Behavioural Science Behind: Why Supreme Court orders were defied on Diwali

Even three days after Diwali, the air quality remains in the ‘severe’ category in Delhi. The Supreme Court’s orders were defied, and firecrackers were used extensively, resulting in thick smog that engulfed Delhi and NCR region.

Supreme Court is a highly respected and legitimate authority in India, despite being its order of regulating timings (between 2000 to 2200 hours) of burning fire-crackers on Diwali, the fire-show went on way beyond. Crackers were burned by the people of Delhi even knowing the ongoing hazard of air pollution in the capital city.

Image Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

Why it had happened, how it could have been handled, what are the possibilities of the future? Behavioural sciences have some answers:


“A nudge is an aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s Behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.” (Thaler & Sunstein 2008)

Without giving an option of green fire-crackers, it is almost impossible to stop people from bursting crackers. People are irrational, restricting their choices make them curious and offender of breaking the barrier. Just like kids often do what you stop them from doing. It is almost impossible to have a reasonable effect of such restricting orders, especially when dealing with the general public.

The Psychology of All or Nothing: We, as an individual, manage to undermine our contribution and tend to think of ‘all or nothing’. A change starts from an individual and spreads all over.

Bystander Effect: The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation. 

If we wait everyone to act before we act, no one will ever act before its too late.

Availability Heuristics: Availability is a heuristic whereby people make judgments about the likelihood of an event based on how easily an example, instance, or case comes to mind.

Celebrities should talk about air pollution on social media, the government should extensively campaign its hazard and solutions, politicians should refrain from making it a religious issue. Let people aware of it, let it trending on minds, the way it worked in decreasing tobacco consumption.


Do you have anything in your mind related to the application of behavioural economics in this situation? Feel free to write me at: