While a large chunk of Mumbaikars have welcomed the verdict of Bombay High Court to impose a complete ban on using DJ music and other high-decibel audio systems during Ganpati immersions and Navratri due to the immense noise pollution that the public faces, the other section of society — the DJ agencies or private DJ’s are in a dilemma as HC refused to grant interim relief in the midst of festive season will land up DJ’s in a huge amount of loss.
This decision came after the State Government provided the High Court with its stance on the matter. Earlier, the Bombay High Court had postponed the hearing till September 19. Maharashtra government on September 19 said that it supports the ban and stands with HC’s decision. Worried about incurring losses in business due to the ban, a petition was filed by Professional Audio and Lightning Association (PALA) challenging the same. The Bombay High Court, however, on Tuesday, said that the religious places could use loudspeakers only with prior permission.
PALA treasurer Zura Braganza exclaimed the concern over the lakhs of people whose business will be affected. “The Police has given four weeks to submit the noise pollution data across the state. There are around 50 lakh people associated with music industry including dealers, manufacturers, and distributors whose business can get affected. Without music any celebration becomes mute indirectly it is like imposing a ban on festivals. We demand that this industry should become stream-line and regularised. We are law abiding citizens and also against loud noise. We are also ready to co-operate with the police. It can be proved that the sound due to DJ does not exceed the minimum number of decibels,” he further added.
According to the World Health Organisation, the average noise level in Mumbai is steadily increasing by 1.5 decibels a year. The decibel level in the city during the daytime is way above the 55 db recommended by the WHO, touching 85 to 90 db in traffic-nodal areas as per the reports.
Mumbaikars’ prolonged exposure to loud noise can lead to irregular or faster pulse, enlarged hearts and increase in blood cholesterol. Loud noise increases the heart rate of the foetus in a pregnant mother. This may cause irreparable damage to the unborn baby. Noise-induced hearing loss can indeed impair the quality of life, through a reduction in the ability to hear important sounds and to communicate with family and friends. Some of the other effects of noise, such as sleep disruption, and the inability to enjoy one’s property or leisure time, also impair the quality of life. In addition, even moderate noise can interfere with the teaching and learning process, disrupt the performance of certain tasks, and increase the incidence of anti-social behaviour among the younger lot.
Dr. Hamid Dabholkar, General Secretary of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti supported the court’s verdict and expressed, “From several years the government and judiciary is trying to find a solution on the problems due to the pollution. It is important that every person in the society should realise that whichever business they undertake should not harm the societal interest. As citizens, we should welcome and respect the court verdict as it is another step ahead to celebrate eco-friendly Ganesha festival.”
The court in its order said Rule 5 (Restrictions on the use of loudspeakers/public address system) of the Noise Pollution Rule was Constitutional and the State had to follow it. The Rule says, a loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used except on obtaining written permission from the authority concerned. It also mentions that a loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 10 pm and 6.00 am) except indoors: auditorium, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls. The court said that Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, were statutory in nature and no loudspeaker could be used without obtaining a license. The court also said permission could not be granted to use loudspeakers in silent zones and if granted the noise levels should be within the prescribed levels. The court said non-compliance with noise pollution rules would attract an imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. Although the Maharashtrian politicians have a different approach and questions are being raised against the ban.
MNS leader Shalini Thackeray stated, “Common people are facing many problems due to noise pollution, however, targeting only the festivals is not justified considering Ganeshotsav is the big festival of the state. It is the government’s mistake to not take their own stand. The question arises that why only festivals are being targeted in the name of noise pollution? The government should think about Marathi youth who can lose their livelihood.”
However, this issue over the restriction on loudspeakers is been going on since years now, but this untimely decision by the government to file a plea in the Bombay High Court to impose a complete ban stating that loudspeaker was never a part of any religion as the instrument came into existence only in 1924 were partly condemned by the Association. Hence, the experts believe that granting a partial ban for this year should be excused as their business’ will suffer a massive loss with the ongoing festive season.
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari commented, “Neither the court nor the government is delaying any procedure. PIL is in the process for several years regarding noise pollution due to Dolby system during the festivals. It is the decision of the court whether to ban the DJ or not.”
By Twinkle Mehta & Suraj Chandran