With an average Air Quality Index of 424, Muzaffarnagar remained among the most polluted cities in the country on Monday. Marked in the ‘severe’ category by the Central Pollution Control Board, the prominent pollutant here was PM2.5. With Moradabad, Meerut and Hapur not far behind on the pollution index, it seemed as if the stocks of crackers that were shunned in Delhi-NCR found their way into the region.District officials said they tried to enforce the Supreme Court directions on using green crackers but its result could not be felt in the green belt. Additional District Magistrate (City) Atul Kumar held the meteorological conditions responsible for the sudden spike in the AQI. “We enforced the ban on crackers by putting up hoardings, promoting green crackers and organising local melas. The practice of gifting crackers on Diwali has come down considerably in the region. Sunday was the first day when we felt a nip in the air. It seems the smog has settled down.” He said there was no stubble burning as it was the sugarcane hub. “Winds from Punjab and Haryana could have a played role,” he mused.‘Cracker busting still on’However, Rakesh Singh, a farmer from Beda Sadat village, who is known for practising organic farming, said ban on crackers proved ineffective in the region. “It was rampant both in the urban and rural areas. The bursting of crackers started two days before the festival and is expected to continue for two more days,” said Mr. Singh, adding the ‘kolhus’ that crystallise jaggery also adds to the pollution as they run on diesel. More than the administration, Mr. Singh held the people responsible for the problem. “Even the educated indulge in the practice which affects not only humans but also animals and microorganisms which are useful for farming,” he added.