Lal Kuan’s kite sellers cut the lethal cord

Police keep an eye out for banned ‘Chinese manjha’

Updated - August 13, 2018 10:07 am IST

Published - August 13, 2018 01:55 am IST - New Delhi

  Flying high:  Kite sellers at Lal Kuan in Old Delhi on Sunday.

Flying high: Kite sellers at Lal Kuan in Old Delhi on Sunday.

Whether or not a mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) will be possible before the next elections, kites being sold in Old Delhi in the run-up to the Independence Day celebrations have declared a mahasangharsh (mega struggle) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. But the cut-throat competition will be kept at bay with the police keeping a tight check on use of the banned Chinese manjha .

“Do not take that name! You will get us into trouble,” said Mohammed Nadiq, one of the hundreds of people who have set up makeshift shops alongside older establishments to sell kites in Chawri Bazar’s Lal Kuan.

Locals said many such shops have sprung up in the area over the past week alongside those selling Tricoloured trinkets to cash in on patriotic fervour. Kites reportedly manufactured in Bareilly are bought at wholesale rates and sold here out of the backs of pick-up vans or cardboard boxes. Stores that generally sell other wares also stock up on kites owning to heavy demand.

Shot in the dark

However, the notorious ‘Chinese manjha ’ is hard to find. On Sunday, head constable Manish Singh, who is incharge of the area, was seen going from store to store, keeping an eye out for the banned thread.

“We have not found any violations yet but we check people’s bags and conduct surprise inspections. We will lodge a case if we find anything, but right now it is just a shot in the dark,” he said.

As opposed to the traditional spool of cotton thread or ‘ manjha ’ that is attached to kites, ‘Chinese manjha ’ is made of a synthetic material and comparatively much harder to break. And this is exactly what makes it popular in kite-flying competitions, where the objective is to make the opponent’s kite fall by cutting the thread. The thread is usually coated with glass, plastic or even metal powder to make it more lethal.

After two children died when their throats got slit by the thread in 2016, the Delhi government banned the sale and production of ‘Chinese manjha ’. In 2017, the National Green Tribunal declared a nationwide ban on it. However, reports of its use in different parts of the country continue to surface.

Strict implementation

Most shopkeepers in Lal Kuan cringe at the very mention of ‘Chinese manjha ’.

“No one here is selling it. We do not want to get fined and destroy our business,” said Moolchand, a kite seller.

However, many believe it can still be found if one knows where to look. Young men walking the busy streets with large stacks of kites and a sense of purpose in their stride are regularly on the lookout for the ‘expert tout’ for supply of this contraband.

A July order by Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain instructed officials to strictly implement the ban, which is said to extend to cotton threads coated with glass powder as well. But as one shopkeeper put it, “Have you never flown a kite before? All manjhas are coated with glass. We do not sell fake goods.”

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