SC cracker ban brought respite, but a lot needs to be done
The residents of Delhi and the national capital region are used to bursting crackers from Dhanteras onwards. But it didn’t happen this year. Did the ban on the sale of crackers diminish their fervour? Have the people become conscientious? Rather than wrestle with these questions, I chose to be relieved. But the peace and tranquillity didn’t last for long. The noise fest that began at 9pm on Diwali continued well after midnight. All kinds of crackers were burst—those which could be heard from a distance and those that spread the maximum pollution. A few people had turned the ban into a question of religious identity.
I don’t understand how the people of a country of nature worshippers can praise anything that harms the environment? Apart from the damage crackers inflict on the environment, why are people blind to the distress they cause to infants, the elderly and the ailing?
The agony caused on the night of Diwali was alleviated to an extent by the numbers which arrived the next afternoon. The air quality index of the next morning, which had touched 445 last year stopped at 340 this year. The Supreme Court’s decision has provided temporary relief. But a lot still needs to be done. Delhi and the areas around it are getting choked. Why do those advocating this forget that the Capital’s lungs are already running out of breath?
To gauge how alarming the conditions have become, consider this. Studies by Delhi’s Patel Chest Institute, All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital indicate that lung cancer is spreading fast among the Capital’s youth. Earlier, 90% of those who suffered from the disease were addicted to smoking and the remaining 10% got it because of other reasons.
Compared to the past, many more people between 30 years and 45 years are getting affected. One of the biggest reasons for this is the increase in the number of noxious chemicals in the air. The real problem isn’t limited to air pollution alone. We are twisting the laws of nature in many ways. This is having an adverse effect on the planet and its inhabitants.
Let me share a personal experience.
On Dussehra, I was in Haridwar with my family. In this period, the cleaning of the Ganga canal is suspended so that Diwali can be celebrated without hindrances. We were surprised to see dozens of diyas immersed in a stream that is dying. A few people were doing acrobatics in the depleted stream under the garb of having a holy bath. Those throwing diyas and garlands were unaware that a few metres downstream, the objects of their faith will be deposited on the dried bottom of the canal and would have to be disposed of by a municipality truck generally used to carry garbage.
From Gangotri to Ganga Sagar, this is the unfortunate manner in which lakhs of people abuse “Mother Ganga.” Plastic bags, articles of clothing, garlands and other assorted objects are flung into the river to pollute this cradle of civilization. The length of the canal around Har Ki Pauri is just 6km. So, it is possible to clean it. But it is impossible to clean the 2,525-km expanse from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar. Therefore it is becoming shallower, say researchers. If you really want to witness the decline of this great river, visit Allahabad. Here you can see two distinct faces of the Ganga: One before the Sangam and the other after it.
In the areas of the city the Ganga passes through before meeting the Yamuna, it resembles a narrow stream. Having left the great ghats behind, this river regains power by encompassing the Yamuna within it. Such a miraculous fact. The Yamuna lends life to the Chambal and the Ganga infuses life into the Yamuna. I’d like to ask those who engage in intellectual debates why they don’t pick up a shovel and volunteer to clean up these rivers that are turning shallow every passing day? These are the rivers responsible for north India’s greenery. Do any of us like the idea of staying in a desert?
Bhajans derived from film songs were blaring at Haridwar’s ashrams. A fast-drying river and on top of it this noise was something we couldn’t tolerate. So, we returned in just a day. Haridwar isn’t the only city experiencing such apathy. In Bhimtal, you wake up not to the chirping of birds but the sound of the azan. Whether it is crackers, cleaning up rivers or sound pollution, our intellectuals have chosen to pursue the path of misleading people rather than enlightening them.
Deepawali is the festival which celebrates the triumph of truth over falsehoods. Why don’t we take inspiration from it to fight the darkness growing within our conscience?
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin.