Fireworks sale gets cracking

MADURAI OCT. 22. After a three-year sluggish phase, marked by uncertainties, fireworks sale across the State has shown an uptrend with just two days to go for Deepavali. Despite monsoon rain, manufacturers are confident that stocks will not pile up in retail outlets or be returned.

The godowns of all major Sivakasi units are almost empty and even a mismatch between supply and demand is anticipated. In the last three years, the industry passed through an uncertain phase, thanks to the controversy over the noise level of crackers and questions over pollution. Added to these was the general recession in the industry. While big manufacturers "with stable order books" went about their routine as usual, the small and medium units, which account for a major chunk of production, remained inactive for about three months this year.

The big players resume production 10 days after Deepavali, as their products are wanted for Christmas, New Year, wedding and birthday celebrations. But others lagged behind this year though the Supreme Court pronounced its order on the decibel level by September. However, it was too late to enhance Deepavali production by then. Even some of the small units remained closed for about two years for various reasons.

According to S. Maheswaran, president, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' Association (TANFAMA), the sale of fireworks will register an average three per cent growth every year. But it did not happen in the last three years. This year, the manufacturers retrieved lost ground, introducing new varieties and also rationalising the price structure. In cities like Madurai, the manufacturers themselves have opened shops, where the public can buy cracker varieties at reasonable prices.

The uptrend in sales is not peculiar to Tamil Nadu alone. A.P. Selvarajan, former president, TANFAMA, said brisk sales had been reported in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Punjab and Haryana. In Delhi, some retailers had exhausted their stocks, with no hope of replenishment. The demand for crackers, the industrialists apprehend, may trigger a price rise, even in Chennai, on Deepavali eve. Market reports for the last two weeks reveal a purchaser preference for sparklers (`chakkars' and flower pots) over crackers, pointing to a voluntary compliance with the restrictions on the decibel level.

The recent directives by the Supreme Court and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board may also influence the buying trend, the industrialists feel. At the same time, they are not sure whether all fireworks (over 200 varieties) in the market will conform to the decibel levels. "We can give an assurance that the fireworks in the market will produce less noise but will not be noiseless," said Mr. Maheswaran.

In the absence of a monitoring mechanism, the industry had not been able to check the decibel levels of all products scientifically this year. However, all TANFAMA member units would conform to the decibel level next year, as the industry had now procured adequate equipment to measure it. In Sivakasi, the practice is that a senior member of the production unit will hear the noise produced by the crackers at a distance and decide on the decibel level. The entry of scientific equipment will ensure precision.

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