Sivakasi: The future for the 4000 crore-rupee firework industry headquartered in the small taluk of Sivakasi in southern Tamil Nadu seems to be going up in smoke.
With Supreme Court banning the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR just 10 days before Diwali, lakhs of daily wage labourers who are employed as box makers, package loaders and fireworks makers have been dealt a crippling blow.
K Marriapan, a firework manufacturer and general secretary of Tamil Nadu fireworks and manufacturers association, said that the industry had already reduced its production by 30 per cent after SC banned sale of crackers in Delhi in November last year. The ban was lifted in September, but was reinstated last week.
The Delhi-NCR market accounts for a fourth of the cracker industry’s business, with almost 90 per cent of the sales concentrated around Diwali.
Already hurting by the dual shock of demonetisation and GST, the order has added to the woes. “Demonetisation was a bigger threat to us than the Supreme Court verdict. However, the court banning our largest market is not right. We abide by central pollution control board noise pollution levels but there is no prescribed standard,” said Marriappan.
In September, a two-judge SC bench had granted 500 temporary licenses to trades to allow them to exhaust their stock, but the order was later overturned with the apex court hoping to avoid the toxic haze over the capital like last year.
“Our dealers in Delhi-NCR region have goods worth hundreds of crores stocked up and are unable to sell,” Marriappan added.
With Maharashtra and a few other state governments also considering a ban on the sale of fireworks, several factory owners are uncertain about reopening their business in 2018.
The cracker industry supports 1.75 lakh labourers, both directly and indirectly.
Anand Murugan, a labourer, said, “The government or the court needs to help us. Today it’s Delhi, tomorrow it may be a ban across the country. What about our future? We don’t have any other skills. For decades, we have been working in fireworks factories. Agriculture in this part of India is also not profitable.”