“We have witnessed largescale violations at high-rises and tall buildings in previous years. This year, we have started a special campaign under which we have been meeting representatives of residents’ welfare associations and spreading awareness on the gravity of the situation. We have been pasting the high court order and other guidelines and asking the residents to strictly follow the restrictions,” said Mukesh Kumar, commissioner of Bidhannagar City Police. While in the previous years, the pre-Diwali meetings between cops and residents’ associations were more about requesting them to adhere to legal and green crackers, this year, the cops said the instructions were clear: legal action would be taken in case of any reported violation and that might lead to one-night’s detention at the local police station. The offender might even be punished with a month’s imprisonment and fine.
Kolkata Police has taken the campaign a step further and roped in doctors during their campaigns. At the meetings, the doctors explain how the toxic fume from firecrackers can worsen the condition of a Covid patient or even a person who have recovered. “We arranged for doctors to explain how bursting of crackers can complicate the health of Covid patients as well as survivors. Fireworks produce gaseous substances, such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which affect the respiratory system as well as the protective mucosal layer of lungs, magnifying the risk of attack by different viruses, including Sars-CoV-2,” said a senior police officer from south division.
“We have told members of gated communities that since it was a high court order, we would file cases and draw up prosecutions against any violator. But we also reminded them that being responsible citizens, they should behave accordingly. We also instructed them to cooperate with our beat officers and those who will be on evening and night rounds on the festive days,” said an officer at Lalbazar.
High-rises in Narendrapur and Sonarpur, which are outside the Kolkata Police’s jurisdiction and are also close to Champahati, a cracker manufacturing hub in South 24 Parganas, will be on police radar. “While our primary job is to ensure firecrackers from these manufacturing hubs do not go out of the district for sales in Kolkata and other parts of Bengal, we have also formed a separate team of officers who are making rounds of high-rise complexes, asking them not to buy crackers or burst them even from their balconies this year,” said Kamanasish Sen, superintendent of Baruipur police district.
Resident welfare associations, on their parts, have vowed to follow the restrictions. “We have had our first round of inspections and awareness campaigns. Our area is notorious for violation of the rule for banned crackers. But this year, we have strictly told the residents not to burst crackers. Also, we have told cops that our gates would be open for them for any inspection on festive days,” said Santanu Ghosh of Lake District Complex in Phoolbagan.
Last year, cops had been posted at several housing societies on Park Street, Shakespeare Sarani, at Bhowanipore, Lake Town and New Town to ensure that no cracker was burst after the HC-directed deadline. Similar steps were likely to be taken, cops said.
For netizens, both Kolkata and Bidhannagar police have designed a host of posters, encouraging a peaceful Diwali, reminding people of the HC order, keeping in mind well-being of Covid patients.