Editorial

String of deaths: On perilous use of Manja

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There are laws preventing the use of synthetic kite strings, but enforcement is lacking

The perilous use of manja, a synthetic kite string coated with powdered glass, remains pervasive, endangering human lives and making a mockery of the multiple bans on its manufacture and sale. Three-year-old Abhinayu of Chennai, who died on Sunday after a dangling manja slit his neck while he was seated on a motorcycle his father rode, is the latest victim. Only in August, a man in Delhi bled to death after being entangled by a manja. Actually, the earliest recorded instance of a death caused by a kite string in Chennai was in October 1975 in the wake of which 197 people were arrested. Kite flying is not just a pastime but also an organised festival in States such as Gujarat and Rajasthan. During this year’s Makar Sankranti, three persons were killed in Gujarat and over a 100 injured in different States. Birds, including the White Rumped Vulture, get frequently entangled in manja strings as well. An estimate cited by the Animal Welfare Board of India said that at least 2,000 birds are injured at the annual kite flying event in Ahmedabad of which 500 eventually die.

What has turned the once-harmless activity of kite flying into a bloody societal menace is the substitution of the traditional cotton thread with the nylon or single plastic fiber string made of monofilament fishing line coated with powdered glass. Dubbed Chinese manja (though locally manufactured), the transparent and light-coloured string is not easily visible. While the cotton thread too is coated with finely powdered glass, its sharpness is blunted when mixed with boiled rice, flour, egg white and tree gum. The factory-scale manufacture of Chinese manja and its pricing at just one-third of the rate of a cotton spool, coupled with the thrill of cutting off another kite, has led to its widespread use. The nylon string is also non-biodegradable, making it an environmental hazard. When dangling from high-tension overhead electricity cables, it has also led to electrical accidents. Taking these into account, in July 2017, the National Green Tribunal banned synthetic manja across India. It directed the authorities to book violators not only under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code but also invoke the Environment (Protection) Act, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and Wildlife (Protection) Act as the case would warrant. Multiple State governments have banned the manja. But what is lacking is enforcement. The police seize spools of manja and arrest a few persons each time a human life is lost. There is no sustained endeavour to end the menace. Also, cases of people being convicted for manufacturing, selling or using manja are rare. Unless the authorities get their act together, the list of casualties could only get bigger with another Makar Sankranti around in two months’ time.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 12:35:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/string-of-deaths-on-perilous-use-of-manja/article29881761.ece

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