Natalia Bilimoria and her friends spent the morning of their school day this Tuesday traipsing up and down Marine Drive carrying posters as part of an anti-cracker rally.
“You must be bonkers if you burst crackers,” read one poster; “Our city, our concern” read another.
“The last time I burst crackers was about five years ago, and I found that I didn't enjoy the noise myself,” said Bilimoria, a Class 7 student of JB Petit School. “Through the rally we wanted to spread awareness about the harmful effects of crackers and the need to be responsible citizens.”
This year, aside from JB Petit, students of 29 other schools participated in rallies organised through the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA).
Nearly 2,000 students came out on the streets to decry pollution, child labour and the health hazards of bursting crackers.
Others, such as DY Patil International School, came up with innovative ways to celebrate the occasion by getting students make lanterns and Diwali cards out of trash and waste material.
While CMCA has been working with city children, the Satara-based Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti, a movement fighting against superstition, has conducted its campaign across schools in all the districts of the state.
The organisation has collected nearly six lakh signatures from students across 2,000 schools, pledging that they will reduce their expenditure on crackers and instead spend the money on books or educational items.
“We specifically targeted schoolchildren as we wanted them to understand that no good comes of bursting crackers,” said Narendra Dabholkar, the Samiti's founder president. “It causes pollution, accidents, involves child labour. Instead of blowing up that money in a few minutes, it is better that they use it for some educational purpose.”
In little pockets, children too are quietly spreading the message of a green Diwali.
Vyomi Vador (11), along with her sister and cousins, has made pamphlets and put them up on notice boards in buildings in Wadala.
They have also forwarded SMSes to people urging them to avoid crackers this year.
“They know about the child labour involved, so they took the initiative to publicise the message,” said Vyomi’s father Deepak.