Independence Day celebrations: Spirits run high but 'Chinese manjha' threat cuts deep

With spirits of people soaring amid the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, skies are slowly getting filled with colourful kites, big and small, humble and designer ones.
A vendor sells 'manja' for flying kites for the upcoming Independence Day, in Old Delhi, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Photo | PTI)
A vendor sells 'manja' for flying kites for the upcoming Independence Day, in Old Delhi, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: As India gears up to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its Independence, kite-selling markets in old Delhi are doing brisk business, but police and NGOs are on the watchout to prevent sale of the dreaded 'Chinese manjha' that has injured many people or cut short lives of some this year.

With spirits of people soaring amid the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, skies are slowly getting filled with colourful kites, big and small, humble and designer ones, but at times this rather harmless traditional sport leads to blood in the streets, directly or indirectly related to a glass-coated thread, the sale or storage of which is banned in Delhi.

A 34-year-old man died in northeast Delhi's Shastri Park after his throat was slit with Chinese manjha while he was going to celebrate Raksha Bandhan at his in-laws' house, police said on Saturday.

In old Delhi's Lal Kuan area, Indian flags dot the streets, while kite-selling shops are seeing a rush of customers.

On Saturday, many customers were seen carrying a big stock of large kites and thread spindles in the market area.

On the same day, an NGO accompanied by a police team conducted surprise inspection at a few shops in Lal Kuan, and "seized some thread spindles" which were then taken to the local Hauz Qauzi police station here.

'Chinese manjha' is a threat to humans on ground and birds in flight.

A police official, who accompanied the members of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) during the inspection, said, "Kite-flying increases around time of August 15, and so does the threat of any injury from the 'Chinese manjha'.

So, we have been taking rounds in the last two weeks to check for any sale or storage of the banned thread".

Official posters have been put up in the market area, mentioning that sale and use in kite-flying of 'Chinese manjha' is illegal.

Mohammad Rafi, a shopkeeper, whose shop was inspected, told PTI, "We do not keep 'Chinese nanjha'. Our thread products are made in Bareilly."

Another kite-seller told the inspection team, "Why will we keep a killer thread, we know what it can do. Our stock of thread is from Bareilly."

'Chinese Manjha' -- the glass-coated thread, notorious for its severeness and plastic-like durability -- was banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2017.

According to the directions mentioned in the notification issued by the Delhi environment department in 2017, there shall be a "complete ban on the sale, production, storage, supply, import, and use of kite-flying thread made out of nylon, plastic or any other synthetic material, including popularly known as 'Chinese manjha', and any other kite-flying thread that is sharp or made sharp such as being laced with glass, metal or any other sharp material, in the National Capital Territory of Delhi," said a team member of the NGO, quoting the notification.

Kite-flying shall be permissible only with a cotton thread, free from any sharp, metallic or glass components or adhesive thread strengthening material, it says.

However, despite the ban, it is finding its way into many people's hands, suggesting illegal sale in markets, experts and doctors have flagged.

A senior police officer on Saturday said, "We are sensitising people to not demand 'Chinese manjha' and also shopkeepers to not indulge in procuring or selling this banned kite-flying thread. We are also keeping a tab on those who are indulging in such kind of acts and taking appropriate legal action against them. Decoy customers are also being sent to check whether people are still selling or procuring it."

Doctors at a leading private hospital here recently had also flagged the potential threat a 'Chinese manjha' poses to people and presented cases of two women patients who recently underwent life-saving surgeries at Max Super Specialty Hospital, Patparganj after accidentally sustaining severe injuries from it in streets.

One of the two patients, Vidywati, 61, was riding a two-wheeler in east Delhi when she suddenly felt a thread around her neck area.

The injuries due to it was so deep, as if "her throat was slit with a knife," said a doctor from the team which operated on her later.

"Despite the recovery, Vidyawati still fears the reoccurrence of the event and pleaded to the authorities concerned to ensure compliance of the ban on the sale of 'Chinese manjha'," said Dr Manoj K Johar, who led the team that operated on the two patients.

"A lot of times, such victims, as a result of this injury, being caught by surprise, also tend to suffer falls at high speeds or collisions with other vehicles due to loss of control, thereby not only endangering their own lives but that of others. After similar incidents were reported in 2016, the government had issued a ban on the use of these products," Johar said, and alleged that "now its use has gone up again".

A 30-year-old man had his throat slit with a kite string and died in northwest Delhi's Maurya Enclave area, police had said on July 26.

Earlier this month, a good samaritan had saved the life of an MBA aspirant, who was seriously injured by a kite string, by admitting him to a hospital on time, police officials had said.

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