VIRUDHUNAGAR: Hundreds of families in Virudhunagar are shocked and upset over the announcements made by multiple State governments banning the sale and usage of firecrackers this Deepavali season.
Already reeling under the impact of the pandemic and associated lockdowns, these families are now staring at abject poverty, if the sale of crackers is not up to the mark. So far, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha, and Haryana have announced a ban.
“The firecracker industry is a fragile ecosystem. A damage caused to any one part of it can have debilitating impact on a large number of families across the nation,” says Elangovan of fireworks traders association.
The biggest damage, he adds, will be in Sivakasi. Industry experts say that over 80 per cent of cracker sales happen on the day before the festival. “While products have been shipped away to different States, we are yet to receive payments from many traders,” claims Elangovan.
Wholesale buyers in North India, their dealers, and local shopkeepers are all likely to be hit hard this year. Elangovan says, in Sivakasi, the business is done on a credit-based system. “We receive payments after the festival, which is used to pay off bonus for workers, loans, and to invest in the business for the year ahead.” Around 2 lakh persons are directly employed in the firecracker sector of Sivakasi, and Rajasthan is one of their major market – contributing almost 12 per cent to overall sales every year.
“We have followed every rule in the book in making ‘green fireworks’ this year,” says Ganesan Panjurajan of another fireworks manufacturers association. “If more States follow suit, this Deepavali will be a dark one for us.”
More States expected to follow suit
So far, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha, and Haryana have announced a ban on sale and usage of firecrackers this Deepavali season. Karnataka may also announce a ban. Sources said a decision will be taken after discussion with CM Yediyurappa
‘Eight lakh workers will be directly affected if cracker ban is implemented’
Elangovan said that if the ban is implemented, they would not receive the due credit amount. "We can neither repay loans nor reinvest. Our workers will be left in the lurch and those who financially supported us will go bankrupt. Starting from scrap industries to financial institutions supporting us, lakhs of people will be affected in the district alone," he said, adding that around 8 lakh employees, including 2 lakh direct employees, will be affected.
President of TN Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' Association (TANFAMA) Ganesan Panjurajan said Rajasthan alone contributes to around 12 per cent of our overall business. "Further, we have not used chemicals that are banned by the Supreme Court for manufacting the crackers. We have manufactured green crackers adhering to the formula approved by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research - National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) and Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO)," he added.
Another manufacturer, who sought anonymity, said that if other states follow the suit, the industry would be badly hit in these trying times of Covid pandemic. "The formula for making different kinds of crackers have been developed over one year. There were tests, re-tests and approval procedures to be followed. The mental and physical energy spent through out year will go down the drain if the ban is imposed," he added.
Ban Chinese crackers: Manickam Tagore
Virudhunagar MP Manickam Tagore has written to Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, seeking ban on imported firecrackers and allow bursting of green crackers manufactured in Sivakasi. The MP stated that with the lockdown hitting the industry severely, all those dependent on the industry were hoping to revive normalcy in their lives during Deepavali. Putting in place such a ban would not only send a negative message, but will also severely affect all traders and labourers, besides bankrupting them, he added.
He said, “A new chemical formula was developed in consultation with the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research - National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) which has reduced emissions and produces no poisonous gas and is certified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). It was developed post the Supreme Court’s order in 2018”.
The primary pollutant in question – Sulphur dioxide – is emitted due to the mixing of sulphur during manufacturing, which is not added in green crackers, certified as ‘Environment-friendly’, he added.
He also sought to ban the Chinese firecrackers, “the real culprits causing pollution”.