Confusion over firecracker ban in Assam during Diwali
There was much confusion over a firecracker ban in Guwahati on Wednesday after a minister’s tweet that there will be no restrictions on celebrating Diwali, including the use of firecrackers, even as Assam’s Pollution Control Board has ordered a complete ban on their sale and use in the city until November 30. The ban was ordered days before Diwali on Saturday to check pollution amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the minister, said in a tweet on Tuesday: “Like any other religion, Hindus have the right to celebrate festivals. With improvement in Covid-19 situation in Assam, we plan no restrictions on celebration of Diwali, including use of firecrackers.” He asked the public to exercise sell-restraint as it is the key to combat Covid-19.
The tweet came after the Board on Tuesday said there will be a total ban on the use of all kinds of firecrackers in Guwahati from the midnight of November 9-10 till the midnight of November 30-December 1. “Except Guwahati, in other areas only green crackers can be sold and burst... for two hours during Deepawali festivals from 8 pm to 10 pm; during Chatth Puja from 6 am to 8 am and during Christmas and New Year Ever from 11:55 pm to 12:30 am,” the Board said in an order.
The Board directed all district magistrates, commissioners, and police superintendents to implement the directions and submit action taken reports daily.
The order came after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday said bursting of firecrackers releases “copious amounts of harmful chemicals” which in turn can have a serious impact on the health of vulnerable groups and aggravate the health of Covid-19 patients or those staying in home isolation.
The NGT allowed the bursting of firecrackers for two hours during festivals like Diwali, Guru Parab, Christmas, Chatth Puja, New Year’s Eve, etc at places where air pollution levels are moderate or below.
The Board ordered a complete ban on firecrackers in Guwahati as the air quality of the city has been categorised as “poor”.
The NGT and the Board’s orders days ahead of Diwali has come as a disappointment for traders, who have procured firecrackers.
“I bought firecrackers worth a few thousand rupees last week expecting there would not be any ban on the sale. But with the [ban] order, there is no chance of selling the stuff this Diwali,” said Alakesh Basumatary, a shopkeeper in Guwahati.
Last week, state environment minister Parimal Suklabaidya told journalists the government was against a blanket ban on the sale and bursting of firecrackers during Diwali.
Assam has reported a decrease in the daily Covid-19 cases since October. On Tuesday, the state recorded 271 cases with a positivity rate of 1.07%. The state has overall reported 209,388 cases.