P. Venkatesh was a student of the Pondicherry University when he met with an accident three years ago. Driving his two-wheeler on East Coast Road, he lost control of the vehicle which skidded. The reason for this accident was a pumpkin that was broken on the road outside a shop for ‘Aayudha Pooja.'
“I was lucky to escape with a fractured arm. My friend who sat behind me had a deep cut in his leg,” recalled Venkatesh, who now works at a bank. His case is not an isolated one.
Shopkeepers and traders who perform the rituals usually break the pumpkin in the middle of the road. This had forced the police to issue directions in the last several years asking people to remove the pumpkins immediately after breaking it. This year, they were also warned of action in case of violations.
But a quick check across the commercial areas in the town reveal the utter neglect of these directions by shop-owners. When asked why he had not removed the pumpkin after breaking it, a shopkeeper on Jawaharlal Nehru Street said, “Why should I? It is the duty of the municipality to remove garbage.”
According to Medical Superintendent of the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) A.K. Das, “this menace of breaking pumpkin on the road must be banned immediately as it poses a great risk of head injuries to motorists, especially two-wheeler riders.” Cases with bone injuries as a result of the skidding were also common, he said.
Hemachandran, a retired IAS officer and president of People's Pulse, an NGO working on civil issues, said directions from the police alone would not be enough as monitoring every street and lane was an impossible task. He said that efforts must be initiated to talk to the traders' associations in the town and ask them to issue circulars to those associated with them against breaking pumpkins on the roads.
He also said that apart from issuing circulars, the police should also make announcements during the afternoon of ‘Aayudha Pooja' day as most traders conduct the ritual only in the evening. “This will help in reminding them about the menace of leaving the pumpkin on the road and can avoid accidents,” he said.
According to a senior police official, only two cases were registered last year and not a single case of violation had been registered this year. “Our circulars have had a positive impact. Most people break pumpkins on the roadsides and remove it immediately,” he said.
Residents, though, disagree. “The police usually don't take action because they don't want to interfere with the sentiments of traders. Even the shop-owner opposite my house broke a pumpkin in the middle of the road but nobody questioned,” said Murugan, a resident of M.G. Road.