Representational Image. (Photo | Express)
Representational Image. (Photo | Express)

Let us move away from crackers at festivals

The Explosives Act 1884 and Explosives Rules of 2008 govern the display and storage of firecrackers.

With the festival season upon us, the firecracker industry is on overdrive. Manufacturers in the fireworks industry hub of Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu are ready with their wares, which traders are stashing up without giving much thought to safety. One such trader’s warehouse in Attibele on the outskirts of Bengaluru went up in flames last Saturday, claiming 15 young lives. It is said that the fire department had warned the trader last year about the lack of safety in his godown, but he had simply thumbed his nose and invoked political clout. The town of Attibele, along the highway on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, is a massive wholesale firecracker market where manufacturers unload their best and brightest wares for the festival season.

Taking note of the dangers, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has banned the bursting of firecrackers during public functions and processions, and allowed only ‘green crackers’ that use alternative raw materials to reduce pollution. It is a welcome step in keeping with some other parts of the country—Delhi has banned all fireworks; Haryana and West Bengal have allowed only the green varieties; Punjab and Tamil Nadu have proposed specific times they would be allowed. The Supreme Court has also curbed the hours when crackers can be burst. This could be the way forward for all states, considering the high level of pollution in our cities. While these rules are followed more in the breach, there is a conscious public effort to move away from noisy, polluting crackers, given their impact on health, environment, pets and the elderly.

More often than not, the cause of fire tragedies is not accident but the human propensity to play fast and loose with rules. The Explosives Act 1884 and Explosives Rules of 2008 govern the display and storage of firecrackers. They mandate against keeping flammable material close by, ensuring water and extinguishers at hand, and having adequate escape doors. Yet, the reality is that wholesale markets often have ill-equipped warehouses packed to capacity that are located in congested areas. The one that exploded in Attibele had neither an extinguisher nor a fire exit; the front door was blocked by a truck and the tiny rear door was almost inaccessible. More such tragedies have been reported—on Monday, a fire broke out in a cracker factory in Tamil Nadu’s Ariyalur district, charring 12 workers to death. Which brings us to the question: do firecrackers have to be a part of our celebrations? It is time to change our mindset and move away.

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The New Indian Express
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