The Supreme Court of India Celebrates the 350th Anniversary of Aurangzeb’s Banning of Diwali Fireworks

Recently the SCI banned the sale of crackers in the Delhi-NCR region citing air pollution as being against the human right to health, and subsequently has refused to modify the order in spite of evidence being contrary to the claim of the petitioners (see below).

It looks like the human right to health does not extend to the right to live a life free of dengue, malaria and other such diseases borne by mosquitoes, which get eliminated by the emissions from the bursting of crackers and burning of fireworks.

Quoting from the Times of India, ‘The advent of Diwali, says Dr Sanjeev Bagai, director and head of the department of paediatrics, Rockland Hospital, means three things: “The immediate effect of the smoke from fire crackers would drive mosquitoes away and decrease the breeding. By the time that effect goes away, the weather will become cooler leading to settling of suspended particles. This will further lessen mosquito breeding,”’ (Ghosh 2006)

The infamous The Hindu newspaper too concurs, ‘”The more firecrackers you burn, the more would be the smoke and air pollution. This would kill mosquitoes in a single night and arrest the increasing incidents of dengue in the Capital,” a top official of the MCD Health Department argued.’ (Jha 2003)

Interestingly, all this support for sanity dates before 2014. Perhaps, the Hon’ble Supreme Court considers that the science has changed and the laws of gravity have reversed ever since?

In addition to that, the celebration dates to many centuries of practice if not many millenia. This selective discrimination against the Hindu festivities alone indicates that Hindus are not safe in Bharat.

The legal regime seems to be like the Mughal empire, metaphorically speaking, wallowing between abolishing jizya and then imposing jizya again. The metaphor used here will be appreciated as appropriate if one turns the pages of our history to see how many Muslim rulers systematically banned or curtailed Hindu festivities.

In addition to the demographic assault on Hindus (that is including all the family of Dharmic faiths), whose geographical footprint has shrunk to less than 15 per cent of the land originally occupied by them in less than 1000 years, and precipitously more so in the last 70 years, we now have a flurry of legal and social assaults as well.

The deleterious effect of some people’s eating habits

In the recent praiseworthy and landmark judgement on the right to privacy, one consenting majority judgement appeared to indirectly allude to the “right” to eat beef, writing “what and how one will eat”. It is an established scientific fact that the environmentally most unfriendly meat, consuming more than 2300 litres of water per pound (that is less than half a kilogram), is beef.

With an increasingly water-starved world and the visible effects of water-scarcity across Bharat and many parts of the world, the Hon’ble Court thinks that the right to life does not include the right to water but it is just “one’s” personal food choice that cannot be interfered with.

World Health Organisation states that the minimum ideal volume of water required per capita is just 20 litres. And there you go – the water utilised to produce half a kilogram of beef could serve 115 people or about 38 families a day. Beef is not only just environmentally damaging, it is classified as a carcinogen. So the right to human health seem to go for a toss here.

Will the Hon’ble Supreme Court order the banning of an Eid slaughter completely for a year (or such) and order a research report to be published on that too, as it has done with Diwali and crackers?

Damian Carrington writing for the Guardian UK a couple of years ago wrote, “The heavy impact on the environment of meat production was known but the research shows a new scale and scope of damage, particularly for beef. The popular red meat requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases.”

Jallikattu vs Halal

Halal slaughter is sadly a slow-bleeding and thus painful death for the animal as the animal is conscious till the blood volume falls below the level required for maintaining consciousness, and thus the animal remains in excruciating pain till losing consciousness. (Coghlan 2009)

On the contrary, the Hindu-Sikh method of slaughter (jhatka) involves striking sharply and swiftly with a sharp weapon on the back of the neck which cuts through the base of the brain and instantaneously puts the animal to death without any pain. (Wikipedia contributors 2017)

Yet, we have an animal-rights-activist legal regime that bothers not, yet bans the sport of “hump-holding” of bulls (wherein, holding even the horns, let alone the tail, is strictly prohibited).

The pollution bogey?

However, an obscure statement made by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) about possible sulphur content being released from fireworks, in 1997 in a case in the Delhi High Court, has been made as a basis to ban Diwali crackers in 2017, without realising that sulphur-free firecrackers have been available for the past few many years. (杨世勇, 杨世均, and 王余粮 2012; 陈蓓 2017)

If at all, a direction to switch to these in a “graded” manner would have been a good balance instead of relying on a 1997 statement in another court by the CPCB.

Moreover, comprehensive data has been available from an Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur study (Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases (GHGs) in Delhi – 2016) indicating the opposite of what is being alleged by the Hon’ble Court and the petitioners before it! (Sharma and Dikshit 2016; Singh 2017)

For example, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association secretary K. Mariappan said, “We were using red lead for crackers emitting red colour light. However, as per PESO’s advise, we switched to bismuth oxide some 15 years ago, as we were told that red lead hangs in the atmosphere causing pollution,” while discussing the risk of heavy metals now eliminated in Bharat-made fireworks. It is quite obvious that the same could have been done in the case of sulphur too, rather than a blanket ban. (Sundar 2017)

(Many thanks to Shri Sudarshan T Nadathur for reviewing the draft.)

References

Coghlan, Andy. 2009. “Animals Feel the Pain of Religious Slaughter.” New Scientist, October 13. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17972-animals-feel-the-pain-of-religious-slaughter/

Ghosh, Abantika. 2006. “Cracker Cure – Times of India.” The Times of India. October 17. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Cracker-cure/articleshow/2181064.cms.

Jha, Lalit K. 2003. “Say Yes to Fire-Crackers to Control Dengue.” The Hindu, October 16. http://www.thehindu.com/2003/10/16/stories/2003101610250400.htm.

“No Death Penalty for Godhra Murderers, No Crackers on Diwali – Courts.” 2017. October 10. http://www.hindupost.in/news/no-death-penalty-godhra-murderers-no-crackers-diwali-courts/.

Parmar, Ashok. 2017. “A Nation of Slaves – Part I.” October 12. http://www.hindupost.in/history/nation-slave-part-i/.

“SC Rejects Plea To Modify Cracker Ban Order In Delhi/NCR | Live Law.” 2017. Live Law. October 13. http://www.livelaw.in/sc-rejects-plea-modify-cracker-ban-order-delhincr/.

Sharma, M., and O. Dikshit. 2016. “Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases (GHGs) in Delhi.” A Report Submitted to Government of NCT Delhi and DPCC Delhi, 1–334.

Singh, Sapna. 2017. “SC Misled into Dampening Diwali Spirits.” The Pioneer. October 10. http://www.dailypioneer.com/todays-newspaper/sc-misled-into-dampening-diwali-spirits.html.

Sundar, S. 2017. “After SC Order, Focus Is on Chemicals in Firecrackers.” The Hindu. The Hindu. August 7. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/after-sc-order-focus-on-chemicals-in-firecrackers/article19440256.ece.

Wikipedia contributors. 2017. “Jhatka.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. October 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jhatka&oldid=803489135.

杨世勇, 杨世均, and 王余粮. 2012. Novel sulphur-free explosive for firecracker. CN:102701893:A. Patent, filed June 27, 2012, and issued October 3, 2012.    http://www.google.sr/patents/CN102701893A?cl=en.

陈蓓. 2017. “A Green Way out for Fireworks Industry amid Smog concerns[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.” Accessed October 11. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-02/14/content_19591342.htm.


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About the Author

Murali KV
A medic and a graduate of the University of Cambridge, England, involved in inter-disciplinary research for the inculcation of a scientific rigour in the outdated fields of humanities: putting “science” into social sciences