The Delhi government on Monday re-imposed a ban on the production, storage, sale, and utilisation of firecrackers in the national capital for the upcoming festival season.
At a press conference, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said the move was part of a plan to curb air pollution in the city. Rai added that the government would be issuing strict directions to Delhi Police to enforce the ban.
“We have seen a considerable improvement in Delhi’s air quality in the last five-six years, but we have to improve it further. Therefore, we have decided to ban firecrackers this year, too,” Rai said.
At Sadar Bazar, Delhi’s largest wholesale firecracker market, the news did not create any buzz.
“The decision to ban firecrackers right before the festival season has been a typical approach on the government's part for a while now,” said Rakesh Kumar Yadav, president, Federation of Sadar Bazar Traders Association.
Yadav pointed out that traders generally start placing orders for crackers in January itself, and receive the supply in the months of September and October. However, repeated bans and cancellation of licences had prevented them from placing bulk orders anymore.
“The government should ideally announce a permanent ban on firecrackers in the city to also help traders,” Yadav said.
Firecracker sales were a Rs 15-20 crore business until 2017, according to Narender Gupta, president of the now defunct Fireworks and General Traders Association.
“No sale of firecrackers happens during Diwali anymore, and so traders also refrain from placing any orders,” said Gupta, adding that all the permanent licences of firecracker sellers were cancelled a long time ago.
Such traders have opted to switch over to alternatives. Take the case of Ravinder Nath Sahni, who after a period of dipping sales moved to selling hosiery items and undergarments at his shop.
“Whatever amount of firecrackers are sold now, are sold illegally,” said Gupta.
In 2022, the government announced that bursting firecrackers on Diwali in the city would attract a jail term of up to six months and a fine of Rs 200.
The government has said that the ban had a salutary effect on air pollution around Diwali, as recorded by the air quality index (AQI).
According to a January 2023 release by the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change, “The year 2022 witnessed three months (January, February and December) of the best ever daily average AQI and three months (July, October and November) with the second best daily average AQI during the entire period from 2018 to 2022, even taking into account the Covid-affected low-activity years of 2020 and 2021.”
The release added that the tabulation for three days around Diwali showed that the AQI around the festival in Delhi was never better than in 2022.
In 2019, AQI on the pre-Diwali day was 287. It rose to 337 on the occasion of Diwali and further to 368 the day after. In comparison, the AQI on the eve of Diwali in 2022 was 259, which rose to 312 on Diwali and fell down to 303 on the day after the festival.
Banning firecrackers has been an effective way of controlling rising levels of pollution in the city. However, Yadav said that unabated supply and sale in the National Capital Region continues to be a problem.
“State governments around Delhi should work in tandem to curb the sale of crackers to ensure that the motive behind these bans is fulfilled,”