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Uncertainty looms over TN firecracker industry ahead of Diwali

Uncertainty looms over TN firecracker industry ahead of Diwali

Firecracker production in Sivakasi town in Tamil Nadu has come down by about 30 per cent as suspense and uncertainty prevails over Diwali celebrations this year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, said manufacturers.

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights will be celebrated in November across the country and overseas.

Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the country's firecracker production, and has 1,070 firecracker units located in and around it.

"We are manufacturing with a sense of fear. Nearly 100 days of production were lost due to Covid-19 lockdown. The factories were fully closed for 55 days. After that, there was a lack of sufficient workers due to lockdown and containment and the factories worked at 30-40 per cent capacity for another 50 days," Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA) President Ganesan Panjurajan told IANS.

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Now some units are functioning three days a week while many have shut down.

Industry officials are also worried about Diwali celebrations as the state governments have not called for applications for licence from shopkeepers wanting to sell firecrackers. In Tamil Nadu only Coimbatore district has called for the same.

Even Virudhunagar district where Sivakasi is located has not called for applications.

"The big question facing us is whether there will be Diwali celebrations this year? Diwali is the only festival after a gap of 200 days. There are several industries that are pinning their hopes on Diwali sales like textiles, jewellery and others," Panjurajan added.

About 300,000 workers are directly employed by the firecracker industry and another 500,000 workers are in allied sectors.

The production value of firecracker factories in Sivakasi is about Rs 2,500 crore and the retail sales value may be about Rs 6,000 crore. So, the current year production value may be just about Rs 1,800 crore.

Industry players told IANS that production has been cut due to uncertainty about Diwali celebrations and also dealers in north India are laden with stocks as there were no sales after Diwali in 2019.

Normally there are sales after Diwali for the wedding season and other occasions. There is also good sale of firecrackers during Vinayaka Chaturthi season in Maharashtra.

"For Vinayaka Chaturthi good quantities of lar crackers would be sold in Maharashtra. But this year it did not happen due to the lockdown," Rajendra Raja, Vice President, Indian Fireworks Manufacturers' Association told IANS.

"So after last year's Diwali, sale of firecrackers was almost nil. Dealers in north India are having stocks and they are not ordering," Panjurajan added.

If there are no Diwali celebrations this year, then the industry will not make anything next year which in turn would impact the eight lakh workers.

"Bigger players are executing orders and many are not. Some factories are working three days a week. Those who are financially strong are taking a gamble with a hope that Diwali will be celebrated as usual," a manufacturer, not wanting to be quoted, told IANS.

"One outcome of the lockdown and uncertainty is that illegal units that cater to seasonal orders are shut down as buyers from north India are not there this year," Raja said.

Raja said the wages of workers did not go down but the number of working days has come down.

"Absence of migrant workers is not an issue as the industry does not employ migrant labour as there can be a communication gap which may turn dangerous," Panjurajan said.

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