Only 8 days are left when the entire Mumbai will be geared up to celebrate the Dahi Handi festival and like every year, the Govinda groups will again be seen showcasing their skills while participating in the human pyramid competitions across the city. However, to prevent tragic incidence mar the city’s festive mood, Govinda organisers are asked to purchase ‘spot insurance’ in case of any untoward incident. This initiative is taken by the Dahi Handi Utsav Samanway Samiti which is the umbrella body for different Govinda groups. To bring the plan into reality, the body met various Dahi Handi organisers of the city and highlighted them the need to ensure the lives of the Govindas. The committee members said that every Govinda performing in the city has a life cover on a priority basis. As reported, big manuals usually invite few Pathaks in advance to perform at their locations. They can purchase insurance cover for Pathaks performing for them at the cost of Rs 250 per Pathak.
Dahi Handi Ustav Samiti member Arun Patil said that the insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh is provided to the participant for a one-time premium of Rs 75 so that in any case of untoward accidents, the victims can claim the insurance.
A member of a Govinda Mandal said, “After demonetisation, several Mandals substantially reduced the prize money offered to the Govinda troupes, and since then the craze also has come down.”
Secretary of Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti Kamlesh Bhoir said, “After the high court removed the restrictions on the height of pyramids, we were only left with the task of ensuring that children under the age of 14 do not participate in forming the human pyramids.”
The Dahi Handi ritual is part of the Janmashtami celebrations in Maharashtra, where youngsters (Govindas) make a human pyramid to reach an earthen pot containing buttermilk and suspended in mid-air and break it. According to news reports, around 219 Govindas in 2018, who formed human pyramids on the day of the festival, were injured whereas 963 Dahi Handi groups had purchased life cover for their performers. Patil also said that the committee is also trying to ensure that the Bombay High Court guidelines for the festival which only allow 14 as the minimum age limit to participate and 20 feet as the maximum height of the human pyramids or human towers are followed. The HC last year ordered Mumbai Police not to issue no-objection certificates to the organiser if they don’t ensure insurance for the performers. On the other hand, reports suggest that the restrictions imposed by the HC were disobeyed by several renowned Mandals last year.
With Mumbai Police too making Rs 10 lakh for the Govinda Pathaks mandatory, many private and public service companies have come forward with additional insurance packages to support the performers who add shine to the festive rituals of Krishna Janmasthami. According to the umbrella body of the Govinda groups, as more Govinda Mandals are opting for spot insurance for their performers, the premium paid by the each Govinda Pathaks has come down to Rs 75 which was nearly double the amount two years ago. However, while talking about the finance management around the celebration, the committee said that this year the celebrations were relatively low-key in view of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), income tax woes.
Yogesh Jadhav, a Dahi Handi performer at Gajanan Maharaj Dahi Kala Pathak spoke to Afternoon Voice’s reporter Nikhil Sagare and asserted, “I am performing in the Dahi Handi festival for the last 30 years. Usually, we make an eight-layer pyramid and this time we are looking forward to a nine-layered one. We always ensure that all of our performers have got private insurance cover. However, if the organisers ensure Rs 10 lakh spot insurance, that would be a great help for Govindas like us.”