Are firecrackers legal in India? By Vikram Shah - December 9, 2019 Last Updated at: Jun 23, 2021 6221 Industry players had recently revealed that the uncertainty over Diwali celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic has lowered the production of firecrackers by at least 30%. The Supreme Court has also ordered a probe by the CBI into the use of barium nitrate in the manufacture of firecrackers. As a result, many firecracker units are making ‘Green Crackers’ with the formulation recommended by the CSIR. Days ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, India’s supreme court has refused a blanket ban on firecrackers. However, it has severely curbed their use. The court had temporarily banned the sale of crackers ahead of Diwali in Delhi-NCR in a bid to see the move’s impact on lowering pollution levels. Diwali is just around the corner. That translates to holidays, a celebration with family, loads of sumptuous sweets and firecrackers for most of us. However, one question that smogs everyone’s mind is, “Can firecrackers be set to blaze on the 27th of October without citizens having to face any charges?” To understand this, let’s dive deeper and find out how did the bans on firecrackers start. Causes that led to a firecracker ban In 2014, Delhi surfaced as one of the most polluted cities in the world. In 2016, a distressing weather alarm went off causing panic among the Delhites. The Supreme court intervened and motioned a law that slapped a ban on firecrackers in the Delhi NCR region. In a better late than never move, the Supreme court of India hoped to bring down the pollution levels drastically in this region by motioning a ban. This move let Delhi breathe a wee bit. However, it was later concluded that the aftermath of the ban could only be recorded over a period of time. Ever since the first legal prohibition, a ban around the Diwali time has become quite a norm. With the capital still panting in search of good air quality, here is how it faired up in comparison to otherwise healthy levels which should technically be the norm. How do you measure air quality? Using the Air Quality Index (AQI), a thermometer look-alike, the quality of air can be identified. An AQI measures the pollution that the air in the environment carries. It mainly looks for five important pollutants. They are carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone and aerosols. Healthy breathable air measures anywhere between 0-50 numerical value on the AQI. However, the danger lurks when the pollutants in the air rise, measuring anywhere between 100-150 or more. This is when sensitive groups such as immunocompromised individuals, people with disorders and other breathing conditions begin to suffer. Get Legal Guidance Comparing the above readings to Delhi in 2017, the AQI metrics dwindled between 300-400 numeric value which translates to 878-1179 micrograms per cubic metre. A dangerous condition flagged as hazardous, making it impossible to breathe the outside air. In 2018, the AQI levels hit an all-time high of 654 numeric value, way above the hazardous level. An environment absolutely unfit for human living, the Central Pollution Control Board demanded that all factories and construction sites remain closed. According to a published study in Lancet Planetary Health in 2018, the toxic air that blanketed India in 2017, had claimed close to 1.24 million lives or contributed to 12.5% of the total deaths. Nuances of the firecracker ban during Diwali motioned by the Supreme Court: Last year in 2018, the Supreme court denied to motion a nationwide ban on the sale of firecrackers. However, stressed that only green crackers will be allowed as they are considered to carry fewer pollutants in comparison to the other ones. The SC also restricted the timing on firecracker bursting. It summoned that the crackers will be allowed between 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali. The court also asked all other states in India to start community celebrations which will especially allow them to come together and burn crackers. This was a suggestion as a means to reduce the pollution levels from firecrackers. In accordance with Article 21 which talks about the right to life, the SC mentioned that while banning firecrackers was essential, it should not, however, spoil the livelihood of firecracker sellers. The court also accepted the pleas of the firecracker sellers who argued that the pollution rise was not just because of the burning of firecrackers but other factors such as vehicular exhume and factories emitting smoke. The SC also cited that this temporary ban was to closely monitor the AQI levels before, on and after Diwali. In an aim to judge and analyse the amount of pollution firecrackers caused during Diwali. The SC also suggested that several cities in the North face poor visibility during the winter because of the fall in temperature and the wind. Therefore, pollutants from firecrackers alone cannot responsible for the poor air quality around this season of the year. What has changed this Diwali? Though the SC allowed the sale of green firecrackers last year and banned the rest, it was too late to bring it to effect last Diwali. The selling of the old stock firecrackers still takes place and also a few people buy it. Leaving no room for improvement in the pollution levels last year. On the contrary, this year, with the guidelines of the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the green crackers were made and produced. The police joined forces and have distributed green cracker licenses to firecracker sellers. These crackers can reduce pollution by 30% and can be environment-friendly. This announcement was made by the Union and Family-Welfare Minister Mr Harsh Vardhan. Though the situation this year looks promising, on the flip side, several firecracker sellers are yet to receive their green cracker licenses. Firecrackers that are not green are still being illegally brought into the capital. Be an environment-friendly citizen The government of India is doing its part in trying to curb the pollution levels from rising further. Though the odds are against us, it is up to citizens of India like you and me, to ensure this Diwali turns out green & environment-friendly than the past years. Here are some guidelines which will help all of us be a responsible citizen this Diwali. Ask your firecracker seller, if the crackers which they sell are green crackers. Ask them if they have got their green firecracker license. Educate your family on many health hazards pollution which will affect everyone. Do not burst crackers after 10 p.m. Make sure you are street-friendly while bursting crackers especially on the alleys and gullies Be mindful of others and your surroundings while bursting crackers. Green crackers in India provide us with green Diwali! Let this change that we are striving towards, lead us to greener pastures. Here’s wishing you a happy and a green Diwali this year!