CONSUMER RIGHTS
Do not take this lightly
Pushpa Girimaji

Anars are responsible for 96 per cent of burn injuries
Anars are responsible for 96 per cent of burn injuries. Photo by Parvesh Chauhan

TEN years ago, pleading for a blanket ban on conical anars(flower pots), Dinesh Mohan from IIT had argued before the Supreme Court that even if manufacturers achieved 95 per cent efficiency in quality control procedures, the remaining five per cent of faulty fireworks could pose a threat to users. And this was not a small threat given the large number of anars sold.

With Divali just days away, the case merits recall of a Divali in 1997. A day before Divali, Shivan Kumar of Pune purchased 24 anars in four cartons from a licensed dealer and even procured a proper cash receipt for it.

However, the next day on Divali as he lit the anar, it exploded like a bomb. Shivan Kumar suffered severe burn injuries on his right hand and had to be hospitalised.

Subsequently, he filed a complaint before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in Pune seeking a compensation of Rs 50,000, besides Rs 25,000 towards plastic surgery. The forum awarded Rs 50,000, along with 18 per cent interest, calculated from October 20, 1997. The Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission upheld this, but reduced the rate of interest from 18 to 12 per cent.

The message from the order is that the courts will not condone poor quality firecrackers and hold both the manufacturers and the seller liable for any injury or harm caused to the consumer as a result of their use. The case also highlights the dangers inherent in crackers in general, and conical anars in particular.

Before buying fireworks remember:

  • Pyrotechnic devices of poor quality spell certain danger. Even good quality crackers are not safe because accidents do happen.

  • Crackers are a public safety hazard when sold in crowded markets in violation of rules.

  • They contribute to atmospheric pollution, aggravating respiratory diseases, allergic conditions.

  • They are responsible for noise pollution. Three years ago, the Supreme Court had set sound limits of 125 decibels for crackers and all of them should carry a label conforming to the sound limit.

  • During Divali, the government spends huge amounts of money in putting out fires caused by crackers and treating burn victims. Last year, there were more than 200 firecracker-related fires on Divali.

  • Firecrackers are also expensive and almost every year, their prices increase every year.

Can you celebrate Divali in a safer and healthier way?

A look at the quality specifications for conical crackers laid down by the BIS reveals the reason for such explosion. Besides specifying the quantity and the exact composition of the chemicals to be filed in and the quality of the outer casing, the standards say that while filling the pyrotechnic composition in the anar, it is important to avoid the formation of cavities or sections of loose powder or air bags that may cause explosion. If this is not strictly adhered to, the anar could well explode.

Unfortunately, this is a fact that not many consumers are aware of even today, despite government awareness programmes. Studies conducted in the 1990s by Prof Mohan and his team at the Centre for Biomedical Engineering, IIT, had identified anars as the culprits in 96 per cent of burn injuries during Divali. Poor quality and carelessness on the part of the users were identified as the two main causes of such accidents.

But unfortunately, the four-member expert group appointed by the Supreme Court to examine the issue opined that instead of a blanket ban, the government and the firecracker industry should aim at quality control and educate consumers.

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