With Diwali approaching, one of the arguments that dominated TV channels during prime-time discussions last week was whether the Supreme Court had imposed a nationwide restriction on the sale and bursting of firecrackers (other than those which fall in the green category) rather late in the day. The argument was the apex court should have delivered its verdict earlier to prepare the manufacturers and those who trade in crackers for the changes.

But those campaigning against firecrackers point out that State governments did not have to wait for a Supreme Court order to check the use and abuse of a product that spews dangerous toxins into the atmosphere. In fact, governments would perhaps have been wiser if they used legislation to do away with all firecrackers, be it during festivals, or weddings. And to provide citizens an alternative, it could have made provisions for less harmful celebratory options which technology can provide.

Thinking ahead, the States can consider sponsoring laser shows across cities at notified locations during festivals. This would not only provide festive cheer and entertainment, but would also be a safe and non-polluting option. After all, a spectacular sound and light show would be as much or more memorable, without all the smoke from crackers that chokes the lungs, burns the eyes and leaves a pall of hazardous toxins in the air. In bringing about change, it would do us no harm to borrow best practices from other countries. Singapore, for instance, excels in using sound and light shows as a form of harmless mass entertainment. The country, in fact, promotes such extravaganzas as a tourist attraction, beckoning visitors to Marina Bay, Sentosa or Gardens by the Bay to witness the spectacle.

If the state, in conjunction with the private sector, produces such shows and tickets these events for a nominal fee, it could be a far healthier way of celebrating festivals. And, who knows, laser shows customised for weddings or festivals may even become a fad! All it requires is imagination and political will to find an alternative to the firecracker which has no place in a world that is already choking.

Editorial Consultant