This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Amrit Mahapatra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Diwali 2020: Yes, A Firecracker Ban Is Important, But Is It Enough?

More from Amrit Mahapatra

After a number of states and Union Territories including Odisha, Karnataka, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Delhi banned the sale and use of firecrackers during the upcoming festival of Deepavali, social media was galore with arguments and counterpoints regarding what many considered to be an “anti-Hindu” move.

Why The Cracker Ban?

Self-proclaimed experts, with a half-baked knowledge of pollution, began spewing hate on different platforms, demanding a revocation on the ban. While a good number of aware citizen groups and individuals have been advocating for the cracker ban since some time now owing to the part it plays in air pollution, the recent decisions by the governments seem to be influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The public health emergency, of global proportions, is known to impact the lungs in a considerable manner. With the onset of the winter season, generally alerted by the experts as a resurgent season for the waning virus, the authorities do not want to take chances and hence, the ban on crackers.

However, in a space somewhere, oblivious to logic, rationale and scientific expertise, trolls hammered away at their keyboards, putting forth ridiculous excuses to defend an indefensible stand.

Firecrackers Are Terrible For Animals. Period.

Firecrackers, apart from causing irreversible atmospheric pollution endangering life as we know it, are responsible for a dozen other maladies. Animals, especially stray dogs and cattle are exposed to an astronomical decibel level, thus impacting their hearing as well as leading them to be fearful and apprehensive.

Furthermore, street urchins and abusive locals tend to revel in sadistic pleasure by tying live crackers to the bodies of these animals. Images of severe burns and other injuries on social media following Deepavali is not uncommon. Physical waste strewn around the streets, on the days following the festival is a rather regular sight.

Photo credit: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

And For The Vulnerable Section

People among the vulnerable section of the population – the homeless and destitute, beggars and other marginalized chunks of the citizenry are exposed to a rather premeditated night of noise pollution, where they are forced to hunt for some safe place to sleep through the night.

Individuals with co-morbidities, especially the ones relating to lungs, senior citizens and young children are disproportionately impacted by firecrackers. In a time when a respiratory disease’s terror has taken over the collective psyche, it is but nonsensical to demand the right to burst firecrackers which are known to cause breathing problems or amplify already existing ones.

Chemical smoke, caused by the firecrackers, other than being a deadly pollutant to the atmosphere, is extremely and immediately detrimental to the public health of the locality that is bursting the crackers. As such, people who did not even choose to be a part of this custom would be forced to face the consequences of the actions their fellow neighbours indulged in.

However, all of the above reasons and more are only part of the problem and do not explain in entirety why a certain section of the populace continues to protest unabated. Contrary to what populism might indicate, the onus is not just on the “common man” but also owes its roots to the authorities.

Probably, the most significant reason why the NGT along with a number of states chose to impose a ban this year was the continuance of the pandemic, a primarily respiratory one while the campaign to ban firecrackers has been going on for years now.

What one can deduce from this is the authorities or the governments aren’t as concerned about environmental pollution and “slow deaths” as they are about the arousal of an immediate, tangible health crisis from the celebrations this particular year. Had there been considerable concern and effective legislation reflecting the concerns for pollution, there could have been a graded exit from the industry along with sensitizing the public about the same.

Banning Is A Quick Fix Because A Ban Impacts Livelihoods Too

The ban also severely impacts the livelihood of thousands of labourers and traders involved in manufacturing as well as procurement and sale of firecrackers. With the added burden of the lockdown and economic slowdown, it is the lowest rung of the leader that faces the brunt. A report by The Hindu on the same is a vindication of the same.

It is an open secret that the firecracker industry is a hotbed of child labour and has been so for quite some time now. Even then, no sincere efforts seem to be made to weed out this archaic and exploitative practice that not only kills the childhood of these kids but the kids themselves.

The question that arises is where do we proceed from here?

Individuals with co-morbidities, especially the ones relating to lungs, senior citizens and young children are disproportionately impacted by firecrackers.

Potential Steps Forward

Surely, bursting firecrackers is not an option. First and foremost, there needs to be ample constitutional pressure on law-makers and bureaucrats to devise an operational mechanism that phases out firecrackers in a graded manner. At the same time, it is imperative that people employed in the industry are accorded necessary skills and opportunities to shift to an alternative livelihood.

Equally crucial is public sensitization. In India, most laws are followed because of the presence of some formal control mechanism such as legal punishment – not because they think it would be actually beneficial to them. Grassroot workers must reach out to the most far-flung places and instil in people, a sense of awareness about the climate.

Issues such as religiousness of people must be understood and then a sincere effort can be made toward educating them the hazardous impact of some practices. Deepavali, which is primarily a festival of lights and for many, a marker of the victory of good over evil must be celebrated keeping the collective good of the climate and society in mind.

A lackadaisical approach is not going to work, anymore.

You must be to comment.

More from Amrit Mahapatra

Similar Posts

By Kunwar Nitin Pratap Gurjar

By Survivors Against TB

By Manisha Singh

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below