FIRECRACKER wholesaler Rajesh Singhania is having a muted Diwali this time. With the Supreme Court imposing restrictions on bursting firecrackers, Singhania’s business has taken a hit.
“Most of our small dealers and shopkeepers are showing less interest in purchasing from us. We had earlier ordered 10,000 packets of firecrackers. We have scaled it down to 1,000 packets now,” Singhania says. A resident of Mira Bhayander, Singhania’s family has been in the business of firecrackers since 1954. “This is not going to be a happy Diwali for us. For sure,” he says.
The apex court has banned barium salts in fireworks with the aim to reduce pollution and noise. According to the order, only “green” firecrackers, or those with lower rate of emission, can be sold. The order also says that the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) will decide on the permissible limits for sound and smoke emissions.
“What is a ‘green’ firecracker has not been spelt out. Many dealers are confused about the nature of the ban, with some believing that the sale of firecrackers is banned completely,” Singhania says. He is still hopeful that customers will at least buy firecrackers for the evening after Diwali pooja. Largely unorganised, India’s firecracker industry is estimated to be worth around Rs 20,000 crore in terms of annual sales.
Many big firecracker retail shops in Mumbai are now replacing noisy firecrackers with those that make less noise, and those approved by the PESO. In stores across Masjid, Crawford Market and Fort, “decorative firecrackers”, including sparklers, are in stock. Sandesh Khamkar, a firecracker retailer in Lalbaug since 1971, said: “The past weekend, people turned up in large numbers to shop for firecrackers. But most were keen on purchasing ‘green’ firecrackers only, which is why, we have stocked up these (less noisy ones).”
Due to the confusion over what are “green” fireworks, dealers are sceptical about business and many expect to not match previous years’ sales figures. Rajubhai Shah, who runs a small firecracker shop in Masjid, said: “I usually buy boxes of firecrackers two months in advance. This year, when the judgment came, I had already stocked up items. I am scared now. Many of my boxes will remain unsold. I am staring at major losses.”
Dealers have now started including other items for sale during Diwali. “To ensure there is steady business, we are adding other items. These include rangoli powder, lanterns and toys that customers would readily buy. Sticking to the sale of firecrackers alone would drive us into losses,” Shah said.