Beware of poor quality crackers
Pushpa Girimaji

WITH Diwali round the corner, it is time for the customary warning on firecrackers. This year I would like to do that by recalling an order of the apex consumer court pertaining to firecrackers. It serves the dual purpose of reminding customers about the dangers inherent in the bursting of firecrackers and also warning dealers and manufacturers that they will be held accountable for
substandard firecrackers.

Decided in 2003, this order pertains to an injury suffered by Shivan Kumar of Pune, a day before Diwali in 1997. Kumar had purchased 24 flower-pots packed in four cartons from a licensed dealer, and procured a proper cash receipt for it, too. However, on the day of the festival, as he lit a flower- pot, it exploded like a bomb, resulting in his sustaining severe burn injuries on his right hand, requiring hospitalisation and plastic surgery.

In response to his complaint, the state commission awarded him Rs 50,000 as compensation, along with interest calculated from the day of the accident. This was upheld by the apex court. The clear message from the order is that the courts will not condone poor quality firecrackers and will hold not just the manufacturer but also the seller liable for any injury or harm caused to the consumer as a result of such firecrackers. The order also acts as a reminder to clients that they need to pay utmost heed to safety when it comes to firecrackers.

In fact, considering that these firecrackers are the cause of many serious fire accidents and injuries, we must really ponder over whether it is worth it to buy these pyrotechnic devices at all in the first place. In fact already in Kanpur, five people, including three children, have died as a result of an accident involving firecrackers kept in a bag on a cycle—again a grim reminder of the dangers from these firecrackers.

Then, of course, they do not come cheap. Already there are reports that the price of these have gone up by as much as 25 per cent this year. Do you still want to waste money on them? But if you feel that it is an integral part of the festivities, and firecrackers must be lit on Diwali day, then consider community bursting and display of fireworks. If done in an open area with adequate precautions and emergency fire-fighting equipment, the chances of accidents and injuries are minimised. This way children can also enjoy the fireworks, without getting injured.

Talking of children, I must warn parents about sparklers. In the belief that they are relatively safe, parents allow young children to light them and hold in them in their hands. Well, an NGO in the US—Prevent Blindness America— says that rockets and sparklers contribute to about 57 per cent of the burn injuries caused by firecrackers, and many of the victims of sparkler-related injuries are young children.

‘Caps’ are another variety of firecrackers that children are often allowed to play with, without supervision. These innocuous looking ‘caps,’ that come in individual packs or in rolls or strips that children love to burst either by using them in a toy gun or by rubbing or striking them against a hard surface, have also been responsible for serious injuries to children.

Kids, for example, stuff these in their pockets, without realising that they could well ignite in the pocket due to friction, causing burn injuries. They can also cause immense harm when fired close to a child’s ear. Children do not understand the implications of playing with these and that’s why parents need to be extra careful.

In the US, following a large number of accidents involving these ‘caps’ used in toy guns, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, that looks at the safety of all consumer products, issued a regulation limiting the decibel level of caps to a maximum of 158. So, play safe and have a happy Diwali.