With Diwali rounding up, there is a spirit of festivity, celebration and rejoice everywhere. Undoubtedly, when one speaks of the festival of lights, the first things that come to mind are- crackers, sweets, family and friends. As any other festival, Diwali is primarily about spreading happiness. In the modern day, the story of Rama’s home-coming might not hold relevance, howsoever, people of all caste, creed and religion come together and celebrate inspite of the endless problems persistent in today’s world.
It has expectedly kicked off debates upon the usage of crackers with each side putting across strong points to defend their stand. The call of the hour is moderation. We must inculcate the habit of questioning, reasoning and then coming upon a conclusion. Though the tradition of fireworks is not old but it is now a vital part of Diwali celebration and thus be it kids, youngsters or adults, everyone enjoys them equally. Thus, today Diwali without fireworks is unimaginable. There is a belief that lighting firecrackers is a symbol of prosperity, good health and fun. But this happiness is paid by the children who have their involvement in making of these firecrackers. In addition to it these crackers have also been a major source of pollution.
In a small town of Tamil Nadu called Sivakasi, exists a major firework industry of India. They cater to approximately ninety percent of the demand. In Sivakasi, poverty and lack of farm produce are the main reason for child labour. The employers also prefer children because of ease in management, discipline and lack of labour unions. The children in these industries suffer from back ache, neck ache, tuberculosis, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, dermatitis, respiratory disorders, over-exhaustion, burn injuries and waterborne diseases due to exposure to harmful chemicals in the work environment. To add to it, there have been numerous cases of accidents due to negligence, hazardous work conditions, over-stocking and so on.
It’s high time we wake up from our reverie and realise the enormity of the problems caused by pollution. It causes discomfort and serious health issues to patients suffering especially with respiratory problems, infants, animals and birds.
Pollutants take days to clear up. In Kolkata, in 2014 the level of pollutants was dangerously high causing long lasting health problems to numerous. During the Diwali festivities, 12 people were admitted within three hours to the city’s Fortis Hospital with severe breathing problems. Among those admitted here during Diwali, 80 percent were asthma patients, but the rest had no history of breathing complications. This is a scenario of one hospital, in one city, of one state in India. We can do the math and understand that the figures will be strikingly high.
As the traditional question goes, ‘If not now, when? If not us, who?’ Answer these and the next step becomes clear. We all are aware of climate change, global warming, human rights and other such terms. We talk about them. We want to fight for them. We want things to change. We can be that change, but do we want to? The choice is ours. We are our own saviours after all.
– Vasudha Harlalka