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Shree GaneshaShree Ganesha
When Lokmanya Tilak started Ganesh Utsav celebrations, it was ostensibly to spread awareness among the masses about the misrule of the British. Given restrictions on congregating, religious festivities were used to get people together in large numbers. Thus, Ganesh Chaturthi served as a perfect vehicle of expression which went a long way in building up public opinion against the British.

These days, however, this popular mass festival could present the common man with myriad health hazards.

Noise PollutionNoise Pollution
A burning issue: Burn Mishaps during fireworks have been on the rise in recent years. The victim could often be somebody known to us, a neighbor for instance. Take seventeen–year–old Vinay Kasbekar as a typical example. In his youthful bravado, he latched on to an ‘Atom bomb’ for that critical extra second after lighting its fuse, ignoring every safety norm mentioned on its wrapper. He thought nothing would happen to him. After all, he’d been lighting firecrackers for years. The result, a deadly mishap he could have avoided.

When a team of paramedics rushed his stretcher into Sassoon Hospital’s Casualty Room, Vinay was already unconscious. The intense shock and agony resulting from the “Bomb’s” explosion in his face had rendered him unconscious immediately.

He never regained consciousness in his seven–hour ordeal in the hospital. He was so badly burnt that his not regaining consciousness could well be attributed to the mercy of God. Had he woken up from his deep slumber, the sheer agony he would have experienced would have been intolerable for the poor lad.

Alarming decibel levels: has already highlighted professional opinion on the hazards posed by noise pollution earlier. Any expert could be consulted for further information on the menace. The celebration of Ganesh Utsav in Pune is particularly hazardous. Every year, no less than 2,500 to 40,000 Ganesh mandals sprout up and trigger off noise levels that remain unmatched by any other public festival. ENT specialist Dr. Vijay Sonawane has already sounded a note of caution. The human ear, he says, is not equipped to handle noise levels above 90 decibels. This upper limit is blatantly and brazenly flouted by most revelers. Cacophonous music is played at full blast on loud speakers at alarmingly high decibel levels for ridiculously long periods of time. It is assault on the fragile eardrum within. Temporary or even permanent deafness or serious impairment often results.

Alcohol consumption: “Most consumers of alcoholic beverages, even confirmed alcoholics, take their pledge of abstinence during the month of ‘Shravan’ quite seriously”, reveals Paresh Kamdar, a counselor at Pune’s well–known Muktangan Rehabilitation Center for drug and alcohol dependents. “However, that is more than made up for during Ganesh Utsav”, he adds despairingly. “We see a definite rise in alcoholics who come to us for treatment shortly after the festivities conclude. These cases also include a number of relapses”, he points out.

Infectious diseases: As the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations reaches its climax, Pune witnesses a regular “Invasion” of revelers from the surrounding areas. Many of them regard these visits as an opportunity to indulge in carnal pleasures that a big city like Pune offers. As a result, the red light areas of the city do brisk business. Basic precautions to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases tend to be ignored by sex workers during this time.

STD’s like gonorrhea and syphilis usually respond to antibiotics. However, the horrifying prospect of unprotected sex with a sex worker who is HIV positive cannot be overemphasized. It would perhaps be worthwhile to mention here that over 40 per cent of Pune’s commercial sex workers have already been infected with the deadly HIV virus!

Gastroenteritis is another ailment that infects large groups of revelers as they partake of contaminated food and water. Unfortunately, it is well nigh impossible to ensure that none of the ‘Mandals’ during the 10 days of riotous celebration are not vulnerable to such infections.

To conclude: Ganesh Chaturthi will always be a festival of community fellowship and celebration by young and old, rich and poor alike, and that is how it ought to be. Just making sure you and your family avoid the health hazards enlisted above. This is all you need to do, to make Ganesh Utsav a festival that would be truly memorable and something to look forward to year after year, in good health!