The Maharashtra government has decided to accord the status of ‘adventure sport’ to the centuries old traditional ‘Dahi-handi’ celebrations that mark Janmashthami every year, Education Minister Vinod Tawde said here on Wednesday.
Minors aged between 12-15 can take part in the celebrations – which entails forming tall human pyramids of six or more levels – only with the written consent of their parents.
“With the status of ‘adventure sports’, we shall form a state-level body to govern ‘Dahi-handi’ with a set of rules and regulations. Any celebrations that do not adhere to this would not be recognised,” Tawde said.
Under the new status, it will be mandatory for all organisers of high-profile ‘Dahi-handi’ celebrations to ensure proper insurance for all participants, provisions of first-aid, ambulances to shift the injured ‘Govindas’ to nearest hospitals.
Additionally, they must organise safety nets, helmets, safety harness, mats and other security requirements to prevent injuries – and possible deaths – after the human pryramids come crashing down.
Tawde said sometime ago, a committee headed by Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar was told to prepare a report on ‘Dahi-handi’ and it has recommended to declare it as an ‘adventure sport’ on the lines of mountaineering, rock-climbing etc, which was accepted by the state government.
The minister said henceforth, ‘Dahi-handi’ would not be restricted during Janmashthami, but will be celebrated round-the-year under the auspices of a state-level governing body.
Janmashthami celebrations in Mumbai have become an annual big business affair with prizes running into crores of rupees, mega-sponsors, intense competition among various groups, mostly backed by politicians and political parties, attracting millions of locals, domestic and foreign tourists.
In the past few years, there have been several casualties, including temporary injuries or permanent handicap and deaths of ‘Govindas’, which led to court cases and questions raised on the safety and security of the participants.