Ban on firecrackers: Judicial intervention or intrusion?

Author: Ms. chiraaksha Karla, GGSIPU

The banning of crackers is a very common topic that comes into the discussion of people more frequently as the festival of Diwali approaches in India and is linked to it. And the reason for this is also the most evident facts supporting it. It is said that last year Delhi had seen alarming levels of air pollution towards the end of the year. Though many people are found to be against it, I personally believe that the ban on firecrackers was necessary and that it was not judicial intrusion!

The bursting of crackers had been limited to 3 hours on the festival of Diwali in the Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh; Whereas it was not banned in Maharashtra and Mumbai saying that the condition is not as bad as Delhi.

One could see the pollution index, as the proof of the fact that our India has so many cities suffocated with air pollution. According to the list prepared by WHO and many other groups, cities such as-

  • Delhi,
  • Patna (Bihar),
  • Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh),
  • Raipur (Chattisgarh)

are among the top 5 rankings for the year 2017.

Despite this fact, Patna has always been known to sell crackers of worth Rs.3 Crores every year! While Patna did nothing, Gwalior imposed a bit of restriction this year as Diwali approached.

I’m in support of the fact that these half-hearted bans are just a waste of time, and of no use! India needs better and sustainable methods to tackle air pollution.

Here, in my writing, I limit myself to talking about the topic – “Ban on firecrackers: judicial intervention or intrusion?” only referring to the recent bad news in – Delhi.

It’s true that when you deny someone of something completely, the person’s craving for that object increases more. But it’s also true that if we don’t ban it, then the pollution level will be out of control and India will end up ranking the highest in the most polluted places in the world. Already 4 cities of India, has made up there among the top ten!

When the bursting of crackers needed to be banned, people are rather willing to protest, as seen in the news on the 17th of October in Delhi. The protestors had burst crackers outside the premises of the Supreme Court in Delhi. It was the members of an organization named “Azad Hind Fauj”. Fourteen people were said to have been arrested in this case, were, on the other hand, it also went viral on social media that a spokesperson – Tajinder Bagga had been distributing firecrackers to the slum kids.

All these incidents plus the fact that despite the ban on the sale of it in Delhi, people couldn’t control their urge on the day of Diwali, and yes we still saw the bursting of crackers. Several people, while, sat tweeting about the irresponsible, careless and incorrigible citizens of Delhi.

Because of this lack of support from the people of Delhi, there was indeed a positive change in pollution levels as compared to that of the last 3 years, but still not as much as compared to what it could better have been!

Many people even don’t have awareness about why does it even matter. As per what had been observed last year i.e 2016 on Diwali in Delhi, the pollution levels were too high. The bursting of crackers had pushed up the particulate matter in the air by 3 times.

Each year, the celebration of the festival makes the air in and around Delhi suspended with particulate matter and thick smog, leading to people vulnerable to asthma attacks & residents and children feeling breathless. The supreme court had also itself observed that the poor air quality leads to the closure of schools in view of the health emergency situations.

Crackers have long been known to be an essential part of the celebration of this festival, while kids are the most exciting ones about it. Not just Hindus, but people of all other religions also support it. While banning it might hurt the religious feelings of the people, the composition of crackers also points to the fact that why they deserved to be banned.

Crackers are made up of highly toxic metals such as cadmium, lead, manganese, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, etc. These metals if present in the air can trigger severe asthma attacks, which is very evident here. While it basically leads to respiratory problems, there is also a headache apart from the chronic cough.

And the Supreme Court had observed last year that, it is the festival of Diwali which leads to such high spike in the air of the city! Further, when the petition was up by the firecracker manufacturers to suspend the ban in Delhi, the Supreme Court refused so that the situation could be monitored even after the festival of Diwali is over. The ban had clearly been on the “direct evidence of deterioration of air quality”.

The Supreme Court had suspended all the licenses that permitted the sale of crackers, wholesale and retail; which was on 11th November in Delhi. But on 12th September this year, the ban was however relaxed.

During the festival of Diwali last year, the pollution level was 14-16 times beyond the safe limits! Firecrackers, only for the sake of entertainment, emit too huge a problem.

The high amount of pollution emitted by crackers can cause both permanent and temporary hearing impairment. Other problems that old people face on Diwali nights include heart attacks, restlessness, and a rise in blood pressure. Lives are lost or, destroyed for the rest of their lives. And then the next day, the city witnesses such a huge amount of garbage of toxic elements such as phosphorus and magnesium. Despite these crises, people spent Crores on the buying of these crackers which ultimately leads to the path of contaminating the natural resources. And sometimes both lives & property are lost due to the accidents caused by them.

People who want to burn firecrackers and are frustrated by the rules limiting or even banning fireworks state that pollution does not last longer than a few days. What they fail to take into account is that during those few days the air is so polluted that the damage it does to people’s health, especially children and the elderly, lasts much longer and can even be lifelong. More awareness and better legislation is the only way to combat the menace of air pollution caused by firecrackers.