Sellers attribute several reasons for the sluggish sales

This year Diwali is going to be different slightly.

If the indications are right, it's going to be more of light than sound, as cracker-makers seemed to have taken into consideration the growing concern about sound and air pollution.

Addressing the growing concerns of the environmental pollution during the Diwali festival, the manufacturers have come up with innovative products that include crackers producing a dazzling effect of light, rather than sound. And what more? New fire crackers based on herbs are being made available to the environment-conscious revellers. These crackers do not release any toxic chemicals when exploded.

2,500 shops

But the picture as on Thursday is not that rosy for the cracker sellers in the twin cities as sales have not picked up yet, though the festivals of lights is just five days away. Nearly 2,500 shops are set up in the Diwali season in the twin cities to sell crackers.

Sellers attribute a variety of reasons for the sluggish sales. The ever increasing prices could be one reason. The employees strike leading to non-payment of salaries and bonus could be another major factor that dampened the festive spirit in the city, feels J. Manik Rao, general secretary of the Fireworks Dealers' Association of Andhra Pradesh.

“In the past, we used to do good business right from the Dasara festival itself. But with Deepavali just five days away, the sales are still very disappointing,” Mr. Rao said. People might not stop Diwali celebrations, but they are certainly reducing their spending on the firecrackers.

But the situation may not be that gloomy. D. Venkateshwar Rao of Balaji Trading Company says that the major chunk of the sales takes place during the last two days. “With a variety of fancy crackers available, including the Chinese versions, on the shelf and with the festival approaching, customers might come back to shop for the crackers,” he hoped.

As per an ASSOCHAM survey crackers' prices increased by about 30 to 50 per cent this year owing to increase in the minimum wages for the workers at Sivakasi, raw material prices and transportation costs.