Mumbai: As you join the Ganeshotsav celebrations, Maharashtra`s biggest public festival which starts Aug 23, you will notice two themes recurring across the marquees in the city - terrorism and swine flu - depicted through tableaux, paintings and decorations.
`We have suggested to all Ganpati mandals to depict these two issues confronting the city and the state prominently during the celebrations, as a public service,` Pandurang Jadhav, president of the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvaya Samiti (BSGSS), told here Wednesday.
`Hundreds of artists are furiously working to give finishing touches to tableaux depicting an `artist`s impression` of the twin themes of terrorism and swine flu that are uppermost on the minds of the people,` he added.
Jadhav said that Mumbai has been scarred by the 26/11 terror attacks and the city, along with Pune has been reeling under the grip of swine flu. As many as 17 people have died of swine flu in the state so far.
`We are holding this festival to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesh and simultaneously, spread the social message as thousands of people take part during the 10-day festivities,` Jadhav said.
Satish Khankar, president of the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal (LRSGM) in south-central Mumbai, told IANS: `We do not put up thematic displays here. But we have taken very high security precautions for the 15 million (1.50 crore) devotees from Mumbai, Maharashtra and other parts of India who will come here during the 10-days.`
`Apart from the 12-foot tall idol of Lord Ganesh whose eyes will watch each devotee, scores of electronic eyes will also monitor the situation in and around the venue,` Khankar said.
`The association`s 2,500 strong force of men and women volunteers will be helped by Mumbai Police to safeguard the venue from any potential threats. There will be hand-held and door-frame metal detectors, walkie-talkie sets to send and receive alerts,` Khankar said.
Lalbaugcha Raja depicts the Lord Ganesh sitting on a throne, and is one of the most revered and protected idols in the state, attracting an average 1.25 million devotees each day, the crowds swell during weekends, Gauri pooja and on the immersion day.
Presently there are around 8,000 registered Ganesh associations (mandals) in the city. Another 40,000 big and small Ganesh idols are installed in private housing complexes in Mumbai and Thane. Plus, there are an estimated 100,000 household idols in the city, making it the biggest, most opulent and highly popular festival of the state.
On its part, the Mumbai police are taking extreme precautions to safeguard the Ganesh festival all over the city, according to an official.
Wireless vans with GPS/GIS, CCTVs, metal detectors, high-speed internet, almost half the police force, State Reserve Police Force and Riot Protection Force are being deployed as part of the security operations during the 10-days festival in this megapolis. Other branches like Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad and dog squads will be kept on alert, the official said.
Besides the official efforts, almost all the associations have plans to deploy private security agencies.