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Celebrate Janmashtami without breaking vertebrae! - by Dr Ketna L Mehta


This column is by Dr Ketna L. Mehta, founder-trustee of Nina Foundation.

It is indeed a welcome verdict by the Supreme Court with respect to the Dahl Handi celebrations. No youngsters below the age of 18 years and the human pyramids height NOT MORE THAN 20 FEET!

Applause. Applause.

Sad..... Wish the Judges who gave the height and age verdict for Govinda and dahi handi pyramids could have spent ONE day in the homes of those who have suffered a spinal cord injury, a permanent, incurable disability leading to paralysis, bladder-bowel incontinence, bed sores, loss of sensation & more due to a fall. They would have given a more 'human' judgement!

At our NGO, Nina Foundation, we get calls on our HELPLINE for rehabilitation of friends with Spinal Cord Injury. The second highest cause after road traffic accidents is FALLS due to various reasons - dahi handi celebrations during Janmashtami is one of them.

Implementation a challenge

The challenge is HOW this Supreme Court ruling is going to be implemented. There are these various groups who lure mostly uneducated and illiterate youth (paid a paltry sum) individually. These groups are registered but what about the team which travels from one location to another?

  • It should be made mandatory that the birth certificates and photographs with residential proof to be collected and filed with more than one mobile number (parents/ relatives). These entire details of all participants should be deposited at the respective municipal ward officers and also specific dahi handi pandals which they have been assigned to attempt and break. Designated officers to read through this list and check the age authenticity of all participants.
  • Before attempting, the specific dahi handi pandal-incharge to verify every participant, cross- checking with the file. Each should also have an ID card around them. This is so far as age is concerned.
  • Each participant should go through a specific duration of training for the freestyle human pyramid. Each should have a certificate of having been through this course. Many join without any prior rehearsal or training.
  • Dahi Handi must be categorized as an adventure aport and all safety equipments to be used like helmets, lumbar jackets and harness. At every attempt, the participants fall down a couple of times, not realizing that spinal cord Injury is permanent and very expensive. The World Health Organization has mentioned this as the most devastating disability in the world. Many die due to complications like bed sores, respiratory issues, or urine infections.
  • At the venue, breath analyzers should be administered to check that they have not consumed alcohol. In a drunk condition, climbing on human shoulders, they are unstable and with no balance control. Falls are thus inevitable and severe injuries probable.
  • Falling from a height on their backs or heads on the hard ground causes serious injuries which are irreversible. It should be made mandatory that a paramedic team is assigned to each mandal with a scoop stretcher and an ambulance ready. The dahi handi fun has turned into wails and cries many a times. With the amount of money that most pandals claim to 'gift' as 'prize money', the above are some precautionary measures worth investing in for truly a joyous celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth.
  • In this event that a young participant, despite all the above precautions, falls and suffers an injury, complete medical and rehabilitation compensation will be borne by the organizing dahi handi group. This undertaking should be given in writing to each and every participant. The life care expense of living with a spinal cord Injury is humongous. For quadriplegics, its Rs 5 lakh a month, and for paraplegiacs, its Rs 2 lakh a month. Rehabilitation expenses are separate.

RELATED: How a personal tragedy led to the finding a larger purpose - My Take by Dr Ketna Mehta, founder, Nina Foundation



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