Gangtok, October 31 (IANS) Next Diwali if you want to escape the noise and toxic air associated with Diwali, head for Sikkim.
The small, northeastern state, with a population of a little over 610,000 with 82 per cent literacy, has managed to do what other states and administrations have failed - ban the use of firecrackers and celebrate a clean, 'green' Diwali, with active support of an enlightened citizenry.
Diwali was celebrated in Sikkim with lights and sparkles but minus the noise and chemical pollution that has come to be associated with the festival of lights elsewhere in the country.
"Our young people have been in the forefront of the campaign to ban noisy and toxic firecrackers," P.D. Rai, the lone Sikkim MP in Parliament belonging to the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) of Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, told IANS.
In 2014 there was a public outcry because that year the noise levels and the extensive use of firecrackers had many citizens up in arms. It had reached an inflection point. A government notification was issued December 19 of that year banning the use of "all types of firecrackers", particularly sound-emitting ones.
As a result, in 2015, there was a 50 percent drop in use of firecrackers. This year there was a massive campaign to make citizens aware and the move was endorsed wholeheartedly by the people, particularly the young.
Street plays were organised with participation of school children. The initiative of Gangtok mayor Shakti Singh Choudhary, who organised many such marches and plays, was lauded by all.
Sikkim was recently adjudged the cleanest state in the country. Its four districts have been ranked among top 10 districts in the country in sanitation and cleanliness in a report by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.