Indian Supreme Court Allows Use of Green Firecrackers During Diwali

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Muscat, OmanAlmost all websites are carrying the news related to orders of Supreme Court of India regarding restrictions on firecrackers. Noise pollution and air pollution no doubt, must be controlled. I am all for banning crackers. But it cannot be done by a court. It has to be done by state governments and it is their duty to find alternative employment for the workers in the firecracker industries.

How will the state governments enforce the ruling? Is the term green crackers defined by any standard; In many parts, particularly South India, crackers are burst in the early morning hours and not in the evening. Has the judgement taken that into account? Will it be practically possible to enforce the judgement?

In my opinion not. Many including the courts will make a theoretical statement that it is the responsibility of law enforcing agencies to implement the judgement. But do these agencies have the necessary means to do so? Lots of crackers are burst during marriage processions. Has the judgement spoken about this?

To me such judgements are a piecemeal approach to the problem of pollution which we are facing. There is a need to look at the problem in a more comprehensive and scientific manner, identify all sources and their respective contribution, and then attempts made to tackle all sources of pollution.

Diwali or Deepawali is the Festival of Lights and it brings happiness. Earlier crackers were not used so much and also the availability of crackers was less. Air pollution, noise pollution was lesser, the environment was pristine and pure. However, over a period of time buffeting crackers became dominating trend during Diwali celebrations.

In Hindu religion, it is believed that on this day, Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after spending fourteen years of exile in the forest. Lights are lit to remember the event “Rama’s homecoming”. In modern days, we burst crackers as well as light “Diyas.” It’s hard to ban people from bursting crackers as it is directly associated with religion and festive mood. However, for a true devotee of Vayuputra Hanuman, the attempt to pollute the Vayu (air) with patakas to commemorate Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya, is unacceptable. The festival was celebrated mainly using Diyas or small earthen lamps all over. Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor banned the use of lamps and fireworks in the year 1667. There is no evidence of firecrackers being used before the Mughal period.

Our ancestors wrote Vedas that can be considered as the origin of environment science. In our tradition, all the elements of nature, including Vayu, are worshiped as Gods. Even the animals and plants are worshiped. Essentially we have a nature-worshiping culture. We cannot destroy what we worship. Traditions are good but they have to be changed if they are found to be unsuitable to the times and harm the common humans and the living beings. Let us welcome Lord Ram into our hearts, actions and thinking. These external manifestations have no relevance to what Lord Ram stood for and how he fought for changing the beliefs and traditions of his own time.

To all those pataka fans who consider it as their right to burn the highly polluting patakas – be it on Diwali, Dussehra, New year, Christmas, cricket or football match victories, election victories, or marriages etc., it will not be inappropriate to say “If you must smoke, please do not inhale.”

We should stop permitting citizens to burst crackers. Every city, municipality and panchayat can collectively get together and have a fireworks display for an hour. Those who wish can go and watch it. If this works for all other countries, why not for us? In western countries National days are celebrated with large firework displays.

In Switzerland, a big fireworks display is organized by the local municipality in many big cities on a grand scale on August, 1 – their national day. Nearly 20,000 people go to the Geneva Lake to watch the fireworks. Geneva receives large number of tourists from other parts of the world for this grand occasions. In the US also, July 4 is celebrated in a big way with fireworks. The new year is also celebrated with fireworks. Most of the materials for the fireworks used to go from India (Sivakasi area) but the supply chain is now slowly being replaced by the Chinese. India may deprive individuals from using fire crackers but large scale centrally organized fireworks will stay worldwide.

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Mousumi Roy has a Masters (MA - Political Science) from Calcutta University and is a visiting professor of International Relations in Muscat, Oman

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