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Thursday, September 23, 2021

After total firecracker ban, Odisha government restricts sale of Diwali diyas

After announcing a total ban on firecrackers in the entire state of Odisha, citing ‘potentially harmful effects of the fumes emanating from firecrackers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic situation and the onset of winter’, the BJD government is now prohibiting roadside sale of diyas and at temporary stalls, this time citing Covid-19 social distancing concerns.

As per a report in Odishatv.in

“Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) today prohibited sale of diyas on roadside and at temporary stalls to avoid crowd in view of COVID-19 pandemic.

BMC commissioner Prem Chandra Chaudhary on Wednesday informed that a separate open space will be identified by the corporation for the opening of temporary diya stalls. People will have to seek permission from the concerned authorities for the opening of stalls.

However, the already existing shops can sell diyas and lights but they have to ensure social distancing and no crowding in front of their shops, Chaudhary added…

Odisha government on Tuesday prohibited the sale and bursting of firecrackers between November 10 and 30 stating that considering the potentially harmful effects of the fumes emanating from firecrackers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic situation and the onset of winter.”

Such sudden rules, at a time when the entire country is gradually opening up with all necessary precautions, raise many questions.

With just a week to go for Diwali, how does the administration expect poor diya sellers to obtain the necessary approvals for setting up stalls? Isn’t it better to continue awareness campaigns and use administration’s manpower to ensure social distancing is followed, as is being done with all markets, hawkers etc? Bars, restaurants, tourist places are all open in Odisha now – and the BMC is saying they can’t monitor a few hundred temporary diya stalls? Were any such special rules passed during Eid which fell in July this year – a time when Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak?

Diwali is a special festival for Hindus, and a time when many poor Hindus earn a significant share of their yearly income by selling their goods. Why deny them this opportunity at a time when many are already reeling financially due to Covid-19 lockdowns? Why dampen Hindu sentiments during one of their most-cherished festivals through such diktats?

Even for firecrackers, the ban is between 10 – 30 November, i.e. explicitly targeted for Diwali. Will winter end after 30 Nov, or will Covid? Do the same firecrackers stop ‘polluting’ when they are burst for political events, after cricket matches, during weddings and on New Years?

Earlier, Congress-ruled Rajasthan and TMC-ruled West Bengal too announced a blanket ban on crackers during Diwali citing Covid-19 health concerns. And an NGO with BJP leaders at the helm was found to be behind a petition to National Green Tribunal (NGT) demanding ban on crackers in Delhi from 7 to 30 November.

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