The Firecracker Solution
My Question this Week
The problem is simple and intractable. On one hand, millions of homes in India are used to lightning firecrackers – which pollute the air, soil, and water, and make much noise. The more concentrated the burning of firecrackers, the greater the damage to humans and nature. On the other hand – this disturbance is only for a day or two, it’s a part of our heritage, and it provides some employment and income to producers and traders, the latter being mostly in the unorganized sector.
Someone came up with the idea of green firecrackers and those are now being pushed with great gusto by the judiciary and the government (including state governments). The problem is that these also pollute, and if their burning is aggregated over lakhs of households, even they will be harmful. But what if we banned private but allowed community burning of firecrackers, at the village Panchayat and Municipal Ward level? Far fewer locations, far lower pollution. So, go ahead pray to the goddess at home, and come watch the community celebration of the victory of good. And if you are not a Hindu, no problem, come enjoy it anyway. East India has its Durga Pooja, West India has its Ganesh Chaturthi, and North India is missing a community festival – I should have convinced you by now – community Diwali it is.
Another point, a WhatsApp conversation informed me that this was a part of my heritage. I doubt it. History does not record this well, but firecrackers probably came into India with Islam, before that Diwali must have been purely what it's called – deep-awali. Of course, these days history is being rewritten and some proof of rocket and bomb use might come up. But I doubt Indians had any knowledge of gunpowder pre-Islamic invasions, there would have been no way those rockets and bombs would have allowed any of that invasion.