Protest revision of fees, suspect bid to open Indian market to Chinese crackers

Fireworks units and cracker transporters have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from Saturday, protesting an order of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that “unilaterally revised” various fees for the industry.

The industry suspects that the move was an attempt to allow mass import of cheap Chinese fireworks to India and destroy the domestic industry.

In a notification, dated 20 March, 2014, the Director of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, said fees payable by the industry would be revised under the Explosives Rules, 2008.

The revision of fees — from about five times to 27 times — is totally unjustified. The annual licence fee to manufacture explosives of Class 1 or 7 (exceeding 200 kilograms at a time) has been revised to Rs.66,000 from a maximum of Rs.15,000. Similarly, the annual licence fee for possessing fireworks of Class 7 explosives in magazine has been increased to Rs.4 lakh from Rs.15,000, the industry sources say.

“This has led to manyfold increase in fees,” Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association president A.P. Selvaraj says.

Around 500 units have magazines that could store up to two lakh kg of fireworks. “The transporters who have around 50 magazines will also be affected,” association vice-president K. Mariappan says.

The industry is more concerned about certain changes made in the clauses of the Explosives Rules, which, they say, are aimed at encouraging import of Chinese fireworks.

Two important rules – the ceiling of 125 decibels of sound created by cracker burst and the ban on use of potassium chlorate in cracker manufacturing – are being diluted during mandatory testing of fireworks in Departmental Testing Stations, the manufacturers complain.

“Chinese crackers don’t have any decibel ceiling. Similarly, they contain cheap, highly dangerous potassium chlorate. These two clauses had hitherto been preventing legal import of Chinese crackers,” Mr. Mariappan adds.

The industry has challenged the notification stating that the provisions of the Explosives Act, 1884, have exempted delegation of powers by the Centre to anybody for revision of licence fees.

Mr. Selvaraj says the issue has been taken up with the Centre.

If a favourable reply is not received by Friday, the units will be closed indefinitely from Saturday, rendering over three lakh workers jobless.

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