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Meena’s tearful parents and I watched helplessly through the glass pane separating us from the room where the doctors were desperately fighting to save little Meena’s life. It was an accident…it is always an accident…My neighbours’ child Meena was trying to light a ‘fountain’ firecracker and in the dark, she had not noticed the string of live ‘atom-bomb’ firecrackers that someone else had lit nearby. The little girl had been caught in the multiple explosions that had taken place around her. We had rushed her to a neighbouring hospital where a team of doctors had gravely told us that she had sustained severe burns on her body and face. Even if she managed to survive, she would be scarred for life…

Hare Krishna…! I sighed and looked out of the hospital window. How many Meenas would have to suffer like this before the Government would pass a law banning the manufacture and sale of firecrackers. Forget the Government, how many Meenas would have to suffer before their parents realize that firecrackers are dangerous, life-threatening explosive devices that should be avoided at all costs, and least of all to be given to children!

It is a paradox that I find amusing, sometimes saddening but always mind-boggling. On one hand parents do not even allow their children to touch a matchbox or a hot utensil, lest they burn themselves. And yet they will sit back and watch adoringly as their young children, sometimes even toddlers, swirl around sparklers which reach temperatures of…mind you, I’m not joking…1000 to 2000 degrees Centigrade! That is 10 to 20 times the temperature of boiling water!!
Or clap their hands when the same child lights a firecracker, (and often a string of them!) which explode causing sounds up to 150-200 decibels. Doctors say that any noise above 85 decibels can cause temporary or even permanent deafness.

Everything about the issue of firecrackers is wrong. Beginning with the actual manufacture of firecrackers, it is common knowledge that most of the firecrackers made in India originate in factories who fragrantly flout all the prescribed norms and regulations, with the Government turning a blind eye and deaf ear towards them.
According to a newspaper report from the past year, ‘at least 40 percent of the Rs.15 billion ($346 million) firecracker trade originating in Sivakasi (the birthplace for most of the firecrackers in India), is illicit and has the potential to cause devastating accidents due to the inappropriate use of explosive substances.’
Until recently, most of these factories used children to actually make the firecrackers, with many of them suffering poisoning and injury from handling the dangerous chemicals involved therein.

Then consider the vast amounts of money spent…wasted…burned in purchasing and using these firecrackers. Money which could have been utilized in so many other ways, for Krishna Conscious activities…

Prithvi Devi too suffers as a direct result of these firecrackers, through air and noise pollution. In Mumbai during Diwali, one finds a distinct sulphurous stink in the air pervading throughout the city, and more so, in the areas where firecrackers are ‘enjoyed’ the most.

The most tragic fallout of these firecrackers is upon the health of humans and animals alike. Burns, injuries from flying particles, increase in attacks of asthma, high blood pressure, deafness, nervous disorders…the list is endless!
And what’s worse is that most of the people suffering the above are not even directly involved in lighting the firecrackers, e.g elderly, babies, animals etc!

It is no wonder therefore, that some countries like Sweden and Malaysia have banned firecrackers altogether. And in many other countries, there are only state-sponsored firework shows with light (not sound) oriented firecrackers, held with regular precautions, conducted by trained personnel, with the crowds standing at a safe distance
Hare Krishna, when will our Indian Government wake up…!

And the most lamentable fact is that everybody conveniently forgets that Diwali is a festival of Lights, not sound! When one can decorate one’s house with numerous ‘diyas’ (lamps) and colourful lights. A time to remember the Lilas of Lord Ramchandra and Lord Krishna, to chant their Holy Names, enjoy delicious Prasadam, meet other Devotees etc…so many other ways to enjoy!
And yet so many people choose to ‘enjoy’ Diwali by playing around with dangerous, life-threatening firecrackers…

Again, a very happy…and safe Diwali to all of you!
Haribol!

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