Fireworks nerve center Sivakasi crosses fingers as Delhi bans firecrackers

A robot. Anyone who sees it at work can easily mistake it for a machine in action, picking up shiny white bundles of chemical compounds and wrapping them in jute yarn in a jiffy, while moving their head up and down in a rhythmic motion. Kanirasa, the 40-year-old, has never been to a gym, it was his work that sculpted his biceps.

Once dyed green and after inserting a wick, “Atom bomb,” a teenage favorite during Deepavali will be ready and Kanirasa, which could produce over 3,000 pieces, in about six to eight hours is part of the process. ‘Atom Bomb’ team. . Welcome to Sivakasi in southern Tamil Nadu, the nation’s fireworks hub where workers sweat in factories to produce firecrackers for Deepavali.

People addicted to the industry are hoping the National Capital Territory government will reconsider its decision, keeping their fingers crossed that no state follows Delhi’s decision against firecrackers.

A few days ago, the Delhi government banned the sale, use and storage of Festive of Lights firecrackers due to pollution concerns.

“What is the basis for the Delhi government ban? We were allowed to manufacture and now they suddenly made this decision,” said Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA) President P Ganesan questioning Delhi’s rationale.

The production is in strict accordance with government standards and following Supreme Court guidelines, including those related to green crackers, he says. Last year, following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, states like Rajasthan and the Delhi government banned firecrackers. At least seven states including Rajasthan and Delhi have multi-million dollar unsold stocks and “we call on the Delhi government and all others to allow the use of firecrackers in accordance with standards on Deepavali for two hours, “the head of TANFAMA told PTI. It is very important that these markets run out of stocks so that they “can come to us for the next season and we are not expecting any business from these areas now”.

This year Deepavali will be celebrated on November 4th.

The firecracker industry is estimated at around Rs 6,000 crore, of which the Delhi National Capital Region’s share is around 15%, which is equivalent to Rs 900 crore, Ganesan says.

Factoring in things like unsold inventory in places like Delhi, production this year is around 25 crore per kilogram, about 30% less than usual, he says.

“The pandemic was also a factor that led to production cuts. No less than 1,070 manufacturing plants of various sizes and over 1,000 firecracker traders operate in and around the Virudhunagar region of Tamil Nadu, including Sivakasi, the fireworks nerve center.

Raju of Vimal Fireworks Factory said that “at this time of year the expeditions should be in full swing, but they are not now.” Raju says the payment cycle for completed supplies is severely stuck and there is at least a 40 percent drop in new orders for them. “Equity movement is also very slow in the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka markets.”

Asked about business this year, G Selva Ganesan, who runs a semen wholesale store in Paraipatti in Sivakasi, he came up with a rather simple, but impressive answer. “The market square and the arteries of Sivakasi are the best indicators of a flourishing activity. In case we have any good deals, you won’t even be able to walk or cross any of these stretches as the workers will be busy loading countless trucks. Have you seen any freight traffic here? The truck operators and loaders here don’t get a lot of work from us, ”he says. “Usually we get orders from a lot of people who are raising the Deepavali fund to distribute crackers. Now there are no orders from them either.”

Some Tamil Nadu businesses and individuals collect voluntary contributions throughout the year to offer pre-Deepavali firecrackers (and other items to fundraising participants) at a lower price as they would buy in bulk. The seemingly lull scenario in the firecracker industry has also led to cyclical developments.

P Rangabashyam of Sapthagiri Packs, a Sivakasi-based corrugated box maker, said that for months there had been no new orders from fireworks makers.

“Since 50% of our business comes from the food industry, we have been successful to some extent, but several units that are solely dependent on it are the most affected. Overall, Rangabashyam says his company has seen its orders drop by 60% from firecracker manufacturers and that it was not until last month that his company received orders from firecracker makers. “I understand that these new orders are for the Tamil Nadu market,” he says.

S Siva Subramanian, which has an offset printing plant for the fireworks industry, has a similar version. “Overtime” work is an important part of workers’ income, but “you couldn’t give them extra work at all. It is true that there is a lull in business.”

While the fireworks makers and others bemoan the losses, the workers continue their work despite the fact that it is really difficult. Once Kanirasa is done with her task, his colleague, a woman, deftly uses a needle to pierce the bundle of jute threads and get to the little pack of white chemicals to mend a wick and the atomic bomb is ready! When asked how she does the hard work so quickly, she replies, “It’s the muscle memory that helps, I could plant over 2,000 strands in a few hours.”

S Velsamy, a fireworks industry veteran, says people like him have already lost income due to the pandemic since factories were closed for a while and the current ban is ” worrying because it can have a ripple effect for all of us ”.

“We depend on this industry. We are only skilled in the process of making firecrackers,” he says and naively asks if “some state governments are considering banning fireworks like last year.”

Industry insiders claim that a total of around 8 lakh of people in and around Virudhunagar District directly and indirectly depend on the industry for their livelihoods. This includes three lakh workers in the firecracker manufacturing units alone, the majority of whom are women. People in industry and allied sectors want the Delhi government to reconsider its decision and say that “if other (state governments) follow suit, we will be doomed and that is why it is crucial that Delhi rethink “.

The industry is already facing sluggish activity, in part because of the pandemic and if governments banned firecrackers it would cause serious problems, they said.

Government sources in the district said that around 80,000 to a maximum of one lakh of people work in the organized fireworks manufacturing industry – in around 1,000 units – with Contingency Fund coverage. and the Employees’ Insurance Company.

Firecracker traders and makers have pointed out that many businessmen in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, who typically set up firecracker stands before Deepavali, are undecided about doing business this year because they fear losses in the event of a third pandemic wave.

“The real deal has not yet started,” they say, adding that the fear of a third wave of the pandemic is among the key factors, they say. No wonder some of the wholesale stores along a stretch of about 30 kilometers, from the Virudhunagar highway at one end and the road to Sattur at the other end of Sivakasi, are as quiet as a mouse.

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