The sound of firecrackers from Delhi to Dimapur on Diwali day was reminiscent of the Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People. In a unique similarity with the 1882 play, in which public health took a backseat to profit people with vested interests, open disregard of the ban imposed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) on use of firecrackers this Diwali has nullified the attempt to keep the environment clean and green. Efforts to lower the danger of the threat of rapid spreading of lethal Covid-19 virus were wasted and as a result, Delhi’s air had worsened and its Air Quality Index (AQI) touched four-year high; Punjab’s AQI dipped from poor to very poor. The scenario in other places of the country was no different. This drop in air quality happened simultaneous to the Centre deciding to add 300 more ICU beds in National Capital anticipating a spike in Covid-19 cases with the onset of winter. The Centre had also instructed other states to do the same, but, even the increased numbers of ICU beds will not be sufficient to control the situation as no one was truly interested in keeping away firecrackers during Diwali. Even youth icon Virat Kohli’s appeal has fallen to deaf ears.
Lack of proper planning, not taking people into confidence and poor enforcement of law has made India’s air filthy. As a matter of fact, this year it was not difficult to impose the ban as the situation was different and alarming. As Covid-19 is a virus that attacks the respiratory tracts of human beings, it is very important to have clear weather conditions apart from maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing. So in-order to keep the air clean it was necessary to refrain from bursting firecrackers. However, the policy makers, law enforcers and citizens committed repeated mistakes that made the ban ineffective. No step was taken to stop production of firecrackers in various places of the country. It was business as usual for cracker manufacturing companies. Manufacturing of crackers could have been easily stopped by providing adequate compensation to owners and labourers before the beginning of the festive season. Secondly, a ban on inter-state movement of firecrackers could have been imposed much earlier. Thirdly, the local law enforcing agencies could have acted with more zeal to confiscate the crackers already available in the market. Further, a special ordinance could be promulgated with provisions of severe punishment to deter people from bursting firecrackers. Last but not the least the need of the hour was to involve people to prevent flouting of the ban at micro level. But no one had even thought of imposing the ban in a systemic manner. The effort to impose the ban was arbitrary and lop-sided. Thus ban on firecrackers went up in smoke leaving public health in great danger.