Ban on Crackers: Climate Vs Faith

Ban on Crackers: Climate Vs Faith
Background A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on 24th September, 2015 by a resident of Delhi on behalf of his three children, two were 8 months old and one was 14 months of age at that time regarding the deteriorating air quality in and around Delhi and NCR which had detrimental effects on the health of the populace, especially that of infants. The increased pollutants in the air cause aggravated asthma, coughing, bronchitis, cognitive impairment, and retarded nervous system breakdown. The petition also stressed upon the fact that the presence of chief pollutants PM2.5 and PM10 becomes maximum during the subsequent days of the festivals, especially Diwali, due to incessant use of fireworks in celebrations. A list of suggestions was put in front of a bench of judges comprising Justice A. K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan, of which it accepted two which gave explicit orders to the Central Government and all the State Government to advertise in both print and electronic media about the ill effects of the burning of crackers and also to the teachers and professors of all the Schools and Colleges to educate the students in this manner. Delhi’s Air Quality During Diwali But the air quality of Delhi and NCR deteriorated alarmingly during Diwali, 2016 and it was reported that air quality standards were worst in the world during that year which prompted the SC to take up the matter again on 11th November 2016 where it was noted that air pollution had gone up 29 times the World Health Organization (WHO) standards and all the licenses for the sale of fireworks were suspended. What did the court do next? Further, the matter was taken up in September 2017 and the order was passed that the use of compounds of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic, lead, and strontium chromate in the manufacture of crackers was prohibited. Only fireworks containing Aluminum, Sulphur, Potassium, and barium may be sold in Delhi and NCR provided their composition was approved by PESO (Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization). The suspension on the license holders was lifted. And the Delhi Police was directed to grant only 50% of the temporary licenses granted in 2016. The court in October 2017 accepted that burning of firecrackers was not the only reason for air pollution but the sudden spike in the PM levels after Diwali is an altogether different matter as in the case of 2016, it shot up by 3 times. The faith side All the parties in this matter were in support of the blanket ban on the use of firecrackers and the ambit of it should not be restricted to Delhi and NCR but the whole country should be covered in it. However, the State of Tamil Nadu stood with the group of manufacturers of fireworks and one other party by the name of Indic Collective opposed the ban saying that burning of crackers during Diwali is a religious activity which was protected under Article 25 and it has been a part of the festival from time immemorial. Both parties presented arguments and a report on ‘Health Impact Assessment on Firecracker Burning during Dussehra and Diwali’ was also submitted by Dr. M. K. Daga, Maulana Azad Medical College and a report by CPCB Air Quality Monitoring Committee regarding the air quality before and after Diwali and Dussehra. Dr. Arvind Kumar filed an affidavit in August 2018 in this matter regarding the increased number of patients with chest ailments, effects of the fireworks emission on the cardiovascular system, the reproductive system, and the other body parts. Also, he submitted a report on the amount of Particulate Matter present in the various types of fireworks in India. Supreme Court’s final verdict The court also noted that exposure to harmful emissions even for a short time has consequences for a prolonged duration. Also, the effects are not limited to only human beings, the animals are also severely impacted, there are cases of temporary or permanent hearing loss in animals, the dogs display psychological symptoms of stress and the birds have respiratory problems and displacements from their nests because of this. In cattle, the loud noise from crackers releases adrenaline in their body which inhibits oxytocin which helps in the release of milk, thereby the production of milk is affected. The court in its order in August 2018 directed the Government of India to explore the option of developing the firecrackers which were less harmful, which were termed as “Green Crackers” which were of two types, one had 15-20% less particulate matter and the other had 30-35% reduction in PM and NOx and SO2. Finally, on October 23, 2018, the Supreme Court delivered its final judgment on this matter where it directed that only the sale of “Green Crackers” be allowed in Delhi and NCR. The sale of crackers on e-commerce platforms was banned. Manufacture, sale, and use of series crackers or laris was also banned. Barium salts in fireworks were also banned. PESO was to see through that the crackers with banned chemicals or flouting the noise levels are not manufactured or sold. There was a major decision that enraged the masses was the time slot provision, under which the crackers can be burst only between 8:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. on Diwali, or on any other festivals like, Gurupurab, etc. The time slot for Christmas and New Year’s eve is 11:55 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. only. However, for Tamil Nadu, the time slot for cracker bursting on Diwali was 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. in the morning and 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the evening. The public reaction to the verdict This decision did create a fury and on Diwali, 2018 a large number of reports came where people flouted the time slots and burst crackers after the stipulated time. In Chennai, some 2100 cases were registered and more than 600 persons were arrested and released immediately. The decision was considered by many as against the religious activity and in violation of Article 25, however, the SC said in its judgement that Article 21 takes precedence in this case as the tradition of bursting crackers has a damaging effect on the lives of people and the long-term effect is still unknown due to wanting of studies. Many argued the impact on the lives of laborers who work in fireworks manufacturing, on this, the SC said the socio-economic impact of the pollution from the emission of burning crackers is far more damaging than the economic impact of the cracker ban.
References: https://www.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2015/32461/32461_2015_Judgement_23-Oct-2018.pdf https://scroll.in/article/901296/how-did-the-police-fare-in-implementing-supreme-court-restrictions-on-firecrackers

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