The Telangana High Court has ordered the state government to ban the use and sale of firecrackers in Telangana this year. The High Court bench, comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Chauhan and Justice Vijaya Sen, was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Indira Prakash Puligilla, a High Court advocate. The matter was taken up for hearing on Thursday. The petition had urged for a ban of firecrackers in the larger interest of the public, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to TNM, the petitioner said, “I am very happy that the honourable High Court has considered the plea. The Telangana High Court has directed the state government to ban firecrackers and also ensure that all shops selling firecrackers are shut immediately. This is applicable only for this year. Already states like Rajasthan, Delhi and Orissa have already banned firecrackers. The apex court has also refused to interfere with the Calcutta High Court’s crackers ban.”
The Telangana government has been ordered to inform the High Court about the steps taken to enforce this ban. The court also mentioned that wide publicity needs to be given for the ban.
Ashish Naredi, Senior Associate, Centre for Integral Research, who is also a Hyderabad citizen, has always been vocal in his support for the use of firecrackers. He feels that firecrackers have been made a scapegoat for a crime they have not committed. He said, “A report from IIT and several other reports have shown no role of crackers in pollution. The Supreme Court-appointed committee also says that pollution during Diwali has no adverse impact on human health. One fails to understand the reason for this ban. Because the court doesn’t have data to prove the role of crackers in pollution, hence they have used precautionary principle to ban firecrackers. However, on study the application of this principle is found to be faulty. Hence this ban is unjustified.”
A group of mothers from Hyderabad have been trying to convince people to avoid bursting firecrackers this Diwali to safeguard the health of children. These mothers are a part of a pan-India movement called Warrior Moms, who recently launched the campaign #DhoomDhamakaWithoutPatakha. According to them, their concern is not only the studies that have been even accepted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) showing a correlation between COVID-19-related mortalities and air pollution, but also a report released on Thursday by the Awaaz Foundation that revealed the presence of harmful and toxic chemicals present in firecrackers.
“Hyderabad is a perfectly habitable city. The Air Quality Index is increasing in Hyderabad. If we don’t take the necessary steps now, the present situation in Delhi is for all to see. In COVID-19, if it is important to have a lockdown, then it is also important to ban firecrackers. The Telangana High Court’s order is a victory for entire Hyderabad. People should take this decision in the right spirit”, said Kaajal Maheshwari, a member of Warrior Moms who is also a concerned mother.
Talking about those who feel that vehicles cause far more pollution daily as compared to the one day when crackers are burst, Sriparna, an animal rights activist and a member of Warrior Moms said, “We all should remember that every action counts. We all have a choice to not add toxins to the air that we already have polluted. A festival is for everyone, it should not be a source of misery for the vulnerable, both humans and animals”.
Dr Arvind Kumar of Lung Care Foundation and Doctors for Clean Air said that, in our zeal to celebrate a festival, we must not take our lungs for granted. “Bursting of firecrackers leads to a substantial increase in PM 2.5 levels. It is a very serious health hazard, not just for humans, but even for animals and birds. We simply cannot afford to lose our guard, now that the country is reeling under the onslaught of COVID-19, which doesn’t have a cure or a vaccine yet,” he said, adding that air pollution can increase the chances of COVID-19 deaths.
Sumaira Abdulali, Convenor of Mumbai-based Awaaz Foundation, said that several crackers were tested this year by their organisation in Mumbai. These crackers which are also commonly sold across India contain toxic chemicals like sulphur, potassium and barium, which are listed under the Hazardous Chemicals Rules. She said, “The smoke released when these firecrackers are burst contains these chemicals and these toxic chemicals can independently cause serious adverse health impacts, especially on respiratory health and worsen the effects of other respiratory diseases like COVID-19.”