Supreme Court mandated their use, the government launched ‘green crackers’ as a low-pollutant alternative but Green crackers failed to grab market due to lack of awareness among buyers, shortage of supply, lack of variety and implementation challenges dampen the sale of environment-friendly fireworks. In the absence of high-quality holograms and lack of advanced security features in the green crackers, they will have a tough time identifying duplicate ones.fter
Though there are permanent shops selling crackers round the year, they are less in number and every year the Delhi police issue temporary licenses to people to sell crackers on the two days of Diwali. After the strict guidelines of the Supreme Court on green firecrackers, there is a significant fall in applications for temporary licences for firecrackers and explosives. In 2016, there were 968 licences granted for sale of firecrackers and in 2017 it was capped at just 500 temporary licences. In 2018, conventional firecrackers were banned but green firecrackers were not available. This year in 2019, around 50 licence holders will be allowed to sell firecrackers for two days on Diwali. Due to strict norms and dip in supply of firecrackers from manufacturers, there is significant downfall in applications for licence.
Very few people know that there is no blanket ban on crackers. Green crackers do not contain harmful chemicals that would cause air pollution. Components in firecrackers are replaced with others that are “less dangerous” and “less harmful.” The scientists at Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) invented this.
Crackers are available in the market, the festive season has run into several dampeners and implementation challenges — from the lack of multiple varieties to a shortage of crackers and difficulty for the police in identifying green crackers. It wasn’t an overreaction. Barium, used as an oxidizer and to emit green light, is a crucial component of crackers. Due to its low prices and ready availability, it is used across a range of products, including ladi, anaar and chakkars. A ban on barium indirectly meant a ban on nearly three-fourths of the crackers produced.
The use of crackers on Diwali is so widespread enforcement authorities simply can’t keep up with the violations. The Delhi Police arrested 300 people for violating the SC’s ban on commercial crackers last year. Yet, air pollution levels in the city exceeded 66 times the safe limit.
Media reports this year suggest traditional firecrackers are being sold in shops across the country, including banned items like ladis and barium formulations. PESO has ratified only four varieties of green crackers till date. A PESO official, on the condition of anonymity, explains that they are guided by considerations of the festive season and workers’ livelihood.
When the fireworks industry shut shop last year, the official says, there were protests across Tamil Nadu. In Sivakasi, reportedly, nearly 4,000-5,000 people surrounded the sub-collector’s office on one occasion. According to this official, the state and Union governments and agencies like Neeri “banded together” and claimed to have found a solution.
Firecracker Industry that provides livelihood to thousands of people from underprivileged section of our society may have thought, such a ban is definitely going to affect them. In fact, this one particular aspect is never given its due weightage while making decisions. A ban on Victoria (a type of horse carriage) in Mumbai led to destruction of livelihood for around 200 families. Something similar happened when SC banned Jallikattu. A happy animal at the cost of livelihood of humans is not such a great practice for our country. Our recent position (100 out of 119 countries) in Hunger Index indicates how critical it is to save livelihoods of people in our country.
Effectiveness of such a ban is rarely have any notice, in a region with numerous industries and millions of personal and commercial vehicles, crackers on Diwali couldn’t be a major factor behind pollution. Add to it the burning of crop fields in nearby states (Haryana and Punjab) and the contribution towards air pollution by Diwali crackers will even be lower. Banning them isn’t really going to achieve much. Unless SC is making its decision in a vacuum, it has to know that such a decision will be read through religious lenses. Judges in the past have taken cognizance of the social realities and have weighed them in their past decisions. Such a decision, when its impact on curbing pollution could be symbolic at best required greater scrutiny and even greater care. The ban is on sale not on bursting the crackers. In Mumbai it is really not difficult to get firecrackers. Overall a decision which have looked too deeply into the technical issues of air/noise pollution and seemed to have completely overlooked the big picture.
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