The recent High Court order banning the use of hi-decibel amplifiers and sound systems during the festive season came as a relief to the citizens…
I vividly remember last year, I was in the car and stuck in traffic near Mitra Mandal due to a carnival like procession of jeeps and truck trailers that had huge sound systems and lights, all to commemorate a mass leader’s birth anniversary.
The high decibel soundtracks literally made my heart pound and the ground felt like it was hit by a quake.
To add to this, there were hundreds of youngsters in a frenzy of dance that seemed to be a victory over the waiting traffic. I eventually called a senior police officer who was kind to have his force come and ease the situation.
The Mumbai HC ban on using sound amplifying systems like DJ and Dolby during the 10 day festival and immersion certainly spelt relief for a majority of our citizens, particularly, those residing in the city and paths.
With permission (for the use of such sound systems) not accorded for Navratri either, I am hoping this would mean and apply to any special occasion that involves a gathering of people on our roads.
The state government’s submission to a petition by a sound system company, which the HC saw merit in, stated that DJ and Dolby sound systems are a major cause of noise pollution, emanating over 100 decibels.
As per the Noise Pollution Rules of 2000, the maximum decibel levels permitted are between 50 and 75 decibels during the day and 40 to 70 decibels at night.
While the Police was right in taking action against Mandals violating this rule, the protests from corporators, almost threatening that there would be no immersion without Dolby systems was totally uncalled for.
Predictably, over 150 Ganesh Mandals violated the HC order during immersion, resulting in high noise levels and contempt of court. Pune Police has begun the process of initiating action.
Similar scenes were witnessed when the Pune police followed a circular of the State Government and made helmets mandatory.
One often wonders who these corporators are batting for, considering, they have been elected as representatives of the people and are expected to do justice to their roles.
It is note worthy to mention here that there have been several petitions in various High Courts and the Supreme Court against noise pollution, from around the country, particularly during the late 1990. One of them was from a citizen who was horrified to read a news item that the cries of a 13 year old girl who was being raped could not be heard due to a loudspeaker blaring in the vicinity for a religious function.
The Supreme Court in the year 2000 clearly laid out restrictions on noise pollution levels. The SC was lucid in mentioning that between 10pm and 6 am you cannot use any amplifier in public places that disturbs people in the neighbourhoods.
Thus, the maximum time in Pune for blaring loudspeakers in marriages and public functions is strictly 10 pm. Beyond 10 pm, any citizen can dial 100 and report to the police and yes, the do answer and attend to the matter. You are welcome to try it, in case of any such incident in your neighbourhood and avoid the suffering or disturbance.
In one of the Supreme Court judgments, the bench spelt out the definition and implication of noise pollution thus:
‘Noise as nuisance and health hazard: Noise is more than just a nuisance. It constitutes a real and present danger to people’s health. Day and night, at home, at work, and at play, noise can produce serious physical and psychological stress. No one is immune to this stress. Though we seem to adjust to noise by ignoring it, the ear, in fact, never closes and the body still responds-sometimes with extreme tension, as to a strange sound in the night.
‘In the modern day, noise has become one of the major pollutants and it has serious effects on human health. Effects of noise depend upon sound’s pitch, its frequency and time pattern and length of exposure. Noise has both auditory and non-auditory effects depending upon the intensity and the duration of the noise level. It affects sleep, hearing, communication, mental and physical health. It may even lead to the madness of people.’’
Students who may be having examinations during the festive period and; senior citizens are adversely affected by noise pollution. Many elderly and young families move out of peth areas to stay with their relatives who reside in peripheral areas. Moreover, sound systems like the Dolbys and DJs create a ruckus and do not effuse respect or obeisance for Lord Ganesha who we look up to, for all our intellectual pursuits and good omen for the start of any of our life’s activities.
In fact, we ought to monitor and check sound levels at restaurants too! Quite recently, I met a few of my editorial friends at an internationally cafe chains outlet on Fergusson College. It was nothing less than a fish market with sound levels that were unbelievable and we were left with no option but to move elsewhere to get some quiet.
It doesn’t stop here and several posh restaurants are much like this at night, rendering it virtually impossible to enjoy a peaceful evening that encourages good conversation.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,