Despite a ban on firecrackers, the national capital reported several violations on Diwali, with the air quality plummeting on Saturday night. The AQI on Sunday was reported to be 441 — in the ‘severe’ category, the worst on Diwali since 2016.
This, however, is not deterring a pan-India group of environmentally-conscious mothers from continuing their fight against air pollution.
The group, ‘Warrior Moms’, was formed in September this year, and launched an online campaign, ‘#DhoomDhamakaWithoutPatakha’, to urge people to avoid bursting crackers this Diwali. The group’s aim is simple – creating awareness on how harmful firecrackers are to children, so revellers move away from them.
Sherebanu Frosh, a resident of Gurugram and member of ‘Warrior Moms’, said, “We discovered a few years ago just how harmful crackers are to children. According to an IndiaSpend study, one phuljadi is equal to your child smoking 74 cigarettes. This is on top of the huge burden of air pollution already borne by our children –– year round, our children smoke seven cigarettes a day on average, even newborns! They deserve better. We felt that as parents, we must protect all our children from ignorance and misinformation, and so we launched our anti-firecracker campaign.”
The campaign reached out to people online, through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Singer Usha Uthup emphasised the importance of curbing air pollution in a Facebook video. Dr. AV Ramana Dikshitulu, Pradhan Archaka at Tirupati, also appealed to people to celebrate a cracker-free Diwali through a video.
Bhavreen Kandhari, a Delhi-based environmentalist and one of the founding members of ‘Warrior Moms’, said the response to their campaign was encouraging, with many people posting pictures of rangolis and sweets on Facebook with the hashtag #DhoomDhamakaWithoutPatakha.
On Diwali, with clear evidence of the flouting of the cracker ban all around, the ‘Warrior Moms’ worked to get police complaints registered.
“This wasn’t easy. While reports of violations in Delhi made to the Police Command Centre on 112 were received promptly, they kept asking for exact addresses, which we couldn’t provide in all cases. Complaints where we had videos and locations were easier to lodge,” said Kandhari.
The Delhi Police received about 2,100 PCR calls from people on Diwali night, a senior police officer told PTI. “We received 2, 100 PCR calls on Diwali night alone. Most of these calls regarding the bursting of firecrackers were received from Southwest, Dwarka and Northwest parts of Delhi, between 8.30 pm and 10.30 pm,” he said.
According to data shared by the Delhi Police, 1,206 cases including ‘kalandras’ (formal notices) were registered in connection with the sale and use of firecrackers on Diwali night. The total number of people arrested, including those on Diwali alone, is 850, and around 1,314.42 kg of firecrackers were seized on Diwali, the officer said.
When asked if the blatant flouting of the cracker ban was discouraging for them, Ruchita Dar Shah, a Mumbai-based ‘Warrior Mom’, said, “The importance of any movement is to be at it consistently. Only then can we create awareness. We burn crackers all the time and for so many reasons. Religion also gets involved. Reaching out to everyone and telling them that it is not healthy is the only way to go about it. These are baby steps, but the moment for change has come.”
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