This Diwali, don’t let crackers mask the truth

By Shailesh Vickram Singh, Managing Partner, Massive Fund . Pollution is not an event that comes around during Diwali. It is a year long, permanent issue for everyone today, and needs to be treated as such. So consider looking beyond crackers too.

shailesh vickram singh
Shailesh Vikram Singh, Managing Partner, Massive Fund

 

With Diwali just two days away, the anti-cracker lobby in the NCR can count some nice wins in the bag. No licenses have been issued to sell crackers in Delhi, the Supreme Court has issued an order allowing only ‘green’ crackers, which no one seems to have a clue about making or finding, and of course the usual  limitations of timings and noise levels have been reinforced, in case you missed those.  Which leaves us with just one question. How come the pollution level is already at AQI of 550 plus levels today?

I hold no brief for allowing indiscriminate bursting of crackers, or the pressing need to regulate their usage and sales. However, to use pollution as the vehicle to ram down the whole cracker  ‘economy’ is patently unfair, considering the truth we are experiencing on the ground.

In some ways, it is one of the worst ideas to propagate, as it lulls everyone to ignore all other major causes of pollution and focus on what is practically a non-issue, if it is considered for one day.

Delhi’s  air is super bad and the reasons are many and cover everyone – from neighboring  states, to trucks to some people burning stuff or some festivals and finally, population, or our own habits.  This is the classic case of shifting the blame to unnamed, impossible to pinpoint targets, of which crackers have the unfortunate distinction of being the easiest to go for.

We need to look at our own role in the build up to this mess.

So newspapers run big advertisement campaigns on how to save the world by not bursting crackers  their own pages bulge with ads to promote buying  in the ‘festive’ season. In a business model subsidised by ads, these thick, paper consuming packs  have been proven to have stagnated when it comes to readership, especially by the young. Which would explain why the biggest advertisers dare not advertise inside the paper, but only on the outside, well before the bad news inside. Where few of the young venture anymore.

Committed  anti-cracker crusaders have not even realised how the trash they generate every day, has gone up through the years. Before counting the thicker,unread newspapers. How their daily trash pile everyday is full of plastic packaging that has contributed in no small way to creating North India’s largest man made monument to waste, the Ghazipur landfill. Talk of segregating waste and fixing the waste challenge  has been going on for as long as the call for cracker bans, but what has been done on the ground? The last I heard, we were running out of space for landfills.

For a generation that is quick to demand  that air conditioning be run at 22 degrees and uses car/bike even for local shopping, we would much rather vote for an electricity subsidy than electricity conservation.  Marches will be organised, and possibly attended for cracker bans, but we struggle to march to the local shopping mart today for our everyday shopping.

Will a cracker ban take care of the plastic cups at parties, the food waste, even the over the top celebrations?

Our anti-cracker elite are particularly blessed, as we can righteously blame the developing world for their ‘wasteful’ consumption, and high energy and carbon footprints. Do we even realise that for those of us  who can debate on about the pros and cons of crackers, our energy consumption is not much different from developing country levels? Or that we rise on the shoulders of over 120 million countrymen who have no access to power, or negligible at best? Who, by the wonders of averaging and ‘per capita’ , make us, the elite, look like paragons of conservation?

As consumers of a plethora of electronic devices, be it phones, laptops and more, not to forget our SUV’s.,(yes, we do share a love for the SUV just like the US, check the growth numbers for the segment), when was the last time you honestly worried about the safe disposal of your batteries? Are you even aware of the damage their unsafe disposal can do to the environment? Have we ever thought of holding a march to demand implementation of the beautiful laws that exist for that?

OK, how may trees has the average citizen planted? Plants? Pots at home? Or is that best applauded when done by the armed forces, by school kids or by your local body representatives? How about asking for the state of the tress planted last year? How could tress be planted in the same convenient spot for three years? Did we ever question that?

No, because we have already ‘solved’ the problem of crackers.

With almost zero commitment to save nature or protect the environment why the  hullabaloo on crackers ? Because it is easy, it is convenient and there is no loss in advt revenue, no pressure from any lobby group or no paid PR campaigns in newspapers. By not bursting cracker, we feel good about ourselves and at the same time absolve ourselves from the greater crime of polluting earth many times more by our over-consumption.

Saying no to crackers costs nothing, as one looks cool, and can show off without doing an iota of sacrifice. Life goes on without any change in lifestyle,  and businesses continue to pollute without any impact on profitability or top line. Life becomes easy for Courts / Politicians and NGOs as they can look busy  without any repercussions for a simple reason that  Cracker industry is small-scale cottage industry with no large PR budget or fancy senior lawyers on the pay roll. If the  cracker industry had been a 10,000 Cr corporation, the  same newspaper/ media groups/politicians / activist would have been arguing in a different tone.

So before jumping on no to crackers bandwagon, please pause for a moment, plant a sapling or have a decoration plant at home, question your subscription to a newspaper that you don’t even want your kids to read, cut down on  processed food and food wastage,  push up the AC to a more optimum  26-28 degree, carry a refillable water bottle and demand free water facilities in pubic spaces, instead of buying bottled water. Walk/cycle or do carpool .  You might not even have to say no to crackers then.
It is easy to blame others and difficult to change self! So for a change, this Diwali let us start with self!

Or before the whole paper makes its way to the trash itself.

Committed  anti-cracker crusaders have not even realised how the trash they generate every day, has gone up through the years. Or how their daily trash pile everyday is full of plastic packaging that has contributed in no small way to creating North India’s largest man made monument to waste, the Ghazipur landfill. Talk of segregating waste and fixing the waste challenge  has been going on for as long as the call for cracker bans, but what has been done on the ground? The last I heard, we were running out of space for landfills.

For a generation that is quick to demand  that air conditioning be run at 22 degrees and uses car/bike even for local shopping, we would much rather vote for an electricity subsidy than electricity conservation.  Marches will be organised, and possibly attended for cracker bans, but we struggle to march to the local shopping mart today for our everyday shopping.

Will a cracker ban take care of the plastic cups at parties, the food waste, even the over the top celebrations?

Our anti-cracker elite are particularly blessed, going to international fora and righteously blaming the developing world for their ‘wasteful’ consumption, and high energy and carbon footprints. DO we even ralise that for those of who who can debate on about the pros and cons of crackers, our consumption is much different from developing country levels? Or that we rise to be righteous, on the shoulders of over 120 million countrymen who have no access to power, or negligible at best? Who, by the wonders of averaging and ‘per capita’ , make us, the elite, look like paragons of conservation?

As consumers of a plethora of electronic devices, be it phones, laptops and more, not to forget our SUV’s.,(yes, we do share a love for the SUV just like the US, check the growth numbers for the segment), when was the last time you honestly worried about the safe disposal of your batteries? Are you even aware of the damage their unsafe disposal can do to the environment? Have we ever thought of holding a march to demand implementation of the beautiful laws that exist for that?

OK, how may trees has the average citizen planted? Plants? Pots at home? Or is that best applauded when done by the armed forces, by school kids or by your local body representatives? How about asking for the state of the tress planted last year? How could tress be planted in the same convenient spot for three years? Did we ever question that?

No, because we have already ‘solved’ the problem of crackers.

With almost zero commitment to save nature or protect the environment why the  hullabaloo on crackers ? Because it is easy, it is convenient and there is no loss in advt revenue, no pressure from any lobby group or no paid PR campaigns in newspapers. By not bursting cracker, we feel good about ourselves and at the same time absolve ourselves from the greater crime of polluting earth many times more by our over-consumption.

Saying no to crackers costs nothing, as one looks cool, and can show off without doing an iota of sacrifice. Life goes on without any change in lifestyle,  and businesses continue to pollute without any impact on profitability or top line. Life becomes easy for Courts / Politicians and NGOs as they can look busy  without any repercussions for a simple reason that  Cracker industry is small-scale cottage industry with no large PR budget or fancy senior lawyers on the pay roll. If the  cracker industry had been a 10,000 Cr corporation, the  same newspaper/ media groups/politicians / activist would have been arguing in a different tone.

So before jumping on no to crackers bandwagon, please pause for a moment, plant a sapling or have a decoration plant at home, question your subscription to a newspaper that you don’t even want your kids to read, cut down on  processed food and food wastage,  push up the AC to a more optimum  26-28 degree, carry a refillable water bottle and demand free water facilities in pubic spaces, instead of buying bottled water. Walk/cycle or do carpool .  You might not even have to say no to crackers then.

It is easy to blame others and difficult to change self! So for a change, this Diwali let us start with self!

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