When citizens choose not to hear

Firecrackers would stop burning only when environment-friendly options of celebrating Diwali are made appealing

By Martand Jha
Published: Saturday 28 October 2017

A fortnight back, when the Supreme Court of India banned sale of crackers in Delhi-NCR, environmentalists were filled with a sense of joy. They thought that maybe, this year many of us won’t have teary eyes due to smoke left by burnt crackers.

Little did they know that things are never hunky-dory in India, especially when it comes to following rules and guidelines unless there is a fear of being prosecuted. Diwali—a festival of lights—has become an occasion for loud display of crackers in the last two to three decades, mainly due to commercialisation of the festival itself.

More than a generation grew up bursting crackers on Diwali, realising very little that they are leaving harmful imprints upon them. Though, with the passage of time, people became aware of the harmful effects of bursting crackers, it didn’t do much to change their habits that are deeply entrenched in their psyche by now.

It is glamorous for many to burst crackers in Diwali and even today, we can see competitions between groups on who can burst most number of crackers. Knowingly or unknowingly, these people are harming asthma patients, children, people with heart diseases and animals. If one tries make a sane argument to say ‘No’ to crackers, there is always an insane counterargument: what harm could happen if one bursts crackers just for a day? Or, would pollution ebb away if people don’t burst firecrackers on Diwali?

Now, these people want results in binaries; either its zero per cent or it should be hundred per cent. Secondly, the problem lies their bringing in the question of religion. When the Supreme Court gave its decision to ban the sale of crackers, some people were so irked by it that they went outside the court premises and burst firecrackers as a form of protest. Their argument was that disallowing people to celebrate the festival in the way they want to celebrate it and the way they have been celebrating it since decades is anti-religious.

Celebrating Diwali with just lights, candles, decorative bulbs and by distributing sweets has been a ‘very ideal’ concept in the minds of many. For them, it’s just ‘too good’ to follow and is something like a ‘bookish concept’ that need not be followed. Though a percentage of population has stopped bursting crackers, yet the problem still persists.

Is the adamant attitude of people despite being aware of the harmful effects of toxic firecrackers a result of glamourising the concept of bursting firecrackers in Diwali? I think yes, to a great extent. The problem for many, as has been mentioned earlier, is that they don’t know how else to celebrate Diwali other than the way they have grown up to celebrate it. The alternative way of celebrating without crackers just isn’t appealing enough for them.

Festivals are as much about celebrations as they are about emotions. With fast-paced nature of life in metropolitan cities like Delhi, the old world charm of celebrating festivals is already losing its essence anyway. We don’t see the kites flooding the sky on August 15 anymore as it used to be in the 90s or we don’t celebrate Dussehra for entire 10 days as it used to be once. Diwali, being an exception, is still the most awaited festival in Delhi and people genuinely want to celebrate it in the manner they have always been doing.

The firecrackers would stop burning only when environment-friendly options of celebrating Diwali are made appealing, so that people can let go of this habit and bursting crackers no longer remain an integral part of celebration.

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