HC allows idol-makers to use PoP, tells TS to make other arrangements

Hyderabad: City-based artisans heaved a sigh of relief as the Telangana High Court did not issue an order restricting the use of plaster of Paris (PoP) in making idols of deities, for Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja, on the grounds that the state government has not issued a government order banning or prohibiting the same.

The case pertains to a PIL filed by artisan bodies against guidelines issued by the central pollution control board, banning the use of PoP in idols.

A division bench of Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice S. Nanda, adjourning the case until September, when the legality of the CPCB guidelines would be assessed, however, stated that the Telangana government should issue a G.O. on alternative arrangements for immersing Ganesh idols made of PoP and other materials — as opposed to Hussainsagar and other lakes — by August 31, before the start of the Ganesh Chaturthi.

The High Court cited guidelines of the Supreme Court not to allow immersion of PoP idols in lakes, and instructed the state to create baby ponds in advance for immersing such idols.

The court also declined the state government’s request to cap the height of idols at four feet, faulting the government for not issuing a circular or order by March, based on previous judgments of the High Court in the matter.

The court directed the state government to peruse the guidelines issued by the West Bengal government for the immersion of Durga idols.

In their arguments, the petitioners in the case — Telangana Ganesh Murthi Kalakar Welfare Association of Dhoolpet, Lodh Kshatriya Sadar Panchayat and other individual artisans — requested the court to declare the ban on PoP imposed by CPCB illegal, on the grounds of not having jurisdiction. Further, they asked the court to restrain pollution authorities, GHMC and police from interfering in the idol-making process.

The CPCB issued the guidelines on the grounds that immersion of PoP idols would pose a threat to waterbodies as PoP does not dissolve in water.

However, the petitioners countered that the PoP was not a pollutant and that gypsum minerals, which strengthen PoP, account for only one per cent of the substance compared to other materials like cement and those used in hospitals.

Further, the petitioners’ counsel said that failure to provide immediate relief would affect the livelihood of artisans, who are dependent on the festive season.

After the petitioners brought it to the notice of the court that the state has not issued orders so far, the court allowed them to use PoP in idols.

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