HYDERABAD: His Deepavali, the sale of firecrackers in the State has seen a steep decline when compared to last year. Calling it a ‘Black Diwali’, cracker sellers in Hyderabad told TNIE that their businesses have not fared so poorly in a very long time. In the capital city, sale of crackers has declined by over 50 per cent this year.
From the ongoing strike by the employees of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) strike, to unseasonal rains lashing the State and rising prices of crackers in the markets, many factors are contributing to dampen the festive spirit this year, say cracker sellers in the city.
“The business is witnessing a huge dip this year. One of the major reasons is the ongoing TSRTC strike and continuous rains in the city. Every year most of the cracker sellers come to Hyderabad to buy their stock, but due to the strike many of them are finding it difficult to travel,” said a wholesale shop owner of Shanti Fire works at Begum Bazaar.
The incessant drizzle that has battered the city for the last few months has also made it difficult for the wholesale retailer to protect the crackers from moisture. “After many, many years such heavy rains have continued until Diwali. Our lives have been turned into a living hell,” said Manik Rao Bhope, owner of one of the oldest firecrackers shop in Hyderabad.
Many also blamed inflation for the dip in sale of crackers this year. According to the wholesale retailers in the city, crackers are now priced at least 20 per cent more than last year. Most of the crackers sold in the city are imported from Sivakasi, a small town in Tamil Nadu. Last year, after the Supreme Court announced a ban on traditional crackers, workers in Sivakasi had gone on a six-month-long strike to protest the ruling.
“When the factories reopened in May, there was a shortage of labour as well as raw materials, due to which the prices were increased,” said another wholesale shop owner, who wished to remain anonymous. "Due to the rise in price of crackers by 20 to 30 per cent, people are unwilling to purchase firecrackers as they remain a luxury commodity for many," said Inayath, another shop owner at Begum Bazar.
Traditional crackers in demand
As the sale of fire crackers is yet to pick up in the city, traders are still hoping to see a rise in sales ahead of the Deepavali that will be celebrated on October 27. Shopkeepers say that crackers for kids including Anar, Sparkles, Chakri and those which emit colourful lights in the sky are the most in demand. "Traditional items are selling the most right now. Only a few people have been inquiring about new products," said a cracker trader in Hyderabad.
Deepavali will be a costly affair this year in Warangal. The prices of various firecrackers have been hiked by at least 50 to 60 per cent in the Warangal city, adversely affecting the sales of firecrackers in the district as well. This has been the direct result of mounting prices in wholesale markets of Hyderabad.
The small-time merchants have felt the pinch, of rising prices and falling sales, the most. CH Ashok, a small-time merchant in Warangal, told TNIE, "Every year we install a small shop with permission from the fire department to sell firecrackers. But with the prices skyrocketing in the wholesale shops of Hyderabad, we are re-thinking the decision to even take permission from the officials. We are not hopeful that this time the sales would increase."
Sales also have suffered. Speaking to TNIE, T Ramu, owner of Karthikeya Fire Works at Hanamkonda, said, "In the villages, small traders who used to set up temporary shops for Deepavali are not buying in bulk this year. Obviously, it is no longer profitable for them."
With four days to go for Deepavali, unseasonal rains across Palamuru region have been causing anxiety among the youth and children. It is a known fact that fireworks do not work properly in moist conditions. If at all it rains on the festive day, all the money spent on buying fire crackers would go in vain. There are many who dry the fire crackers in the sun for an entire day before Deepavali so they can explode well. But in present weather conditions, the arrival of rains has been as unpredictable as it can be
Rising prices of fire crackers and heavy rains have been a source of worry for traders in Khammam this year. Traders usually expect a good income from firecrackers every year as they get 40 to 50 per cent margin on week days. But the situation is not the same this year. Bandi Vishnuvardhan of Khammam town said, “Due to rising prices of the fire crackers, we decided to purchase fewer crackers this year. Last year we invested lakhs but the forecast this year predicts heavy rains so we decided not to waste our money and kept the investments low.”
Festive spirits are dampened by the rains in Karimnagar. A cracker seller, A Vijaya Kumar told TNIE, "I had bought a huge stock of crackers as usual. But due to frequent rains I am not displaying the crackers for sale. Meanwhile, revenue authorities have also decreased sales zone counters from 100 to 60. Normally, one week before Diwali bursting crackers begin, but not this year."
Every year, even the sales begin about one week before the festival but this time, no shops were open in Karimnagar until Wednesday. Meanwhile, prices of crackers also increased by over 20 per cent compared to last year. On the other hand the ongoing TSRTC strike has also dampened the festive mood for several middle-class people
(Inputs from K Amruth Rao, B Satyanarayana Reddy, U Mahesh and Naveen Kumar Tallam)