The festival of lights….err…smoke…err….lights and smoke…and noise just went by. It is safe to say that it is India’s favourite festival, one that is being celebrated for thousands of years. While I do not wish in any way that this great tradition ceases from existing, I very much question the manner in which this tradition has taken shape in the 21st century.
I am an Agnostic, so celebrating religious festivals isn’t my idea anyway, but who doesn’t like to see excitement and joy, and I love this festive season too. Business is good, share market is over 21000 points, workers get bonuses, outstation employees disappear to be with their families and so on. But lets look at the grim side. Here are the reservations I have about Diwali celebrations:
1. Noise and Smoke: When Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya, neither were there ‘smoke emitting fuljhaddis’ nor were there deafening ‘rassi bombs’. For the last 10 years I have been reading before the onset of Diwali about governments decision to ban these deafening bombs. Yet each year they are there, louder than ever. In this era of air and noise pollution, I doubt if God would be very happy that we use his name to dirty his creation. The smoke emitted by the fire crackers is so toxic that if one inhales the fumes, he would end up coughing for half an hour. Also, it amazes me as to how man has just zero consideration for the other living objects around it. Ask the birds and the other animals who unfortunately have to dwelve in our cities about their take on Diwali. Each time a bombs goes off, the poor birds and animals panic. Countless numbers die. But who cares, let’s celebrate Lord Ram’s homecoming.
2. Time Deadline: Just like the government’s claim about banning those deafening bombs, for the last many years there is a 10 pm deadline for bursting fire crackers. Yesterday, which wasn’t even the main Diwali day, people were bursting fire crackers till nearly midnight. What about the many old people who are trying to sleep and cannot rest thanks to this stupidity?
3. Other Communities: For 3-4 days, there are non stop fire crackers that are burst, much to the annoyance of the lakhs of non-Hindu who stay in India and have very little to do with Diwali. It is their right to have a peaceful environment, at least after 10 pm. I support the Singaporean model that no ‘religious activity/celebration’ can happen outside your house. So the Muslims should stop screaming at 5 am to wake god up, and the Hindus should stop bursting fire crackers at 11 pm to welcome Lord Ram.
4. Power Consumption: One of the most debt ridden states in India, Maharashtra has to anyway import power to meet its normal needs (even that it is unable to). During Diwali, thousands of megawatts of energy is wasted in useless illuminations. People even insist of keeping all lights in their house lit because it is the festival of light. The farmer in Vidarbha has to pay for this celebration, bearing the brunt of 16 hours of load shedding on an average.
5. Child Labour: The world knows that all these firecrackers are made by children in extremely disturbing and hazardous conditions, in Sivakasi and other locations. Instead of wasting money and hurting the environment by using these products, we must boycott them so that the children are not compelled to play with their lives for a meagre daily wage.
6. Wastage of Food: A lot of food is wasted during this season, which could have been used to feed the country’s poor for whom Diwali has no meaning. Apart from this, excessive sweets and fatty food stuffs hurt the general public’s health, not to mention the widespread adulteration that occurs during Diwali.