To minimize air pollution in the national capital during the upcoming festival of Diwali, the Delhi government has announced the launch of anti-firecracker campaign ‘Patake Nahi, Diye Jalao’ from October 27 to implement the cracker ban in 15 police districts.
Making the announcement on Monday, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said teams of police and Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) have been formed to implement the ban and take action against violators.
“If someone still does not comply with the cracker ban, then police and SDMs will take legal action against them. We will not tolerate anyone playing with the lives of others in the name of some momentary thrill. We will start the campaign actively in Delhi from October 27,” Rai said.
Also read: Delhi’s air quality dips to very poor category due to stubble burning
Diwali is slated for November 4 this year.
The minister discussed the campaign at a joint meeting with officials of Delhi police and the environment department. It was decided that apart from the 15 central team of five to seven members each, team of two people each will be formed for each of the 157 police stations in the capital to monitor the ban. Teams have also been formed under the leadership of 33 SDMs to ensure the implementation of the campaign.
The minister said police and SDMs can act as per sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance) and section 5/9B of the Explosives Act against violators including those bursting, selling and hoarding firecrackers. Citizens can also report the police about any illegal sale of crackers or bursting by calling 112.
“The campaign has two parts – one, preventing people from bursting crackers and two, for the police and SDMs to collaborate with Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs) to encourage people to celebrate Diwali by lighting diyas instead,” the minister said.
As part of the campaign, SDMs have been instructed to organize awareness meetings on October 28 and 29 with RWAs, market organisations and NGOs to discuss the impact of firecrackers on environment and health of residents, especially during the pandemic.
“The Delhi government appeals to all the people of Delhi. Please celebrate Diwali using diyas and not crackers. Diwali is celebrated by lighting diyas and crackers only contribute to pollution. Stubble burning incidents go on a steep rise around Diwali. When their pollution mixes with the pollution of firecrackers, it can prove fatal for our senior citizens and children. No matter how much the officers enforce the norms, we cannot win this battle unless and until everyone contributes towards this fight,” Rai said.
Why target only Hindu festivals? asks BJP
The Delhi government’s ban on cracker, however, has drawn the ire of the BJP which has called it a blow to “Hindu sentiments”.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said the Arvind Kejriwal government’s order to not burn fire crackers goes against the ethos of the Hindu festival.
“Both diyas and crackers are an integral part of Diwali celebrations. Unfortunately, as the Kejriwal government has failed to keep overall pollution under control, we were forced to skip or limit crackers since last year. But when the government says don’t burn crackers and only light diyas, it hurts our Hindu sentiments,” he said.
Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari accused the government of being selective in its concerns and “bulldozing matters of faith”.
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“While I agree that we need to save Delhi residents from pollution but we shouldn’t bulldoze on matters of faith. The government should try to find out an alternative to the firecrackers. And green crackers could be an alternative,” he said adding that a campaign to promote green crackers is the need of the hour.
He also questioned why Muslim festivals are not held accountable the same way Hindu festivals are.
“Have you seen a single AAP minister holding such meetings ahead of Bakr-e-Eid? Instead of putting a blanket ban on the firecrackers in Delhi, the AAP government should consider starting a campaign to promote green crackers,” Tiwari said.
Last year, on November 15, a day after Diwali, Delhi’s PM 2.5 level soared to 545, much beyond the safe level of 60, as residents flouted the ban on sale and use of firecrackers. Stubble burning in the neigbouring states added to Delhi’s woes. On Diwali day (November 14) itself, the air quality was “severe” with stubble burning accounting for 32 per cent of Delhi’s PM 2.5 pollution.
Also read: Delhi Air quality ‘severe’ after Diwali, but wind condition may help
The Union Health Ministry has already warned that high pollution levels can increase the risk of residents contracting the COVID-19 infection.