Chennai: “More than crackers being a tradition, they are emotion and Supreme Court’s rule irks us,” bursts out Karthikeyan, a college-goer from Royapuram when asked for his reaction to the recent Supreme Court order restricting the bursting of firecrackers.
Yes. While the court’s judgement is concerned with environmental pollution, people in the city and other parts of the State feels it interferes with their freedom.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Still in many places in north Chennai, the ‘first cracker’ is considered a tradition. Karthikeyan says, “What we burst today is less compared to the days when I was in school. I still remember setting my alarm for sharp 3 am. Every year, we used to have this competition and the first one to burst the cracker can raise his collar and say ‘naanga dhan gethu.’ That 3 am happiness of bursting the first 10,000 wala is something,” he chuckles.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Aarifa, a fire station officer in the city, says, “As fire rescue officers, we always have to be on our toes. We have to be prepared for any kind of situation. This time, though we are geared up with inspection and preparation, we expect less fire accidents due to this Supreme Court judgement. For congested areas like Chennai it is very risky to burst crackers and especially rockets. I welcome this judgement as the number of fire accidents will definitely be under control.”
Ramanarayanan, activist from Environmentalist Foundation of India, says, “I welcome the judgement. Although we do not care for other creatures, we humans are also affected badly by bursting crackers. This will be a big relief for asthma and bronchitis patients. Also, one unnoticed thing is how autistic children are affected by this. Every year, during Deepavali, while everyone burst crackers happily, we have no idea how the autistic kids are driven mad by the sound.’
‘There are many villages that abandon crackers for the sake of birds. Above all, if this is about upholding tradition, we have a lots of such cultural traditions that are long forgotten. Come, let us revive them and not this,” he adds.
“I am all up for the Supreme Court judgement. But crackers are not only meant for Deepavali. They are fired in large numbers during political events, cricket matches, marriage functions,etc. If this rule is really concerned about environment, then they should be banned wholly, not targeting a particular festival. As it is, the environment is getting polluted in many other ways. Just a few minutes of rain in the Perungudi area raises a stink in about 10-km radius. So, how much has the land been polluted here? How bad is the air pollution? Has the government taken any steps against this?” fires away Natarajan, founder of Namma Ooru NGO.
|Sukumaran, a cracker shop-owner who puts his shop in Island Grounds every year, says, “We are in this business for three generations. In the last five years, we are seeing continuous drop in business. On the one side, we should accept that people do not show much interest in crackers these days. We do good business through bulk orders from private organisations who give crackers to their employees through cracker funds. Otherwise, children show interest in buying light fireworks.”
“This year, after the Supreme Court judgement, fireworks like changu chakkaram, busvanam, rockets, mathappu and other night time crackers have been sold in large numbers. A large amount of 10,000 wala, 1,000 wala and 7,000 walas are still in stock. Moreover, the inspection process is also very tough. So, getting licence has become cumbersome,” he adds.