KATHMANDU, Nov 8: Nilima Poudel 27, a resident of Naikaap, visits eye doctor frequently after her eye was injured by a firecracker a few years ago. She doesn´t like to remember that day of Laxmipuja when celebrations turned into a nightmare for her and her family.
Nilima´s injury is not an isolated incident. Every year during Tihar there are regular reports of serious injuries to people and reports of fires that gut several houses which are all blamed on the haphazard use of firecrackers.
And each year, the government issues notices urging the people not to indulge in firecrackers with explicit warning that those found involved in such activities are liable to legal action, including jail terms.
The government says such ban on the sale and use of firecrackers are necessary to avoid unnecessary injuries and damages to property.
With Tihar fast approaching, District Administration Offices has once again stepped up what it calls “preventive measures” in the markets and residential areas in Kathmandu valley against the use and trade of firecrackers.
"In order to prevent mishap in Kathmandu Valley we are organizing awareness programs against firecrackers and probability of casualties," said Chudamani Sharma, Chief District officer (CDO) of Kathmandu.
The ban on firecrackers not only protects from serious injuries but also prevents the environment from being polluted and minimizes unnecessary expenses, he said. "It is not necessary to celebrate the festival this way, without considering its bad effects" Sharma said. "Such activities disturb mental peace eventually."
Nilima, the victim of firecracker, said many people are handicapped and blinded for life and some are even killed.
"My personal experience makes it clear that firecrackers possess more negative qualities than the positive ones so it should be strictly banned in Nepal. There are better ways to celebrate Tihar," she said.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Dhiraj Pratap Singh, spokesperson at Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, said people trading in firecrackers and owing or bursting them would be arrested and charged under the Explosives Act.
DSP Singh said the police had increased patrols along the border with India and intensified checks on the entry points into the Kathmandu Valley as most of the firecrackers are imported from India. The Nepali police have also coordinated with their Indian counterparts to check the smuggling of the firecrackers into the country.
He said, "We have deployed increased number of police officers and sniffer dogs at different check points, including Thankot.”
He added that the smugglers try to hide firecrackers in different parts of vehicles which are not easily accessible. "We are strictly checking each and every vehicles, mainly cargo trucks from India, so as to not let firecrackers enter the valley," said Singh.
However some youths in Kathmandu says instead of banning firecrackers completely, the government should regulate its use by limiting the age of the buyers, allowing their use only for certain days of the festival and banning “destructive and harmful types of crackers”.
“Younger people are not in favor of government´s decision to ban firecrackers which give out colorful lights,” said Rabindra Thapa, a TU student. “We must not forget that Tihar is the festival of lights.”
Police meanwhile has continued its drive against the firecrackers. Recently a man was arrested with 68 packets of firecrackers which the police said was intended or sale.
The government warning and police crackdown does seem to be deterring people. The number of arrests for the sale and use of firecrackers this year was significantly down.
"Our main concern is to maintain peace and security in the society and we banned firecrackers in view of effective law and order situation", DSP Singh said adding that officers had been given sweeping powers to search houses from where sounds of firecrackers are heard, even if those belonged to police officers.
"We requests and alert landlords and guardians to check that tenants and their children do not use firecrackers in their houses which could invite legal consequences," Singh said.