‘Happy’ Diwali? SC bans sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR region till October 31
- October 22, 2017
- Posted by: admin
- Category: General Knowledge
On October 9, 2017, a Supreme Court (“SC”) bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra, and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud imposed a ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR until after Diwali. Various studies have indicated that concentration of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM10, goes up during Diwali. This move is aimed to aid air quality monitoring and to curb deterioration of air quality that inevitably results from firecrackers and had been observed last year as well. However, the move has received mixed reactions from various stakeholders.
Major pollutants released from fireworks
The burning of fireworks releases pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter (including particles below 10mm. in diameter, i.e. PM10) and metals like aluminium, manganese and cadmium in the air, which may lead to serious health hazards.
According to the World Health Organization and the Journal of Environmental Monitoring:
- High levels of sulphur dioxide are harmful as they latch onto atmospheric particles and are transported deep into the lungs;
- Nitrogen dioxide is a deep lung irritant and can penetrate small lung passages. Thus, it has greater susceptibility along with sulphur dioxide to cause bronchoconstrictive conditions in asthma patients;
- PM10 also has the capacity to reach deep into the lungs. Usually, the elderly and people who have had/have a pre-existing heart disease or lung ailment are more susceptible than others to the adverse effects of such pollutants.
Implications of the order
The order brought in relief for concerned citizens and stakeholders in that it was a stepping-stone towards a pollution-free and clean Diwali.
However, it brought in disquiet in equal measure, for firecracker manufacturers and dealers, since licenses to sell firecrackers were revoked and sales of firecrackers would be adversely affected. The firecracker manufacturers and traders filed a plea before the Court against its October 9 ban. The sellers’ argument stems from the fact that they were issued licenses barely two months before Diwali for selling firecrackers, pursuant to which they prepared their stocks for sale. Had the ban been enforced before the licenses were issued, they would at least have been spared the loss incurred by stocking up for Diwali.
A lot of us may have heard of Sivakasi, a town in Tamil Nadu that accounts for a majority of the firecracker production of the country. The industry there has an annual turnover of Rs.7,000 crore and employs around 8 lakh people cumulatively, including workers working directly in the firecracker manufacturing factories and those involved in ancillary work such as packaging, transporting etc. According to reports, the ban on sale of firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR might result in a loss of Rs.1,000 crore to the industry in Sivakasi.
The firecracker sellers have resorted to new ways to dispose of their stock, since they can no longer sell it legally over the counter. They are ready to “gift” the stock for a nominal sum, guaranteeing doorstep delivery. Some of them are offering the firecrackers in packages, online or through WhatsApp, with some stores offering delivery of the firecrackers at your doorstep a day before Diwali, if half the payment is made in advance. Some of the traders are also not shying away from accepting payment in kind, in order to dispose of their stock and mitigate their losses.
Interestingly, while the order imposes a ban on the sale of firecrackers, it does not ban the bursting of firecrackers. In some measure, the court realizes the difficulty in implementing the order, when it stated, “very frankly” it had doubts about whether the suspension of sales had reduced Diwali celebrations, with Justice Sikri saying, “The sales are already taking place. Crackers are already being burst. It is not anyway going to be a cracker-free Diwali.”
Wave in other regions
In Maharashtra, there has been no ban on fireworks but the chief minister has requested for a pollution-free Diwali. Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court has held that there should be no sale of firecrackers in residential areas this Diwali.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has limited the time during which fireworks may be burst in Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh on Diwali to between 6.30 to 9.30 pm. Further, the court issued guidelines for issuing licenses to firecracker sellers, including the direction that no permanent licenses should be issued to sellers without the court’s permission.
A question of religion?
This issue has now been associated with religion and some quarters are questioning it as a dilution of religious rituals and practices as it were. They are arguing that by limiting the use of firecrackers, the celebration of Diwali will not be as it ought to be and has been going on for several years. However, the Supreme Court has said that it knew that “some people are trying to give a communal tinge to our order…but we will consider that as people expressing their anguish at our order.” The main concern of the Court is the health of citizens.
- The Supreme Court’s order is aimed at safeguarding public health;
- The Court directed that the temporary licenses that the police may have issued after its earlier order dated 12.09.2017, should be suspended forthwith so that there is no further sale of the crackers in Delhi and NCR;
- The Court clarified that it was not modifying its order of 12.09.2017, which order will come into force from 01.11.2017;
- The move will help curb pollution during Diwali and assess air quality in the absence of rampant use of firecrackers on Diwali;
- The move has been welcomed by some but has attracted the ire of some who equate it as unnecessary interference with religion and the spirit of the festival;
- The move is likely to have a significant impact on the business of firecracker manufacturers and dealers in the region.
It is true that the sale of firecrackers will be affected by this order of the court. It is equally true, however, that if people do not wake up and smell the coffee now, it might be too late. A silver lining in this order can be deduced from the words of A. P. Selvaraj, managing partner of Kaliswari Fireworks – “As far as the fireworks industry is concerned, this verdict (of the Supreme Court) could lead to positive thinking on why we do not manufacture green crackers. The pressure will be there to explore such avenues.”