Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on November 10 said that “like any other religion, Hindus have the right to celebrate festival” even as the Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCB) issued a blanket ban on the sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in Guwahati in the wake of Diwali celebrations.

“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,” Sarma tweeted on November 10.

Diwali will be celebrated on November 14.

The PCB order came following the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directives in which the tribunal observed that bursting of firecrackers should be avoided to check on both air and noise pollution.

As per the Pollution Control Board, bursting of firecrackers releases a copious amount of harmful chemicals, which have a severe impact on the respiratory health of vulnerable groups and such pollutants can further aggravate health conditions of COVID-19 positive persons besides person staying in home isolation.

The PCB order said that except Guwahati, in other areas only green crackers can be sold and bursting is allowed only for two hours during Diwali festival from 8 pm to 10 pm; during Chatt Puja from 6 am to 8 am and during Christmas and New Year eve from 11.55 pm to 12.30 am.

Though a few supported the minister’s tweet, many have opposed his views.

“Everything’s fine but please implement a complete ban on bursting of crackers. We can celebrate Diwali without polluting the air and torturing the poor animals,” wrote one Manas Barua in a reply to Sarma’s tweet.

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