The Delhi Police have seized more than 3,800 kg of firecrackers before Diwali from various parts of the city and arrested 26 people for storing them without license following a Supreme Court order.
Late last month, the Supreme Court said only licensed traders can sell firecrackers, which are to have less lithium, barium and arsenic – chemicals that cause breathing difficulties and cancer. It allowed bursting of “safe and green” crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali.
The top court also said police officials in-charge of an area will be responsible for any violation of the new rules.
Following the order, however, it is not just the police officials who are up in arms.
Even residents of Delhi have taken up the task of acting as whistle blowers and tipping off police officials about any violations, due to which several warehouses illegally storing firecrackers have been sealed so far. Around 29 cases of violations have also been registered in the city.
The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi was recorded at 268 today, which falls in the ‘poor’ category, according to data by the Central Pollution Control Board. On Diwali eve, the AQI was recorded at 394, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category.
The Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research or SAFAR has released a Diwali pollution warning which presents two scenarios. First, if no firecrackers are burnt on the day, the AQI is expected to be 378. Second, even if there is a fall of 50% in the amount of crackers burnt compared to 2017, the AQI will fall in the “hazardous” category.
“We have had several rounds of awareness campaigns in schools. Meetings have been conducted with resident welfare associations and various other quarters. Necessary precautions have been taken at our level and wherever violations are found, necessary action is being taken,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (north) Nupur Prasad.
Doctors have said the pollution levels in the city are so high that it is a state of public health emergency.
President of heart care foundation of India Dr KK Agarwal said, “I feel like it is an emergency like the Kerala Floods. There is a flood of pollution waves in Delhi and it has to be tackled in the same way. Do not get yourself exposed to pollution material and consult your doctor for N95 pollution masks.”
The Supreme Court order, however, means huge losses for firecracker traders. With the judgement being released just 15 days before Diwali, traders have even said they are willing to distribute their stock for free.
Satish Manocha, who has been selling firecrackers since the last 40 years, was forced to lay off 24 out of his 30 workers.
Some people feel that green crackers are a step in the right direction to curb pollution while others see it as an attack on Hinduism and their right to celebrate festivals.
Meanwhile, several traders have been asking: “What exactly is the meaning of green crackers?”