In what has now become a recurring annual story, last-minute announcements about restrictions on firecrackers during Deepavali last weekend created needless confusion among manufacturers, retailers and the general public.

If the government was truly concerned about firecrackers and their impact on air pollution, especially during the pandemic, it should have introduced a policy well in advance rather than a blanket ban introduced late in the day.

Reducing emissions from firecrackers cannot be achieved overnight. It requires a stable multi-year policy that balances public health concerns, the economic interests of the industry and workers, and the cultural sensitivities of the common people.

Moreover, the air pollution crisis in India calls for a comprehensive multi-source, round-the-year, nationwide approach. Addressing the air pollution crisis needs both a scientific lens for mitigating emissions from the major sources, as well as a social justice lens on who is made to bear the costs.

Two gaps

Despite the well-understood contribution of sources like industries, vehicles, waste burning, and road and construction dust, air pollution gets portrayed as a seasonal issue with firecrackers and stubble burning as the main culprits. This reveals two major gaps in the air quality debate in the country.

First, instead of looking for permanent, long term solutions to the crisis, government...

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