Earlier, Diwali meant lighting up the home with earthen diyas fashioned by the neighbourhood potter. Today, strings of tiny, twinkling bulbs from across the border — China — have given new meaning to the festival of lights.
However, their sparkle should not blind us to certain dangers inherent in their use, particularly, if they turn out to be of sub-standard quality.
It’s for this reason that consumer protection and law enforcement agencies around the world work overtime during the festival season to ensure the safety of these lights.
Unfortunately, such efforts are completely lacking in India.
In Singapore, under the Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme, 1997, these decorative lights cannot be sold without the mandatory safety certificate. Similarly, in Australia, outlets that sell decorative Christmas lighting, that do not meet the Australian Safety Standards, face the risk of ‘stop sales’ being slapped on them, besides
hefty fines ranging from $4,000 to $21,000.
In the US, the Consumer Products Safety Commission monitors holiday lights and decorations sold at stores nationwide and prevents the import of holiday lights that do not meet the national safety standards. In the absence of such consumer protection measures in India (we, in fact, need to demand third party certification for these lights sold in the market), consumers need to be extra cautious while purchasing and using these lights.
More so because we have no system of collating information on product-related accidents and therefore, have no data on injuries or fires caused by unsafe decorative lights. A few years ago, a friend had recounted an incident, where a resident of south Delhi had got electrocuted while trying to put some wet clothes to dry on the metallic grills of her balcony. The decorative lights had been strung on the grills and a loose wire, that caused electrocution, resulted in the tragedy.
Here are a few safety tips for Diwali: At the time of purchase, ensure that the wires are not too thin to carry the load and that they do not come out of the holders easily, as such exposed wires can cause electrocution. Obviously, such visual examination is no match for a third party safety certification, but in its absence, this is the only option.
If you are reusing the lights bought the previous year, check them to ensure there are no cracked or frayed wires or loose connections that could start a fire or cause an electric shock.
Never put them up on metallic grills — they can get charged with electricity from faulty lights and a person touching the grill can get electrocuted.
Do not use nails to hold them in place. Also, make sure that you do not overload the extension cord as it can start a fire.
Never touch the chord or the lights without unplugging them from the main socket. You need to be particularly careful if it rains during this period.
Anil Bisht: I purchased some lights for Diwali. However, when I put them up, one of them did not light up. The shopkeeper says he is not responsible as these are made in China. Do I have no rights in such a case?
Answer: Let me assure you that the retailer is fully accountable for the product that he sells. So, he has to give you a replacement or a refund, never mind who the manufacturer is. I must also tell you that when it comes to imported goods, the package has to mention the name and full address of the importer and he can also be held liable for a defective or an unsafe product.
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