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Sivakasi sleepless as states ban firecrackers this Diwali

Sivakasi sleepless as states ban firecrackers this Diwali

This Diwali, the chorus to ban fireworks is growing louder. On Thursday, the Delhi government and BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation banned firecrackers amid rising Covid-19 cases. The Calcutta High Court also issued a similar directive imposing restrictions on the use and sale of firecrackers during Kali Puja to curb pollution.

The Rajasthan government had on Sunday announced a ban on fireworks this Diwali and the wedding season that follows, citing health concerns of those infected by Covid-19 and announced fines on sale or use. Odisha has also imposed a similar ban. In Tamil Nadu, messages urging people not to light fireworks citing safety of Covid-19 patients are doing the rounds on social media platforms.

But all of it means a pall of gloom for the fireworks manufacturing industry comprising eight lakh workers in and around Sivakasi, as Diwali accounts for 70% of the annual business. Ban on the fireworks is the third blow to Sivakasi due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first was a drop in 30% production due to closure of the units during the initial phases of lockdown. It was followed by drop in demand due to the economic crisis.

Rajasthan accounts for 12% of the fireworks consumption in the country and is a major market. Though Odisha accounts for less than 3% of the consumption it is still an issue of concern as continuance of this trend in other states would pose a bigger threat to the industry. Though 80% to 90% of the production for Diwali has been dispatched, wholesalers and retailers in the states that have banned fireworks have started asking units in Sivakasi to take back their stocks and give a refund.

Other dealers have made it clear that they would not be able to place orders for at least one year as they would not be able to clear the present stock. Unit owners said this will in turn result in absence of work if there is no demand for the products. This could leave a lasting impact in the livelihood of the industry for more than a year.

Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (Tanfama) president P Ganesan said fireworks will not cause any harm to those affected by Covid-19. “All the 1,070 firework industries in and around Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district dispose of firework waste by burning at the end of the day. There are no breathing difficulties suffered by the workers or the public or harmful effect on those infected by Covid-19 in the area,” he said.

Virudhunagar district is recording less than 20 cases a day over the past few days. Countering the Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s statement, Tanfama claimed that fireworks do not emit poisonous gases. “Only illegally imported fireworks from China have such harmful chemicals. Such chemicals are not used in fireworks manufactured in India. Indian fireworks mainly release nitrogen, which is inert, harmless and non-toxic,” he said.

Tanfama has written to the Prime Minister, ministry of environment, CMs of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu and leaders of various political parties explaining that fireworks will not cause complications in people suffering from Covid-19.

On Tuesday Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K S Alagiri made an appeal to the Rajasthan CM seeking permission for green fireworks as they are scientifically developed to reduce pollution.

- The Times of India

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