Come Diwali, campaigns against noise and air pollution have become a routine affair in schools across the country, particularly in metros. Students carrying placards with slogans such as “Say no to Crackers” etc and marching through residential localities are a common sight ahead of the festival of lights. Newspapers too feature special articles and interviews on the increasing level of pollution in the cities and how they affect the aged and the ill.
During the festival, one also comes across television exposes, campaigns etc against adulterated sweets. Consumer organisations and departments too warn the citizens not to get cheated in matters of weights and measurement.
Civic bodies and state Governments put out advertisements and hoardings on how to prevent fire and keep children safe while police and other security agencies mount a high vigil against terrorists and anti-social elements in congested markets and other places.
A major highlight of such awareness campaigns in Delhi NCR this year is the one launched by a leading NGO `The Eminent`. The ‘Say No to Plastics this Diwali’ campaign focuses on the use of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials in packaging and handling gifts.
In the words of Dr AK Agarwal, a philanthropist and the president of The Eminent, “rough estimates put the per day use of plastic bags at around one billion during Diwali week in NCR alone”.
“Even plastic-based idols are sold in large numbers. The excessive use of plastics and non-biodegradable goods has totally engulfed the auspicious festival.”
The dangers and risks posed by hazardous chemicals in plastics are well researched. Plastic produces toxic fumes that may get trapped in enclosed spaces, get inadvertently breathed in and cause respiratory problems, especially in elders and infants. The infected lungs, coupled with the cold weather after Diwali, leads to more number of deaths of such elders and infants, he says.
Plastic items being non-biodegradable may eventually find their way into the agricultural system. These may get buried in the soil and form a barrier around crop roots, choking off all nutrients from the soil.
“Cows that are worshipped during Diwali fall prey to plastics. These innocent animals consume plastic bags, etc along with edible matter and get choked. Little wonder cow deaths increase after every Diwali. It is really ironic that on the one hand we worship cows on Diwali, but on the other hand we turn a blind eye to their suffering”, he says.
Another serious consequence is choking of water systems with plastic. Plastic items invariably end up into water sources and waste water drains, leading to back flushing and stagnant pools. These become ready breeding grounds for a host of disease-bearing parasites leading to all kinds of infections.
Setting an example, Autometers Alliance Ltd, headed by Agarwal, has resolved not to give or receive gifts of whatsoever nature wrapped and carried in plastic-based material while The Eminent has given a clarion call to all business establishments to ‘Neither accept, nor present any gift wrapped or carried in plastic-based materials’ and written lakhs of letters to several industrial houses, government departments, eminent citizens and media in this regard.
The Eminent has been engaged in the service of the aged and the underprivileged for the past several years, runs a free dispensary and distributes free medicines to the poor sections of society. It also works towards cow protection through a veterinary dispensary that takes care of over 700 stray cows and calves.
The campaign against plastics is not confined to Delhi NCR alone. Even in the small town of Sirsa, Haryana, thanks to the untiring efforts of its managing director Dr Shamim Sharma, the Jan Nayak Ch Devi Lal Vidyapeeth, as a rule, gifts mementos wrapped in newspapers to dignitaries and other guests who visit the prestigious educational institution.
The success of such campaigns would make the celebration of good over evil much more meaningful. Happy Deepawali!