Cities across India defy new cracker code set by top court

Most cities across the country failed to enforce the Supreme Court order to burst firecrackers only within a two-hour window with police action against violators not serving as a deterrent, reading to a smoky and noisy Diwali night, according to ground reports and multiple government officials.

The top court’s order set 8pm to 10pm as the stipulated time for firecrackers in most states, while Tamil Nadu and Puducherry allowed the crackers to be used from 4am to 5am and 9pm to 10pm in keeping with how the two places celebrate Diwali.

A check by HT across cities, however, showed that firecrackers were used well beyond the window despite fines being imposed in some cities and arrests made in some others.

On Thursday, monitoring agencies said air pollution levels doubled in Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Agra, Hyderabad and Chennai, primarily due to the use of crackers.

For north Indian cities, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s air quality index (AQI) bulletin on Thursday showed that Patna, Lucknow, Bulandshahr, Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad were in ‘severe’ category with the readings going past 400.

The air at these ‘very poor’ (AQI 301-400) and ‘severe’ (AQI 401-500) levels becomes hard to breathe even for healthy people.

“The administration has failed to enforce the court’s guidelines. About 1-2% people put paid to all the efforts,” said Kolkata-based green activist Subhas Dutta, who added that an intense awareness campaign was needed to make people cautious of the hazards of firecracker smoke.

In Bhubaneswar, where 127 were fined for violating the SC order, the police admitted it was difficult to monitoring firecracker bursting. “But compared to previous years, there were lesser number of firecrackers shops open, and people mostly burst crackers between 8pm and 10pm,” said the city’s deputy commissioner of police Anup Sahoo.

In Assam, police enforced prohibitory orders in Guwahati, but firecrackers could be heard well past midnight across the state. “We have apprehended more than 100 people from various parts of the city,” Guwahati’s commissioner of police Pradip Chandra Saloi said.

The arrest numbers from Chennai (120), Hyderabad (200) and Bengaluru (50) were also “inconsequential given that millions of people were bursting crackers beyond the stipulated time”, said a police officer who asked not to be named. This is the first time any action is being taken for bursting firecrackers.

In Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, not a single arrest was made. In Goa, also ruled by the BJP, four people were arrested.

“The PM2.5 (particulate matter of less than 2.5 microns) level on Diwali went up by 61% compared to a normal day,” said S Prasad, a Telangana Pollution Control Board official, on the rise in pollution in his state.

Dr Dipankar Saha, scientist and divisional head of the air lab at the CPCB, said pollution levels in most cities cannot be compared with last year’s because an extended monsoon is leading to a quicker dispersal of pollutants.

“This will result in a situation where the last year’s reading will be far lower despite the violations,” he said.

But the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) warned that the dispersal of pollutants in the northern cities may be affected from due to adverse meteorological conditions from Friday.

“The conditions are not favourable for dispersal of pollutants in north India now.It’s getting colder, wind speed is less than 5km per hour, cold from the mountains will affect the region,” said IMD’s deputy director general, BP Yadav, adding that the northern states may get a prolonged period of poor air quality.

First Published: Nov 09, 2018 00:00 IST

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