KOLKATA: Intermittent rain in the run-up to Kali Puja and Diwali coupled with the ban on sound emitting firecrackers by the authorities caused a steep decline in the footfall and sale at the 'Bazi Bazar' (fireworks market) here.
The 'Bazi Bazar' is a cluster of outlets set up in the central part of the city, organised by a fireworks dealers' body and supervised by the state government.
It is held for around a week in the run-up to Kali Puja and Diwali each year.
A large section of the customers are not interested in buying light-emitting fireworks such as 'phuljhuri' and 'chorki', said Umar Bhai, one of the stall owners at Bazi Bazar.
"I am not hopeful of the overall sales figure crossing Rs 5 lakh mark this time. If there is no let-up in rain by tomorrow, there will only one day be left - Kali Puja and Diwali. Things are turning more dismal with every passing year," he told PTI at the Bazi Bazar on Friday.
Umar Bhai said he had hoped of better sales this year as the Bazi Bazar returned to central Kolkata from the city's southern part where it had been organised last year.
"Our hopes are dashed. Sales have not been more than 10 per cent of last year's figure of around Rs 5 lakh in my stall. Things are turning more dismal with every passing year," he said.
The number of stalls has come down from 52 in 2018 to 39 this year, said Santanu Dutta, Joint Secretary of the Burrabazar Fireworks Dealers Association that organises the Bazi Bazar.
Showing this PTI correspondent the complex with rows of stalls but only a handful of customers, Dutta said from lakhs of visitors in the last couple of years, the footfall could be barely around thousands, since the Bazar has opened on October 23.
Dutta alleged that the law enforcing authorities have failed to stop manufacture and sale of banned fireworks from illegal units in the fringe areas like Nungi, Champahati, Nilganj and Titagarh.
"Customers are shifted from licensed fireworks to unlicensed units and banned sound emitting crackers," he said.
Dutta said the state government has banned 130 types of fireworks - 'chocolate bombs', 'dodoma', rocket, chain crackers and shells - which cause more than the 90 decibel mark fixed by the authorities.
"They (government) are making the fireworks industry a soft target over pollution.
We use air conditioners, cars - don't these pollute the environment?" he said.
Kamalesh Surekha, owner of another stall, said the dealers are forced to sell in throwaway prices fireworks that had been manufactured years back but remained unsold.
"It has become a losing business. The next generation will not be interested in it. After incurring huge expenses for taking a stall on rent, transporting the fireworks, and employing staff, we are finally left with a very little sale," he said.
Another stall owner Chanchal Banerjee, however, is hopeful that sales would notch up at the fag end, with or without rain.
"People are willing to buy fireworks which emit light but don't generate sound," he said.
West Bengal Pollution Control Board Chairman Kalyan Rudra said to prevent sound and air pollution during Kali Puja and Diwali, the WBPCB in association with the police had taken several steps to stop the menace of sound emitting crackers this time.