Say YES to crackers

I don’t intend to promote the use of firecrackers, for it is indubitable that they are harmful to the environment as well as public health. Their use during Diwali is a big issue, but the issue can be resolved by properly regulating pyrotechnics, not by a ban. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s decision to proscribe the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR is incorrect.

On Monday, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice A.K. Sikri, said that there was “direct evidence of deterioration of air quality at alarming levels” every year during Diwali because of firecrackers. So, it upheld its own order of November 11, 2016, suspending all licences that “permit sale of fireworks wholesale and retail within the territory of NCR.”

The apex court’s order is wrong on various counts. First, it takes away pleasure from Diwali for millions of people who enjoy crackers. When I was a kid, Diwali without firecrackers was inconceivable for me. And today? It’s the kids who fought against in the court! What has happened to this country? And to its children? What has made them so unctuous?

Second, the order provides a convenient short-cut to the authorities whose incompetence is primarily responsible for air pollution in the national Capital. Diwali and firecrackers have been inseparable for decades, if not centuries; the fact that the problem has arisen in the last few years is indicative of the apathy and ineptitude of politicians and bureaucrats to tackle it.

This brings us to the third point: instead of taking the real culprits, netas and babus, to task, the people of India are being penalized. Way back in December 2015, the National Green Tribunal had noted that the burning of stubble, straw, etc., was a common feature in Delhi, UP, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana, as they have “two or more growing seasons—one from May to September and another from November to April. The farmers often set fire to the fields to clear them of crop residue. The standing straw is burnt to clear the fields.” So, in the period around Diwali air pollution level rises considerably in Delhi.

Crop residue burning has been going on for years; last year, the situation was pretty bad with the national Capital turning into a gas chamber. Politicians of all parties made tall promises, held meetings, expressed concern over the situation—and did nothing. There are already reports that stubble burning has already started. But Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is busy fighting his phony wars. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules the Centre, UP, Haryana, and Rajasthan are busy saving cows, renaming places, and building statues. Never before were politicians so unconscionable and shameless. Instead of disciplining some politicians and bureaucrats, the Supreme Court has chosen to penalize the citizen instead.

The fourth reason the apex court order is wrong is that it discriminates against the Hindus. Why are only the Hindus coerced into changing the way in which they celebrate their biggest festival? Would anybody also ask the Muslims to stop celebrating Eid al-Adha in which innumerable animals are slaughtered, often leading to gluttony and wastage?

Fifth, if a pleasurable activity is banned just because it may result in physical harm, most sports would be affected. Indian test cricketer Raman Lamba died in February 1998 in Bangladesh after he was hit on the temple while fielding at forward short leg. Phillip Joel Hughes, an international cricketer from Australia, died on November 25, 2014, at the Sydney Cricket Ground after being hit in the neck. Racing, football, hockey, polo—almost in every sport one can get seriously injured, or even killed. This doesn’t mean that we stop playing or enjoying them.

Sixthly, if firecrackers could be banned today citing reasons pertaining to air pollution and health damage, there would be a demand tomorrow to proscribe or curtail the sale and consumption of sweets. As it is, India is said to be the diabetes capital of the world; obesity is another problem that is growing. So, why not check, if not end, the sale of sweets?

And, finally and perhaps most importantly, by practically banning firecrackers in Delhi, the Supreme Court has given a big fillip to moral cops. They come in various shades and make their obnoxious presence felt on various pretexts. The sanskari scoundrel may bash up young couples celebrating Valentine’s Day. The mad mullah may announce a fatwa barring women trimming eyebrows and cutting hair. The Fabindia, not-in-my-name crowd would oppose beauty pageants, denouncing them as ‘misogynist’ events ‘objectifying women.’

In essence, all moral cops are fascists who want to shove their views down the throats of people; they are the enemies of liberty; they are the enemies of pleasure. And yet, ironically, the pleasure is all theirs, courtesy the SC order.


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