By Tanya Jain
Ban on crackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) during November, have shocked the fireworks hub. Even as the industry was busy with last-minute production to meet the demand during Deepavali amid the COVID-19 threat, the latest developments have raised concerns about the very existence of the sector.
A TOXIC PROBLEM ?
With pollution in Indian cities among the worst in the world, the government has come under pressure to do something about the nation’s toxic air – a problem that becomes more acute during Diwali due to the toxic fumes emitted when celebratory fireworks are set off. Fireworks are low-hanging fruit for the anti-pollution drive as the industry is unorganised.
HARD HIT ?
The production of fireworks was hit badly due to the lockdown. “The industry found it difficult to meet the precautionary measures to resume production. The industry has also been hit by a flood of cheap Chinese firecrackers that are smuggled into the country on the black market. The workers, too, risked their lives under the pandemic threat to produce the fireworks with the sole objective of keeping the people happy during the festival celebrations,” said Indian Fireworks Manufacturers’
The manufacturers wondered why fireworks used for a few hours for two to three days during Deepavali were being targeted when major pollutants like thermal power plants and the cement industry, and pollution caused by automobiles and road dust were being ignored. Any ban on bursting of crackers would not only hurt the dealers but also affect the resumption of production post-Deepavali and the livelihoods of lakhs of employees.
While rains, slowdown-induced cash crunch, and the Supreme Court order to sell only green crackers dampened firecracker sales, Diwali celebrations this year lit up Indian skies with more colour but with less noise. While total sales were down by at least 20-30 per cent when compared to last year, sound cracker sales this year were only half of what they were in the previous year
While it is business as usual for big manufacturers, smaller units are cutting down on production by 20%-30%. Because of the pandemic and the lockdown, the industry is in panic whether Deepavali will be celebrated. This is the month when wholesalers and retailers place orders but all wholesalers, distributors, retailers are cancelling orders… This will result in a huge economic blow to all of these industries, resulting in closure and huge unemployment. There are about 1,000 licensed cracker units in Sivakasi, which account for a market size of ₹2,500 crore-₹3,000 crore. The industry employs over 3 lakh people directly, and over 5 lakh indirectly.