Sunday, 15 October 2017

Diwali Crackers - On or Off?

The Supreme Court's ban over sale of firecrackers in New Delhi until November 1 has activated enormous debates. The environmentalists have welcomed the move but some sections of society feel that there is a curb on local cultural traditions
There are two sides of the coin. Let us look at both these sides-

Arguments favouring ban-
  • Delhi's pollution is so bad in winter that it has overtaken Beijing as the worst. Delhi's air quality is very poor and rapidly worsening. True, air pollution levels had dangerously spiked after Diwali last year and SC had imposed a ban on sale of firecrackers last November – the apex court has reinstated that order. 
    -In 2016, the ideal PM (particulate matter) of 10 had reached toxic levels of 999 (more than 10 times higher than what is considered safe to breathe). This steep rise in pollution levels happened suspiciously close to Diwali celebrations. 
  • This not only releases a deadly generation of fumes into air causing extreme air pollution but also causes severe noise pollution.
  • Medical evidence suggests that severe air pollution in Delhi is leading to multiple diseases and other health related issues among the people. The city has seen an increase in respiratory diseases like asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis primarily attributable to the worsening air quality in the National capital.
  • Foreign diplomats complain about the sacrifices their children are making due to their posting in Delhi. Some of them even refuse to get posted in Delhi
    -In passing the ban order, the court may have departed the conventional way of celebrating the festival, but the choice was not a difficult one to make - since it concerned with the lives of the people.
Justifying the ban on sale of firecrackers, the court says that it needs to test, whether banning sale of firecrackers during Diwali will have a positive effect or not on air quality in Delhi.
  • further,  the cracker making is not well regulated  in India and Chinese crackers create number of safety issues
  • When the Diwali celebrations began in the mythology days, no cracker was invented and hence addition of crackers must be a subsequent event and not a  original tradition

Arguments against ban-

  • Are we not denying the joy and celebration (that we enjoyed) to our children?
  • - Are we not tinkering with the tradition?
  • Is it not to be driven by a public debate followed by legislation, which in turn has to be followed by action? Now we take action first, before legislation or public debate. Is that fine?
    -It should be noted that the court has banned the sale of crackers in the National Capital Region, but not their bursting. There is also no ban on buying crackers from outside Delhi and bringing them to the city for use. This specifically affects Delhi's cracker traders and in no way serves the purpose of minimising pollution, since purchases can be made in border areas. 
-With millions of vehicles emitting gases into the atmosphere on a daily basis, would banning a single night of Diwali festivities make that much of a difference? 
   -In fact, the two largest sources of pollution in Delhi are road dust (38%) and vehicles (20%). Plans to tackle these have not proved effective yet. 
-Then there is the annual problem of crop stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and UP. With no economically viable solutions worked out, the burning still continues. Trucks not destined for Delhi continue to transit through the capital due to lack of alternative routes. The need is for evolving holistic solutions that address the root causes of the problem.
Where do we go from here?
  • Do we try a community watching of cracker burning carried out by licensed professional companies like USA? No, we need not have to import our tradition from USA. Needless to add, USA may have their crackers regulated but not their guns. Let us not try to xerox copy their culture and fit into our tradition. 
  • We cannot question the tradition- Whether something like this cracker burning added in the later stage etc. This cannot be argued as the celebration and joy have been expressed in some way over the years and questioning such tradition is a touchy subject.
  • Then we need to respect the tradition but still find solutions for pollution.         
What do we do?  
We have to find pollution free crackers. It is a new opportunity for start ups. Perhaps during the interim period, we may have to allow limited hours for cracker burning. We have to engage the community and evolve the acceptable way of burning crackers. 

Happy Diwali. 
God bless all. 

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