This year will be the last time that Ganesh idols made of plaster of paris (PoP) will be immersed in Hyderabadâ€™s Hussain Sagar Lake. This comes after the Supreme Court on Thursday, September 16, allowed the immersion of Ganesh idols made of PoP. The court, however, made the Telangana government give an undertaking that it would not permit immersion of PoP idols at Hussain Sagar from 2022. The SC bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana passed orders on a petition filed by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) challenging the Telangana High Courtâ€™s order banning the immersion of Ganesh idols made of PoP over water pollution. And although the Supreme Courtâ€™s order will now pave the way for the immersion of these PoP idols for this year alone, the High Courtâ€™s ban was hardly being enforced earlier, as TNM found in its ground report.
On Wednesday night, a procession of devotees arrived with their idols, playing music and distributing prasad. While most devotees arrived with both clay and PoP idols, some came with idols ranging in sizes anywhere between 5 to 12 feet. The Hyderabad police managing the crowd at Tank Bund were diverting the larger idols to be immersed at Peoples Plaza. And although there were cranes arranged for the immersion before the now-demolished Secretariat, they were not being put to use on Wednesday night owing to the HC order . â€śWe havenâ€™t got orders to use the cranes,â€ť said a police officer on duty. The police were on the road diverting all larger idols to Peoples Plaza, located by the lake. The festival which began on September 10 will last for ten days with the last three days witnessing the most crowd for Ganesh immersions at Hussain Sagar.
As procession after procession entered Peoples Plaza for immersion, the police manning the gates did not enforce the High Court orders banning PoP idol immersions, big or small. The devotees themselves held varied views, some defiant of the earlier High Court order. â€śEvery year we keep the size to 5 feet, this year we made it 10 feet just because of the High Court,â€ť said Dinesh Yadav, from Ameerpet, who had come to perform the ritual with his friends, â€ťItâ€™s not right for the court to involve in our religious matters,â€ť he added.
Sai, a property developer from Secunderabad said, not allowing immersions at Hussain Sagar would force them to go to another lake despite the Central Pollution Control Board banning such PoP immersions across all lakes. â€śHussain Sagar is the closest lake for us. If we lose access to this lake then we will have to go to another lake that is further away. We always have had smaller idols for immersions,â€ť said Sai, who had come with his family to immerse PoP and clay idols.
Aksihtha G, a techie who had come with her family with a clay Ganesh idol said, â€śThe size and make of the idol doesnâ€™t really matter. What matters is faith in Ganesh. If what the court says about PoP being bad for the environment is true, then shouldnâ€™t the government have educated the people and made alternate arrangements easily available?â€ť she asked.
Since Wednesday morning over 40 idols were immersed in Hussain Sagar at Peoples Plaza using cranes. All the larger idols that require assistance from the crane were PoP idols. An estimated over 50 lakh people usually take part in the Ganesh celebrations in Hyderabad, according to the Ganesh Utsav committee.
Hyderabad-based activists said allowing PoP immersions violated immersion guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In recent weeks the Ganesh idol immersion issue had turned political in Telangana, with groups affiliated to the Sangh Parivar and the BJP dissing the High Court order, calling Ganesh idol immersion at Hussain Sagar a â€śHindu fundamental rightâ€ť.
Dr Lubna Sarwath, state General Secretary for Socialist Party (India) said that the immersion of PoP idols prior to the Supreme Courtâ€™s Thursday orders was contempt of court. The activist alleged that the municipal administration is allowing PoP idols so as not to antagonise the BJP in the state, â€śThere are comments made by BJP leaders that they will immerse Ganesh idols in Hussain Sagar Lake even if the court orders them not to. These comments are aimed at violating the peace in society and the police havenâ€™t taken any action against these persons,â€ť she said.
Lubna was referring to a recent statement by the BJP state president Bandi Sanjay during his padayatra where he said that Ganesh idols will be immersed at the lake despite the HC court orders. â€śWe will definitely conduct Ganesh immersion in Hussain Sagar no matter what, the Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao should respond and get the orders in favour of it, whether you bring it or not we Hindu will definitely immerse the Ganesh (idol) in Hussain Sagar.â€ť The BJP leader also referred to the Hussain Sagar lake as Vinayaka Sagar in his speeches.
The Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samithi with affiliations to the Sangh Parivar has arranged a 53 feet tall Ganesh idol this year for immersion in the Hussain Sagar lake. They say the state government led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Hyderabad police cannot stop Hindus from exercising their right to perform rituals at lakes.
Ravinuthala Shashidhar, the Secretary of the Utsav Samithi and spokesperson for the VHP demanded that the state issue an ordinance to bypass any ban on PoP idols.He pointed to the 2017 jallikattu ordinance by the then AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu which bypassed the Supreme Court ban on the festival sport. â€śThe ordinance was passed to protect the Hindu fundamental right. The devotees are unhappy with the government attitude,â€ť he said.
However, Lubna said, â€śJallikattu and immersion are not comparable. â€śThe ban is only on idol immersion in water bodies which are already illegal as per the law of land. Which also has been banned by CPCB guidelines on immersion. Why are they pressuring the government of Telangana? Why not the Ministry of Environment and Forest (moef) who issued these meticulous guidelines preserving festivals and preserving water bodies? This proves their lack of sincerity,â€ť said the activist, who insisted that those who violate the law of the land are the true anti-nationals who should be punished.
From 2013 to 2017 the state has spent over Rs 30 crore making arrangements for the Ganesh Chaturti festival. The costs include arranging for cranes to lift the larger Ganesh idols. This year though, there are fewer cranes, arranged by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA). The HMDA is in charge of protecting lakes in Hyderabad. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) on the other hand has limited its activity to operating the 25 odd baby ponds, built for immersion purposes. The GHMC oversees one baby pond on the Necklace road, a little further away from Peoples Plaza. The GHMC officials, however, distanced themselves from the idol immersion at Peoples Plaza.
â€śSince the start of the festival, only the smaller idols are being brought here to the baby pond,â€ť said the Khairathabad Deputy Commissioner for GHMC, Vamsi Krishna. The official said the GHMC wasnâ€™t using water from the Hussain Sagar lake for immersion, but drawing water from a nearby Sewerage Water Treatment plant. The officer admitted most of the idols being immersed are made of PoP, be it big or small, â€ťThe larger idols are being immersed in the lake at Peoples Plaza,â€ť he said.