It is that time of the year when festivities and frivolous sermons from the Delhi government make news. Continuing their diktats from last year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the national capital has imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 for the production, storage, and sale of firecrackers with upto three years in prison.
Also, if one of their voters were to burst firecrackers, they would be fined a paltry sum of Rs. 200 and a possible prison term of upto six months. All this is in the name of environmentalism.
The apex court’s activism was also on display as they rejected a plea from an MP of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the firecracker ban in the national capital, stating that people must be allowed to breathe clean air and the money should be instead spent on sweets.
Ironically, in the name of secularism, the apex court will never consider passing a similar statement for any other festival, or even dictate how members of other religious communities must spend their money instead of cutting trees or slaughtering animals.
The irony does not stop here. Both the state governments of Punjab and Haryana have allowed firecrackers. While the Punjab government, under Bhagwant Singh Mann, has allowed a window for firecrackers on the days of Diwali and Gurpurab, the Haryana government, under BJP’s ML Khattar, has also given a go-ahead to green crackers.
Therefore, for the Delhi government to impose a blanket ban on firecrackers when the stubble-burning states are now restricting festivities warrants some questions.
One, is it actually about pollution? Is the national capital under the impact of pollution only around Diwali?
In 2016, IIT-Kanpur conducted a detailed study of the cause of pollution in Delhi. While citing numerous reasons for pollution in the region, the report had no mention of firecrackers. Road dust, industrial stack, vehicular movement, concrete batching, hotels and restaurants were cited as leading causes of pollution.
As per the report, for the duration between 2010 and 2015, across 1,891 days, the levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 were hazardous for eight Diwali days and very unhealthy for two days. These days included the day of Diwali and the following day. Interestingly, for the same duration, there were 469 days of very unhealthy levels and 154 days of hazardous levels. Additionally, there were 632 days of unhealthy PM 2.5 levels.
The story was the same for PM 10 levels. For the same number of hazardous and very unhealthy levels days, there were 188 days of hazardous levels and 340 days of very unhealthy levels.
Two, why is Diwali then chosen as the annual calendar event to pretend to care about the environment?
For the last few years, the weeks around Diwali have witnessed a thick blanket of smog descending over the national capital region. Its origins are in the stubble burning that takes place between September-end and November-beginning.
Yet, for the last few years, the government in Delhi has been acting surprised, as if caught unaware of the smog. Until 2021, it was about pinning the blame on other parties running different state governments. This year, however, they are out of excuses.
While promising to eradicate stubble burning during the election campaign in Punjab, the AAP government has not only failed but also chose to not arrest the growing number of fires in the last three weeks, as evident from the fire maps below.
Perhaps, there is more than what meets the eye when it comes to the shallow environmentalism practised by the AAP. For starters, it is unapologetically anti-Hindu.
Another year, another firecracker fatwa.
Firemaps for stubble burning in Punjab from October 4 to October 22, 2022 (NASA FIRMS)
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