When it comes to public policy, there is a wide gap between recommendation and legal imposition, as showcased by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reaching out to people to give up their LPG subsidies, he not only managed to ignite a social revolution but also managed an effective change in the rural parts of India. Thus, with a single recommendation, he diverted the subsidies towards the needful. At the end of it, the people who gave up their LPG subsidies were happy, and the people who were at the receiving end of LPG connections had a reason or two to rejoice.
For someone who has not bought a single firecracker in the last 12-years, today’s legal imposition of the Supreme Court to prohibit the sale of firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR Region is unsettling. For one, it comes merely 10-days before the biggest Hindu festival in India, celebrated with great pomp and happiness. Firecrackers, if not indispensable, are an integral part of the celebrations for many households. Some may attribute the use of firecrackers to the joy they bring in the form of scintillating effects, while for some it’s just way of celebrating Diwali, and there is certainly nothing wrong with it.
Now, taking a few key aspects into consideration, let us discuss why this ordered ban on the sale of firecrackers is unsettling.
Firstly, there is no denying that firecrackers are a menace to the environment. They constitute certain chemicals that pose a danger during their manufacturing and usage. Alongside, there is also the concern of a safety hazard, given almost every year, we see factory or cracker warehouse go up in flames, leading to a few mortalities. Thus, no one, not even the most orthodox Hindu shall deny the environmental impact of firecrackers. However, there is another side to all this.
Pollution in Delhi-NCR is more about lifestyle than the use of fire-crackers. For one, the burning of stubble in the adjacent states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh brings a lot with it a cloud of smog, causing numerous respiratory problems for the citizens, as evident by the events of last winter. Two, the density of vehicles, especially inter-state trucks and buses that run on conventional engines, cars, and other automobiles is an issue the city has failed to tackle even with the rapid expansion of the Delhi Metro and numerous pooling services. Turns out, the National Capital Region is in the need of a major infrastructural overhaul to overcome the rising problem of air pollution, solid waste management, landfills, and depleting water resources.
Now, one cannot obviously give up their ACs, generators, refrigerators or diesel vehicles. However, one cannot ignore the source of this pollution are humans too. Thus, the ones who are today taking the moral high ground when it comes to firecrackers cannot deny that they are indeed a part of the problem, if not the entire problem. Alongside, the particulate matter (an amalgamation of chemicals, air, and water molecules) has made the air of Delhi toxic to an extent where people choose not to walk out without any filtration device.
Targeting firecrackers for a problem that is way bigger than any festival are what makes this declaration by the Supreme Court an unsettling case of judicial overreach.
The shopkeepers who were looking to make money this season by selling firecrackers and had already stocked their stores are now left in the middle of nowhere. The ones who are going to ahead with the sales are going to have a tough time getting rid of the stock (some have already started offering heavy discounts). Thus, the traders are all set to lose in this last-minute jargon.
Since morning, I have come across many who term this move as a small step towards cleaning the environment. Nothing can be closer to hypocrisy than this stand, for the country belongs to every religion, majority or minority, and it’s the fundamental duty to come out and protect the very ecosystem they thrive in. However, repeatedly, only a single religion has been targeted, time and again, by the prevailing leftists and now, the respected judiciary.
Why is the importance of water only realized during Holi? Why do all women feel enslaved around Karva Chauth? Why does suddenly going green becomes everyone’s primary priority when Diwali is around, and why do Hindus, in their own solitary homeland, have to fight in order to celebrate a festival the way they want to? Why must the majority of Indians witness this intellectual humiliation of their traditions, of their festivities, and of their culture, time and again? Why, in the name of Freedom of Speech and Expression, must I sit and endure the mocking of a culture I believe in by punks calling themselves comedians, the same comedians who find a way to link Karva Chauth with Sati? Why must the only Hindu homeland in the world be expected to accept whatever candy floss is cooked up in the name of liberalism to attack their cultural legacy? Think about these questions before you read ahead.
You know why the LPG subsidy scheme worked the way it did when Modi came to power? It worked because he left it to the citizens to decide. Now, a lot of well-off families chose not to give up their subsidy while some middle-class families happily let go. Eventually, the citizens were notified about the move, the plan, what it was meant to do, and for whom it was, and the rest was left to their own judgment. The Supreme Court, however, is making the choice for us, without consulting us, and without considering the overall social structure.
In all honesty, Hon’ble Supreme Court could have given out a few recommendations for the GOI and Delhi Government to implement. They could have asked for the ill-effects of crackers to be discussed in schools, on Radio, through internet media, and so on, and for the science in them to be explained. Alongside, they could have even directed the GOI to ask stakeholders in the firecracker industry to come up with better products keeping in consideration the environment prospects for the future. Doing this, Supreme Court would have initiated a welcome process to redefine and rejuvenate the firecracker industry, but instead, they chose a method that is not only chaotic, given the festival is merely 10-days away, but lacks sustainability, for the residents of Delhi are going to find a way to burst crackers.
Personally, I felt that this was the Hon’ble Supreme Court was a little late on this one. For one, the concern for the environment should have come at least a month ago, before the stocking of the firecrackers began. Two, why does the SC have such a weak stand on other festivities. The trees for Christmas and the goats for Eid, aren’t they a part of the ecosystem the Supreme Court is trying to save?
People are now calling for Hindus to evolve with time, to understand that the Vedas did not subscribe to the firecracker celebrations. If the same logic is to be applied, and if Hinduism is to be taken back 2000-years for reference, we might have some other social aspects particularly unfit for today’s world. Tackling the ban on sale of firecrackers is not about what Hinduism preaches or what the Vedas say, but about preventing this calculated, concealed, and critical erosion of the Hindu cultural ecosystem, and it is not about what prevailed today, but what happens during each Hindu festival.
In all honesty, if the Hon’ble SC had kept the same rules for everyone, most people would have welcomed this move. Ban the slaughter of goats, ensure that not a single tree is cut to welcome Santa Claus, and see how people will join in to give up firecrackers on Diwali.
However, if only a single religion is expected to alter its way of celebrating the festivals, write-ups, editorials, and bans like these will facilitate further dissent and disappointment. The SC, using its influential and integral position, must embark on creating a process that unifies people and not divides them. Reach out to all the communities and discuss how the actions of each can serve the environment in a greater way. Start with recommendations, graduate to legal bindings next, and then, leave it to the GOI to construct suitable laws. As some people confuse it to be, this is not about ‘whataboutery’, but about the unequal treatment of religious communities at the hands of people and public offices with a significant reach.
When it comes to the environment, it must be a level-playing field for every festival or cultural tradition, for nature does not classify its children according to religion, so why the Hon’ble Supreme Court is?