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Saturday, Nov 14, 2020 14:00 [IST]

Last Update: Saturday, Nov 14, 2020 08:21 [IST]

Let there be light

As the air quality worsened in northern parts of India and the Covid-19 pandemic witnessed a new wave in the national capital in the festive season, all focus shifted to firecrackers and their sales across the country.

A few state governments announced a complete ban, including Sikkim, but then a couple of them went on to reverse the decisions partially or completely under pressure from their political constituents.

Earlier this week, the National Green Tribunal banned sale of all kinds of firecrackers until 30 November in cities where the average of ambient air quality during November last year was ‘poor’ or worse. The Calcutta High Court also intervened with a ban, effectively spanning the Diwali and Chhath Puja festivities in West Bengal. The Supreme Court has upheld the ruling.

These festivities are the mainstay of India’s Rs 5,000-crore fireworks industry. This has meant that the ban on firecrackers has been dominated by both religious and political undertones. Some groups have questioned the ban on firecrackers during important ‘Hindu festivities’.

But there are economic and health considerations, indicating that policy makers are grappling with difficult choices. Firecracker manufacturers and traders are struggling with the plunge in sales and rising losses and those working in the units fear losing livelihoods. There are health concerns as well with many fearing that firecrackers and the resultant pollution may further worsen the health of the population battling the pandemic.

Decisions to ban the use of firecrackers both by courts and the government stem from poor air quality as well as fears of adverse effects on Covid patients. The Delhi government’s decision to ban crackers came as the city’s air quality worsened to reach the severe category for many days on account of massive stubble burning in states like Punjab. In Karnataka’s case, the initial decision was prompted by the state-level Covid advisory committee’s advice as well as that of Sikkim and West Bengal.

Independent of all opposition on bursting of crackers, it becomes our bounden responsibility to ensure that in the burst of celebrations of a few hours of bursting crackers, we did not jeopardise and endanger the human lives especially of the sick, the old and the children. While police and other agencies needed to keep strict vigil and take preventive measures, self-regulatory initiatives and disciplining is more advisable, honourable and beneficial for all of us. Have a safe and happy Diwali.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi