Sivakasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is extensively promoting his 'Make in India' campaign but workers at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu want him to invest in the project more. For more than 70 years, the small town of Sivakasi has been manufacturing fireworks but the illegal import of Chinese fireworks is threatening not just the livelihood of lakhs of workers but also the industry as a whole.
Around 200 containers of illegal Chinese fireworks worth Rs 400 crore were smuggled into the country in 2014 resulting in number of orders going down and nearly a 100 factories out of the 800 are now up for sale.
Deepak Amarnath, Partner at The Ravindra Fireworks, said, "There are smaller units in Sivakasi that are basically run by the advanced paid by the people who buy fireworks from them. They are hesitant to pay them. So they can't run their business without the money coming into Sivakasi. Nothing has shut down yet. So people are slowing down the production rate. My company is 10 to 15 per cent down in production rate. Whereas another company would be 50 to 60 per cent down in production rate."
Though the import, possession and sale of foreign origin fireworks is illegal in India as per the 2008 Explosives Act, manufacturers say the Central and state governments are just not doing enough to check smuggling .
G Abiruben, TANFAMA President, said, "Nobody has been booked under this illegal possession as yet. Only if people are booked will people understand this is a crime. And that is going to spread. Under the law if illegally smuggled fireworks is seized it has to be destroyed. No case of destruction has happened today so the material is actually lying somewhere which is not safe or being sold off due to some other process."
One of the primary reasons manufacturers from Sivakasi are simply unable to compete with Chinese fireworks is because of the huge price difference.
Traditionally fireworks made in China are more dangerous since they use potassium chlorate, a chemical banned in India. Sivakasi uses potassium nitrate and aluminium powder which is safer but more expensive.
Rajasingh Chelladurai, Jumbo Fireworks Director, said, "The cost factor is one thing and the raw material is other and when it goes for sale there is also central excise duty and the local taxes and all these add up the cost to the dealer. So naturally, he has to keep his profit. So when it reaches the consumer, it becomes very high."
Though china is the biggest producer and exporter of fire works, Sivakasi had so far had held off the Chinese invasion. Now the industry says if they are to survive they will need Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make some investments in his 'Make in India' dream.