Every year around Diwali time, Delhi-NCR is choked by waves of smog from crackers and crop burning. With no end in sight to either of these activities despite government policies and bans, the health of the people who live in the region is constantly tested and their lungs forced to breathe toxic air.
The steady decrease in the air quality index this year has already started, leading people to stay indoors more often than not. It’s easier for those of us who have access air purifiers and air pollution masks to continue living life with minimal impact on our health and immunity, but the staggering chunk of our population that cannot afford these lifesaving luxuries will be left to face the worst of the pollution.
There have been countless efforts in the past to decrease cracker burning, even the introduction of green crackers, however nothing seems to deter the ignorant few from buying crackers which are not only harmful to the environment but produced in toxic conditions and have high fatality rates amongst child labourers who make them.
So the question is this, do we as a select minority that care, do enough to prevent something that is not only harmful to the environment but also to human life? And what is it exactly that should have stopped the people of Delhi from purchasing crackers this Diwali?
The answer in my mind is simple, ban the production of these products. If we banned the production of crackers then there would be none to buy and burn. And then, why stop just at crackers? Ban the production of single-use plastic. Ban cigarettes are harmful to not only the smokers but anyone in the general vicinity.
Why not? It seems that attempts to ban such products by the government have fallen short because of the lack of public compliance and in some cases lack of forethought. I mean, is one month enough notice to remove something as widely used as single-use plastic? Maybe a deadline of October 2, 2020 would have been more realistic.
Which brings me back to my original question, what is it exactly that will stop the people of Delhi from purchasing crackers every Diwali? The only way to effectively reduce cracker burning seems to be to create a social narrative where burning crackers is as unacceptable as not having a toilet in your house. Only then, through this kind of pressure, will people stop burning crackers. There are always ways around policies and bans. But the disapproval of society is something that one carries around like a bad stench.
And are we doing enough? That question is one that I alone cannot answer. But I can say this: with increasing awareness in schools and workplaces, we are working in the right direction.