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Monday Musings: When tradition becomes a noose around your neck

Sooner than later, the government will have to swallow the bitter pill and present alternatives to Diwali fireworks

pune Updated: Oct 22, 2017 22:41 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Diwali,celebrations,tradition becomes a noose around your neck
A worker cleaning the remains of crackers scattered in the morning after the Diwali celebrations.(HT FILE PHOTO)

Bursting firecrackers during Diwali is a part of Indian tradition, and this tradition has now become a noose around our neck. It’s time to discard unsustainable traditions and find healthier ways of celebrating Diwali.

The situation is already quite grim. Despite the Supreme Court’s ban on the sale of firecrackers in the national capital region, there was no stopping people from buying and bursting firecrackers with gay abandon. The Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in the national capital during Diwali but that did not come in the way one bit: Whatever you wanted was easily available and once again, Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) dropped alarmingly to “severe” levels.

In Pune, the AQI was marginally better than the 2016 figures, but the noise pollution levels were clearly higher than last year. Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad also saw high pollution levels.

Because Diwali is the nation’s biggest festival and bursting firecrackers a part of the tradition, neither parents nor the government participated in campaigns to discourage children from bursting firecrackers. This was evident from two observations: All the fireworks purchases were done by adults themselves- not by children. Second, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was completely silent on the high degree of pollution caused by fireworks. The only special initiative that this Abhiyan announced was the sweeping of the streets and a cleanliness drive after Diwali “to make the market area, establishment, shops and housing colonies litter free”.

A child protects his face amid heavy smog due to bursting of firecrackers despite the ban imposed by the Supreme Court of India to control the air pollution following Diwali celebrations. ( HT FILE PHOTO )

What is one to do in such a situation?

The Indian firecracker industry is the second largest in the world, after, of course, the Chinese, and an estimated ₹6,000 crore worth of firecrackers are sold every Diwali. Nearly 90% of these are manufactured in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu. Cheaper Chinese imports have been eating into the Indian market and an estimated ₹1,500 crore of firecrackers that are sold, are of Chinese-make.

With rising purchasing power, the sale of firecrackers will also rise, which means more air pollution, noise pollution, and nuisance in the Diwalis up ahead.

Sooner than later, the government will have to swallow the bitter pill and take appropriate action. If you don’t want plastic carry bags of less than 50 microns from polluting the environment, you need to focus your energies on banning their manufacture, and not waste time in banning their sale. If the manufacturing of these bags is stopped, the question of their sales wont arise in the first place.

Likewise with firecrackers. Unless systematic steps are taken to ban an entire range of firecrackers that cause air and noise pollution, the problem will only worsen year after year.

Other strategies would also be needed, such as a high-pitched campaign to discourage purchase of firecrackers and encourage children to stay away from them would be in order. Two – three hours of community display of fireworks as is done in the United States and other countries on special occasions, should be organised to replace individual bursting of crackers.

Instead of spending time at home suffering the noise and air pollution caused by fireworks, people can spend time in malls, watching movies in an air-conditioned environment.

A still smarter thing to do is to go on a short vacation in the hills and the countryside– far away from the unhealthy smoke and smog enveloped cities that we call our home.

First Published: Oct 22, 2017 22:41 IST