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No to Basant 


When conducting surveys relevant to the lifestyles and attitudes of the people, Gallup Pakistan also incorporates questions about the local festivals and celebrations. The Basant festival, a very old and popular tradition in the country, has been the focus of discussions for some time now. The following summarizes Gallup’s findings on the issue.
The Basant festival is generally celebrated in February or March every year and preparations for this event are at their peak at the start of the year. Last year, that is, in 2006, however, the government imposed a ban on kite-flying.
In a survey conducted in early 2006, the respondents were asked about their opinions on Basant. 18% of the people said that they supported the celebration of Basant, 52% expressed their disapproval of this festival and the remaining, standing at 30%, stated that they were indifferent to the whole issue. Similarly, 61% of the respondents said they were in favor of the restriction placed by the government on the celebration on Basant while 38% opposed this ban. In response to a similar question, the majority of the people, that is, 73% described the ban on kite flying, and on Basant in general, to be a good decision, 18% viewed it as bad and 9% said that they did not know. However, only 20% considered this ban to be very effective and 43% were of the opinion that it was somewhat effective while 37% thought that it had not been influential at all. 2% did not offer a definite opinion.
The people were also asked about their personal interest in kite flying in this survey. Only 9% of those questioned revealed that they had a lot of interest in kite flying. 29% had some interest in the sport and 62% were not at all attracted by this activity. Furthermore, 37% of the people stated that they themselves or someone in their family had had the opportunity to fly kites in that season while 63% said that no one from their family had engaged in this activity.
The results generated by a similar survey in 2007 indicate no significant changes. 18% of the people said that they were in favor of the celebration of Basant, 57% were against this festival and 25% stated that they were indifferent. When questioned about the removal of the ban on kite flying and on the celebration of Basant by the government of Punjab in early 2007, only 25% said that they supported the lifting of the ban. The majority, standing at 57%, viewed the government’s decision as a poor one and 18% said that they did not know. Similarly, 58% of the respondents were in favor of a restriction on Basant as compared to 42% who expressed their disapproval of such a ban.
Several deaths, especially of children, were reported during the Basant celebrations in spring of 2007. The people reacted very strongly when this issue was raised in the survey and 86% of the people strongly expressed their disapproval of the celebration of this festival in such circumstances. 7% believed that Basant should be celebrated nevertheless and another 7% stated that they were not sure.
The people were questioned about their personal interest in kites flying in 2007 as well. In response, 12% of them asserted that they had a very keen interest in the sport, 32% found it somewhat appealing and 56% said that they had no interest in kite flying. 28% also told Gallup that either they themselves or someone else from their family had taken part in this activity in the last season as opposed to 72% who stated that not one from their family had engaged in this sport lately.
The data cited above serves as proof for the government’s initial decision to ban the celebration of Basant and kite flying being the correct one. It seems unfair to let innocent people die just so that the minority of the people can enjoy a very extravagant and mostly, wasteful sport. In fact, the sport itself is not very harmful; it is the hype that it receives in Basant every year that makes it dangerous. At the same time, the legal institutions must remember that simply making the correct law is not enough. The government must ensure that all its restrictions are imposed most strictly if it can ever hope to bring about a change.
These surveys and polls were conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International, on a sample of over 1100 respondents in urban areas of all four provinces of Pakistan. This sample was statistically selected across all ages, income groups and educational levels. The error for a sample of this kind is estimated to be +/- 5% at a 95% confidence level