THE EDITOR: Well, it’s the “festive” time of the year again, the time of happy seasons that bring us joy and a touch of happiness and togetherness (other than in times of disaster).
But, as the stories have emerged on Divali night and since, this is also a time of utter nonsense that passes for revelry which has been injected into our culture in recent years as ordinary people are encouraged to send their meagre “savings” literally up in smoke.
There was a time, not that long ago, when the only fireworks we knew were on independence night. But now, from Divali to Old Year’s, we are constantly bombarded with the sound of explosions, not always accompanied with dazzling displays of light.
The merchants who have monopolised the fireworks market have entrapped us in this latest fad of conspicuous consumer consumption in which people are encouraged to spend thousands of dollars to be blown up literally in noise, fire and smoke.
Starlights, Christmas crackers, deyas, bursting bamboo and even fun snaps, the explosives merchants have used their “dazzling” advertising to entice us away from and into the world of Roman candles, bazookas, louder and louder fireworks and dangerous explosive devices called scratch bombs.
These explosives merchants seek to deflect concern about the dangers of their wares by sponsoring fireworks displays for independence and various events in their guise of good corporate citizenship.
But their disguises cannot completely mask or eradicate the dangers the stuff they peddle poses to young, old, our property, animals and our very lives. We cannot drive safely in deya-decorated streets, visit friends or even sleep in our own homes without being constantly harassed, annoyed, or endangered.
Two years ago, a grandmother suffered severe burns and broken and disfigured fingers attempting to protect her infant grandchild from the explosion of a scratch bomb projectile that entered the rear window of her vehicle.
This year three homes including a family business were burnt flat, nine people made homeless and $2 million in hard-earned assets went up in flames caused by the festive launch of a scratch bomb explosive. Happily, no one was injured, maimed or killed in this assault.
There is also the report that a teacher was brutally assaulted and hospitalised, not by an explosive device but by students claiming their “right” to use these dangerous weapons when the teacher sought to stop their use in a crowded school.
Are we going to wait until we begin to count the bodies or take the casualty reports from other serious incidents before we put a stop to this madness?
Even though the old Summary Offences Act makes the discharge of fireworks including scratch bombs in certain circumstances a criminal offence; even though other laws are supposed to control the import and sale (wholesale or retail) of explosives and also protect us from the wanton noise pollution of our spaces, despite all this, the merchants of these dangerous explosives count their sordid profits in the millions every year.
The wholesalers are even allowed to pitch tents to peddle their wares near our malls and shopping centres and scores of “small” traders have been spawned to peddle these dangerous explosive devices.
The enforcement of the law has been reduced to routine announcements and reminders by the police at major national festive times. But the assault is allowed to continue.
We cannot wait till this becomes another contributor to our “killing fields.” We must act now.
Those who profit as the merchants of destruction disguised as fun cannot claim or be allowed any privilege to endanger our health, safety and lives further.
Two years ago, when that grandmother had her hand maimed protecting her grandchild inside her own vehicle, a government minister told us he spoke sternly with the fireworks monopolists and promised new measures. Nothing positive has happened.
Prevention is better than cure. We must demand a total ban on scratch bombs or any other form of otherwise totally useless but dangerous explosives now. We cannot wait for the destruction to become the loss of a single life.
CLYDE WEATHERHEAD via e-mail