This year, Chennai’s Island Grounds will be a one-stop solution for all things Deepavali – fire crackers, food items and clothes. The Mega Deepavali Fair that will be open October 12 to November 3 will also have an amusement park and space for car parking. Deepavali falls on November 2.
As per court orders, the Island Grounds became the venue for sale of fire crackers in 2011 and 12. This year, the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC), in whose land the fair is to be held, issued a tender on September 5 for the mega fair.
Against this, petitions were filed in the High Court by the Chennai Fireworks Dealers Welfare Association, Chennai Metro Fireworks Dealers association and K. R. Ramaswamy alias `Traffic’ Ramaswamy, a social activist. The fireworks dealers said if food, garment stalls and cracker shops are in close proximity then the cracker shopkeepers would be blamed in the event of any mishap. Mr. Ramaswamy said that in an emergency such as a fire the large crowd that would come for the fair would be in danger and the temporary wooden bridges across the Cooum may collapse.
Dismissing the petitions challenging the tender notification, the court said experts had given their opinions and suggestions for the smooth conduct of the fair and the sale of crackers in temporary shops, and the authorities had assured that all safety measures would be in place. So the petitioners’ apprehensions had been addressed adequately, the Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice R. K. Agrawal and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan ruled.
The need to move cracker shops to the Island Grounds was stressed by Mr. Ramaswamy as early as in 2005 in a writ petition. A detailed interim order was passed with certain directions then. Later also, the petitioner pursued the matter.
The Bench said following a court order on September 19, the Controllerate of Explosives had convened a joint meeting with the city police and TTDC officials, and a physical inspection of Island Grounds was made. After considering all relevant aspects, the Joint Controller of Explosives suggested a series of requirements.
The Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services Department also inspected the venue and filed a report in which, among other things, it said the Cooum river separated the fair area from the cracker shops, providing a 70-metre buffer.