Not a Happy Diwali with all this hot air

Two days after Delhi-NCR violated the Supreme Court’s ban on firecrackers on Diwali, the region woke up to yet another day of toxic haze, with most areas recording ‘severe’ AQI on Tuesday. This is unfortunate. Delhi recorded its best air quality on Diwali day in eight years on Sunday. While Delhi-NCR is a top offender, other capitals are not way behind. According to a Climate Trends report, post-Diwali pollution levels were higher in nine of the 11 state capital cities analysed, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, compared to 2022.

Delhi-NCR’s filthy air quality has once again, predictably, started the annual debate (sic) on who is responsible for it and what needs to be done. It is a cumulative failure of citizens, governments and the police that has repeatedly failed to stop the illegal sale and use of crackers and act against offenders. On Monday, Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai said Delhiites had been ‘cautious’ not to use firecrackers, but BJP leaders had apparently instigated them. BJP blamed AAP for bad air. The worsening air itself has been unaffected by the politics being aired.

Some RWA pundits have even said that flouting the top court’s guidelines was ‘civil disobedience’ as part of (Diwali) tradition. What flouting norms and bursting crackers in an air like Delhi’s really is, is more of a ‘fidayeen’ act. This self-harming and others-harming herd instinct, posing to be anti-establishment and free-spirited, has no explanation. It is a toxic mix of apathy and a belief that the state won’t act against offenders. To clean the air, keep politics out of pollution, work on mitigation plans and invest in ‘carrot and stick’ citizen engagement measures. For, ‘traditional’ behaviour is choking our citizens to death.


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