The Maharashtra state administration and the police are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the 11-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival goes off smoothly. With nearly 1.6 million residents installing Ganesh idols and around 75,000 mandals being set up across the state, they indeed face a serious challenge. However, the government is not deterred by the security threat, especially after the July 13 serial blasts. Umesh Chandra Sarangi, additional chief secretary (home), explains the government’s strategy in an exclusive interview with Sanjay Jog. Edited excerpts:
How is the government geared up ahead of the festival?
Peace committee meetings have been conducted at all places and the role of the administration, Ganesh mandals and the public has been explained in detail so that all these major stakeholders work towards the unified goal of celebrating the festival without any untoward incident.
How can the government ensure a peaceful festival with a limited police force?
The mandals, especially the important ones frequented by a large number of people, have been asked to put closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs). In addition to the 1,87,000-strong state police force, we have deployed home guards, civil defence personnel and state reserve police force (SRP). We have also asked for additional force from the Centre and expect its deployment very soon.
What special measures are being taken this time?
Public entry, especially to the important mandals across the state, would be under strict police supervision. The district collectors and superintendents of police have conducted peace committee meetings at all important towns. The sub-divisional officers and their counterparts have also held similar meetings in their respective jurisdiction. Further, the state director general of police has issued dos and don’ts regarding law and order to all unit commanders.
The district administration and unit commanders would remain in constant touch with the Ganesh mandals and consistently review the overall situation. More importantly, the entire police force, including the SRP and home guards, would be used for the bandobast. Nobody would get leave, except in event of an extraordinary emergency.
Mumbai and some towns still face security threats, especially against the backdrop of July 13 serial blasts. Has the government received any special intimation from the Centre?
We keep getting regular intelligence tips. We are taking all possible precautions against this backdrop. We have been keeping a constant watch over information flow and are doing everything possible to ensure nothing goes wrong.
What is your message to the people of Maharashtra?
Cooperate with the administration and play your part in ensuring peaceful celebrations.
Investigations into the July 13 blasts are going at a snail’s pace, with no breakthrough yet. Can you throw some light on the present situation?
The anti-terror squad and the Mumbai crime branch are investing the case and are on track.