- Seed crackers are made from recycled material and local seeds
- Seed crackers are pollution-free crackers that can be planted
- Handmade by rural women, these crackers are helping them earn a livelihood
New Delhi: Every year, as Diwali approaches, the debate over banning firecrackers takes the centre stage. It is a question of celebrating with a sense of responsibility, as every year many gasp for breath as the pollution level cross the highly dangerous mark. But imagine, if crackers don’t pollute, and, in fact, help in reducing pollution and increasing the green cover? And instead of being filled with toxic metals that are life-threatening, they contain life-giving substances? Gram Art Project, a collective of farmers, painters, social workers, and writers from Paradsinga village in Chhindwara district, on the border of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra is making such eco-friendly crackers.
Gunpowder Vs Seeds
Under their initiative called ‘Barood Vs Beej’ or gunpowder Vs seeds, Gram Art Project has been making eco-friendly crackers for the last two years. Known by the name ‘beej patakha’ or seed crackers, these seed bombs when thrown on Earth, with seedlings that will grow into plants. According to Vedant Bhattad, a worker at the Gram Art Project, these crackers are handmade and contain local seeds sourced by local farmers and forest dwellers. He added,
We make exact replicas of real crackers using recycled papers and environment-friendly and non-toxic colours. Instead of affecting birds and animals by causing sound, light and air pollution, these are nature-friendly and habitat-rejuvenating. So, to have a celebration that is conscious and does not harm the environment, all you have to do is soak these crackers for 1-2 hours, then sow the seeds in wet mud and see these crackers hatch into beautiful plants.
Talking further about the seed crackers made by the Gram Art Project, Mr Bhattad said that the Diwali box they sell has a diverse collection of plant seeds- ‘microgreen ladi’ contains seed of red amaranthus, green amaranthus, senna tora, radish, mustard, purslane and spinach. Another seed cracker that they have named as Onion Chakkar contains onion seeds, ‘tikli’ comprises coriander seeds, ‘rocket’ has cucumber seeds while ‘anar’ and ‘laxmi bomb’ have seeds of golden shower tree, agasti and sonapati and okra respectively.
While they expected only some takers for this concept, the overwhelming consumer response has left them surprised.
We made over 10,000 seed crackers for Diwali 2020 and in just two weeks’ time, we were completely sold out. This year have made over 50,000 crackers. We are very close to being out of stock again. With the price of individual crackers in the range of Rs. 20-45, the assorted boxes or gift boxes being sold on our website at Rs. 299-699. These crackers are slightly costlier than the conventional crackers. It is because we make these crackers absolutely toxin free, cruelty free and exploitation free. Procuring such raw material is costly, said Mr Bhattad.
According to Mr Bhattad, the idea behind the initiative was to find an alternative for crackers as these are one of the main attractions for children and youngsters during festivals, New Year, weddings and other celebrations. He said,
All the seeds can be planted in kitchen garden or pots or in any open space. This can be a learning experience for children also that will inculcate the habit of choosing sustainable alternatives to things in life.
Along with being environmentally friendly, the initiative is also helping rural women earn a livelihood. According to Mr Bhattad, the conventional crackers are made with all forms of exploitation including child labour, poor wages, hazardous working conditions, harm to the environment but the seed crackers on the other hand are helping the poor earn skills and livelihood and are completely exploitation free. He said,
Actually, it is not just on festivals that we do something on indigenous seeds. It’s part of our daily lives. We do farming, work on our kitchen garden, make seed papers, seed balls, work on creating awareness around seed and farming-related policies and legislations throughout the year and also consume our produce on a daily basis. But our (society as a whole) daily consumption shoots up drastically during festivals. Being part of a world where most of the things we consume is a product of exploitation instead of being the product of dignified labour and a symbiotic coexistence, it becomes a responsibility that we talk about it whenever possible. It becomes more urgent to express our concerns about this when we are at the peak of our consumption spree, that is, when we are in a celebratory mode – like during festivals, anniversaries, weddings, victories, and others. We have around 100 women working with us. They work from their homes. We provide them with skill training and material. Apart from seed crackers, these women also make seed rakhis, cards, papers, among other things. We help in selling the items made and pay them Rs. 25 per hour.
While talking to NDTV, Geeta Keskar, a 45-year-old woman who makes seed crackers said that the initiative has helped her get a better life for herself and her three children. She said,
My husband is a worker in a factory but it was really difficult for us to manage our expenditure with only one source of income. Both of us wanted our three children- one son and two daughters to get a good education and so I decided to work as well but as my children were young, it was difficult for me to work out of the house. I got to know about the Gram Art project and started working with them from my house only. Now I am able to earn about Rs.5,000-8,000 per month depending on the work. This proved even more helpful when during the Covid lockdown, my husband’s income was reduced to half. I think it is also a good way to give back to the environment rather than bursting crackers that lead to pollution.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.