Setting off firecrackers is an inextricable part of Vishu celebrations in Kerala. This time around, there will be a Chinese spark to the new year celebrations here. Chinese fireworks have flooded markets in the city and are likely to rule the roost this season.

Till recently, fireworks from Sivakasi used to sell like hot cakes. But of late, native varieties have been losing out to Chinese fireworks as shoppers are drawn to their wide variety which comes at a cheap price. “Though they are not loud enough compared to their native counterparts, their bright colours and cost-effectiveness attract customers,” said Gokul Das of Punkunnam, who is all set to celebrate Vishu in grand style after completing his SSLC examinations.

“Chinese fireworks are safe and bright. They are lightweight and we can set them off even on the terrace. Around 350 to 400 shots can be fired from a Chinese dynamite. The locally available dynamites are heavy and need expertise to use,” Gokul said. Chinese fireworks are on offer with fancy names such as Terminator, Fun for Fun, Dhoom Dhoom, Big wheal, Deluxe wheal, Flower show and Bijili.

A.N. Sunil Datt of the Thrissur District Fireworks Manufacturing Workers Co-operative Society admitted that Chinese and Sivakasi crackers were in demand in comparison with local varieties. In the past year, there had been a 20 per cent rise in the price of almost all types of fireworks, Mr. Datt said. The traders attributed the price hike to the increase in tax and manufacturing costs. “There are firecracker kits starting from Rs.250 to Rs.2,500 available in the market. Easy to handle items have more takers.”

The Thrissur District Fireworks Manufacturing Workers' Co-operative Society’s gift kits — celebration box (Rs.400), Blaster Box (Rs.700) and Kids Box (Rs.220) — were in high demand, he said.

Ólapadakkam, the local variety of crackers, was a rarity in the market. “Though the Fireworks Manufacturing Workers Co-operative Society has more than 1,000 members, only a few workers are now engaged in fireworks manufacturing,” said Mr. Dutt. As it was seasonal work, workers could not depend on the profession to make a living. The sector provided employment for only two or three months. Stringent rules and frequent raids discouraged many from taking up the job, he said.

The society had also complained that the government had not been giving proper compensation for victims of fireworks accidents. “When five workers died in an accident in Chazhoor in 2007, the families got only Rs.25,000 each as compensation.” The market has been picking up from beginning of the week. Traders are expecting brisk business in the coming two days.

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