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“Depriving us from celebrating Basant is tantamount to depriving us of our fundamental rights,” Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer said. The festival of Basant was banned in Pakistan in 2005. Apart from the fact that the ban itself was not fully justified, it not only meant the loss of revenue from the tourism sector but also of discarding of our centuries old tradition. Culture is what defines us in this age and Basant is part of our culture; hence banning Basant just because the State is incapable of controlling its adverse effects is unjustifiable.
Most importantly, the imposition of ban itself is not fully justified as the decision to ban Basant was not neutral and was influenced to serve the purpose of our politicians. “The current ban on Basant, the world famous kite-flying festival of Lahore, appears to be more an outcome of political tussle between two political forces of the country than anything else (Qadeer 7).” The ban on Basant is not an outcome of pure decision making based on its pros and cons; instead the decision is politically influenced.
Basant marks the arrival of spring and is a symbol of joy and happiness. It is an integral part of our culture, heritage and lifestyle and nobody has the right to rob us from it. Basant is deeply rooted in people's psyche and lifestyle. Majority of the public is not only against the ban on Basant but is offended by this government decision. Mian Ejaz, acting district coordination officer during the DCO's absence said, “Basant should not be banned because it attracts people from all over the world and is a cultural event.” He lamented about grave problems caused by Basant but also said that the public was unwilling to support such a ban (Ali 7). Basant has been in our tradition from a long time and has become a custom and very important part of our lives.
But there are some people, particularly those with strong religious assocaition, who raise the point that Basant being a Hindu festival should be banned. Actually this is not the case; these are just illogical accusations made by these people to show their importance in the community. The Hindu festival which these people refer to is ‘Vasant Panchami' which is also called Basant. According to the article ‘Tracing the Origin of Basant', written by Dr. Shaukat Mahmood, Vasant Panchami is a Hindu festival which is about celebrating the glory of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art. In India particularly in Indian Bengal, during this festival children are taught to write their first words; Brahmins are fed; ancestors worship is performed; the god of love Kamadeva is worshipped. The festival Hindus celebrate is limited to worshipping, wearing same color clothes and relatives gathering at one place. There is no sign of kite flying in their festival which clearly shows that our tradition is different from theirs.
Basant is one of the biggest festivals in the country and is also recognized world wide. It is a sport which mainly exists in Pakistan but is well known to the rest of the world. It is a colorful festival consisting not only of kite flying but also of music, dancing and dinners. People gather together to enjoy and celebrate the arrival of spring. Yasir Qadeer states that, “It attracts tourists, not just locally but from all over the world (7).”Because of the uniqueness of Basant, people from around the world visits Pakistan to participate in the most awaited event. According to Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab, the Basant Kite Festival held in Lahore has become such a major tourist attraction that people flock from countries worldwide to participate in this unique occasion. The increase in tourism due to Basant in turn boosts the economy of Pakistan and improves the standard of living.
Another reason why Basant should not be banned is the amount of revenue generated from it is enormous. There are several ways in which revenue is generated during the Basant. Thousands of people travel and visits Pakistan to join in the festival. The revenue generated from the rental of accommodation facilities significantly increases during Basant festival because of the increased tourists. Revenue generation during Basant is not only limited to kite flying activities . During the festival a lot of events take place such as musical events and also the food streets are jammed packed with people. “The intense economic activity that went with Basant (trade, travel, hotel, tourism, shopping, etc.) was touching the $ 250 million mark — not bad, for a week-long celebration. To top it off various other quality festivals started around the Basant bonanza (notably the music conference and the international drama and puppet festival) (Mirza 3).”
However, there is some opposition and criticism about the Basant being not profitable, rather resulting in losses due to damages done to the electric wires and poles. According to Ali Pervaiz, a newspaper reporter, “Basant also faced opposition from Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and itsdistribution companiesmainly the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) and GujranwalaElectric Power Company(GEPCO) as kite flying also resulted in frequent power tripping besides damaging the sensitive installations of WAPDA and its companies.” The main cause of this power failure is the use of metallic or chemical-coated string. These strings, when come in contact with electric wire, cause the wire to tear which result in power tripping. But this is a problem which can be easily resolved. By introducing and properly implementing a law which imposes a ban on the use of such types of strings can result in overcoming the power failure issue and countering the claims made by these companies.
Kite flying business is a very large one. The industry related to it is massive with a very large market. About a week or two before the Basant, shopkeepers start to make preparations for selling kites and twine. Huge numbers of shops are set up and people invest millions of rupees in the trade. Many people are employed in the factories in which kites and twine are manufactured. “String and kite makers are working overtime on roadsides and in small factories in places like Shahdara, Murdike, Baghbanpura, Ichhra and Shadbagh. Kite making has become a sort of cottage industry involving even women and children the year round (Hanif 6).” So banning Basant, would lead to loss of employment for thousand of workers hence worsening their financial condition. For example, during the Basant the owners of the previously abandoned and dilapidated houses in Gowalmandi's food street become rich overnight as many multi-national companies hustle to rent their rooftops for the occasion. The ban on Basant would affect them along with other in the kite flying business very roughly.
The main incidents that lead to the ban on Basant were the use of the metallic and chemical-coated twine. Basant was officially banned in 2005 when a great deal of people in various cities including Rawalpindi lost their lives due to metallic or chemical-coated string that cuts instantly through the flesh like a sharp-edged weapon. Main issue regarding the ban was the damages that these razor-sharp strings caused. Many people lost their lives and many were severely injured when they came in contact with this twine while walking on roads or travelling on motorcycles. But banning is not the solution. Government should restrict the use of these types of strings. Also during these two days of kite flying, government should set a curfew on the people walking and driving motorcycles because most of the accidents happen to them. The government should alternatively provide free public bus transport during these days to accommodate those who want to travel.
In conclusion, Basant should not be banned as it creates revenue for a country and is most importantly a part of our culture. To ban Basant is just like erasing an integral part of our culture which is unacceptable. Yes, there have been many unfortunate incidents in the recent past but banning Basant because of them is not the solution. For example, no government has banned flying of aircraft because some planes have crashed in the history. They rather focused on making flying a safer experience.Likewise, the government should focus on making this festival safer by reducing losses incurred to life and property to the minimum. Designated grounds should be prepared for flying kites and citizens who wish to participate in the activity should be facilitated to do so in safety in these designated areas. “Banning a festival which was like the smile of a child in spirit is too harsh a step——akin to rendering the city soulless” (Qadeer 7).
Qadeer, Yasir. "Holi In Sky."Nation5 Mar. 2010. Print.
Ali, Aayan. "Ban on Basant - Should There Be One or Not."Daily times11 Dec. 2004. Print.
Mahmood, Shaukat. "Tracing the Origin of Basant."The Nation Sunday Plus6 Mar. 2010. Print.
Mirza, Nasir Abbas. "Reasons behind the Basant Ban."Daily times31 Mar. 2010. Print.
Hanif, Intikhab. "Prepare for Basant, Come What May."Dawn5 Feb. 2002. Print.