Our souls are stirred when we hold the end of a kite string and watch a beautiful colored kite rise and soar above the buffets of the wind. It reminds us that the sky is beautiful, the sun is shining, and life is good. What could be more innocuous than flying a kite? The idea that flying kites could be illegal seems too ludicrous to be true. Surely not, and where in the world could this law possibly be enacted.
Kite flying is illegal in India according to the Indian Aircraft Act of 1934, which was amended in 2008. Section 11 allows for perpetrators to be imprisoned for two years, pay a fine of ten lakh rupees or face prison and a fine. Kite flying is permissible if a license is obtained.
It seems unbelievable that such an innocent hobby could result in breaking the law, where the outcome could be a jail sentence. What could be the reasoning behind such a law, and is there any justification for this law. This article will examine some facts about Indian aviation law and explore possible reasons for why the law has been upheld.
What does the Indian Aircraft Act Of 1934 Say?
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The Indian Aircraft Act of 1934 states in section 11 that “Whoever wilfully flies an aircraft in such a manner as to cause danger to any person or to any property on land or water or in the air shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 [two years, or with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees], or with both.” (The Aircraft Act, Section 11. Indian Legislative Government.) The act was upheld and amended in 2008 with an increase in the allowable jail time and the amount of the fine.
Is A Kite Considered An Aircraft?
According to the Aircraft Act, an aircraft is any machine or device which is supported by atmospheric pressure. This includes fixed and free balloons, gliders, kites, airships, and flying machines. As difficult as it is to believe, a simple balloon and an innocent kite are regarded as aircraft and could land you with some unwanted and unexpected time in jail.
How Do You Get A Licence to Fly A Kite In India?
You must get a special license to fly a kite in India. There seems to be some confusion as some newspapers report that the license can be obtained from the local police station. Others state that the license can only be obtained from the Indian Civil Aviation Authority. In 2018, members from the Center for Civil Society think tank bombarded the Indian Civil Aviation Authority with hundreds of applications to fly kites for the Makar Sankranti holiday. This was done to bring light onto the archaic law, which classifies kites as aircraft and bans flying them without a license.
The attempt to have the law changed does not seem to have had any effect. The degree to which the law is enforced varies in different provinces and cities.
Do The General Indian Public Know Of This Law?
It would seem that many people in India are unaware of this law. A quick internet search shows that many people, when asked, said they do not believe this law exists. They have never heard of it and do not know how to apply for permits to fly a kite. Some others say they are aware of the law. They focus on the fact that kite flying must be completed safely. Only if you are negligent and hurt someone else can you be prosecuted. There are many kite makers and kite shops in India, and kite flying is a popular hobby.
What Is Makar Sankranti?
Makar Sankranti or Poush Sankranti is a Hindu festival celebrating the Hindu deity Surya ( the sun). It is held on the 14th of January ( in some years, it is the 15th of January) and marks the end of the Hindu calendar month with the winter solstice. It is a celebration of the longer days to come.
Kite flying is an essential element of the festivities. The Aircraft Act that outlaws kite flying and the celebration of Makar Sankranti causes many conflicts and issues. In some areas, the police choose to ignore the law, viewing it as outdated, but this cannot be relied on. There is always a chance that a zealous police officer will choose to enforce the law. In other cities, many people have been arrested and prosecuted for kite flying.
Are Kites Dangerous?
Kite flying in most parts of the world is not a dangerous sport. There is the possibility of getting some rope burn on your hands. Some sport or stunt kites can be so strong that they can lift small children off the ground, but this is rare. Generally, children cannot hold these kites and are more likely to lose the kite than obtain an injury from becoming airborne. There is always the possibility of a freak accident where you may be hit by a sharp end of a kite, but this would be a rare incident. In India, however, kite makers and competitive kite flyers began using Manja string which is lethal.
Kite fighting is a sport popular in India, Pakistan, Brazil, and Chile. The aim of kite fighting is to use your kite string to cut your opponent’s kite line. While doing this, the kite fliers engage in aerial stunts to avoid having their strings cut. Unfortunately, often the competitors use high building roofs or structures to gain an advantage. This practice has led to many people falling from roofs, cliffs, and terraces as they become engrossed in the competition and neglect their safety.
What Is Manja, And Why Is It Dangerous?
Manja (also known as manjha) strings are kite strings coated with glue mixed with either metal or powdered glass. The aim of using this string is to be able to cut the string of an opponent’s kite and allow it to drift off into the sky. Originally Manja was made from cotton thread mixed with rice flour and other substances. This was not lethal as the cotton snapped easily. In recent times synthetic string is being used with glass and metal coating. This makes the kite string as sharp as a razor.
Every year people are injured and die because of Manja string. When kite strings are cut, the floating lines sometimes cut unsuspecting people as the string is blown by the wind. There have been reports by hospitals of children and adults having their throats and faces cut as the Manja string whips past them.
Manja strings are so sharp that they can cut through power lines. The metal on some of the strings causes electrical short circuits when it lands on power lines. Damage causes the power lines to fall and electrocute people. Not only does it cause death and injuries, but it also disrupts power lines and costs the cities massive amounts in costly repairs. Many hospitals and necessary facilities may be left without power because of the damage from Manja strings.
Kites And BirdLife.
In Mumbai in January 2021, eight hundred wild birds were brought to sanctuaries for treatment after they sustained injuries from kites in the Makar Sankranti festival. These are the birds that survived and were assisted. Many would have died of their wounds before they could be helped or suffered and died in out-of-the-way places where there wasn’t anyone to assist them. The birds become entangled in the string or fabric of the kite and cannot fly or feed.
Birds that are hit by Manja kite strings sustain deep and severe lacerations. Many of them don’t survive. A lot of birds that do survive are unable to be released into the wild due to the debilitating nature of their injuries. This puts additional pressure on wildlife sanctuaries that must care for these birds and other injured animals for the rest of their lives.
Flying a kite in India is illegal according to the Aircraft Act of 1934. The legislation was upheld, and the penalties for causing injury through negligent, illegal kite flying (under section 11 of the act) were increased in 2008. Kite flying in India is often dangerous because of the use of Manja strings. Competitive kite flying leads to injuries and deaths when competitors fall from roofs and other high points. Much of the Indian public is unaware of the law, and kite makers and sellers continue to ply their trade. If you are in India and are tempted to fly a kite, it would be wise to check with the local police station before doing so. They may provide you with a permit or will be able to point you in the right direction to obtain a license.
Indian Government. The Aircraft Act of 1934. https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1934-22_0.pdf