IRONY

Many Indians want a ban on firecrackers on Diwali—but still buy them anyway

A price worth paying?
A price worth paying?
Image: Harish Tyagi/EPA/REX/Shutterstock
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The question of banning firecrackers during Diwali has split public opinion down the middle in India.

One out of every two urban Indians supports a ban on fireworks, according to market research firm Velocity MR. The firm surveyed 2,580 people across 10 major cities—Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune—last week.

Ironically, some Indians who support a ban on firecrackers are also buying them. “Purchasing crackers is on the list of close to 60% respondents,” the study said. It also found that 20% of urban Indians are nostalgic about playing with fireworks as kids, which they say forms an important childhood memory of the festival.

Support for a firecracker ban is slightly higher among young people, with 56% Indians in the 18-25 age group favouring it. But overall support for a ban is lower than last year, when 66% of all respondents had supported a Supreme Court order banning firecrackers.

India’s top court had last year issued a blanket ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi, amid a raging debate over whether the country’s most popular Hindu festival would lose its spark. This year, the court has stopped short of a complete ban, allowing the sale of “green firecrackers” in the city.

Every winter, Diwali coincides with a peak in pollution levels in north Indian cities, including New Delhi. Bursting firecrackers, which has long been part of Diwali tradition, contributes to the smog. The toxic mixture of fumes and ambient particulate matter is once again enveloping the Indian capital this year.

Yet, India is the second largest market for firecrackers in the world after China. Sivakasi, the fireworks manufacturing hub in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which accounts for 85% of all crackers sold in the country, has an annual turnover of around Rs7,000 crore and employs more than 300,000 workers directly.