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India will be under complete lock-down from midnight today | PM Modi announces 21-day nationwide lock-down

India will be under complete lockdown from midnight today | PM Modi announces 21-day nationwide lockdown 

PM Modi announces a nationwide lockdown from midnight. Forget about stepping outside for 21 days, says PM Modi.

Summary of his speech:

  • I have requested all states that health services should be first priority in this situation
  • Centre allocated Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen health infrastructure
  • All steps being taken by central and state government to ensure supply of essential items
  • Don’t spread any rumors in these difficult times: PM Modi appeals to people
  • Today India is at the stage where our actions today will decide to what extent we can bring down the impact of this disaster
  • In these troubled times, poor are going through a crisis, many are coming forward to help them
  • PM shows a poster saying corona means ‘Koi Road Par Na Nikle’
  • “Jaan he tho Jahaan he”, says PM while appealing to the nation to follow lockdown
  • With folded hands, I appeal to people not to go out of their homes
  • Countries trying their best to control the virus yet it is accelerating
  • Coronavirus spreading rapidly among nations; experts say the only option against it is social distancing
  • Coronavirus has made many powerful countries helpless; challenges are increasing despite all efforts
  • If we will be negligent towards observing social distance India will have to pay a heavy price.
  • We may have to pay a financial cost for this lockdown but it is important for the safety of people
  • This lockdown is in a way curfew and would be more stringent than Janta curfew
  • If we are not able to manage the upcoming 21 days, we will be pushed back 21 years
  • WHO says the pandemic infected person can transmit hundreds in a week
  • Whatever may happen, people should stay at home

Please take care of yourself and your family, friends, says PM Modi and signs off.

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Nirbhaya case: All 4 convicts hanged in Tihar Jail today | Justice has prevailed

Nirbhaya case: All 4 convicts hanged in Tihar Jail today | Justice has prevailed

7 Years Later, All four convicts of Nirbhaya case – Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31) were hanged in Tihar Jail today in the early hours. The four convicts were hanged for the savage assault to a paramedical student who came to be known to all of us as Nirbhaya.

Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi said minutes after four of her daughter’s rapists and killers were hanged, “We will continue our fight for justice for India’s daughters. Our wait for justice was painful and agonising. We finally got justice,”

“I hugged my daughter’s photo,” Asha Devi said. “The beasts have been hanged.”

“I want to thank everyone, judiciary, government for this. The courts proactively dismissed all petitions. The country was ashamed in 2012,” Asha Devi said.

It is a crime that shocked India and after 7 years convicts of the Nirbhaya case have been hanged finally. A three-judge Supreme Court bench rejected the final plea by the convicts in a late-night hearing of the Nirbhaya case. Justice has prevailed. The pre-dawn execution took place less than two hours after the Supreme Court dismissed the final petition of the convicts.

Stating that “Justice has prevailed”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called for a united effort to build a nation where the focus is on women’s empowerment while ensuring dignity and safety for them.

Image Credit:india.com

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Janata curfew on March 22 from 7 am to 9 pm | PM Modi requested all the citizens to abide

Janata curfew on March 22 from 7 am to 9 pm | PM Modi requested all the citizens to abide

Janata curfew – A curfew of the people and by the people

What is Janata Curfew?

In an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested all the citizens to abide by the Janata Curfew on March 22 from 7 am till 9 pm.

How Janata Curfew will work?

People in India to stay off the roads and public places on Sunday, March 22 from 7 am till 9 pm.

Who will not have to take part in Janata Curfew on March 22?

Janata Curfew is not applicable for people working in essential services such as police, medical services, media, home delivery, firefighting and serving the nation, etc.,

Salute and encourage the people working in essential services On Mar 22, at 5 pm

All the citizens are requested by PM Modi to encourage the people working in essential services, in the times of coronavirus, by standing in their doorways and clapping and ringing their bells at 5 pm on 22 March 2020. PM Modi said in his speech that, “For the past two months, millions are working day and night in hospitals and airports and those serving others by not taking care of themselves. On Mar 22, at 5 pm, we should stand on our doorways, balconies, in our windows and keep clapping hands and ringing the bells for five mins to salute and encourage them,”.

Spread awareness to at least 10 people about Janata Curfew

PM Modi has requested the citizens to inform at least 10 people of the Janata Curfew. “If possible, please call at least 10 people every day and tell them about the ‘Janta Curfew’ as well as the measures to prevent,” PM Narendra Modi said.

Summary of speech by PM Narendra Modi:

  1. Do not be complacent about Covid19. Do not get swayed by numbers. Unless we are really careful it will go up.
  2. I need the next few weeks of your time, cooperation, and discipline
  3. Do not treat social distancing lightly. Please do not step out. Stepping out not only risks you, but you are also putting pressure on the system. There are people who need to be out, so don’t make it worse for them also
  4. People over 65 at no cost to step out
  5. On March 22, Sunday, please follow a self-imposed Janta curfew. Please do not step out of your house (even to the common area of your society) from 7 am to 9 pm
  6. At 5 pm on that day pl clap from your windows and appreciate people who have been working relentlessly during tough times (like medical care professionals, services, delivery, etc)
  7. Do not hoard, we will ensure necessities are in place
  8. Do not cut the salaries of people missing work
  9. Do not worry about funding and the economy for now. Let’s first fight the health crisis. We are setting up task forces to bring the economy back in place – (economic response taskforce)
  10. Priority is now Corona’s fight. Humanity has to win. Nothing else.

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Indian passengers coming through or from Oman, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait | 14-day mandatory quarantine in India

Indian passengers coming through or from Oman, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait | 14-day mandatory quarantine in India

  • A compulsory quarantine period of 14 days to those Indian passengers coming through or from Gulf countries including Qatar, Oman, UAE and Kuwait upon arrival from 18th to 31st March.
  • India prohibits the entry of passengers from EU, UK, Turkey from 18-31 March 2020
  • The new circular will make it difficult for Indians to return from the EU, UK, and Turkey.

Since the 13th of March 2020, all inbound passengers including Indian citizens, arriving from China, Italy, Iran, the Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany are being quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days. Now, it has extended the minimum quarantine period of 14 days to those Indian passengers coming through or from Qatar, Oman, UAE, and Kuwait from 18th March until 31st March.

As a part of preventive measures to limit the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19 in India, the Indian government on Monday announced that entry of passengers from European Union (EU) countries, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom into India is prohibited.

The aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a circular “No airlines shall board passengers from these nations with effect from 1200 GMT on 18 March 2020,” adding that this measure is expected to be enforced till 31 March following which the situation will be reviewed again.

Some of the other measures by the Indian government includes,

  • Barred the entry of all foreigners
  • Visa-free facility granted to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders on hold till 15 April
  • All visas except those issued to Diplomats, Officials from United Nations or International organizations, Employment Protect visas are suspended till April 15

With robust screening facilities, International land borders have also been restricted to designated check posts. Several Airline across the world have canceled their flights following the travel restrictions imposed due to the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak.

Stay Safe. It is advisable to travel only if it is essential and avoid any non-essential travel abroad.

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Women achievers who took over PM Narendra Modi’s Social Media accounts on Women’s Day

Women achievers who took over PM Narendra Modi’s Social Media accounts on Women’s Day | #sheinspiresus

Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed off from his Social Media accounts on Sunday and women achievers took over the social handles to share their stories (#sheinspiresus) to millions of followers on International Women’s Day.

PM Modi sent out greetings on Twitter in the morning, said, “We salute the spirit and accomplishments of our Nari Shakti. As I’d said a few days ago, I’m signing off. Through the day, seven women achievers will share their life journeys and perhaps interact with you through my social media accounts.”

Meet the seven women and listen to their inspiring life stories (#sheinspiresus)

Sneha Mohadoss, ‘Foodbank India’ founder

Sneha is Chennai-based and she is the founder of the non-profit organisation ‘Foodbank India’.

Malvika Iyer, bomb-blast survivor and disability activist
Malvika Iyer, a survivor of a bomb attack at the age of 13.

Arifa, an artisan from Kashmir
Arifa is a craftswoman from Kashmir, who has been toiling to improve conditions of women artisans.

Kalpana Ramesh, water warrior

Kalpana Ramesh is a water warrior who gave out a powerful message on water conservation urging people to use water responsibly.

Vijaya Pawar, craftswoman from Madhya Pradesh
Vijaya Pawar, a craftswoman promoting the art of Banjara community of rural Madhya Pradesh along with the help of thousands of other women.

Veena Devi, fondly known as ‘Mushroom Mahila’
Veena Devi, fondly known as ‘Mushroom Mahila’ for popularizing mushroom cultivation, was one of the awardees.

Women are said to be symbol of positivity, determination, strong will-power, courage, and a lot more things. QatarIndians.com wishes all the Women on this special day!

Image Credit: PM Narendra Modi | Twitter Source

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India’s handloom industry faces gloom and doom | Support this by wearing the hand-loom saree!

India’s handloom industry faces gloom and doom | Support this by wearing the hand-loom saree!

GST benefits to weavers is just another yarn

By George Julius Williams | Consulting Editor

The handloom industry in India exudes a national identity that is revered all over the world given its unique, unparalleled and rich heritage. It exhibits the spectacular craft of the artisans and nourishes the social fabric of the country.

The sector generates maximum employment in India (after agriculture) and also has the largest number of weavers in the world.

It has been particularly favourable for women empowerment in the country too, a significant factor on International Women’s Day.

And although the demand for handloom fabric in India, as well as abroad remains significant, competition from power looms and falling incomes, among other external factors, have forced skilled weavers across the country to struggle for survival.

Digital India and technological advancements are rightly encouraged in the country, under the current majority- ruled government, but sadly, this impacts the handloom industry negatively and the cut-throat competition from power looms and other external factors have put the very existence of the handloom sector in doubt.

Many have abandoned their looms and migrated in search of other livelihoods leaving colourful threads that merge, after a multi-level intricate process into exquisite handloom sarees, into complete disarray.

This year’s budget presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has not brought much cheer to the handloom sector which was hoping for some good news after the previous years had dealt a massive blow to the handloom sector with major downgrading in the financial allocations from Rs 604 in 2017-18 to Rs 386 in 2018-19.

Unfortunately, this year it was was a mere Rs 485 crore.

The government which on one hand promises to promote the handloom sector under the Make In India programme should really reconsider the step-motherly treatment meted out by Ms Sithraman to the handloom industry and the poor weavers who depend on it for their very livelihood.

Demonetisation has demonized the poor weavers who also had to suffer the effects of GST tax where repeated taxation on yarn, dyes, chemical, as well as the product again, ends in a compromised selling price for the product which leaves the weavers with extremely low benefits.

Most of these weavers are not registered with GSTN and GST itself is too complicated a tax structure for them. Neither are the mostly uneducated weavers familiar with input credit nor is the poor weaver able maintain strategic records or claim returns.

Cash crisis has hit the weavers with strict norms for money withdrawals have deprived them of any non-governmental and/or private loan lender support.

Rising costs, unfair competition, huge cuts in yarn supply scheme allocations and fossil fuel prices are all adding to the woes of the poor handloom weavers. It seems there has been a deliberate and definite move to kill the handloom industry in the country.

The handloom industry has never seen such a huge downgrading in the past 100 years!

Instead, ironically the Union Finance Minister has in this year’s budget announced a National Technical Textiles Mission, which is expected to give thrust to production of a wide variety of textiles used in sectors such as healthcare, infrastructure, automobiles, defense, and agriculture.

This Rs1,480 crore Mission, to be implemented from 2020-2021 to 2023-2024, aims at positioning India as a global leader in technical textiles.

“India imports significant quantity of technical textiles worth $16 billion every year. To reverse this trend and to position India as a global leader, a National Technical Textiles Mission is proposed,” she said.

While one can laud the Finance Minister’s lofty thoughts of increasing exports and decreasing imports by making the Indian technical textile industry a global leader, a sorry state of affairs awaits the poor handloom weavers in a miserable state of doom and gloom.

However, not all is lost. The only welcome move is the announcement of the National Handloom Day on the 7th of August – a mere week before the Independence Day.

The high profile celebration, initiated and actively participated by the honourable Prime Minister Shri Narender Modi has optimistically raised the hopes of handloom weavers, producers and consumers alike.

Lets all hope that not all is lost for handloom industry in India and the nation remembers that Mahatma Gandhi started the Swadeshi Movement and re-introduced hand spinning in the name of Khadi which essentially means hand-spun and hand-woven.

Let’s save this timeless tradition and support Handloom – and what better way on this International Women’s Day for Indian women to go out and support this historical and traditional by wearing the handloom saree!

Sources:

* Sinchita Maji – Threadbare in Santipur: The Plight of Handloom Weavers

  • Ananya Borgohain, Senior Correspondent –Economic Times Weaving out of trouble: Handloom industry looks at Budget 2018 to solve woes
  • The Hans India – Handloom sector gets a raw deal
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Covid-19: Union Health Ministry issues revised travel advisory

Covid-19: Union Health Ministry issues revised travel advisory

The Indian government issued a revised travel advisory for travelers from Covid-19 affected countries. Ministry has tightened the conditions for the new travelers from affected countries which includes Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan with immediate effect. The revised advisory states,

In view of the emerging global scenarios regarding COVID19, in supersession of all earlier advisories, the following advisories are issued for immediate implementation:

  1. All regular (sticker) Visas/e-Visa (including VoA for Japan and South Korea) granted to nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and issued on or before 03.03.2020 and who have not yet entered India, stand suspended with immediate effect. Those requiring to travel to India due to compelling reasons may seek fresh visa from the nearest Indian Embassy/Consulate.
  2. Regular (sticker) visa/e-Visa granted to nationals of the People Republic of China, issued on or before 05.02.2020 were suspended earlier. It shall remain in force. Those needing to travel to India under compelling circumstances may apply for fresh visa to the nearest Indian Embassy/Consulate.
  3. Regular (sticker) visas/e-Visas granted to all foreign nationals who have travelled to Peoples Republic of China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan on or after 01.02.2020, and who have not yet entered India stand suspended with immediate effect. Those requiring to travel to India under compelling circumstance may apply for fresh visa to nearest Indian Embassy/Consulate.
  4. Diplomats, official of UN and other International bodies, OCI cardholders and Aircrew from above countries are exempted from such restriction on entry. However, their medical screening is compulsory.
  5. Passengers of all international flights entering into India from any port are required to furnish duly filled self-declaration form (including personal particulars i.e. phone no. and address in India) and travel history, to Health Officials and Immigration officials at all ports.
  6. Passengers (foreign and India) other than those restricted, arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan must undergo medical screening at port of entry.
  7. Indian citizens are advised to refrain from travel to China, Iran, Republic of Korea, Italy and advised to avoid non-essential travel to other COVID-19 affected countries.

Source Credit:  IndianEmbassyQatar

For any queries related to health, people may contact the ministry of health & family welfare 24*7 at helpline number (+91-11-23978046) or email at [email protected]

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Indian Cricket Team reached maiden Women’s T20 World Cup final 2020

Indian Cricket Team reached maiden Women’s T20 World Cup final 2020

Big day for Indian Cricket Team as they have reached ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final. India’s semifinal against England was washed out due to pouring rain at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

ICC officials declared the match has been called off without a ball being bowled. This made unbeaten Harmanpreet Kaur’s Indian Cricket team to make their finals as they topped the table.

Indian Cricket Team reached maiden Women’s T20 World Cup final 2020

Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur also opined that it’s unfortunate when a game loses in front of the weather. She endorsed the idea of having a reserve day for future events. Shafali Verma, the topper in the ICC T20 batting rankings is the second Indian after Mithali Raj to reach the number one position.

This is the first time Indian Women’s cricket team made it to finals of the ICC T20 World Cup. India will now play against four-times champions Australia at the MCG on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

India won the league match against Australia earlier in this tournament and the final match offers a repeat of the very first game.  Will India repeat?

QatarIndians.com team wish Team India to continue their unbeaten campaign at the MCG to lift the T20 World cup 2020.

INDIAN TEAM
  • TANIYA BHATIATaniya Bhatia
  • HARLEEN DEOLHarleen Deol
  • RAJESHWARI GAYAKWADRajeshwari Gayakwad
  • RICHA GHOSHRicha Ghosh
  • VEDA KRISHNAMURTHYVeda Krishnamurthy
  • SMRITI MANDHANASmriti Mandhana
  • SHIKHA PANDEYShikha Pandey
  • ARUNDHATI REDDYArundhati Reddy
  • JEMIMAH RODRIGUESJemimah Rodrigues
  • DEEPTI SHARMADeepti Sharma
  • POOJA VASTRAKARPooja Vastrakar
  • SHAFALI VERMAShafali Verma
  • POONAM YADAVPoonam Yadav
  • RADHA YADAVRadha Yadav

Image Credit: India reached a maiden women’s Twenty20 World Cup final(PTI)

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FASTag to become mandatory for all vehicles from 1st December 2019 | ‘Digital India’ initiative

FASTag to become mandatory for all vehicles from 1st December 2019

So you better get your tag … real fast!

Special Correspondent

Delhi: In line with the Indian government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative, Nitin Gadkari, the Road Transport and Highways Minister, has announced that FASTags will become mandatory for all vehicles, private and commercial, from December 1, 2019.

As per media reports, vehicles without FASTags will have to now pay up to twice the normal rate at toll-gates across the country.

With only one week left for the rule to be implemented, it is important that vehicle owners/drivers get their Fastag asap if they do not have it already.

According to official sources, the new Fastag initiative has a three-fold purpose. Firstly, it is being put into effect to further bolster digital payments throughout the country, secondly to act as an effective means to decongest highways and finally to promote transparency through digital payments.

Fastag is surely on the fast track to help make ‘Digital India’ a reality but what real benefits does this new initiative aimed towards cashless toll payments have in for the end-user? Or will it take a toll on the already overburdened highway user?

There are currently issued by 22 certified banks through various channels such as Point-of-Sale (POS) at National Highway toll plazas and bank branches.

The Economic Times further explains the nitty-gritty of Digital India’s Fastag initiative:

What is FASTag and how does it work?

FASTag is a passive device, affixed to a vehicle’s windscreen, which works on the principle of radio frequency identification (RFID) and enables cashless toll payments without requiring the vehicle to stop and wait in a queue.

When a motorist drives a vehicle equipped with the RFID tag through a dedicated-toll plaza lane, a FASTag reader automatically detects the tagged vehicle and charges the appropriate amount from a linked account, while the vehicle is still in motion.

The motorist gets intimated about the toll deducted via SMS on his registered mobile number.

Where can the FASTag be used?

FASTags were introduced over four years ago and until now, their usage has been optional. At the moment, they can be used at over 500 toll plazas across the country, including all national highways as well as some state highways.

However, beginning December 1, FASTags will become mandatory for all four-wheeler passenger vehicles and all commercial vehicles including buses, trucks, tractors and construction machinery at all national highways. This means that all lanes at national highway toll plazas will only allow electronic toll collection through FASTag, with just one lane reserved for collection through cash.

Almost 90 percent toll plazas are ready with FASTag infrastructure and only some new toll plazas will face teething issues.

What are the benefits of FASTag?

The implementation of FASTag can help alleviate numerous problems. Since coming to a complete halt at the turnpike for cash transactions is not required, major bottlenecks on highways are avoided.

Commuters save time that they otherwise would have wasted waiting in long queues. The expeditious passage of vehicles through toll plazas also helps in reducing fuel consumption and ultimately curbing air pollution.

Moreover, the whole system promotes digital payments, reduces cash handling and increases transparency.

As an added incentive, motorists paying toll through FASTag at any national highway are promised a 2.5 percent cashback till March 31, 2020.

How can a FASTag be acquired?

In the run-up to the December 1 deadline, new passenger vehicles nowadays are already equipped with FASTags.

Existing vehicle owners can purchase the RFID tags from more than 20 NETC authorised member banks (the complete list of which is available here).

Additionally, they are also retailed through point-of-sale (POS) locations at select toll plazas, the NPCI website, Amazon website and the official MyFASTag app on the Google Play Store.

The price of a FASTag is fixed at Rs 100, but the threshold balance to be loaded in the FASTag account will differ as per the issuer’s transaction rules.

To further facilitate the adoption of the new technology, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been directed to issue free FASTags till December 1.

Free FASTags will be available at all points of sale of the NHAI and they will also be made available at other places having a high potential of sales.

Consequently, the security deposit for each of the tags issued from designated outlets, until November end, will be borne by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Some of the documents required for obtaining and activating a FASTag include the vehicle’s registration certificate and the owner’s photograph and other identity proofs.

Moreover, a FASTag is vehicle specific and is linked to the car’s registration. As such, once assigned to a vehicle, it cannot be transferred to another vehicle. The tag has a validity of 5 years.

How can a FASTag be recharged?

A FASTag can either be linked to a prepaid account or to the customer’s savings/current account. The former requires the tag to be topped up as per the owner’s usage. This can be done through any UPI-enabled smartphone app and also through the MyFASTag app. Additionally, users have the choice of recharging their accounts from the issuer bank’s website using debit cards, credit cards, and net banking.

The NETC digital platform has already proved to be quite promising over the past four years.

In September this year, an average of 9.7 lakh transactions were processed daily through FASTags across the country.

Since the programme began, over 56 crore FASTag payments amounting to Rs 13,449 crore had been processed till the end of September 2019.

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Diwali 2019 | What’s all this noise about environment during Diwali?

Diwali 2019 | What’s all this noise about environment during Diwali?

By George Julius Williams

Diwali is just around the corner, and as in previous years, environmentalists in India are hell-bent on enlightening people and giving sound advice on the effects of air and noise pollution during this holy festival of lights (and sound).

The exploding cries of the environmentalists forced Supreme Court last year to intervene and spur the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to direct its National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Nagpur to develop “green crackers”.

A team at NEERI comprising of 24 scientists cum res­earchers and helmed by Dr. Mrs. Sadhana Rayul, took nine months to develop the first prototypes, followed by tests to produce India’s first ‘green fireworks’.

And this Diwali, these would be tested by people.

The project led by the CSIR-NEERI has come up with green firecrackers, which will not contain, or have in reduced amounts, polluting chemicals such as aluminum, potassium nitrate and carbon. By doing so, the government claims, these fireworks will release 30% less particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 into the atmosphere. That means, emissions will come down by 15 to 30 %. Also, CSIR has developed flower pots/anaars that can reduce particulate matter by 40%.

The eco-friendly firecrackers are named Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL). These will release water vapour into the air as a dust suppressant and dilute gaseous emissions

Unfortunately, only a handful of companies are manufacturing ‘green firecrackers’.  In the firecracker-manufacturing hub of Sivakasi, just a few factories have got the required ‘green’ licences. The area has 1,070 factories, employing around 300,000 people, while another 500,000 are involved in ancillary businesses such as boxing of firecrackers.

A Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) official feels that more makers will come forward once the top court gives its decision on barium nit­rate. “They are waiting for more clarity,” he explained.

The court has banned barium, which is generally used in anaars, chakras, rockets and phooljaris. Almost all the eco-friendly products can be manufactured, but a few categories can come out only when the court gives its directions on barium – the chemical element used to produce the colour green.

Although, the ‘green crackers’ will reduce emissions by at least 30 % scientists feel that these will hardly help clean up the air.

But the response has been enthusiastic. “The eco-friendly route, if adopted properly, can do wonders especially since the fire-crackers industry along with NEERI is doing its best to design improved formulations, even smokeless firecrackers and as we go ahead, we will have many variants and compositions developed by us and other six CSIR institutions,” according to NEERI director Rakesh Kumar.

The hunt for fireworks emitting little or no smoke has intensified over the past few years when Delhi and its neighbouring states were choked in a haze, so much so that the government had to bring punishing measures such as fines for stubble-burning.

And this Diwali, memories of that smoke shroud ret­urns to haunt. Director Dr Gufran Beig of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) which tracks pollution levels has sent out a warning already – Delhi’s air quality has plummeted to “poor”. Beig is hopeful that green crackers will help reduce extreme pollution but he admits that the air cannot be cleaned overnight, but steady progress is happening.

Unfortunately, far only 160 manufacturers are on board and number is a whimper considering the size of India’s fireworks industry that is worth IRs 20,000 crore in annual sales but largely remains a non-organised industry. That amount inc­ludes IRs 5,000 crore of Chinese products, market experts say, though possession and sale of imported fireworks are illegal.

China has no reason to worry about any Indian ban on its goods, according to an article in The Global Times, basing its argument on the premise that “India’s manufacturing sector is highly uncompetitive against China’s, which is able to offer daily necessities with a high performance-price ratio.”

The article then brings Prime Minster Modi into its argument who has been quoted as telling Network18 that  – “Some Indians are choosing to boycott Chinese products, it is a matter for the public to decide. As far as public sentiment toward Chinese goods is concerned, we should leave it to their sooj-boojh (wisdom).”

But experts feel the Chinese boycott is doomed to fail and Indian people will eventually comply with the wisdom of the consumer who promotes the ghost of nationalism to boycott Chinese products in the short term but will finally choose products with a high performance-price ratio in the long term, no matter where those products are made.

And coming to noise pollution, Diwali was kinder on the ears last year, compared to previous years, according to The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India’s top pollution watchdog.

The data showed that the ambient noise level at 70 locations in 7 major cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad revealed that compared to last Diwali, 56 locations witnessed a decrease in and 10 an increase in noise pollution during the day. 53 locations saw a decrease and 14 places an increase. Out of 70 locations, only 9 locations are meeting both the daytime and night-time standards.

Noise pollution causes deleterious effects on the health and psychological well-being of people. Experts say noise in excess of 90 decibels can cause neurosis and nervous breakdown and eventually loss of hearing and irreversible changes in the nervous system.

With air and noise pollution reaching emergency levels in the capital and adjoining areas, the Centre is planning to meet state environment ministers to discuss measures to improve the quality of the atmosphere.

So come this Diwali, according to both PM Modi and NEERI, the decision to reduce air and noise pollution will lie literally in the hands of the Indian people.

Will Indians get enlightened and listen to sound advice this Dipawali? Well, this is a question that can only be answered when the after-effects of this festival are complied and revealed by the relevant agencies.

Once the sound and smoke have settled down and the lights dimmed will we know, if this Diwali was ‘sweet’ music to the ears of the environmentalists, as compared to previous years.

QatarIndians wishes all its readers a Happy, Prosperous and Safe Diwali!

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