If you thought Indians are obsessed with cricket the most as a sport, then you have clearly never witnessed the frenzy that runs through any average Indian family when even one of the members is flying a kite and there is a friendly competition going on between them and the neighbors. If it is the Independence Day of India and you don’t see kites flying in the sky here, then know that you have been teleported to some alternative universe because even though kids these days don’t bother flying kites that often, on that one day, even the most serious of adults will indulge in “kite fights” and recapture a bit of their lost childhood.
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But this bright reality has its darker side as well. Even though the glass coated manja (for the strength of the kite string) has been used for years in these kite fights, traditionally the string of the kite used to be made of cotton. But nowadays, the cotton string has been replaced by polymer strings, mostly imported from China. These strings cut through the rival’s string much more easily. However, since these strings have much more tensile strength, they can act like a razor if stretched intensely and can cut through flesh, posing a serious threat. In 2016, during the Independence Day, two kids in Delhi had their throats cut by kite strings while looking out of a sunroof. Both of them died before they could be taken to the hospital. Another man fell off his bike after his throat got entangled in kite string. Following these incidents, the Delhi High Court passed a judgment banning the Chinese Manja, after a public interest litigation asking for the same was filed by a Delhi resident in May.
The Delhi Government, municipal corporations, and police were directed by the High Court to raise awareness about the safety hazard posed by these fatal Manjas. But the effectiveness of this ban still remains questionable. Some thought that it will promote the sale of manjas made in India, some even went to the extent of thinking that this will be something like Gandhi’s Khadi movement, but the reality is quite the opposite. According to the people who are in the business, these so-called “Chinese” manjas are actually manufactured in India. The vice-president of Hathkargha Laghu Patang Udyog Samiti, Sachin Gupta said that these strings are all locally produced, mostly in Noida, Sonepat and Bangalore. Since these are sold at half the price of cotton-thread manjas, they have become popular exponentially. The addition of “Chinese” to its name is a mere marketing gimmick, to make it look like an imported product.
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Prior to the upcoming Independence Day, Delhi government is again gearing up to implement the ban strictly, Environment minister Imran Hussain having directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to stop any kind of production, storage, supply, import or sale of Chinese manja in the city during the upcoming festive season.
So, let’s see if Indians get a bit more serious about their own and the others’ safety and opt for our desi cotton manjas and reject the so-called “Chinese” manjas for a happier and safer Independence Day kite fight this year!