The entry of Chinese firecrackers into India, materials classified as “explosive items” by the Directorate of Foreign Trade, has been exploding in the last half a decade. And most of these consignments are entering through Indian ports and porous borders, allege manufacturers.
In fact, the magnitude of the issue of smuggled Chinese ‘explosives’ into the country even led to the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court to order a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the issue on September 25. The court ordered the investigation after a public interest litigation was filed by one Muthukrishnan from Sivakasi after the seizure of several lakh worth of Chinese firecrackers in a godown in Sivakasi.
The ease with which the crackers are being smuggled into the country is surprising. According to sources, the Customs Department filed an affidavit during the case that said that they could not possibly check every container because of the lack of equipment at the Tuticorin Port, where the shipment was alleged to have landed. In fact, manufacturers said that less than 20 out of the 500 or more containers that landed in the port were screened.
And it is through ports like these and borders like Nepal that the majority of these firecrackers enter India, says K Mariappan of TANFAMA. “They are mixed along or declared as toys and brought into the country. The importers then distribute them to dealers on the market,” he charges.
The statements gain credibility when taken with the fact that the Ministry of Commerce itself stated that there were more than 23 such seizures through 2011 - 2014.
Manufacturers may have themselves to blame for state of affairs though, as most say that illegal imports started increasing when unscrupulous manufacturers started smuggling Chinese goods to market as their own. “One of the first such cases back in 2002 was found to have been perpetrated by one of our own members,” says a source within TANFAMA, adding that the most recent consignment was also probably delivered to a godown by one such manufacturer.
But in the last few years, the illegal imports have taken a life of their own, to the extent that Sivakasi’s industry itself is on the brink of collapse.