The Covid-19 pandemic that has already stifled Dussehra, Durga Puja and Eid celebrations is all set to eclipse the festival of lights too. State after state is coming out with rules against bursting firecrackers this Diwali.
Tamil Nadu's Sivakasi area, which accounts for nearly 80% of the country’s fireworks production, is wrapped in an atmosphere of gloom and uncertainty as it is staring at huge losses this year due to the novel coronavirus crisis and lockdown. To make things worse, the infiltration of Chinese firecrackers has already begun. The income from the sale of fireworks this year will be just half of what it is in other years, traders say.
States are coming up with various rules for firecrackers this festive season amid concerns over air pollution and Covid-19. While Odisha, West Bengal, Rajasthan have already banned fireworks, more states are likely to join.
On Tuesday, the Odisha government banned the sale and use of firecrackers from November 10 to 30. “The technical expert committee of the state government has recommended for the prohibition of burning of firecrackers to protect the vulnerable groups like elderly, children, persons with co-morbidities and others,” stated the notification issued by the office of special relief commissioner.
Karnataka has published guidelines for firecracker sales. The ground rules were issued by chief secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar, stating that firecrackers can only be sold from November 1 to 17 .
The West Bengal government has also imposed a ban on bursting of crackers on Kali Puja and Diwali. “West Bengal government will not allow bursting of firecrackers during Kali Puja and Diwali festivals to check air pollution and also because they are hazardous for Covid-19 patients,” PTI quoted state chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay saying.
The Rajasthan government also announced a ban on the sale and bursting of firecrackers. Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday tweeted: "State govt has taken the decision to ban the sale and bursting of firecrackers in order to protect health of #COVID19 infected patients & public from poisonous smoke emanating due to fireworks. In this challenging corona pandemic time, protecting lives of ppl is paramount for govt." He also indicated that there would be strict action against the sale of firecrackers in the state.
Last week, the Delhi government also ordered that only "green firecrackers" can be manufactured in the capital. It also came out with an "anti-cracker" campaign, intending to curb air pollution. On Tuesday, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai kicked off the drive, asking people to avoid firecrackers on Diwali, or buy only "green firecrackers". He also visited Delhi's Sadar Bazar for inspection and ensuring that only approved fireworks are sold.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee's 11 teams have been directed to make sure no traditional firecrackers are used or sold. Apart from these 11 teams, to ensure that old stocks of common varieties are not sold secretly, Delhi Police personnel and sub-divisional magistrates of all districts will inspect markets.