Ahead of Diwali, several state governments have sought to restrict the sale and use of firecrackers. On Friday, the Maharashtra government released Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the containment of COVID-19 amid the festivities. Batting for a subdued celebration, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has urged citizens to avoid bursting crackers, and called for the use of social distancing norms, masks and sanitisers.
While the state government has not banned the sale of firecrackers this year, the guidelines imposed on Friday will put a stop to the sale, distribution, storage and possession of imported firecrackers. Officials have been asked to remain vigilant about the sale of contraband imported firecrackers, as well as those procured illegally in local markets.
But while many states will see a partial or complete ban on the use of firecrackers this year, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch is rather outraged. An affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the organisation has released a statement, opining that the ban of firecrackers on Deepawali was "not appropriate". It has also urged all state governments to avoid a "complete" ban on firecrackers, asking that they bypass the "false propaganda in terms of ill effects of firecrackers".
"For some time, without any factual information, governments have been taking action like banning all types of firecrackers on the occasion of Diwali, which is completely inappropriate," a press release from the organisation stated. It made a distinction between polluting firecrackers made in China, and their more environmentally friendly Indian versions.
As the Swadeshi Jagran Manch put it, the pollution caused till now was "primarily due to illegally imported firecrackers from China" which saw the mixing of potassium nitrate and sulfur. "However, in green (pollution-free) firecrackers made in India today potassium nitrate and sulfur are not mixed; and other pollutants such as aluminum, lithium, arsenic and mercury etc. have been reduced to the minimum," the SJM said.
Noting that India had imposed an "effective ban on Chinese firecrackers", the organisation said that the "green" crackers were certified by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research- NEERI and caused a minimum of 30% less pollution. The SJM reminded that many across the country depend on the sale of firecrackers to earn their livelihood. "In such a situation, it is not prudent to ban green firecrackers which are less polluting without any scientific basis," it added.
Not only the Maharashtra government, state administrations as well as courts across the country have proven a damp squib for those seeking large scale celebrations in the upcoming days. While the Calcutta High Court banned the use and sale of firecrackers on Kali Puja, Jagaddhatri Puja, Chhath in West Bengal, the Arvind Kejriwal -led AAP government has imposed a ban on crackers in the national capital from November 7 to 30.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had said on Friday that the state government will be issuing an order banning the use of firecrackers during Deepavali, due to prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation. And Haryana has imposed a complete ban on firecrackers to prevent the risk of spread of COVID-19 due to polluted atmosphere created by bursting of crackers.
In its letter, the SJM has urged the Centre to "inform the National Green Tribunal about the real pollution effects of green firecrackers". At the same time, it has urged the state governments to rescind their ban on the use of crackers.