Diwali is special to Santosh Desai. He loves watching his children animatedly discuss the fun they will have setting off the fire crackers. So for six months of a year, he contributes to a Diwali chit fund meant only for firecrackers. "Until four to five years ago, collecting Rs 600 was enough, now I need Rs 1,200," says Desai, an illustrator with a publishing house. What it gets him is a packet filled with an assortment of anars, sparklers, bombs, chakras and rockets.
Like many Bangaloreans, he trudges upto Hosur to avail lower prices, plus the plenty of freebies thrown in, often worth what he has paid for the one packet alone.
The best way to tell Diwali is not far is by the sound of a stray festive bomb going off in the neighbourhood and sighting children hovered around those toy guns (Rs 30 to Rs 150) now already in stores around the city.
Though festive sales are yet to pick up, there's no doubting Bangaloreans who will be bracing for a Diwali that will burn a hole in the pocket, especially with the cost of fire crackers spiralling up and up. A single anar is tagged between Rs 50 to Rs 70.
It's not just yearly inflation at play here. Stricter industry guidelines and rising costs of material and labour are also responsible. Crackers World in Vijaynagar is run by Paresh Babu.
He has been a distributor for fire crackers in Bangalore and Mysore for the past 17 years and even sells them through his online store. "In the past two years, the government has effectively shunted out nearly 75 per cent of the illegal and unorganised units that would offer cheap and sub-standard fire crackers.
On the other hand, subsidy on potassium nitrate that is used to make the crackers has been lifted and open market prices stand at Rs 60,000 a ton. Add to this rising labour cost," he says.
B V Bhandarkar, a dealer based in Sultanpet who has been in the business for 50 years concurs. "It's everything about manufacturing fire crackers that has become tough.
The government has become strict about implementing The Explosives Rules, 2008 which has caused production to slowdown," he says.
But Desai needn't despair, for Bhandarkar also has some good news. The 10 to 12 per cent jump in prices last year he says, has stabilised at 7 to 8 this year.