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‘Is it a festival celebration or mourning?’ Delhi firecracker traders lash out at Kejriwal govt for again banning firecrackers during Diwali

Manufacturers in the firecracker town of Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, which produces over 90 per cent of firecrackers in the country, have predicted a loss of around Rs 500 crore this year due to the ban.

While Delhi stares at another season of air pollution caused by stubble burning by farmers along with several man-made and natural factors, the administration has again started a crackdown on the Hindu festival Diwali by banning firecrackers in the name of controlling pollution. The Delhi Police on Wednesday arrested one Mohammad Rihan (21), a native of Uttar Pradesh from Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area after more than 470 kg of illegal firecrackers were recovered from his godown in a raid. 

With this, the Delhi Police has initiated a crackdown on the sale and distribution of firecrackers this festive season after the Kejriwal-led government imposed a complete ban on the sale and bursting of all forms of firecrackers till January 1, 2022.

The ‘environmentally conscious’ decision taken just weeks ahead of Diwali has wreaked havoc in the lives of small firecracker manufacturers and traders. 

Firecracker sellers bash the Delhi govt for reckless decision

Harjeet Singh Chabbra, General Secretary of Firecracker Association in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar, in an interview to a local news channel lashed out at the Delhi government saying, “If Diwali will not be celebrated in India then do we expect it to be celebrated in Pakistan?”

Chabbra further said that he has never witnessed such conditions and bans in his 20 years of career. “Are we celebrating a festival or mourning someone’s death? We have to beg the Supreme Court to allow us to sell crackers on Diwali living in India,” said the visibly upset trader. 

“The government imposes a ban but does not consider the impact it will have on the families of the manufacturers, traders and sellers,” said Chabbra.

Lamenting at the reckless imposition of a ban on the sale of crackers, Chabbra said, “The government should instead ban the manufacturing of crackers so the question of selling crackers will not arise. They got us to manufacture green crackers by getting an order from the Supreme Court and now they have imposed a ban on those too.”

“They did the same last year. They first dispense license to the cracker sellers and then ban it after 12 or 15 days. The ones with permanent licenses stock up months prior to the festival. What are they supposed to do with all the stock?” questioned the firecracker seller. 

Criticizing Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s politics, Chabbra said, “He (Kejriwal) should not be running to Punjab when he cannot handle Delhi. They have the entire year to work on the issue of stubble burning, but the only solution they have to curb pollution is to ban firecrackers.” He asked, “does bursting cracker on a single day result in pollution for the entire year?”

He also slammed the government for installing a non-functional smog tower using taxpayers’ money. 

Some other sellers sitting in and around the shop questioned the government that how is just a single-day festival responsible for causing pollution in the capital city. 

“Do you think people will not burst crackers? People will procure them from neighbouring cities like Noida and Ghaziabad so why should the traders and sellers of only Delhi suffer?” asked one seller.

“We celebrate Diwali as a mark to welcome Lord Shri Ram. On one side a temple is being built for Him in Ayodhya and on the other, you are imposing a ban on the sale and bursting of crackers,” said another trader asserting that this decision is a direct assault on Hindu festivals and tradition. 

‘Covid just a reason to impose ban’

Ramdas, another cracker seller at Jama Masjid cracker market said, “Covid has just become a reason for the government to ban the sale of crackers. We had resumed work just a few months ago and this ban will ensure our end.” 

Deepak Jain, yet another shopkeeper selling crackers said that they have lost their means of earning with the ban. “We have been celebrating Diwali bursting crackers for years. But it is all finished now,” said Jain.

Another trader from Jama Masjid revealed that the crackers put up for sale in the market were all eco-friendly and manufactured as per government guidelines. “Imposing a ban on crackers is just a convenient excuse for the government to show that they are taking steps to curb air pollution,” he said. 

SC dumped report suggesting crackers don’t cause much pollution

The Supreme Court in July had dismissed a petition challenging the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order on the ban on the sale of firecrackers. While dismissing the petition, the apex court had also dumped a study by IIT Kanpur which had shown that firecrackers are not among the top pollutants. 

Advocate Sai Deepak representing an individual seller had argued that an IIT-Kanpur report does not list firecrackers even in the list of top 15 contributors to air pollution.

However, the court refused to accept the IIT study, saying they don’t need IIT to know that firecrackers cause pollution. Justice Khanwilkar lashed out at the study saying, “Do you need IIT to understand that firecrackers impact your health? Ask someone staying in Delhi what happens during Diwali.”

Industry to suffer losses as multiple states ban firecrackers

Not just Delhi, but even states like Odisha and Rajasthan have imposed a ban on the sale of firecrackers. Manufacturers in the firecracker town of Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, which produces over 90 per cent of firecrackers in the country, have predicted a loss of around Rs 500 crore this year due to the ban in these states. 

Sivakasi-based T Kannan, Director of Sree Balaji Fireworks, in a statement to media, said, “The production this year is only 50 per cent of last year. Around Rs 3,000-crore worth of firecrackers were produced in 2020 and this year it would be around Rs 1,500 crore. After the ban, the impact would be around Rs 500 crore losses.”

“If the ban continues for the coming years, we wouldn’t have any definite policy to manufacture. We were not prepared for the ban from these states. Firecrackers create pollution in the mind of people and not much in reality,” he added. 

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