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Why not complete ban on loudspeakers

14 Jun 2022

Why not complete ban on
—Ravinder Jalali
Loudspeaker crackdown issues are buzzing over the nation with different dimensions giving to it from religious to political to social. The fact of the matter is that it should be treated as a social and social issue only. In several states loudspeakers have been removed from religious places and in some states like Maharashtra loudspeakers have been removed partially and in some it have not been removed and some people demand total ban on the use of loudspeakers. 
Sound is essential to our daily lives, but noise is not. Noise is generally used as an unwanted sound or sound which produces unpleasant effect and discomfort on the ears. Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities, such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life. 
To control the  noise level in public places from various sources, inter alia, industrial activity, construction activity, generator sets, loud speakers, public address system, music systems, vehicular horns, and other mechanical devices Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 has been enacted by the GOI in exercise of its powers conferred under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Rule 5 restricts the use of loud speakers/public address system and sound producing equipment. A written permission is necessary for using such equipment.  Religious places are considered as silent zones, wherein the maximum permissible sound is 50 dB (A)/ Leq during day time and 40 dB (A)/ Leq during night. The above restriction applies to all institutions around 100 metres. What is 50 dB? The sound which is necessary for communication is in between two persons. A loudspeaker which is capable of sound producing for communication within a hall will alone be possible. The practice of installing loudspeaker to produce noise outside the said premises within 100 metres may amount to violation.
In the light of above it is high time for the Government of J&K also to take a call on the issue of use of loudspeakers and impose complete ban, irrespective of any religion or faith, instead of partial ban or to be restricted to some decibels before it will become a political and religious issue.The State Government has been empowered to grant permission to use loudspeaker on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of limited duration. But such relaxation is not necessary. I think there is no need of such relaxation and needs complete ban of loud speakers irrespective of any religion, caste or bar. Why we cannot have a blanket ban on use of loudspeakers. For ordinary citizens, it does not make any sense in decibel limitations. It just becomes a statutory warning as in case of cigarettes and does not prevent people from consuming tobacco. 
The Noise Law is blatantly violated by many including under the guise of religious festivals. SC has held that no religion prescribed that prayers should not be performed by distributing the peace of others nor does it preach that they should be through voice-amplifiers or beating of drums. In the name of religion nobody can be permitted to add to noise pollution or violate noise pollution norms. Even if there be religious practice to use voice amplifiers, it should not adversely affect rights of others, including that of being nor disturbed in their activities. 
        Under Art.21 of the Constitution, the citizens have a right of a decent environment and they have a right to live peacefully, right to sleep at night and to have a right to leisure which are all necessary ingredients of the right to life guaranteed under the article. Silence Zone is the area comprising not less than 100 meters around hospitals, Educational Institutions, Courts, Religious Places or any other which is declared as such by the competent authority. After all religious places are to bring peace and tranquillity within human beings but reverse is happening. People enter religious places and come out aggravated and hostile. Instead of turning non-violent and tolerant, they turn violent and intolerant and become nuisance in society. They intrude the private spaces of people and cause discomfort. They have a complete disregard for sick, studying and sleeping. They do not pray. They actually perform and this performance comes at the cost of common sense, decency and civic rights. Who gave them the right to disturb others; can we ask this simple question with all seriousness and humility. Why should my prayers, my way of getting closer to God, my obligations towards my religion and my proclivity to say hymns loudly, be a source of vexation for someone else. Is religion oblivious to decency, common sense and human comfort? Actually they are not praying but committing sin and will definitely be punished in any court of law, including the highest almighty. 
   In the name of religion this practice of disturbing people must stop, and for that these people need to be confronted at all levels. It is good that some of our religious scholars have openly talked about these things. We have people that still resort to this practice of using loudspeakers, and releasing loads of noise into the atmosphere. They bring disgrace to the whole institution of prayer, besides causing inconvenience to the people in the vicinity.  And if you decently ask them to switch off the loudspeakers they swiftly call it an act of irreverence and sacrilege. They make it such an emotive affair that one doesn’t want to argue with them any further; least of all at a public space. But does that mean we should tolerate it for ever; when it brings disgrace and disrepute to a religion and as a community. 
Decency is a universal value. Common sense is another such value. Similarly, being mindful of others should be a cardinal teaching for every religion. All the three are violated by these people and shockingly they do it in the name of religion. Can this be the way to please God and seek his fellowship? Our civil society groups, media, religious organisations and persons who are respected for their knowledge and integrity, are duty bound to rid us from this discomfort. They have a duty to salvage their faiths from the label of being an irritant in the public space. All must come forward to ensure that decency and common sense are restored to our religious practices and appeal the Government for banning the use of loudspeakers and also should prevail their respective religious leaders to voluntarily impose ban on the use of loudspeakers before the issue is being taken over by law breakers and those who are hell bent upon to disturb the peace and tranquillity in our societies as well as our Nation.
These people have no regard for the sick, students and those who are sleeping. I take this opportunity to appeal all other religions/communities not to use the loudspeakers totally as to respect the decency, comfort of others, as no religion is unmindful to decency, common sense and human comfort. Service to mankind is service to God and by using loud speakers at high pitch is only causing disservice to society and how a disservice to sick, student and sleeping can be service  to God, as all these people are also his men. After all the silence is the best sound and does not need any instrument but one need to move within? n
(The writer is a social activist and political analyst)