It is again that time of the year when a number of festivities cause extreme anguish to our four-legged and feathery friends as well as to Mother Nature. While we wax eloquent about the need to protect the environment from pollution of all kinds, including air and sound, and also shake our heads in despair over the (mis)use of firecrackers, we still vie with one another when it comes to bursting the loudest ‘bomb’ or lighting the longest string (chatayee). It is another matter that the same ‘us’ would be seen at the nearest clinic getting medicines for our dear one’s asthma attack or pain in the chest. How many of ‘us’ ever spare a thought to the same symptoms being experienced by the mongrels and birds in our locality post our ‘events’ of rejoicing? Do festivities need to be expressed through a mad burst of crackers? Do not the Dussehra, Karvachauth, Deepawali, Christmas, or New Year's eve— and even a wedding or party for that matter— deserve more respect & devotion and meaningful celebration than that? There is a purpose attached to the various occasions, and it is definitely not to thicken the already stale air with more pollution, nor to scare the hell out of animals, birds, the elderly, and sound-sensitive people! We don’t even realize the trauma they have to undergo for the sake of our enjoyment.
Every year the Supreme Court directs the authorities concerned to ensure ‘sensible’ celebrations by bursting firecrackers only for a two-hour period between 8 to 10 pm. The (sound) intensity of the crackers must also be moderate. The SHOs (station house officers or thana in-charges) are given direct responsibility to ensure compliance with the order or face contempt of court charges. However, these orders are criticized by many people, who claim they would not hesitate to defy them as the court has no right to infringe upon their religious ‘sentiments’. Some also question the timing of the order, saying it should have come earlier, while others wonder how ‘poor’ SHOs can stop people from bursting firecrackers. Well, they may think they are justified in their claims but the fact is, there is no ritual of bursting firecrackers post-Deepawali poojan, as it is essentially a festival of lights (earthen diyas, actually, and not even electrical strings as is in vogue today), worship and thanksgiving for keeping families united (remember it was first celebrated when Shri Ram returned to Ayodhya with Devi Sita, brother Lakshman & Hanuman, and the family reunited). There is no historical evidence that firecrackers exploded then. There was rejoicing and feasting, and this is the very essence of the festival. As for the orders coming late, the SC has been passing similar orders for some years now, and it is a fact that there are dedicated guidelines for the manufacture and sale of crackers that have to be kept in mind. The court is only reminding. The time limit is also in tune with the prescribed noise levels during night hours. As for the SHOs’ limitations in ensuring compliance with orders in their respective areas, the primary duty of the police is to maintain law and order, how can they act helplessly? All that is required is a loudspeaker and a couple of rounds of patrolling to make announcements and let the people know they have to behave in a responsible manner even while celebrating a festival. Most of us Indians are law-abiding and those who aren’t must be taught to respect the law. After all, we are not doing anyone but ourselves a favour by celebrating an eco-friendly or ‘green’ festival. And, if some others get a bit of respite in the bargain, we will only be earning a few blessings!