Campaigns are for somebody else
Six years ago, a day after Diwali, the country’s media had carried major news items in bold types about escalation in air and sound pollution levels in Delhi due to excessive cracker bursting by Delhiites. Six years later, I find no difference in the news content. Apart from the marginal difference in percentage terms in different areas, the news are all the same, mocking the efforts of the Delhi government, non-profit organisations as well as the conscious citizenry who have been advocating for a green and quieter Diwali.
Like each year, this time too there were rallies by school children; posters could be seen all over; social media was full of emotional, influencing messages; and celebrities were talking about it on radio and TV. It did appear that this year Delhi would be different – greener, quieter and cleaner – on Diwali.
Nothing of that sort happened. We all woke up to dense smog full of choking toxic gasses. (Some die-hard optimists welcomed it as the onset of winter, so dense was the fog—sorry, smog.)
One now wonders why so much of time, money and resources that are being spent on ‘awareness’ are not working? Why is this simple message of ‘no crackers, please’ not making any impact on the majority of us? Crackers or fireworks are certainly not a part of any religious ritual, nor do they have any cultural connotation. Then why are they so important? What I completely fail to understand is the significance of these booming bombs (that’s what they are labelled as – bullet bomb, atom bomb, hydrogen bomb, agni missile...). Do they really give pleasure? Do they entertain the human mind? Are there minds out there that get a kick out of the house-shattering sounds of a bomb?
As per Delhi-focused statistics, almost every child is in school. Another claim of the government was that every school had been sensitised in the run-up to Diwali and that children were told to avoid crackers. What happened then? Were the children rebelling?
Are Delhiites rebelling? Or is it that they have gone numb and do not care anymore? One would have liked to think that the current generation is comparatively aware. So why the gap between knowledge and practice? Do they have bigger, larger and more ‘personal’ problems to deal with and hence do not care about these ‘hyped’ pollution and environment concerns? Perhaps Diwali is when they can (unconsciously) vent their (unknown) frustrations by bursting crackers, by creating deafening noises and choking smoke. Maybe they find some peace—their nirvana, or whatever—in that space.
However, their happiness comes at the cost of the health of the city and the millions of its residents. Hence, it needs to be stopped – their recklessness, not their happiness. If the millions spent on awareness campaigns are not working, then the millions coming from the sales revenue of crackers should be forgotten as they are hampering the millions being invested in making Delhi greener. In straight words, the sale, purchase and lighting of crackers should be banned. Will there be protests? Maybe yes. Maybe the traders’ community will raise a voice, but they cannot be allowed to do business that compromises the ‘green norms’. Hence, all that Delhi needs now is the ‘will’ to ban.