Strict enforcement of norms by various agencies said to be the cause for this fall

With Deepavali round the corner, for the first time in four decades, fireworks units here are under scrutiny by various agencies to ensure the safety of men and women working in the hazardous industry.

This has resulted in a significant drop in production of crackers, says A. Asaithambi, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association (TANFAMA). There has also been a drop in orders from northern States, sources said. Yet, in the retail market there is a spurt in the prices of crackers. This is due to rise in the cost of raw materials, freight and labour. Sivakasi is said to be the second largest producer of crackers in the world, with China topping the list with more than 3,000 units. Sri Lanka is also engaged in manufacture of crackers but its 70 units concentrate on aerial items and depend on Sivakasi for conventional crackers. Next to Sivakasi, Kerala produces a lot of items but they are mostly chloride-based, and cheaper but dangerous to handle. Sivakasi makes nitrate or sulphur-based products.

Among other districts in the State, Tirunelveli district has 17 units followed by Madurai with 10 units. There are also a few licensed units in Pudukottai, Dharmapuri, Tuticorin and Salem districts.

These units are engaged in production of crackers meant for temple festivals. Based on sound, colour, movement or combination of the above three, fireworks fall into four categories: crackers, sparklers, rockets or fancy (aerial display) items.

Only 15 to 20 per cent of crackers made in Sivakasi are sold in Tamil Nadu. The rest is sent to other States or exported to foreign countries, especially South Africa. V. Periyasamy, Joint Director of Industrial Safety and Health, who monitors 380 licensed units in Virudhunagar division, inspects factories and impresses upon the workers the need to wear masks, gloves, aprons and special goggles while mixing and filling chemicalsto prevent chemicals from penetrating their bodies. V. Kesavan, owner of Nayagi Fireworks Industries, says the government should give subsidy so that owners can procure these machinerieson subsidy. Firecrackers should also create a sparkle in their life of the people.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National