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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

As a result of the SC order, Diwali was cleaner and healthier but was it as much fun?

By now it was dark and in earlier years the sound of exploding crackers would have been audible. This year there was initial silence. Later there were areas where the Supreme Court order was violated, but nothing like the past.

columns Updated: Nov 11, 2018 15:54 IST
Karan Thapar
Karan Thapar
A student displays a message painted on her hands to create awareness regarding the hazardous effects of air pollution during Diwali in Jammu
A student displays a message painted on her hands to create awareness regarding the hazardous effects of air pollution during Diwali in Jammu(PTI)
         

It was past five in the evening on Diwali when my landline started ringing. Though bright outside you could sense dusk was not far away. This is the twilight time when, in previous years, families would prepare for the fireworks they’d planned. I answered the phone to find an agitated Pertie on the other side.

“Do you realise the Supreme Court has played a trick on us?”, he began. This took me aback. Unsure of what to say, I mumbled: “What on earth do you mean?”

“Well look at it this way. The Supreme Court has said only green crackers can be used but the truth is green crackers aren’t made anywhere in India and, therefore, you can’t buy them. So, in effect, without actually saying so, the Supreme Court has banned crackers altogether. How many people realise that?”

The penny dropped and I suddenly realised why Pertie was so worked up. “What are you upset about? The fact crackers have been altogether banned or the way that’s been done?”

“You’re missing the point” Pertie shot back. “Did the Supreme Court know green crackers aren’t made in India and, therefore, cannot be used on Diwali? In which case why didn’t it simply ban crackers altogether rather than resort to this ruse? Or did it pass its order in the belief green crackers were available?”

“Are you suggesting the Supreme Court could have passed an order without fully knowing the facts of the matter?”

“What else could it be? When you say only green crackers can be used but we then discover there are no green crackers to be had for love or money doesn’t it follow this was either a backdoor way of banning crackers altogether or an ignorant order?

“Hmmm”. That was the best I could come up with. “But this only applies to Delhi and not the rest of the country. The Supreme Court amended its original order to permit ordinary crackers elsewhere.”

“And isn’t that odd too? If crackers cause an unacceptable level of pollution that will be the case whether they’re let off in Delhi or Chennai. Or does it mean the Supreme Court cares more about pollution in Delhi than elsewhere?”

Once again, Pertie had a point. He had obviously thought about this and the contradictions he now spotted seemed undeniable. However, he wasn’t finished.

“There’s something else. Nearly 80% of this country is Hindu and Diwali is their favourite festival. For hundreds of millions, letting off crackers is the traditional way of celebrating. Was it fair to ban them in one fell swoop, as the Court initially did?”

“If crackers are a serious health hazard then surely there’s no alternative?” I thought that was fairly obvious.

“Well, gluttony isn’t good for you but no one bans overeating at Christmas! The Supreme Court needed to strike a balance. Instead it’s gone to one extreme. If it was serious only green crackers can be used, why was this order not passed ten months ago, so there was time for manufacturers to make such crackers? Why pass it just two weeks before Diwali? If today millions feel hurt I can certainly understand their reaction.”

By now it was dark and in earlier years the sound of exploding crackers would have been audible. This year there was initial silence. Later there were areas where the Supreme Court order was violated, but nothing like the past. As a result Diwali was cleaner and healthier, but was it as much fun?

Karan Thapar is the author of The Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Nov 11, 2018 12:43 IST

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