Strong political will, more public participation is needed to enact a ban on firecrackers
When I was a child, I was terrified of Holi, because people rubbed our faces with car grease and toxic dyes. Today, we enjoy a greener Holi. We use colors mainly from natural sources. Even Holika Dahan is reduced. Even in the smallest cities, there is a change. Greater than Holi is how we celebrate Raksha Bandhan and Janmashtami. Hardly anyone spends hours making sweets at home with lauki and makhana. Those hours of preparation are over. In fact, people including me don’t even eat that kind of sugar, it’s not healthy.
So what is it about Diwali celebrations that cannot be changed? If we no longer let our family and friends stain our faces with a toxic pink tint, why do we let someone burn fireworks that mark our lungs and hearts? Isn’t the puja and the lights the heart of the festivities, not the fireworks?
While some sections of society are offended by the ban on fireworks, I think state governments have also handled them particularly poorly. They could have banned fireworks earlier this year and enforced the ban through intense public discussion and strict surveillance of trade. Merchants may not have invested in the cookies, and eventually the firecrackers will not have been commercially available.
Each state government must reach consensus with influential people and religious bodies, and establish a ban that lasts for several months before next year, so that everyone can enjoy Diwali without fireworks or feeling deprived.
Keeping citizens safe is the fundamental role of any government.
(The author is the founder and director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)