I see this pompous, highly ornate effigy in front of me. The crowd is blazing with joy, why wouldn’t it, today is the day when all the social evils will be burnt out of society, just by the action of shooting a fire lit arrow into the scrappy surface of the effigy to ignite the crackers carefully placed within it. And see, the joy it will bring to us!
We are all very well-acquainted with the fact that burning multiple effigies all across India will definitely add to the already dire air pollution condition. So to take care of that several actions have been taken this year by communities – the heights of the effigies have been kept short as compared to the ones in former years, and ‘less polluting’ crackers have been used instead of the popular Chinese ‘highly polluting’ ones.
But here I stand laughing at our hypocrisies and mourning at our failure to curb this menace every consecutive year. I see enormous clouds of smoke emerging from the ‘Ravana’s body (the effigy) and dissipating into the limitless atmosphere. I see no upfront change brought by the ‘eco-friendly actions’ and still highly doubt their efficacy and also of all such ‘face-value plans’ that lack radicalism.
To be blunt, it is the sheer entertainment derived from the sight of burning an enormous effigy that makes us all jovial, not the true objective of this festival – ‘to free the society of all social evils’. The latter goal is certainly a more herculean task requiring constant perseverance and advocacy, than the former, aimed at bringing temporary light-hearted joy.
Funnily, our so called reason of burning the effigy for greater social good is increasing the social burden; countless people are severely affected by toxic air and it is damaging the health and thereby the efficiency of our society. So if you ever hoped to see India grow as a socio-economic powerhouse, forget it – it is highly improbable, if not impossible considering the current state of events.
The festival season gives the market incentives to shift its focus on selling crackers and other such items because society demands it, and this gives the poor income and employment. Thus, it is only at a time when behavioural changes will fuel us to refrain ourselves from burning crackers or effigies and indulging in superficial joy that we will observe positive radical changes.
Policy interventions are also equally important – without strict regulations on making, selling or burning of these items, controlling this menace on a large scale would be tough. Moreover, socio-political propaganda against this ideology of ‘shooing away evils by burning an effigy filled with crackers’ will guide the society to think of an alternate and a ‘truly eco-friendly’ way of celebrating this festival. When we have so many technological tools available to us, why can we not think of pioneering a new way of celebration?
The effigy that stood in front of me blazing in fire has fallen down and all I see is ash.
I stand here with hope that I do not get to see this sight again and with resilience to fight this evil and uproot it from our society.