By Subhasish Das
Diwali, the festival of light that symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance, is almost here. Diwali is also arguably the only Indian festival celebrated around the world in different ways. While the rest of the world celebrates with lights and colour, in India, Diwali is sadly associated with a rather annoying phenomenon—the pollution-inducing firecrackers. Not only are firecrackers needlessly loud, they also emit smoke and fumes, causing further environmental and health issues.
The spike in air and noise pollution along with other associated hazards over the years have made the overall situation across the country so grim, that the Supreme Court was forced to step in again to prevent it from getting out of hand. India’s firecracker industry is huge, with thousands of people directly or indirectly connected with it. The court deliberately dodged the total blanket ban that was being called for by some activists as such a move could have sounded the death knell for the industry and the people associated with it. Considering all aspects, including the right to livelihood of people associated to the firecracker industry and the right to health of India’s people, the apex court’s ruling is well balanced and rational. The court has permitted a two-hour window across India for the bursting of crackers on Diwali nights. The Delhi-NCR region, infamous for its stifling smog at this time of the year, also got the stick from the court, which ruled that only green firecrackers be sold and used.
No more crackers
Gone are the days when Diwali was celebrated in a simpler form. Over time, Diwali has transformed into a menacing affair with humans, animals and nature bearing equal brunt. Although there is some awareness and effort towards celebrating Diwali in a less pollutant and less harmful way, we must make constant conscious efforts to make a change. Sure there are some who say that celebrating Diwali sans firecrackers is meaningless, it is important to remind them of the harm it causes to man and nature. Besides, there are many practical reasons to reconsider using firecrackers.
Burning crackers is burning money: Firecrackers don’t come cheap, and it is surprising how easily people squander money on this year after year.
Spare a thought for the animals: Bursting crackers is enjoyable, but there are other living creatures around us, devoid of the ability to communicate the way we do to tell us of what this does to them. Think about the animals, most of whom have heightened hearing and panic at the littlest sound.
Gases and chemicals are nobody’s friend: Many of the gases and chemicals released by firecrackers are carcinogenic and major air pollutants like sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Inhaling these gases and chemicals is dangerous, especially for young children and the elderly, and there’s an immediate danger for those with asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory discomforts.
Inevitable fire accidents: Fire accidents are a common occurrence during Diwali. A small spark is enough to start a big fire. Irrespective of how cautious one might be, fire related accidents do take place by misjudging the potential dangers of firecrackers.
Not a happy Diwali for every child: Most firecracker manufacturing units employ children who work in dangerous conditions, and often suffer injuries that leave them crippled for life. Can we try to save these kids?
To hell with Swachh Bharat: Firecrackers also generate a massive amount of waste, often double the usual capacity of most Indian cities and towns. In the absence of a methodical and mechanised cleaning process, the waste generated thus adds to the already grim situation of waste disposal in our country. Not to mention, the poisonous chemicals present in them that seep into the soil leading to land contamination and degradation year after year.
Easier said than done?
The Supreme Court has issued the directive, now it is up to the administration to ensure that the rule is followed by citizens in toto. Indians love to break the rules, with little to no sense of responsibility displayed. It is up to the authorities to make sure that lawbreakers are nabbed and brought to book so that others desist from any act of misadventure. Yet, one can’t ignore the responsibility each of us has in ensuring a noiseless, pollution-less, safe Diwali for all.
It will be interesting to see to what happens come Diwali.
Subhasish Das is an IT professional working with a Big Data company and an occasional writer.