By: Editorials | Published: October 11, 2017 1:25 amNo one would burst crackers in Delhi, precisely in the manner in which no one drinks in Gujarat.
Every year, on the morning after Diwali, Delhi wins the world bad air championship. Already stressed by the burden of stubble burning in neighbouring states, besides atmospheric effects, air quality plummets to the lowest among the world’s cities, and a pall is cast over the lives of the capital’s citizens. The effects are so palpably visible that arguing the matter has become a mere game of scoring debating points, like the debate over tobacco use, and restrictive action seems the only reasonable response. But should that action take the form of a blunt instrument like a ban, imposed by a court? On Monday, the Supreme Court put its weight behind the 2016 ban on the sale of fireworks in Delhi-NCR, which was imposed in response to an unusual plea filed by children affected by air pollution. It has suggested that the ban follows on naturally from numerous awareness campaigns run by government agencies and civil society organisations which urge citizens to “say no to crackers”. And yet, the ban is a problematic overstep.
A ban is an inefficient instrument. Aimed at restricting a celebration, the ban on firecrackers may alienate people who were otherwise receptive to the idea of giving up or cutting down on the fireworks. Besides, it would have the predictable effect of driving sales underground at inflated prices. No one would burst crackers in Delhi, precisely in the manner in which no one drinks in Gujarat. A Supreme Court ban which cannot be implemented in spirit would have the unfortunate effect of undermining the authority of the apex court in the eyes of the people. Besides, while the court has admitted that other factors like stubble burning contribute to the disastrous air quality of Delhi, the focus on fireworks makes its response seem unequal. Livelihoods will be harmed by the court’s order, which is precisely the argument used by farmers to oppose moves against stubble burning — it yields a better margin than clearing the fields manually after the combine harvesters have done their job.
Matters of policy and implementation are ideally left to the legislature and executive. The court has a moral obligation to step in if they are in complete dereliction of their duty to the people. Since governments and society itself have shown an inclination to stop polluting practices, the last resort has been unnecessarily invoked. Instead, the Supreme Court could have urged government to intensify its efforts to influence the public will, and the process could have played out under its cautionary eye. That would have been a better solution than to impose a ban which may be observed more in the breach.
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Why saying no to firecrackers will show that you care for your children and the animals you revere
Oct 15, 2017, 01.19 AM IST
Firecrackers. Sounds like concentrated fun. Maybe, for all of us. But for our speechless pets, animals and birds, it is veritably the worst time of the year. We can reason out the logic behind the noise and the polluted air that chokes, but not them.
During Diwali, watch the behaviour and body language of the animals. Their tails are between their legs. Cowering in fear, they try to hide themselves, unable to stand the din of crackers. Dogs and cats have highly sensitive hearing abilities. They hear sounds that the human ear cannot. That is why sounds of continuous loud bursts are literally nerveracking. They sense danger.
Dogs may display psychological symptoms of stress like shivering, drooling, howling and excessive barking. Most of them hide under furniture or look for dark corners to hide. Some suffer from loss of bladder control. Others get gripped with temporary diarrhoea. Vets say that a sudden bright burst of light can result in partial or even permanent blindness in these animals. Many lose appetite. Debalin Roy, whose family lives in Kolkata, remembers how his dog, Tintin, in all the 13 years he lived, used to stay indoors, hiding under something for all the days during Diwali. On some days, he refused to eat and would only whimper when loud crackers go off. Many animals need to be constantly reassured when the noise level increases. Animals and birds see the ear-piercing explosive sounds as a life endangering event. That is why they aimlessly run and fly around in panic.
Veterinarian Mini Aravindan, who was earlier with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, recalls with horror the large number of cases that used to come to animal shelters during Diwali. “Many would come even after the festival as the pets would be under severe trauma. I have treated numerous cases of pups with their tails and backs burnt as crackers would be tied to the trusting little one and lit,” she said.
In cities like Delhi, many burst a huge amount of firecrackers just to display that they have the money-power to do it. But they do not see the vulgarity in doing so. Pune-based Prassana Hullikavi is dreading Diwali as far as her dogs are concerned as they get so terrified that they cannot be left unsupervised. The fact that one of her dogs suffered from renal failure during one such Diwali, is something she does not forget.
To reassure them, many of us cuddle our pets when fireworks begin, hoping that it will calm them. Not a good idea. It may, in fact, make the distressed animals perceive that you too are scared, making their fear rise even further. It is best to be calm and not react. It will then make them feel that you are in control.
Some animals may take a week to ten days to fully recover and be their normal selves. If they have an ailment, it usually gets aggravated due to stress. Many get vets to administer anti-anxiety drugs to reduce their pets’ trauma on the eve of Diwali. The deafening crackers have been known to cause temporary deafness in animals and disorient birds, making them fly out of their shelters into alien corners in search of safety. As most birds have poor vision, especially at night, they bump into unknown objects and injure themselves. The smoke also affects them. The bright glare of burning firecrackers can also burn or permanently blind flying birds. Owls, kites and bats are the worst-affected. Some communities sacrifice owls during Diwali as they consider it auspicious as it would bring them wealth and fortune. By the way, owls are a protected species and hunting or killing them would attract punishment under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1960.
Vets also point out that the sound of crackers also affect milch cattle. As the cattle is scared, adrenalin is released in its body which inhibits the flow of oxytocin, a hormone which helps the milch cattle to release milk, thereby affecting the production of milk. Hindu religious traditions give a special place to the cow, rat, swan, peacock and owl. They are revered by as they are associated with different gods. This was apparently done hundreds of years ago to preserve various species that had a crucial role in a healthy ecosystem. But when Diwali arrives, we would rather show off our money power by bursting the loudest and the brightest crackers in the neighbourhood. When many are now calling for a Diwali without crackers, it is because they are seeing the dangers. As times change, customs also must change keeping the current realities in view. It is in everyone’s interest.
If we burst crackers this Diwali, it will show that we do not care for our children who are choking on the smoke and poisonous fumes. It will show that we do not care for the earth we live in. It will show that we do not even care for our well-being and our health. It is not just about animals. It is for our overall good. Just say no to crackers and see how good it feels deep within. Actually, we have no choice. Let us think of a better and healthier tomorrow away from those carcinogenic fumes. It is easier than we think.
(The author is a senior journalist)
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