With Deepavali just a week away, the much-awaited cartons of firecrackers have begun making their way into Island Grounds.
On Saturday, the venue was abuzz with activity as lorries unloaded boxes of fireworks. In a short while, customers made a beeline to the shops.
K. Senthil Kumar, who came with five of his colleagues, said the group bought crackers worth Rs. 10,000. “We decided to shop early as we wanted to avoid the rains,” he said.
Though all 120 shops at the Grounds have been allotted, T. Anees Raja of Chennai Metro Fireworks Association, a dealers’ association that went to court, said none of the members had rented a shop there.
“I managed to get a shop at YMCA Royapettah ground but several others missed out as the stalls there had been allotted long before the court decision,” he said.
Cracker dealers’ associations went to court after the Tamil Nadu tourism department sought to lease the space at the Grounds through a tender. It went to the highest bidder who had control over all the 120 shops.
The associations, which earlier sold firecrackers from the congested George Town area, have now gone to Supreme Court seeking a ‘proper explanation’, as they say their livelihood has been affected.
On Satuday, fire service personnel demonstrated the use of extinguishers and explained precautions to be taken, to the dealers at Island Grounds. Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS) has approved of 800 cracker shops, including the 120 shops at the Grounds.
Each shop has been allowed to store 100 kg of firecrackers. The shops must be set up in an area of 90-200 sq. ft., said a TNFRS officer.
The past week, three plastic surgeons from Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, visited seven city schools — Corporation-run and private — to teach students preventive measures. Next week, the doctors will visit two more schools.
J. Jagan Mohan, head of plastic surgery at the hospital, said, “Children from poor families are unattended by parents when lighting firecrackers. They come with injuries on the face and hands. We start getting patients three days before Deepavali. Two days after the festival, the number of patients with injuries goes up and continues to increase for five to six days after the festival.”
The hospital has allotted 10 beds especially for treating victims of firecracker burns. Duty doctors will work round the clock, said Dr. Jagan Mohan. On Friday, fire service personnel conducted a mock drill at R.K.M. Sarada Vidyalaya in T. Nagar.