Almost everyone is against a noisy Diwali; most of all the intellectuals (pseudo?). For them, the bursting of crackers during Diwali is evidence of our apathy towards the environment. Our lack of concern for pollution. Noise pollution. Air pollution. Water pollution. Blah blah blah. I am not denying that the bursting of crackers causes pollution, but to suggest that this single night of revelry is anti-environment and a major cause of pollution is blatantly unfair.
Blaming firecrackers for pollution is typical of the Indian habit of misrepresenting the truth and directing the blame in the wrong direction. The real reasons for pollution are the CO² generating coal-power plants, effluent releasing industries and petrol and diesel guzzling two and four wheelers. Take these out and a bulk of our problems would be solved. But do we do enough to move towards a clean environment? Do we invest heavily in nuclear power plants and in electricity-driven trains? Not at all. Besides, pollution arising from these sources is a round-the-clock and round-the-year problem. In terms of proportion, the contribution of Diwali to India’s pollution is immeasurably small. And yet, most of the ire of our rabble rousing NGOs and activists seems to be directed at this most auspicious of festivals.
Incidentally, most of our understanding of pollution is wrong. We don’t allow shore-hugging eateries and pubs supposedly because they cause water pollution or some such thing. Then how come so many of the world’s most progressive countries don’t put similar restrictions on the same? Again, in the name of protecting our coastline, we have the mostly ugly looking things called mangroves (scattered all over Mumbai for example). So much of Mumbai’s dirt and muck settles on these mangroves and yet, we are not supposed to chop them. Why can’t we find a better solution?
But then, making simple thigs compex is second nature to us Indians. We don’t allow pubs to stay open beyond 1.30 am because (apparently) pub goers create nuisance outside the pub. The real reason I suspect is that we are basically a “sadu” (mentally constipated) lot who don’t really like this entire “western” culture of drinking and partying; especially since such places are frequented in large numbers by young, well dressed women who sometime also smoke. But at the same time, we also want to make Delhi and Mumbai international cities. We find it extremely difficult to simplify things. Ideally, we should replace the dirty mangroves with something less ugly (and more effective). We should allow eateries on the sea fronts but have rules to prevent pollution. We must allow our pubs to remain open till as long as they want to but locate them in non-residential zones. But we don’t do any of this. We instead prefer to continue a fake fight against pollution.
Worldwide, firecrackers are the preferred way to celebrate any happy occasion. When the Olympics start or end, there is a grand show of firecrackers. When we welcome the new year in, there is a pyrotechnics show organized in many major cities – from Sydney to Singapore to even London. There is also reportedly an annual firecrackers show in Munich which the whole town (including thousands of tourists) gathers to see. If all this is fine in the far more environment-conscious world, then how come its not fine in India? Is it because Diwali firecrackers symbolize a religious celebration that the pseudos find unacceptable? Is it that in reality they are not opposed to firecrackers per se (they do cheer the pyro shows abroad) – but they think it is the modern thing to oppose? Has protesting against Diwali fireworks become a touchstone to prove our progressive credentials?
I for one have no such qualms. For me, bursting crackers is a lot of fun. Agreed, it needs to be regulated. There must be time limits prescribed; 12 midnight on the outside. There must be limits on the decibel levels generated by the “bombs”; the fun of fire crackers is not in the noise generated, but in the visual grandeur of fire and lights. The particularly vicious air polluters must be disallowed and replaced with more benign ones. There may even be restrictions placed on the where firecrackers cannot be burst – densely populated societies; hospital neighborhoods and crowded markets should be out of bounds. The Kolkata model – where firecrackers are allowed to be burst in the Maidan area only – is a good one to follow. Regulation that helps control pollution and reduce trouble to the old and the sick is a very welcome idea. But to make bursting of crackers look like one is committing murder is completely unnecessary.
The real truth is that there is hardly any pollution created by fireworks during Diwali. The pollution to worry about is the political pollution. When leaders bad mouth each other in unbecoming ways. When Jokers like Kejriwal hurl accusations against their rivals without bothering to go through the due process of law. When media conducts itself so immaturely that it becomes a mere tool in the hands of political rivals. When our institutions become so political that they start playing games with the truth. When people indulge in bribe-giving but at the same time support the Anna movement. These are the real forms of pollution that will destroy us all. Blaming Diwali firecrackers is plain unfair.