In 1989, during a football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough football stadium, excessive amounts of spectators led to one end of the stand collapsing; 95 people died, 400 were injured. The famous Encierro or “running of the bulls” is the Spanish tradition in which participants run in front of six bulls in a corralled street; almost 300 are injured every year; some seriously. Yet, the British government did an extensive reform on stadium management laws and set down minimum standards for stadium construction. The Spanish authorities maintain a heavy paramedic contingent near the runs and construct numerous exit ways in the streets. What these governments illustrated is the desire to make sure these potentially dangerous activates were controlled, managed and regulated, rather than to lose something iconic to the nation’s heritage. Perhaps the right combination of laws and administration can bring back Basant too.

Some will call this a callous attitude; knowingly endangering the lives of citizens for entertainment. Despite the best laid out plans, such activities will lead to accidents, where a blanket ban would ensure safety. That much is true, but if we set out to positively ensure safety, very little of human life as we know it would be possible. The government has to make a judgment call, weigh the benefits against the risks – which it plans to minimise – and develop a sustainable model. In entertainment we bear the collateral; boxing, football and racing amongst countless other sports lead to injuries and even deaths, yet the consenting nature of the participants and the overwhelming need to entertain the masses keep the events alive – heavily regulated – but alive.

Basant’s significance as a cultural bedrock and tourist attraction is an established fact; how to manage the risk is the question. Glass coated string lacerating motorists is the main issue, accidents involving falls and altercations are beyond the realm of the government’s responsibility. The obvious answer, one that is successfully implemented in a much more populous neighbouring India, is regulating the dangerous string. The procedure will be time consuming, meticulous and hardly fool-proof, but it can be done. Supplementary options such as restricting kite flying to certain zones away from thoroughfares, freely distributing protective plastic rods to motorcyclists and instituting a revised speed limit greatly mitigate the risks. Those who desire kite-fights with the glass coated strings could be asked to come to designated parks outside the city, where the string will be provided on entry. The idea is that nothing is unmanageable; with a little creative thinking and dedicated work, basant can be made a reasonably safe event.