In an unprecedented year when muted celebrations are the order of the day, the firecracker hub on the Karnataka–Tamil Nadu border saw demand pick up during the weekend. This is despite the State government’s guidelines for Deepavali, which includes bursting of only “green crackers”, which has also attracted skepticism from citizens and environmentalists.
A firecracker stall owner on this side of the border on Hosur Road said this weekend, the one last before Deepavali, demand picked up considerably. “Prices have not increased. But the recent guidelines have confused people and many still think there is a blanket ban on firecrackers. But as this was the last weekend before the festival, sales picked up, especially on Sunday. People are also asking for green crackers specifically,” he said.
N.S. Mukunda, former president of the Citizen Action Forum (CAF), said manufacturers of firecrackers would have already produced huge quantity of firecrackers and most of their stock would be in the market by now. “Hence, regulating their sales is impossible now. People with asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases are already at a high risk owing to the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic. I have asthma and the problem increases during Deepavali every year and the usage of inhalers increases over five times during the festival season,” he said.
Many civic associations have been advocating a “cracker-less” Deepavali in the city. D.S. Rajashekar of the Federation of Bangalore North East Residents’ Welfare Association pointed out that a ban on crackers was not an issue to be discussed and implemented a few days before the festival. “The government should first stop the production and transportation of crackers. It is a chain and the approach should be top to bottom and not the other way round. I do not see any political or bureaucratic will in that regard,” he said.
He also said they were requesting their association members and neighbours not to burst crackers and discourage people from bursting crackers too. “We have always been advocating a festival of lights which Deepavali is all about and not a festival of crackers,” he said.
On the other hand, many questioned whether “green crackers” were environmentally friendly. Environmentalist A.N. Yellappa Reddy said there could not be anything like “green crackers” and all such things were just an “eyewash and attention-diversion tactics”. “The so called green crackers might have low-emission when compared with traditional crackers. Both are two sides of the same coin,” he said.
Mr. Reddy also pointed out that the enforcing agencies such as the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, the police and the civic bodies did not have the necessary manpower to enforce the use of “green crackers”. “As the government has said that only the so-called green crackers are permitted, all shops will overnight just change the stickers on the packets. How can people distinguish between the normal crackers and the so called green crackers,” he questioned, and added that even the enforcing agencies would not know how to distinguish between the two.
About the sound pollution caused during Deepavali, activist Kavitha Reddy said crackers are crackers and all crackers are pollutants and they create not only air pollution but also sound pollution. “It is unfortunate that the festival of lights has turned into a festival of crackers,” she said.