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This Diwali, political leaders should let Delhi breathe

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By Sidharth Mishra

Diwali is here and so is the worsening Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national Capital region. While the promise of no paddy stubble burning in the fields of Punjab has come a cropper, the saving grace has been Supreme Court’s tough stand on not allowing sale of fire crackers in the national Capital.

The Delhi government, under pressure from the Supreme Court-appointed Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) and the measures initiated by it, has banned the storage, sale and use of firecrackers in Delhi with stringent punishment for those violating the ban. However, this has been sought to be made into a political issue by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) especially with an eye on the upcoming Municipal Corporation polls.

The BJP wants the ban to go and has blamed the AAP government for deliberately banning firecrackers on a ‘Hindu festival’ that is Diwali. They attacked AAP for practicing double standards citing videos of AAP workers burning fire crackers in the party celebrations. The BJP has asked how is it that the AAP workers have the ‘license’ to burn firecrackers without the threat of any stringent punishment.

Delhi government while putting a complete ban on manufacturing, storing, and selling firecrackers in the national capital, had made violation of the ban a punishable offence. The violators of the ban would attract a fine of up to Rs 5,000 and three years in jail.

The Delhi BJP has tried to use this stringent measures announced by the government into a tool for accrual of political benefits. The ban was first challenged in Delhi High Court by former Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari but he failed to get any relief there.

Thereafter Tiwari moved the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the plea against the ban on firecrackers in the capital till January 1, 2023. Earlier the apex court had refused to stay the Delhi government's order banning the storage, sale, and use of all varieties of firecrackers till January 1.

Burning of crackers and gambling on Diwali night cannot be said to be part of Hindu traditions. When Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after 14 years in forest, people are known to have lighted earthen lamps. The idea of burning crackers and gambling for sure are later evil addition to the festivities.

Incidentally, the use of crackers or fire-power in India is not known to be prevalent before the advent of the 16th Century. Mughal invader Babar is acknowledged to have for the first time used artillery fire power to immobilize the army of Sikander Lodhi in the first battle of Panipat.

The Delhi BJP leadership would do well to appreciate that the orders and directions of the CAQM will prevail in case of any conflict between directions issued by the State governments and the CAQM. Measures under the different categories of the plan are to be enforced by the pollution control boards of the NCR states and the concerned departments and agencies, including the Traffic Police, the Transport Department and road owning and construction agencies.

Therefore the attempt by Manoj Tiwari to unnecessarily politicize the issue is nothing less than deplorable. Thankfully the courts have intervened into the matter, which has advised Tiwari to spend his money on sweets and let people breathe.

The Supreme Court could not have made a better observation as the air quality worsens with the each passing day. It’s time that Delhi has a cracker and noise free Diwali. This could save the air quality from turning ‘severe’ as it has happened every year during the past decade, after the burning of crackers on the night of the festival.

(First published in The Morning Standard)  


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