R. Sujatha and R. Srikanth

“50 per cent of unbranded crackers are of poor quality and will not light up, sometimes injuring the users”

CHENNAI: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, Parry’s Corner, and the nearby lanes are packed with hawkers selling cheap fireworks. The hawkers have no permits and despite a ban, they did good business during the weekend.

Citing a ruling by the Madras High Court dibrrecting the Chennai Police Commissioner to strictly follow rules and regulations under the Explosives Act while granting temporary licence for the sale and storage of fireworks and crackers, K.R. Ramaswamy, who filed a public interest litigation, said allowing unauthorised sale of crackers by the city police would attract contempt of court.

Police Commissioner R. Sekar said hawking fireworks on the road was unacceptable. “Action is being taken against persons who sell without permission. We are booking cases against them but numbers are not currently available,” Mr. Sekar told The Hindu on Sunday evening. The week preceding Deepavali saw a brisk sale of fireworks in the shops on Bunder Street, but customers were not happy as prices were high. Customers from lower middle income groups who had been saving money for a year were upset as they had not planned for the inflation.

Some lower income group customers form groups and invest Rs.50 a week for a year for the festival. As these groups had not accounted for inflation, celebrations were scaled down drastically, the customers said. Bargaining for a better price for fireworks was not helpful. Wholesale stockist M. Selvaraj said: “A week before the festival we would have reached 50 per cent of our target but this year it was 20 per cent only.”

A. Mohammed Ali of Nagoor Crackers Shop said the sale was good on Saturday, compensating for the dull business early in the week. Compared to last year, this year sales have been 20 per cent more, he said. “Firework is for entertainment, so it will feature lower on the priority list.”

A retailer who has a shop in Parry’s Corner said he would sell each item with a profit margin of Rs.5. “It is so difficult to get a licence to set up a shop,” he said.

Though shopkeepers said a family with two children would have to invest Rs. 1,000, many in the lower income groups wandered through the shops hoping to pick up some items for a fifth of that money.

Kalaivani came with her family from Ponneri, with a budget of Rs. 200 but wondered if there would be enough to satisfy her 13-year-old son. E. Alagarsami, who came with a friend’s son from Adambakkam, had planned for Rs. 200 but ended up buying for Rs. 350. “Usually, I buy at a retail store near home. This time, I thought I would get more by coming here. They lure us into the shop promising wholesale prices but when we finished our purchase we realised we had been misled,” the disappointed man said.

T. Ravi Kumar, a social activist, said people were attracted to unbranded crackers, as they are sold at half the price of branded ones. Mr. Kumar said more than 50 per cent of unbranded crackers were made of poor quality and would not light up, sometimes seriously injuring the unwary buyers.