No 'Dahi Handi': Maharashtra CM Thackeray urges organisers to focus on health initiatives
Mumbai, Aug 23: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday told organisers of the upcoming Dahi Handi festival that the state should set an example by setting aside celebration of festivals for some time to banish the coronavirus completely.
Speaking at a virtual meeting of the organisers, the CM said the health of citizens should be given priority during a pandemic.
Dahi Handi festival, which is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Krishna, involves communities hanging an earthen pot filled with dahi (yogurt) or other milk-based delicacies, at a convenient or difficult to reach height. Young men, boys and girls form teams, make a human pyramid and attempt to reach or break the pot.
The festival enjoys a political patronisation in Maharashtra with various parties organising Dahi Handis and announcing a reward for Govindas, who break the pots.
A statement from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said Dahi Handi organisers responded positively to Thackeray''s appeal and spoke about holding social and health-related activities to mark the birth of Lord Krishna.
The BJP, however, demanded Dahi Handi festival be allowed to be organised under certain conditions traditionally.
"Those who have taken both doses of COVID-19 vaccines must be allowed to organise the traditional Dahi Handi at low heights without crowding. The festival should not be banned," BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said.
Speaking at the meeting, Thackeray said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced various restrictions on the daily life of people.
"These restrictions are for the welfare of people. Only a few people speak of protesting against these curbs. They should rather protest against coronavirus and not against the government," he said.
The chief minister said the entire world is reeling under the pandemic which has destroyed many families and orphaned children.
"Countries which have vaccinated most of their citizens are feeling the heat of a third wave of the pandemic and are locked down again," he said.
Thackeray said the second wave of the pandemic is receding in some districts in Maharashtra but it is peaking in some other places.
"This is a window period which we have to utilize to ensure that the livelihood of people is not impacted and the economic cycle continued," he said.
Thackeray reiterated that a lockdown will have to be imposed again if the daily demand for medical oxygen crosses 750 metric tonnes in Maharashtra.
During the meeting, state COVID-19 task force chief Dr Sanjay Oak said physical distancing cannot be maintained during Dahi Handi celebrations as people come in close contact with each other while forming human pyramids.
"Face masks are of no use if they get wet in water. The Delta plus variant is spreading fast. Even if one person is infected, the entire group runs the risk of catching the COVID-19 infection," he said.
He asked organisers to keep the festive spirit up by organising camps to donate blood and COVID-19 treatment equipment.