of traffic jams and totally reckless parking on the main roads even before the rush for bringing in Ganesh idols had begun. What is tragic is that the traffic police are found wanting in such crisis, leaving a free hand for anti-social elements and ruffians who always take advantage of such crowded scenes. One may well ask as to what even the police can do when there is no parking place in and around shopping areas? Even the available few parking lots have been converted into hawkers’ zones or allocated for Ganesh pandals. Still worse is the fact that the vendors selling Ganesh idols have been given places along the main roads. The cluttering of roads with all kinds of advertisement banners, posters, and arches add to the ever increasing traffic or parking crisis as they occupy the roads .This week onward, Navi Mumbaikars will have to face tremendous noise pollution with no one daring to tell the pandal managers to reduce their volume or not to play item songs in the name of Ganesh festivals. After installing Ganesh idols on Monday, we have visarjan events right from Day 2 with blaring music. The serpentine queues that are being formed at various venues have begun adding to the woes of the man on the street. Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik and his family of elected representatives may take pride in pushing through what they call the One Time Planning. But even this plan sadly does not take into account the need for festival infrastructure, other than just allocating funds for roads, buildings, and structures like welcome arches at the city entrances. This is despite the fact that all of them actively participate in all the festivals. They do not realize the enormous problems that the citizens face ostensibly because they get uninterrupted access to the festivities and back home. Through this article all I hope is for some action taken in favour of d citizens who bear the brunt of the havoc created by their fellow devotees in the shear name of enthusiasm exhibited in welcoming the benign elephant God.