It has become a sort of ritual now, and quite predictable too – just a couple of weeks or days before Diwali every year, a section of the media and the so-called intellectuals start crying hoarse over air pollution. An impression is created as if air quality is the worst just before this festival of lights.
Campaigns are launched in a well-timed fashion among school students, sending out emotional and sentimental messages not to burn crackers. Finally, after Diwali is all bad talk, pollution is forgotten as if the air has become clean for a year.
Almost exactly the same pattern is observed just before Holi. Campaigns launched before the Hindu festival of colours paint a dreadful picture of water scarcity not only in India but world over. Indians are made to feel that wastage of water on one day of the festival will create acute water crisis the world over. Like Diwali, the campaigns are more or less abandoned or are conducted in a lacklustre manner after Holi, even though the real crisis continues in several parts of the country.
The frightening and depressing notion created on these two occasions lead one to ponder whether there is a conspiracy to spoil the two of the greatest Hindu festivals?
Sample these headlines in leading newspapers since 2014:
UPPCB to monitor air, noise pollution this Diwali (October 17, 2016)
Diwali 2016: A week before Diwali, Delhi's air quality goes into red zone (October 24, 2016)
Snake tablet emits highest amount of PM 2.5 in popular firecrackers: Study (October 25, 2016)
How to beat air pollution during Diwali in five simple steps (October 26, 2016)
Delhi chokes before Diwali: Air pollution rises alarmingly (October 27, 2016)
Pollution jumps up before Diwali fireworks (October 28, 2016)
Air pollution level in Chandigarh alarmingly high (November 9, 2015)
Government to Set Up Control Room for Daily Review of Air Pollution (November 6, 2015)
Air pollution on Diwali getting worse (October 18, 2014)
Delhi braces for worst air quality this Diwali week (October 21, 2014)
However, Diwali comes and goes but the quality of air hardly gets any better or worse. It is business as usual.
Whether or not the quality of air decreases, the general atmosphere of festivity around Diwali certainly gets vitiated. The negative campaign dampens the spirit of joy and mood of the people gets sombre. What gets highlighted is the talk of pollution and a sense of guilt.
Even if admitting that air quality is getting worse every year, one is made to feel that Diwali is the biggest contributor to it. One is made to believe that if Diwali is not celebrated or fire crackers are not burst, the quality of air will improve.
Diwali does have good qualities. But they are hardly highlighted. The cleaning of houses and neighbourhood and the burning of insects by lighting of “diyas” are rarely talked about. It is just the tradition which is carrying these good features of festivals forward. The story of Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya after victory over Ravana is also being forgotten, ignored or is being doubted and questioned.
Discredit the festivals and the merits also get forgotten.
It is the Liberals who spearhead the campaign against robust and traditional way of celebrating Diwali. They should also spearhead drives to improve the quality of air by changing some of their own habits.
Most of them use air-conditioners and travel on diesel-guzzling SUVs. They should stop using them. How many of those warning about deteriorating air quality and water scarcity harvest water in their places of work and at homes?
Charity begins at home.