In a familiar post-Diwali annual ritual, headlines in the national media this morning screamed pollution, especially in the north of India. The situation is particularly dire this year in Delhi-NCR where particulate matter in the air has shot up 42 times above permissible limits. A UNICEF report recently revealed most of the 2 billion children in the world exposed to toxic air live in North India and its neighbourhoods.
Was the scenario any different in the South? Here's an overview of the Diwali, also known as Deepavali, gone by in the other half of the country, where the levels of pollution may be relatively lesser but the overall damages of the festival are more or less similar.
According to The Indian Express, the air quality index in Bengaluru stood at "Moderate", with particulate matter levels going up three times the permissible limits. But the menace of loud firecrackers left a trail of fatalities across the south, apart their deafening noise.
The Hindu reported a spate of firecracker-related injuries, especially to the eyes of little children who had tried to burst them unsupervised. As many as 19 cases cases were reported from four eye hospitals, including one involving an 11-year-old boy in danger of losing his sight. A 40-year-old was admitted to a hospital after suffering 4% burns.
In Chennai, gang wars on the eve of Deepavali left three dead in two places. In Kannagi Nagar, a fight broke over the selling of drugs, resulting in the death of two people. In Vyasarpadi, another person was hacked to death by the members of a rival gang. The police have arrested three people within hours of these incidents. Air pollution levels in the city also spiked, especially in Sowcarpet and Nungambakkam areas. Although the mornings were quieter in many parts of the city, the festivities, especially bursting of firecrackers, went on till late into the night.
While the residents of Chennai were busy with their celebrations, a few good people kept vigil for the animals of the city. Activists rushed to different parts to treat strays injured in the festivities. Reports said a dog died of burns in Kodambakkam, while a monkey suffered burns on its legs after climbing up a transformer in Sowcarpet. A cormorant was rescued from a tree, while a street dog was found cowering under the bed in a residential building. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claimed to have rescued some 19 birds and animals during Deepavali this year.
In Coimbatore, a plea for "clean and green" Deepavali met with partial success. In certain areas like R.S. Puram, empty boxes of firecrackers and waste littered the streets, according to reports. However, some did take the pledge more seriously. The municipal corporation had appealed to people to post messages, images and videos of their "clean and green" Deepavali celebrations on a WhatsApp number. After all the entries are considered today, some would be considered for awards and special certifications.
Shopkeepers in Hyderabad reported a decline in the sales of "Chinese firecrackers", while the authorities granted permission to store only 15 kg of such merchandise to be stored in populated areas, leaving the rest in warehouses.
The most heartening news, however, seemed to have come from the city of Erode in Tamil Nadu. People in 8 villages there around the Vellode bird sanctuary have not celebrated Deepavali in the last 17 years, to not scare away the migratory avian population coming there, mainly from Australia and New Zealand. Until two years ago, even sparklers were not used in these villages. Although the younger generation has started burning these, there is still a complete avoidance of loud firecrackers.
Also on HuffPost: