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Ban call after handi death

Mumbai, Aug. 9: A 14-year-old who fell off the fifth tier of a human pyramid formed by boys rehearsing for dahi handi celebrations succumbed to his injuries this morning in the latest mishap to strike ahead of the popular festival just days away.

Kiran Talekar’s death has put the glare back on the participation of minors in such festivities while Bombay High Court is hearing a petition on limiting the tiers of the pyramids.

Earlier this month, a 35-year-old man suffered spinal injuries after falling off a tier while practising for the dahi handi celebrations, part of the main festival of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, a little over a week away.

Sources said Kiran had not told his parents he was going for the rehearsal and left home in a middle-class housing society in Navi Mumbai last evening, saying he was going out to play.

After he was brought back with severe head and chest injuries, his parents rushed him to a hospital in neighbouring Nerul. He was moved to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) hospital in Vashi this morning but succumbed to his injuries, making him the first casualty of the dahi handi celebrations this year.

The festival, based on the legend of the child Krishna stealing butter, involves breaking a buttermilk-filled earthen pot tied at a convenient height. A participant in the festival is called a Govinda.

Mumbai BJP MP Poonam Mahajan today wrote to women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi seeking the Centre’s intervention to ban use of children in dahi handi celebrations. “The minors who participate in the festival are always at risk of physical injury. Over the years, many accidents have been reported during the dahi handi celebrations. Keeping this in mind, I request you to urge the Maharashtra government to take swift action in the implementation of a ban recently ordered on participation of minors in the festival,” Mahajan wrote.

A Bombay High Court division bench had yesterday asked the state government to regulate the height of human pyramids. “Most dahi handis are on the street and are put up by private organisers. If it is a festival, then we cannot pass orders to regulate it. The government can, through some executive order, ensure regulation either by the police or the home department. Something has to be formulated to act as a deterrent,” the bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and P.D. Kode said, fixing the next hearing on August 12.

The directive came on a petition filed by social worker Swati Patil who pointed out that two persons were killed and 365 injured during the dahi handi festival last year. “We would like courts to stop children under 16 from being part of human pyramids,” Patil told a news channel today.