As cracker ban fails again, police blames delayed announcement; says it won't work without public cooperation

Anjali Pillay
·5-min read

New Delhi, Nov 15 (PTI) A “delayed” ban on firecrackers in Delhi and non-cooperation from Diwali revellers in complying with the curbs stymied efforts to stop any further deterioration of air quality, according to top police officials.

Sounds of firecrackers were continuously heard across Delhi and its neighbouring areas through the Saturday night even though a ban was imposed on their sale and use in the national capital region in view of the rising air pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pollution levels crossed the “emergency” threshold in Delhi-NCR region which woke up to the pungent smell of smoke on a hazy Sunday morning after Diwali.

Action was taken in as many as 1,206 incidents in connection with bursting and illegal sale of firecrackers, while 1,314.42 kg of firecrackers were seized, according to the data shared by the city police.

The Delhi Police control room received around 2,000 calls related to the bursting of firecrackers on November 14.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had on Monday announced a total ban on the sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) till November 30 midnight.

The Delhi government too had earlier this month imposed a total ban on all kinds of fireworks till November 30.

However, officials said that 138 licences for firecracker shops had already been issued by the Delhi Police's Licensing Unit in the national capital this year before the ban was announced.

A total of 260 applications were received in this regard but temporary licences were granted only to 138 applicants who met all the requirements as prescribed by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation.

Soon after the ban was imposed, all licences were suspended, police officials said.

'Firecrackers were already sold in Delhi and then came the ban. People had purchased and stocked firecrackers in their houses as they wait for Diwali the entire year,' another top police official said on the various hurdles in implementing the ban.

Officials also said that mere police action is not enough, and residents should pledge to comply with the restrictions as it is for the public good.

According to police, special teams and flying squads were formed at the police station and district levels respectively to ensure regular checking.

“Despite all our awareness campaigns and measures taken, violations were reported and we have taken action against them,' a senior officer said.

The officials said that the police teams have to act within several limitations and cited the case of minors bursting crackers.

'Once we receive a call from a complainant, we act promptly. But by the time we reach the site, it becomes difficult to identify and locate who burst the cracker.

'People themselves need to take a pledge to stick to rules and abide by them,' an officer said, citing various “practical difficulties” in penalising offenders.

'We can create awareness, educate the public and even take legal action against violators but one has to also make an effort to follow rules and spread the message for the sake of society. That commitment from the people is lacking, ' a senior police official told PTI.

“We also have limitations and cannot just barge into buildings or residences and conduct door-to-door verification to check if at all or how many of them had already stocked firecrackers in their houses,' another official said.

To create awareness, the Delhi Police also took to social media to warn the public about the ban on firecrackers and urged them to celebrate a clean and pollution-free Diwali.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Dwarka) Santosh Kumar Meena said that people managed to purchase firecrackers from neigbhouring states.

'We recovered over 5,00 kg of firecrackers in Dwarka district alone, and on being questioned, we learnt that most of these crackers were being brought either from Faridabad or Jhajjar in Haryana.

“When it comes to bursting firecrackers, it was only after 6 PM that we started receiving calls relating to bursting crackers.

'We responded to 191 such calls on Diwali in Dwarka district and have registered 72 cases against those found bursting firecrackers,' he said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Atul Kumar Thakur said they received 147 calls regarding the bursting of firecrackers and action was taken against violators.

'By the time the ban was imposed, a good quantity of firecrackers was already sold in the markets. But the day the order came in, the same day we implemented the ban, got the shops selling firecrackers sealed and seized huge quantities of crackers from them,' a senior officer said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southeast) R P Meena said that in his district alone, for Diwali, around 700 personnel were deployed on the ground to keep a thorough check on any kind of violations.

'We ran awareness campaigns even through social media. We also held meetings with markets as well as residents' welfare associations and intensified our patrolling in many areas. Despite that there were violations and we have taken legal action against them and registered cases,' he said.

The air quality had turned 'severe' on Saturday evening with stubble burning accounting for 32 percent of Delhi's PM2.5 pollution, but firecracker emissions and calm winds made the situation even worse by Sunday morning.

Notwithstanding the alarming deterioration in air quality, some residents were vocal about not being in favour of the cracker ban.

Several people said they wait for the whole year to burst firecrackers on Diwali, while some others said that the ban would hardly help.

'I didn't buy crackers this year but I already had stock from last year and I did not want my children to feel that they cannot do it because they wait for it the whole year,' a Gurgaon resident said.

Many like Jyothi, a resident of Lajpat Nagar, said it was first difficult to explain to the children about the ban and it took some effort to convince them.

'After hearing others burst firecrackers, they did ask us about it. But we told them that if we don't burst crackers this Diwali, then God will save us from the virus and they will get to play with their friends just like before. You need to find ways to convince children,' she said. PTI AMP GJS RT RT