With Diwali around the corner, several shops selling green crackers have popped up in Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid. However, many reported poor business owing to the Covid-induced economy slump and because the green variety is more expensive than the traditional ones — banned by the Supreme Court in 2018 due to rising pollution levels.
At a road-side stall on Tuesday was Mohammad Altaf (23), who had on sale toy guns and pop-up firecracker rolls that go inside them – a variety of green firecrackers, which have reduced chemical composition and emit 30% less particulate matter when burned as compared to traditional ones. “I invested about Rs 25,000-30,000 to buy these things and had set up the shop a week ago. But I have just made around Rs 1,500 so far. Diwali is in 10 days,” he said.
Behind Altaf’s stall is a larger shop for firecrackers, run by Amit Kumar (61), which he opened about a week ago after two years. “In 2018, traditional firecrackers were banned and last year, there were very few green crackers available. This year, we have more variety in green crackers, but there’s no sale. Coronavirus lockdown has taken away money from people’s pockets.”
Only shops with licences granted by Delhi Police can sell these firecrackers. So far, 167 licences have been granted against 260 applications — higher than 62 licences granted in 2019, as per police data. The Jama Masjid area comes under Central district where 28 licences have been granted, highest among other districts.
As Kumar explained the problem shops like his are facing, two men, with masks on their chins, asked for a type of firecracker that pops when thrown on the floor. When told it costs Rs 300 for a box, the men said it’s too expensive and walked on. “This is the issue we are facing,” he said.
Another shop owner, Parth Srivastav (35), has a licence to sell firecrackers all through the year in the area: “But Diwali is a crucial time for us; this year, there is simply no sale. Customers and traders both need money to buy goods, and the lockdown has reduced our capacity to do that.”
Maheshwar Dayal (42) added: “There’s a difference of about 20% in the price between traditional and green crackers, which dissuades customers. We don’t think we would be able to make a good sale by the end of the season. The sale is not even 10% of what it used to be.”
All firecrackers have a logo of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, whose labs had developed the formula for such crackers.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister Gopal Rai Tuesday launched the Delhi government’s campaign to prevent burning of banned firecrackers. “From today, an anti-cracker campaign has been launched in Delhi. All SDMs, 11 DPCC teams and all police officials have been directed to ensure there is no bursting of polluting crackers across Delhi,” he said after a visit to Sadar Bazar to inspect sale of firecrackers.
Air quality dipped to very poor again Tuesday, with the AQI at 302, against 293 on Monday.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines