Maintaining its stand, the Telangana High Court, on Monday, 25 September, passed an order against the idol makers of Lord Ganesha, who use Plaster of Paris (PoP) to build the divine figure ahead of Ganesha Chaturthi.
A bench of Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice NV Shravan Kumar observed that the state government shall ensure that no PoP idols are immersed in either the Hussain Sagar lake or any of the other water bodies in
The court was hearing a writ petition filed by Telangana Ganesh Murti Kalakaar Welfare Association (TGMKWA) challenging the guidelines framed by the Pollution Control Board for a complete ban on PoP-built Ganesha idols.
HC calls out government’s lack of commitment
The bench expressed serious concern over what appeared to be a disregard for court orders pertaining to the immersion of Ganesha idols made of PoP in the Hussain Sagar.
It noted that, despite previous directives from the court, the civic authorities (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority), and the state government are ignoring these instructions.
The long-contested issue came to a partial resolution last year when the high court allowed the conditional immersion of the idols.
Meanwhile, the state government, represented by Advocate General BS Prasad, also provided an undertaking, pledging to strictly adhere to the directive against the immersion of PoP Ganesha idols in the Hussain Sagar.
However, during the hearing of the writ petition filed by the TGMKWA, the bench pointed out concerns over the government’s commitment to enforcing these orders. It added that despite the ban, people were still being encouraged to immerse the PoP idols.
Also read: SC dismisses plea seeking to quash Madras HC order prohibiting sale of PoP Lord Ganesha idols
Disregard for court order?
During the hearing, Chief Justice Alok Aradhe pointed out the presence of large cranes besides the Hussain Sagar, indicating the possible preparations to immerse PoP-based idols directly into the lake.
However, the state’s counsel clarified that there were designated ponds beside the Hussain Sagar where such immersions were permitted and that the government was taking all necessary measures to prevent any violations of the court order.
The high court also expressed disappointment in the government’s failure to address the issue of garbage removal, as per the court’s instructions, following idol immersions.
Regarding this, Harendra Prasad, Special Government Pleader, informed the court that the GHMC was responsible for the task of garbage removal.
Petitioners: Our fundamental right
The petitioner’s counsel argued that they had a fundamental right to build Ganesha idols made of PoP.
However, the bench cited similar prohibitions upheld by other high courts and indicated that, prima facie, it appeared that the petitioners had no fundamental right to manufacture such idols.
Subsequently, the bench also directed the Commissioner of Police to ensure that PoP Ganesha idols are exclusively immersed in designated “baby ponds”, while stressing on the strict compliance of the order. It mandated that the order be urgently communicated to the commissioner for immediate implementation.
The bench added that, given the comprehensive reading of its verdict and the government’s undertaking, there was now minimal room for manoeuvring.
The case has been adjourned for three weeks and the bench has instructed the Telangana government to file a status report within that time frame.
Environmentalists question lack of ban
Noted Hyderabad environmentalist Lubna Sarwath called the ban of PoP idols specifically a disappointing move and wondered why the high court permitted the immersion of clay idols.
“The clay will equally silt and spoil the lakes along with the other materials that go inside, which will make it horrible,” she told South First.
Noting that the issue of immersion is not just limited to the Hussain Sagar but to other lakes as well, she said that the immersion is totally against the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), issued several times in the past few years.
“The Telangana government went against the CPCB guidelines and they constructed concrete ponds inside the FTL (full tank level) of all lakes. More than 30 to 40 artificial lakes were constructed. Hussain Sagar itself has two concrete immersion points inside the lake. So it is a total violation of all the water-related rules, the lake FTL rules, and also the immersion rules, as per the CPCB. How can the high court not notice that? The court is very much aware of the CPCB guidelines,” she contended.
She added that the authorities are distributing lakhs of clay idols every year and asking people to immerse them.
“This is totally against any law of the land and especially against the CPCB guidelines on idol immersion itself. The guidelines say that you can only create some artificial pond or something, put some water, and do your immersion there so that the lake does not get polluted. But they are actually allowing people to dirty the lake with immersions of clay idols,” she rued.
‘Cranes are for huge idols’
Just like the high court, Sarwath claimed that while passing by the Hussain Sagar on 24 September, she noted numerous cranes besides the lake.
“I was travelling to the press club and I saw many cranes standing on either side of the Hussain Sagar, at every 10-metre distance or so. These cranes are meant for huge idols and it’s proof that the arrangements are made by authorities,” she noted.
“This is a complete violation of the court order. Does a clay idol stand this tall, as they claim, unless some chemical is mixed with it?” the activist asked. She added that citizens are now immersing Goddess Durga idols too in the Hussain Sagar.
“Today, I went to the Secretariat to submit a report on GO 111 to the Chief Secretary. On the sixth floor, I could not stand and was desperately waiting to move out as there was a foul smell coming from the Hussain Sagar, which is right in front of it,” she noted.