Assam Health, Finance and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on 10 November, while urging people to exercise self-restraint during Diwali to combat Covid-19, slammed the tendency of some authorities and a section of the commentariat to impose bans on firecrackers and other ingredients of celebrations on every Hindu occasion.
Taking to Twitter, Sarma wrote, “Like any other religion, Hindus have the right to celebrate festivals. With improvement in #COVID19 situation in Assam, we plan no restrictions on celebration of #Diwali including use of #Firecrackers.”
“However, kindly remember, self-restraint is key to combat #COVID19”.
The minister’s statement has, however, confused the people as well as police officials, as they are unsure whose direction to follow. While the Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) says the ban is due to COVID-19 as the smoke could harm patients, Sarma on the other hand said the COVID situation in the state has vastly improved.
The PCBA, through a notification on 10 November, stated that the sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers in Guwahati had been banned till 30 November as air pollution increases the risk of mortality from Covid-19. It said the bursting of firecrackers would release a lot of harmful chemicals, which would severely impact the respiratory health of vulnerable groups and such pollutants could further aggravate health conditions of Covid-19 positive persons, including those in home isolation.
The order stated that in other areas, except for Guwahati, only green crackers could be sold and bursting would be allowed only for two hours during Diwali from 8 PM to 10 PM. During Chhath Puja, firecrackers will be allowed from 6 am to 8 am and during Christmas and New Year’s Eve from 11:55 pm to 12:30 AM.
Himanta Biswa Sarma won the 2016 Assembly elections and was sworn in as Cabinet Minister on 24 May 2016. The BJP leadership appointed him the convener of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) of which the main objective is an all-round development of the North East and better coordination among the states and Centre, according to Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of BJP.