This Diwali, as we celebrate the festival of lights with our family & friends, spare a thought for those associated with the firecracker industry. Many poor Hindus involved in this business, already reeling from hardships due to the Coronavirus lockdown, would have been looking forward to the festival season to boost their incomes.
And initially things were looking up for them – lockdowns were eased, economic activity was getting back on track, the fire cracker manufacturers, wholesalers, traders and sellers were given permits, loans and licenses to procure their stocks and set up stalls. Even those in Delhi-NCR, the site of perennial litigation every Diwali over the past half dozen years, expected that green crackers would be permitted from 8 – 10 PM as per SC directives issued in 2018.
Then suddenly, things went crazy. Orders and rulings started flying in from all directions – SC,HC, NGT, Central and State Governments, local municipal authorities. ‘Crackers are bad for Covid19 patients’ became the new mantra to rip the cracker trade to shreds. State after state announced bans, then some announced relaxations, then NGT made crackers contingent on a city’s air quality, Telangana HC announced a total ban in the state which SC overruled and said NGT directive should be followed. It was chaos and knee-jerk policy making on an unimaginable scale.
It was a classic example of how regulatory uncertainty and arbitrariness can kill an industry.
The cruellest blow for many was the sudden & complete ban on firecrackers in 13 UP cities. A CM whom many look up to as someone who will one day end the Secular State’s discrimination & apathy towards Hindus, started talking of a ‘pollution-free’ Diwali. Could the virtue signalling virus really be that infectious?
Then came the news that UP police was going around making loudspeaker announcements that anyone found selling crackers would be prosecuted under stringent provisions of the Explosive Acts. Police handles started proudly tweeting about how firecrackers worth lakhs had been confiscated and poor shopkeepers arrested. And then came a video from Bulandshahr, Western UP, that has shaken every Hindu worth his name –
A shopkeeper’s crackers strewn on the ground, being dragged away into a police jeep while his children plead and scream for their father to be freed. Could there be a better representation of how the State treats Hindus?
The outrage generated by the video was so massive that within hours, the shopkeeper had been released and senior administration & police officials reached his home for a photo op with the daughter who had bravely run after the cops to rescue her father. The little girl was even made to trot out a few lines on camera thanking all the nice officers and state how happy she was.
A few kind words and a couple of sweets – is that the lollipop the state thinks will satisfy Hindus? What about the massive losses that Hindus have suffered due to the adhoc, arbitrary policy-making of the state, a state which has utterly failed to curb the major polluter every winter in the North – stubble burning by farmers, especially farmers in Punjab?
If governments and our ruling elites have any sense – they will immediately roll back this non-sensical cracker ban. The hypocrisy of those whose lifestyles have 100x the annual carbon footprint of what an ordinary Hindu generates, dictating that we must eradicate a central feature of how our biggest festival is celebrated, is not lost on common people anymore.
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