What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

Belief v/s Ban

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Ipshita Das

“Oh! That’s a fantastic verdict by the Supreme court of India”

“Well, has a ban ever served any purpose?”

“This definitely slams the age- old tradition followed by us”

“How can banning crackers for a day (on Diwali) solve the pollution problem in Delhi?”

“This year Delhi-ites did set an example to adhere to the verdict on not bursting crackers”  

As confusing as the above statements sound; these collectively reflect some of the notions (and emotions) of the people of Delhi on the directive passed by the Supreme court of India on 9th October 2017;“No firecrackers would be sold in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) till October 31”, ten days prior to the holy festival of Diwali which is one of the widely celebrated festivals of India, on the occasion of home-coming of the mythical God in ancient Hindu epic; Lord Ram along with his wife and brother to their native place after defeating Ravana; the primary antagonist.

The age- old tradition called for lighting- up of houses and its surrounding with diyas (a cup shaped oil lamp) and candles, making Rangolis, purchasing new goods and having a feast.

And then came… the primary antagonist of today’s time; the ‘Crackers

The joy and thrill of the sparkles exuding out of the crackers and fireworks overshadowed the ill-effects of the pollution, disturbance to animals, health issues and environmental damage it caused; so much so that it soon turned into a ritual among people. With passage of time, this practice of cracker and fireworks bursting got associated with warding of the evils spirits and a customary mark of celebration.

It was only in the year 2016, that people woke up in a city engulfed in suspended particulate matter reaching alarming levels to a point where the national capital of the country was considered ill-livable in the world. But did that morning really wake us up? The answer lies amidst the different varied stance taken by people on this particular situation.

The use of crackers has a bigger connotation than just deriving a thrill out of it. Crackers and fireworks acts as a medium to get families together and celebrate this festival, it denotes a gesture of gift exchange between the elderlies and the children, it holds the traditional and religious beliefs of using them to ward off the evil spirits, and on a lighter note; it comes to the rescue to kill the mosquitoes around.

The directive on cracker ban was interpreted as an ‘immediate ban’ on all these gestures, notion and spirit behind the use of cracker among people on that one day of the year. Yes, there is a dire need for people to understand the circumstances under which the directive was intended at but every change takes its due course of time. The good news lies with the fact that there has been a reduction in cracker use this year compared to the previous years and there are people who are making a conscious effort to bring a change with alternative ways of celebrating the festival but the change that we envision among the masses will only begin when the alternative ways of celebration is presented to them. Maybe a state regularization on its usage, maybe demarcating areas for bursting crackers, maybe stricter laws to check the quality of cracker production, maybe thorough checks before grating suppliers on quantity and quality of cracker and fireworks.

The problem is far more deeply rooted to have a ban as a handy or immediate solution to tackle this problem. The practice of crackers and fireworks bursting is intensely entangled with the beliefs of people. To witness change, one needs to begin by acknowledging these strong beliefs associated with this ritual among people and thereafter, work out ways to propose alternate methods to shift from the current practices. One needs to adopt the approach of setting examples of some easy yet relatable and actionable pointers to substitute these practices and with that motive, lay a pathway for the people to shift their practices to a more conscious and inclusive Diwali.

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