No Diwali boom for ‘green’ crackers

Lack of awareness among buyers, shortage of supply, lack of variety and implementation challenges dampen the sale of environment-friendly fireworks

October 21, 2019 01:37 am | Updated October 22, 2019 04:56 pm IST - New Delhi

NEW DELHI, 19/10/2019: Green Crackers being sold in Old Delhi area,  New Delhi on Saturday .  Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu (TO GO WITH NIKHIL STORY)

NEW DELHI, 19/10/2019: Green Crackers being sold in Old Delhi area, New Delhi on Saturday . Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu (TO GO WITH NIKHIL STORY)

Just past 10 p.m., Abhinay Dhanai, 30, a businessman, rushed inside a shop selling crackers outside gate number 3 of Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Moments later, he came out without buying anything.

“Very few people know that there is no blanket ban on crackers. Even we didn’t until we looked up on YouTube to find that ‘green’ crackers are available and came here,” he said. Mr. Dhanai, however, complained about the lack of variety. “We like ‘bombs’ but they are not available. They only have three types of crackers,” he said. He said banned crackers are still available in the market and people will end up buying them because of the lack of variety in green crackers.

With traditional crackers banned and only a week to go for Diwali, The Hindu found that though green crackers are available in the market, the festive season has run into several dampeners and implementation challenges — from the lack of multiple varieties to a shortage of crackers and difficulty for the police in identifying green crackers.

Ban on sale

Last October, the Supreme Court banned the sale, use and manufacture of crackers that weren’t ‘green’. The green crackers couldn’t be loud beyond a certain limit as it was clearly instructed that firecrackers generating noise levels exceeding 125 dB or 145 dB at four metre distance from the point of bursting will be termed as violation of guidelines on noise pollution. Also, it had to be approved by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and had to be free of mercury, arsenic and barium. But green crackers were neither manufactured nor available in the market last year.

Earlier this year, the SC allowed bulk manufacture of green crackers after the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) said its labs had been able to make trial samples and had them approved by PESO.

The boxes of green crackers in the market have a unique logo and a unique QR code (to trace their origin).

Rakesh Kumar, director of NEERI, said that more than 500 “emission test certificates” have been issued to different cracker manufacturers by the institute. “The manufacturers have to then obtain an ‘approval for manufacturing’ from PESO. However, some of them have been denied approval by PESO,” he said.

When asked about the shortage of crackers, he said, “There is possibly a shortage as not as many approvals as before have been given. But it also depends on a lot of market factors and traders might be even holding up stock to sell at a higher rate later.”

Sales down

“It is good that the green crackers pollute less, but there should have been more varieties,” Mr. Dhanai said before leaving the shop. Inside, Chitreshwar Dayal Srivastav, 26, the owner, was left with no customers for the time being. “People think there is still a ban, they are not aware of green crackers. Also there is fear that they will get into trouble if they burst crackers,” he said.

He rued that green crackers cost about 20% more than traditional crackers and only ‘anar’, ‘phuljhadi’ and ‘sky-shot’ are available in the market. “For the last three years sales have gone down. You can see that there is no one here even though Diwali is very close. Our sales are down by about 80%,” he added.

Mr. Srivastav is the fifth generation from his family into selling crackers. Outside the shop, a metal board reads “Majestic Fire Works Co.” and “ESTD. 1875” in red against a cream background.

He said there is also a shortage of green crackers. “Since we could not get it from Sivakasi [in Tamil Nadu] on time, we got it from Rajasthan and Haryana. The demand is there but there is insufficient supply in the market,” he said.

Implementation issues

A senior police officer said that in the absence of high-quality holograms and lack of advanced security features in the green crackers, they will have a tough time identifying duplicate ones.

“It is difficult for the ground staff to identify the original from the duplicate firecrackers just on the basis of trademark printed on the firecracker box with no additional security features,” the officer said.

“We have instructed all SHOs to also look for duplicate products with identical packaging and labelling. A meeting has been called with senior police officers of U.P. and Haryana to discuss the issue and to stop the manufacturing or sale of any duplicate product,” the officer said.

In a meeting with retailers and manufacturers of firecrackers, it was discussed to have barcode and hologram on each product to make it safe and to avoid any duplication. Though the manufacturers assured of doing it, they said they are helpless as production of green crackers is already delayed.

On October 9, the Ghaziabad police had busted illegal firecracker manufacturing units in Farukh Nagar area of Loni and seized items worth ₹1 crore.

Temporary licences

Though there are permanent shops selling crackers round the year, they are less in number and every year the Delhi police issue temporary licences to people to sell crackers on the two days of Diwali.

Asif Mohammad Ali, DCP (Licensing), said that this year a total of 97 applications for temporary licence for sale of firecrackers were received and after going through all applications only 11 were granted permission. They have asked the rejected applicants to fix the shortcomings and reapply.

After the strict guidelines of the Supreme Court on green firecrackers, there is a significant fall in applications for temporary licences for firecrackers and explosives. In 2016, there were 968 licences granted for sale of firecrackers and in 2017 it was capped at just 500 temporary licences. In 2018, conventional firecrackers were banned but green firecrackers were not available.

“This year, around 50 licence holders will be allowed to sell firecrackers for two days on Diwali. Due to strict norms and dip in supply of firecrackers from manufacturers, there is significant downfall in applications for licence,” said the DCP.

The DCP added that they are working in close coordination with PESO to allow only certified fireworks to be sold in city.

A police officer said that SHOs have been instructed to organise a meeting with market associations and Resident Welfare Associations to make them aware of green crackers and the timings for bursting firecrackers — 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Diwali. Those selling unauthorised firecrackers will be booked under the Explosives Act and Environment Protection Act.

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