By Santosh Andhale, DNA

To enable better circulation of air, the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal has decided on a non-air conditioned pandal this year. Last year, the mandal had erected an air-conditioned waiting enclosure for devotees; it was the city’s first.

Mandal authorities said that this move is being taken to avoid a suffocating atmosphere for the devotees, but sources said that this could be a part of the security measures in the backdrop of the July 13 bomb blasts. The blasts have prompted Ganesh mandals across the city to beef up security for this year’s celebrations.

The mandal has also secured an insurance policy worth Rs5 crore to safeguard all its devotees in case of any eventuality.

Last year, the mandal had put up an air-conditioned pavilion spread over 60,000 sq ft across two adjoining grounds, which could accommodate 12,000-14,000 people at a time. Five giant air-conditioning units had pumped cool air into the enclosure.

“It was not a good experience. Many people complained about suffocation. Hence, this year we decided to keep it open and will install fans inside instead of air-conditioners,” said Sudhir Salvi, secretary of the mandal.

He added, “Every year, we take all possible steps for the security of the visitors, and also take guidance from the police. To avoid even the smallest of risks, we have decided to go for insurance cover for the devotees this year.”

The mandal has also increased the number of CCTV cameras and metal detectors, which will be used at every entry point.

Authorities have installed more than 150 CCTVs. The police have already inspected the premises. The mandal has also appointed 50 to 60 home guards, and has around 3,000 volunteers to manage the crowds.

In light of the 13/7 terror attacks, the police will be issuing special instructions for all mandals on extra precautions that must be taken this year, and will hold special meetings to provide extra guidance.

The Lalbaugcha Raja mandal is one of the most famous ganesh pandals in the city. Every year, 15 to 20 lakh devotees, including film stars, politicians and top bureaucrats, queue up outside for hours to seek the Lord’s blessings.