NATIONAL

Neither a boom nor a bust for sales

Lights on:Deepavali fireworks will be on this time, but only during a limited timespan.file photo

Lights on:Deepavali fireworks will be on this time, but only during a limited timespan.file photo  

Fireworks industry welcomes SC ruling but says curbs will hurt business, including output of products

Manufacturers and sellers of fireworks across the country, including those in the southern Tamil Nadu town of Sivakasi, heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday after the Supreme Court refused to impose a blanket ban on the manufacture, sale and usage of fireworks.

But the relief was tempered by anxiety over a raft of restrictions that the court had ordered, including the ban on the industry’s use of barium salts — a key ingredient in colour and light emitting fireworks — and how it may impact business in the key Deepavali period.

“At least 40% of the fireworks used during Deepavali are these types of colour and light-emitting products,” said K. Mariappan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association (TANFAMA). “If these products are banned, the industry will suffer.”

Deepavali would not be complete for children, women and the elderly without sparklers, flower pots and ground chakras (spinning wheels), according to A.S. Rajendra Raja, secretary, The Indian Fireworks Manufacturers’ Association (TIFMA).

“If these are banned, the very celebration will be affected,” said Mr. Raja, adding that many workers’ livelihoods were at stake as “there are over 100 units that are exclusively involved in making sparklers and other light-emitting products.”

Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district, with 1,070 registered fireworks units in Sivakasi, caters to more than 80% of the fireworks requirements of the country. At least 3 lakh people are directly employed in the industry, while the ancillary units for packaging, adhesives, box making and printing and transportation employ another 5 lakh people.

Mr. Mariappan said that the Supreme Court had not heard the Petroleum and Safety Explosives Organisation, which is the licensing and approving authority, over the ban on barium salts.

The other major sticking point was the restriction ordered by the SC allowing the use of firecrackers for only two hours on the night of Deepavali: from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Observing that there was already a regulation banning crackers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., Mr. Mariappan said the Deepavali tradition in the State, unlike in other parts of the country, centred around celebrations in the morning. “This means children will have to wait till 8 p.m. to burst crackers,” he said.

Review pleas

Both TANFAMA and TIFMA said they now plan to file review petitions seeking relief from the stringent regulations.

“With no nationwide ban on crackers, we have crossed the first barrier,” said Mr. Mariappan, adding that the uncertainty over the last two years had shrunk the industry’s output to about Rs. 4,000 crore, from Rs. 6,000 crore. “Our legal fight will continue to safeguard the industry,” he added.

Babla Roy, chairman of All Bengal Firecracker Sellers Welfare Association, said the time restriction on use of firecrackers would hurt manufacturers.

“In West Bengal there are almost 30 lakh people who are dependent on manufacturing firecrackers. Now, if firecrackers are allowed to be burst only for two hours, how much will a person buy,” Mr. Roy said.

Residents in Bengaluru welcomed the SC’s directions on firecrackers, terming them a prescription that would ensure ‘prevention is better than cure’.

Ramesh Dutt, president of the Citizens Action Forum, said if it was a question of preserving tradition versus protecting the environment, the latter ought to win. “Look at what is happening in New Delhi. We should not allow the environment to deteriorate,” he said.

T.V. Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science termed it “unfortunate” that the judiciary had to intervene to get people to do what they ought to have done on their own.

“We ourselves should be responsible considering the health of our children. Respiratory diseases during the festival are common... some children also suffer shock due to the noise and chemical contamination in the air. The final weapon was to get the judiciary to intervene,” he said. Still, implementation of the restrictions would ultimately hold the key, he added.

(With inputs from Shiv Sahay Singh in Kolkata and Deepika K.C. in Bengaluru)

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