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Supreme Court Should Extend The Firecracker Ban

It was a sweet victory of sorts when the Supreme Court decided to ban the sale of Firecrackers in NCR

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Diwali has been bitter sweet this time, as some of you may know that my organisation LocalCircles has been working for the last three years to find solutions around rising pollution in Delhi NCR area.

It was a sweet victory of sorts when the Supreme Court decided to ban the sale of Firecrackers in NCR. But this victory became bitter as it was hijacked by the mob and painted as an anti-Hindu step. The ban worked and overall firecrackers used in the area were much less than in previous Diwali.

No amount of explanation can convince the mob otherwise. Unfortunately, even the non-religious liberals types do not fully understand import of the SC’s decision.

There are three primary arguments they present to shoot down the SC decision.

1. SC has over reached and the ban cannot be implemented.

2. SC is myopic in its approach and is not addressing the larger problem of pollution. Which is stubble burning, coal based power plants, cars and construction dust.

3. SC is preventing the common man from celebrating a festival when it should be taking action against the big polluters like the farmers and industry

The first argument is interesting as the SC did not ban people from burning firecrackers it banned the sale of them. By banning the sale it focused on the supply which is easier done than trying to ban or controls the demand. The demand is a behavior problem which cannot be addressed through any fiat SC or legislation. More importantly even the common man on the street understands that crackers cause pollution. Also that everyone is part of the pollution problem. It’s not a problem that the government created or it can solve without change in behavior. Realizing that lifestyle choices also contribute to pollution is an important thing. The discussion about the relationship between pollution, climate change and lifestyle choices has to e understood by all. Choices like private cars versus public transportation. Everybody needs to change part of their behavior as the problem cannot be solved otherwise.

The second argument that why is SC focusing on the smallest contributor of the problem and not the largest one. This is one argument that is even presented by the omniscient columnists or intellectual types. The simple answer is that if you cannot do anything for the major part of the problem does that mean you should not do anything for the minor part. Solving the minor problem does not mean that the major problem is forgotten. It just means it cannot be solved by the judiciary at this point in time.

SC can't rule that the farmers should stop burning the stubble, as it is an economic decision and difficult to implement. If they stop burning of stubble they would need special sowing equipment for the next round of sowing as the field will have crop stubble to buy this equipment farmers need to spend more hence a subsidy is needed from the government. The subsidy is not easy as it will have to be given by the state government in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. None of these states have resources to give subsidies.

As for shutting down coal based power plant the question is does the city or the citizen no longer need power. Or where do you think the power or electricity that they use will come from. Most likely another coal based power plant somewhere.

The thing about the coal based power plant is that they pollute both air and water. And the air is a continuum and polluting here in the city or 200 kms or 1000 kms away is still going to affect the environment and the air.

Construction waste that is a big contributor to pollution is something that can be controlled and hopefully the judiciary will act on it soon.

The third argument is that the SC is going after the small guy and not after the car companies, power plant companies or the farmers. It’s not the big or small guy but something has to be done. And this is a beginning. This small and big debate has gone on for some time, but it ignores the reality. Every decision whether judicial or legislative has multiple components, these variables all play on their own.

To give you an example, if SC bans all cars, the automobile industry will cry out and say they are stopping all investments. They will say that the SC has overreached itself and will ruin the economy, prevent FDI, and job creation.

There is no dearth of myopic critics who can only fathom one aspect of a policy and build arguments for it.

The challenge for any policy maker is to try to balance out all the variables and still achieve larger good. Public good.

Every policy sets a direction it should not deal with ifs and buts. The clarification and exemptions in a policy are what give the bureaucrats power of interpretation and leads to corruption.

Take the Constitution of India, the word 'IF' does not figure there. It has been crafted carefully to avoid alternate scenarios. Which is why the ban has to be absolute and complete going forward no ifs and buts. Dilution of the ban will result in interpretation, failure and corruption.

Ban of firecrackers in NCR till November 30, should be extended country wide, forever.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

K. Yatish Rajawat

K Yatish Rajawat is a digital strategist and policy commentator based in New Delhi, he tweets @yatishrajawat.

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