Mumbai: City journalist Presley Thomas, 41, almost became a victim of an accident related to manjha (kite string coated with powdered glass) on the Western Express Highwayi on January 19.
Thomas, a senior defense journalist, was on his way back home to Vakola after visiting a friend in Vasai, 60 km from Mumbai, four days after ‘Makar Sankranti’ (kite festival). He was riding his Royal Enfield Bullet on the Andheri flyover at a speed of 70kmph. He was wearing a balaclava, a helmet with a visor, and hand gloves to keep himself protected from any accidents.
Suddenly out of nowhere, a manjha slipped across the visor and brushed the upper part of his nose, between the eyes. Seconds later a kite hit his helmet from the side. He thought of applying the brakes but saw that there was heavy traffic around him which could lead to an accident. Soon he realized his face was soaked in blood – all of this within 5 seconds.
On reaching home, he saw he had a deep cut on the bridge of his nose. He washed the blood out of the balaclava and went to the doctor. A medical examination revealed that the cut was so deep that it had scraped the nose bone. Despite this, Thomas said, he felt fortunate in being alive.
Did he report the matter to the police? “There is no point in informing the police regarding such incidents as they will just register an Accidental Death Report (ADR), but no stringent action will be taken”, answered Thomas. “The Police should have a strict crackdown on the manufacture and use of such glass-coated lethal strings,” he added.
Thomas stated that such fatal incidents are reported in various parts of the country although the use of these strings is banned in most cities. In Chennai, kite flyers in the city using the banned ‘manjha’ are detained under the Goondas Act, which means they will not get bail for a year.
In Delhi, selling manjha was banned through a notification in 2017. Last year, the Delhi police arrested sellers under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act (1986) for violation of this rule. Punishment can include up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. These laws in other parts of the country are in contrast to Mumbai which does not have such strict measures, the journalist added.
In Mumbai, on January 16, two days after the kite festival, Rakesh Gawli, a police officer was severely injured as his throat was slashed by kite string while he was heading towards his office on a motorcycle. In a report by Hindustan Times, the cop somehow tried to balance the bike on the flyover and saved himself from falling down. As soon as another cop posted near the flyover noticed Gawli bleeding profusely, he rushed him to Sir JJ Hospital in Mumbai.
A similar case was registered on January 12 in Nagpur, where a 20-year-old two-wheeler rider, Pranay Prakash Thakre, died after the manjha slit his throat. He and his father were riding separate motorcycles, and Pranay got entangled in the razor-sharp string of a kite that slit his throat. He fell from the motorbike and died due to excessive bleeding before the police could take him to the hospital.
“Besides fatal wounds, patients with manjha injuries develop numb patches or deformity if the wounds are not treated at once, it can also lead to loss of sensation. Moreover, any delay in treatment may result in permanent disability, too”, said Dr. Yogesh Bhatt, SSG Hospital, Vadodara, Gujarat, in a report from The Times of India.
Kite flying is common in most cities in India especially cities like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Udaipur, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, etc. These cities observe an average of three accidents per day during the kite festival season. During this year’s Makar Sankranti, three persons were killed in Gujarat and over 100 injured in different States.
Birds get frequently entangled in manjha strings as well. An estimate cited by the Animal Welfare Board of India said that at least 2,000 birds are injured at the annual kite flying event in Ahmedabad of which 500 eventually die. Bird rescuer Sanjeev Sankhla, said over a dozen birds were rescued and treated in the morning hours in Jaipur on January 14, as reported by Hindustan Times.
In spite of police attempts to contain this problem, cases of people being imprisoned for manufacturing, selling, or using manjha are not common.
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