Alas, it ultimately fell on the shoulders of Gayatri Janakalyan Sangha, an NGO, to prevent malaria and dengue in Kolkata. Over 1000 pyres lit up yesterday at their behest at an Eastern Railway ground in Howrah, which will continue for 2 more days, in what is termed as Ashwamedha Yagna sans the symbolic marching of horse, to stave off occurrence of the diseases. See this report.
The rituals were elaborate, what with chanting of vedic hymns by some of the most qualified Hindu priests, assembling as they did from all over country. Women carried water pots on their heads to render a semblance of earnestness to the yagna.
To their credit, the organizers later denied that the yagna can do anything to keep the diseases at bay, but maintained that it will prevent decay of ozone layer.
The episode featured on Star Ananda all day long, and later at night when it was asked if this incident proved that science was taking backseat, one of the participants gave an interesting reply. While rightly brushing aside the suggestion, he said that rather than disproving the usefulness of yagna, what was important was to ensure that it did not pollute the atmosphere with the fumes from the pyres. In effect it would mean that so long the laws of land are not violated, people are free to practice their beliefs.
I wish to add a tail to it. Is organizing the event on railway premises an indication that it wouldn’t have had permission to hold at any other place? This seems likely, going by railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav’s support for Hardwar’s Acharya Ramdev in the face of criticism by CPM’s Brinda Karat.