Every year, a debate around the use of crackers engulfs the society during Diwali. The recent ban on crackers till November 1 is a part of that debate this year. Solving problems related to pollution and health hazards is important and any move to curb them is welcome. However, deep-rooted problems cannot be solved through ad hoc measures.
Delhi’s pollution levels are more than 300 micrograms per cubic meter, much higher than the prescribed limit of 60 micrograms per cubic meter by the WHO. This rises to 700 micrograms per cubic meter during Diwali and hence firecrackers should not be sold.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the pollution emanating from vehicles, industries, brick kilns, construction sites, etc.? Ten cities from India appear in world’s top 20 most air pollution affected cities.
What about them?
I think the odd-even policy of the Delhi government was a measure in good faith but poor implementation due to administrative issues proved it to be a damp squib.
I believe that the solution lies in complete state control over the cracker industry, starting from the production to the marketing stage. Crackers must be sold only in government recognised shops. The shops must be run only by the lower strata of the society who may be identified by the socio-economic census of 2011. This will further improve employment in the lower income groups.
Each family must be allocated a certain quota of firecrackers per year ( a quantity that the government may decide) and families can procure them within the mandated quota, be it for wedding purposes or for Diwali.
Notwithstanding the privacy issue around Aadhar, this can be effectively done through Aadhar linking to avoid duplication and leakages. A state control at the production stage will ensure a stringent watch over the explosives. This will ensure a restricted sale of crackers throughout the year and not just in Diwali.
In a time when people are more social on social networking sites than in real life, bursting crackers during Diwali encourages people to come together to celebrate a mega-festival. Sale of crackers also acts as an income supplement for the sellers.
The war against pollution demands a multi-pronged approach. The local administration must keep a check on the industries that are not following pollution norms, a crackdown on illegal mining and construction activities, ensuring a complete ban on old diesel/petrol vehicles, adhering to Bharat stage IV norms across the country and providing subsidy on the manufacture of LPG/CNG and electric vehicles can help reduce pollution levels.
Let’s create a sustainable environment for us and the future generations but not at the cost of traditions that have kept a diversified society, cohesive since thousands of years.