Monday Musings: Noise pollution menace will take a toll if no action is taken - Hindustan Times
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Monday Musings: Noise pollution menace will take a toll if no action is taken

Oct 02, 2023 06:10 AM IST

This year was no different when noise pollution during the immersion procession at the end of the ten-day Ganeshotstav reached a crescendo in Pune, Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra

It’s ironic that noise pollution during the Ganesh festival – or many other occasions - has continued to increase over the years despite curbs and better public awareness. This year was no different when noise pollution during the immersion procession at the end of the ten-day Ganeshotstav reached a crescendo in Pune, Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra.

Over the years, Ganesh mandals have largely been violating the prescribed limit of noise levels set by environmental watchdogs like Maharashtra and Central pollution control boards. (HT FILE PHOTO)
Over the years, Ganesh mandals have largely been violating the prescribed limit of noise levels set by environmental watchdogs like Maharashtra and Central pollution control boards. (HT FILE PHOTO)

Over the years, Ganesh mandals have largely been violating the prescribed limit of noise levels set by environmental watchdogs like Maharashtra and Central pollution control boards. This is when the Supreme Court mandated 10 pm deadline, which the government and administration often relaxes till midnight on certain days during the festival citing the 15-day exemption clause in the apex court order, which is also not being adhered to in Pune and many other parts.

Technological advancements have ensured that smaller loudspeakers can create loud noise and are easily available at cheaper rates. This has added to the rising decibel levels.

Despite blatant violations pertaining to noise levels, the data for the past few years clearly indicate that law enforcement agencies have been lax in taking action. In cases where police have acted, those in power pushed them to either go slow or withdraw cases.

Be it the prolonged practice sessions of traditional instruments such as dhol-tasha or songs played through loudspeakers, the monster of noise pollution is silently taking its toll on us.

As per the Central Pollution Control Board standard, the noise level in residential is set up to 55 decibels in the daytime while at night it is limited to 45 decibels. In commercial areas, the limit is set up to 65 dB in the daytime and 55 dB at night time. For silence zones, it is up to 50 dB during the day and 40 during the night

It has been decades since Maharashtra departed from the tradition of quiet Ganeshotsav. But why just single out the ten-day festival? On other festivals such as Navratri, anniversaries of various prominent figures, and even weddings, loud music playing on speakers has been a norm for some time now.

To act against all those playing the songs beyond permissible limits and time stipulated by the apex court is increasingly becoming difficult. In the case of the Ganesh festival, workers associated with big mandals also enjoy political associations. In most cases, the mandals themselves are power centres that political parties or their leaders cannot afford to ignore.

It’s for the same reason there is a new trend being observed. For the past few years, senior politicians have been on pandal hopping spree during the festival. Last year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde visited more than 350 Ganesh mandals, mostly from Mumbai, Pune and his hometown Thane. When asked about this, Shinde had responded by saying he was a Ganesh mandal member before rising to the ranks as a senior politician.

This year too Shinde, and his two deputies – Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar – visited multiple pandals in big cities. And it did not end here. From Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president JP Nadda, all senior politicians offered prayers at various mandals. If such senior leaders, especially those in power, visit mandals, what message the workers will take? They feel emboldened, and sometimes, even above the law.

For politicians, it is important to keep the mandals in good faith given that most workers are political activists too. And when Lok Sabha and assembly elections are around the corner, there cannot be a better time than this to keep the workers happy.

For police, who are responsible for maintaining law and order, the message may go out that acting against such mandals may not be a good idea.

The police force is the biggest sufferer of the loud noise as hundreds of thousands of policemen have to bear the brunt while they walk along the procession to ensure no untoward incident takes place. If not for anyone, the police should act in their own interests and deal firmly with violators.

This year, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray raised the issue asking each mandal, and political party to rethink over noise menace. Perhaps, Raj has low stakes and afford to take such a firm stand, which may not bring votes. However, if all political parties decide on the same, where else the votes will go? Perhaps, it is high time that all parties decide and impose curbs that will be effective.

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