Sound-emitting crackers on sale at an Upper Bazaar shop in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Diwali means renewed licence to burst ear-splitting firecrackers in Ranchi. For, no one in the capital has ever bothered to check the deafening dhamakas that thumb a nose at every rule in the book.
While the Central Pollution Control Board (CBCB) prohibits manufacture, sale and use of firecrackers generating above 125dB at a distance of four metres from the bursting point, the Supreme Court bans bursting of sound-emitting crackers between 10pm and 6am during the festival.
But, the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) remains blissfully ignorant about the nature of crackers that have hit the market this season. Reason: the mandatory decibel test — to check cracker compliance with noise norms and to trim the ban list, if necessary — is far from being conducted.
To plug the loophole, pollution monitors are doing what they do best: vocally swear by CPCB guidelines without actually moving a finger.
“We do not have a list of banned firecrackers because no tests have been conducted on them,” said JSPCB analyst R.N. Kashyap, quickly adding: “However, we will measure noise pollution levels during Diwali just like we did during Durga Puja.”
But, that won’t stop people from flouting noise norms. “According to rules, the decibel limit should be mentioned on the firecracker box. The idea is to control sound during manufacturing,” Kashyap offered an imprecise argument.
While JSPCB bosses remained lackadaisical, a spot inspection of Ranchi’s markets in the past couple of days revealed that most cracker boxes do not mention the decibel limit. Some, cleverly, print the ‘made as per norms’ line to avoid suspicion, but that is no guarantee against noise pollution or for user safety.
Unlike Ranchi, other capital cities like Calcutta and Mumbai are following Diwali rules to the letter.
In a recent circular, Mumbai police banned sound-emitting crackers such as tadtadys, apti bars, ukhali darus and maroons. Also off reach are firecrackers weighing more than 21gm and louder than 125dB, and cracker garlands longer than 20ft and louder than 105dB.
Calcutta had set the example last year itself, when it conducted thorough cracker tests and banned chocolate bombs, kali patakas, seven shots, golden dawn 25 shots, singing birds 100 shots and golden minnows among others.
Even a small state like Tripura has effected a permissible limit of 90dB in its capital during the festival.
Sadly, lessons are only unlearnt in Jharkhand.
R.P. Singh, deputy chief explosives controller of Ranchi sub-circle office, could not be contacted.
Another official, wishing anonymity, said licences were issued to cracker manufacturers only if they complied with decibel norms. “There is an exhaustive list of approved manufacturers on our website, along with results of tests conducted on their sound emitting crackers,” he said.
Surprisingly, the list had names of such manufacturers whose crackers exceed the 125dB cap.
When confronted again, the official offered home truth: “Our job is to issue licences after sample tests. It is the pollution control board’s job to recheck whether manufacturers are keeping their promise. It is true that in some places, sound-emitting crackers are louder than they should be.”
Ranchi subdivisional magistrate Amit Kumar too admitted that the district administration does not have a list of banned crackers because tests are pending. “But, we will act on complaints, if any. Besides, we will ensure full compliance with the Supreme Court order,” he said.
Will Jharkhand ever see a no-pollution Diwali?