Letter from New Delhi
After the quietest and cleanest Diwali in Delhi for many years, Sikhs advised not to explode crackers
A top Sikh religious body in Delhi has appealed for not bursting fire crackers on 4 November, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of this religion. This follows a Supreme Court ban on crackers during Diwali celebrations from 19 September to 1 November 2017.
Cleanest with less noise: As a result of this ban, Delhi enjoyed the cleanest Diwali with much less air pollution, 75 per cent decline in burn injuries and 20 per cent less calls for fighting fires.
The city of more than 20 million people struggled with its worst air pollution for two decades, shrouded in smoke from millions of fireworks lit during the festival, burning of crop residue in neighbouring states before winter, vehicle exhaust and construction dust.
Save environment: Taking this cue, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) appealed to the Sikhs in Delhi and neighbouring areas not to burst crackers on Gurpurab, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. DSGMC president Manjit Singh G K and general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa said the committee will also launch a big campaign to save the environment.
Lighting lamps: “The campaign will be dedicated to the seventh Guru — Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji — who gave the message of preserving the environment. As many as 50,000 school children will take part in the awareness procession with placards and posters. They will request residents of Delhi to take steps to save the environment,” said Manjit. He added, “Let us celebrate Guru Sahib’s Purab by lighting lamps, helping the poor, showing compassion towards the needy, following the teachings of the ten Gurus and Guru Granth Sahib.”
Providing masks: The DSGMC also said it plans to provide pollution masks to those in need from two major gurdwaras in the capital — Bangla Sahib near Connaught Place and Sisganj in Chandni Chowk.
Pollution went up: A quiet and promising evening until around 7 pm gave way to thick haze and noise as Delhi citizens exploded firecrackers until around 10 pm. But the noise was far less than normal Diwali explosions.
Thus, pollution went up as air quality indicated ‘very poor’, but the air quality in Delhi during Diwali was better than last year, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The Air Quality Index (AQI) value on Diwali was 319, putting it in “very poor” category, while the AQI last Diwali (October 30) had touched “severe” level after recording an index value of 431.
AQI level from 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 is moderate, 201-300 is poor, 301-400 is very poor, and 401 and above is severe.
Less noisy: This Diwali was the quietest for three years in the national capital, but the noise level was still above the permissible limit in most areas. According to Central Pollution Control Board data, nine of 10 monitoring sites in the city were less noisy on Diwali than last year’s festival of lights, celebrated on October 30.
Big decline in burns: This Diwali, hospitals across the city had fewer people coming in with burn injuries to their emergency department as compared to previous years. And, the people who came in had less severe burns.
In fact, the five main government hospitals designated to treat burn patients saw a 75 per cent decline in the number of people who came into their emergency department on Diwali night. The five reported 179 burns cases last night as compared to a total of 704 cases these hospitals had received previous year during Diwali.
Safest Diwali: Delhiites witnessed the safest Diwali night in the last two years, with no casualties and almost 20 per cent fewer calls as compared to 2016 to the fire brigade,
This year, the fire department received 204 calls on Diwali, 39 calls more than last year’s 243. In 2015, the number was 290, 40 per cent more than this year and also the maximum number of calls received by the department in the last decade. Firecrackers were not to blame for fires as date showed that in the past, over 65% of the fires that broke out were either due to electrical problems or naked flame from earthen lamps.
Acrid smog: An acrid smog forced authorities to close schools and ban construction activities after Diwali last November. The Supreme Court then banned the sale of firecrackers, but relaxed the restrictions on September 12 this year after a plea from fireworks manufacturers. The court said a complete ban would be a “radical step”.
Shops sealed: As all shops selling firecrackers were sealed by the police, these traders protested arguing they had invested heavily in their stocks but sold crackers illegally under the counter or on roads. Thus, the noise and pollution, albeit much lower.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
- Published in print edition on 27 October 2017