On the congested streets off NSC Bose Road, bright-coloured banners of well-known firecracker brands have replaced those advertising notebooks and stationery. Shop windows and shelves are piled with cracker gift boxes.
In a few days, customers will throng Bunder Street, Aadiappan Naicken Street, Govindappanaicken Street, Anderson Street, Singer Street, Badrian Street and Malayaperumal Street, where the 22 stockists who function with licences for heavy explosives, are located
“The week before the festival, at least 3,000 people will find jobs like loading and unloading and packing crackers on these streets. The busiest time is between sunset and midnight,” said R. Natarajan, a stockist for Nayagi firecrackers. Stockists like him invest around Rs. 1.5 crore for Deepavali alone.
“Firecrackers are a must whether it is to celebrate birth or death. So we are always in demand here. The wedding seasons are the busiest time, apart from Deepavali,” he added.
N. Mohamedali of Nagoor Crackers Shop, who has been in the trade for 50 years, says he invests around Rs. 8 crore every year. Barrels of sand and water sit outside his shop, which now exclusively stocks firecrackers.
Though these shops have stocked firecrackers, they will be allowed to sell their wares only through temporary outlets at Island grounds. A total of 120 temporary stalls have been put up at the venue. The shops were supposed to function from October 12 but will begin selling crackers only after the Madras High Court provides clarification on a judgment issued two years ago.
Shopkeepers say each stall would be able to stock goods worth Rs. 15 lakh for the festival. It gets busy in the last five days before Deepavali with each shop selling as much as Rs. 3 lakh worth of items each day.
The shops cackle with talk about price hikes and its effects on the cracker industry. Shopkeepers peg this year’s hike at18 to 20 per cent. “Those who buy for Rs. 5,000 will continue to spend the same amount, but may not get the same amount of crackers as last year,” said Mohammed Sharif.