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An image of countless devotees surrounding an Idol of Lord Ganesha before immersion in Mumbai, Maharshtra


It is that time of the year, when devotees across the country in general and those living in the state of Maharashtra in particular, celebrate the most awaited festival, the Ganesha Chaturthi. Surrounded by much fanfare, the creative aspect of the human mind comes to the fore as more and more people come up with unprecedented ideas every year. Right from spreading awareness about the use of eco-friendly idols and the various drives to clean up the beaches during immersion, to the most innovative ways of making idols, the year 2012 has witnessed many novel instances worth glancing at. Let us take a look at what was so special about the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, this year.

The most striking feature, post idol immersion, was the level by which the Plaster of Paris (PoP) litter has come down this year. The sight of broken pieces of PoP has always been usual at various beaches in Mumbai. But with aggressive campaigns supporting the use of eco-friendly idols, this year’s celebration has led to less litter in the city. This year, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has successfully sold as many as fifty thousand eco-friendly idols to the people. In an interview with DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Mumbai, the member secretary of MPCM talked about how they have been making rigorous efforts to spread awareness about the harmful effects of using other forms of idols. He says, “Idols made of PoP take months to dissolve in waterleading to water pollution and litter in the beaches. Though there are strict laws with respect to water pollution, certain limitations come into play during grand festivals such as these. The only way to get the message across is via campaigns.”

Eco-friendly Ganesha Idols sold by Maharshtra Pollution Control Board

“This year we sold fifty thousand eco-friendly idols from all the 45 distribution outlets spread across Pune, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and the rest of the state,” he further adds.

Celebrities and students have also been contributing immensely to this cause. Actress Kajol encouraged Mumbaikars to buy eco-friendly Ganapati idols this year. Actress Rani Mukherjee also showed enthusiasm by being a part of the annual cultural festival called Kaleidoscope conducted by Sophia College for Women, Mumbai. She talked to the students about the importance of resorting to eco-friendly idols. Actress Kareena Kapoor also showed her support in preserving the environment by participating in DNA’s eco-friendly Ganesha initiative.

Actress Kajol talking to Mumbaikars about eco-friendly Ganpati idols in Mumbai

With the drive and campaigns in full swing, the students of RD National College set an example before the city by volunteering to clean up the debris in Juhu beach during and after the idol immersion. A group comprising seven students belonging to BMM (Bachelor of Mass Media), gathered a huge crowd of students who were willing to clean up the mess. In collaboration with BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation), the students collected garbage in over 100 bags. Such initiatives by students not only show the level of awareness among but also the dedication and sincerity with which they do their bit in keeping the city clean.

Apart from the eco-friendly drive, another striking feature of this year’s Ganesha Chaturthi celebration was Mr. Mohan Kumar Dodecha’s unique tribute to the Lord. The 66-year-old made a Ganpati Rangoli from Sabudana (Sogo) at Mulund, making it both to the Limca Book of Records and the Guiness Book of Records. The Rangoli was designed using 60 kg of Sabudana coloured in different shades.

An image of Mohan Kumar Dodecha making rangoli out of Sabudana at Mulund in Mumbai

Yet another instance of Innovative Ganesha idols was found at Hypercity stores in Mumbai. A strikingly vibrant idol of artifial Cadbury Gems Ganesha was set up at all the hypercity stores in the city. The idols that stood five feet tall were made using artificially created gemsof six different colours. The collection was exclusive and affordable.

An Idol of Lord Ganesha at HyperCITY made of artificially created Cadbury Gems

As can be seen, the Ganesha Chaturthi Celebrations are no more the same as they used to be a decade ago, as more and more people have decided to take a turn for the good. The celebrations are bettering themselves not only in terms of grandeur and innovation but level of responsibility as well.





Development with Dignity

Is development sustainable? Or does it lead to increased economic, social and political disparity? Niharika Pandit questions the idea of Development.

In August 2010, Vedanta Aluminia was denied permission to set up a $1.7-billion plan to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa. Reasons were several.

Tribes from Kalahandi opposing Vedanta Aluminium project in front of Orissa Assembly.

Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi district of Orissa are inhabited by Dongoria, Jharnia and Kutia tribes who participated in a public hearing on April 9, 2012 and opposed the mining of bauxite from their sacred hill. A report in April 12 issue of Tehelka highlighted “Tribals said that they have a birthright on the Hills and they won’t allow mining to their sacred mountain whatever the repercussion may be.”

And soon enough, Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh turned down Vedanta’s proposal under non-compliance with Forest Right’s Act. He further denied being moved by the sentiments of the locals and that the decision was utterly based on facts.

Protest against Vedanta

In the month of June, several newsletters were issued by Vedanta for local residents about its policies for redevelopment of the local zones where their mining plant would be established. Despite Vedanta’s numerous efforts, some of them boasting about its plans of expansion in field of education, health and other perks to local residents, people did not fall prey to it. Their constant refusal and not succumbing to the aggressive advertising campaign of Vedanta in month of April wasn’t the reason but a major contribution to the denial of permission. The government had turned down their proposal as this development wasn’t sustainable; it also violated Environmental Protection Act.

One may now very validly ask a question, ‘If a certain area is mineral-rich, is it not meant to be extracted?’ Fair enough. A mineral-rich area, often classified as the Special Economic Zone (SEZs) is meant to be extracted as long as the displaced from that land are given adequate rehabilitation. Not on paper, in real.

Setting up plants, mining ores in remote villages fills up the conglomerates’ coffers and renders the poor, poorest. The ever-widening vacuum of disparity once again becomes visibly important when the locals’ land is taken away in lieu of small money with no other land rehabilitation measures.

Poor become poorer as they now have no land, no deposits, and no job security. Even the health and educational prospects claimed by the company get buried deep under tender notices and signed deals. Even worse if the family’s head count is appalling or the earning member, an alcoholic.

This does not imply that development should be curbed; development is primal to a country’s economy. But so are its people. So is the disparity of wealth and impoverished citizens. Poverty, unemployment, hunger, over population still remain to be major concerns for the country. More grave in nature, requiring immediate action.

Now consider another case unlike Vedanta. In May 2012, JSW Steel completed paperwork with the West Bengal government for land transfer. This steel plant in Salboni, West Bengal has not only bought land from locals but also given them jobs and shareholding in the company, minimising disparity and amplifying security for every family. So, even if the family is left with no money, they have shareholding and an earning member has a job which will suffice the family.

Thus, Development is indeed important but so are people who belong to the country. Who choose their representatives with the belief that one day, disparity will be dissolved. Stifled voices of displaced farmers will be heard. And their children will not die of malnourishment.  But development should not be at the cost of others. It must be a fair play providing benefits, justice and equity to all. Development must be sustainable in nature involving participation from the grassroots level.

Recently, Mani Shankar Iyyar, a parliamentarian in a panel discussion very rightly articulated “Development is important so is justice and inequality. But development with dignity is the solution to all problems.”

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