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Diwali is finally here! One of India’s most favorite festivals, it is celebrated across the world not just by Hindus but by many faiths as the Festival of Light, a time to meet friends and family, buy new clothes, and indulge in rich and deliciously artery-clogging sweets.
One of the elements that is inextricably linked with Diwali is lighting firecrackers. This week’s post is about the bombshell (excuse the pun) news that the Supreme Court of India has temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers during Diwali in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the alternative— e-firecrackers.
A week before the festival, a number of makeshift tents come up across localities, selling boxes of crackers with imaginative names like “Mother Baby Crackers”, “Tower Pot”, “Rocket Rose”, “Atom Bomb Funnel”, and “Choko Blast”.
The common element of these crackers is that when lit they let out thick, noxious smoke that stays suspended in the air long after the night’s festivities are over. The smoke adds to the already heavily polluted air, causing breathing problems for the populace for weeks. Crackers have other negatives as well—they create noise pollution, cause injuries, and the industry often employs child labor.
In order to tackle one of these problems—air pollution—the Supreme Court has banned the sale of firecrackers until November 1st, twelve days after Diwali is over. Note that if you have a stockpile of crackers lovingly preserved from previous years, you can light them. You just can’t buy any new ones until November 1st.
It should be noted that in the past few years there has been a big push in urban India for a “green Diwali”— a Diwali without firecrackers. Indeed, in my neighborhood in Bangalore there has been a drastic decrease in the use of firecrackers in the last few years. So obviously the awareness drive is working, at least in pockets.
The alternative to the real thing this Diwali is the e-firecracker or electronic “pataka”. I have not seen it myself, but here is a video I found on YouTube:
This ingenious device is remote-controlled, strung together to look like a string of “bomb” type cracker, and sounds pretty authentic. To make it appear more festive, it is adorned with twinkling fairy lights. Of course, with this model in the video you do have to plug it in to a power source, so you can only use it inside the house, or if you have a very long power extension box. That’s a big downside. Why not make it battery-operated so that it can be used anywhere? A lot of celebrations are community-based, so it makes sense to make it portable.
Apart from noise pollution, this cracker ticks the boxes in terms of safety and not adding to air pollution. Nevertheless, whether they will be widely adopted by NCR citizens this year remains to be seen.
On to the rest of India (where there is no firecracker ban). According to today's news, the sales of crackers in Bangalore has been lukewarm so far. Perhaps this is due to the heavy rains that we have been experiencing for the last several weeks. Perhaps other cities are seeing better sales.
Whether you celebrate with regular crackers , e-patakas, or no crackers at all, from all of us at Cadence India, wish you a very prosperous, safe and happy Diwali!