Uncertainty is looming over the future of the Indian firecrackers industry. On Wednesday, Sivakasi- the fireworks hub of India, and Tiruthangal of Tamil Nadu stood in solidarity with the fireworks industry which began an indefinite closure on December 26. All commercial outfits and shops in these towns remained closed as part of the bandh which was announced in support of the drowning industry.
Demanding an early hearing at the Supreme Court on the ban on the sale of firecrackers, the workers and manufacturers urged the Centre to amend the Environment Protection Act to protect the industry from allegations of air pollution.
Earlier, the All India Federation of Fireworks Associations (AIFFA) said it has decided to close down the units in Tamil Nadu's Sivakasi till a legal solution is secured.
The decision is expected to impact the lives of around eight lakh people dependent on the firecracker industry directly or indirectly, said a senior official of the AIFFA, an umbrella grouping of various industry/trade bodies representing firecracker manufacturers, dealers of firecrackers, transporters, distributors, ancillary industries and others.
"The firecracker industry prays for early hearing of the case by the Supreme Court and the judgement given either way to do away with the uncertain situation," AIFFA Vice President K.Mariappan told IANS over the phone from Sivakasi.
"Any delayed judgement, even favourable, will not help the industry or save the livelihood of eight lakh people who have already lost their employment as the industry has already closed with effect from December 23 due to the prevailing impossibilities and uncertainties," he said.
"Bulk of the firecrackers manufactured in the country may be burst during the Diwali season. But the firecracker manufacturing is not a single day process, it is a year long process," Mariappan pointed out. Manufacturers in the Rs 4,000 crore industry do not want to risk any further investment owing to the uncertainty over their future, he added.
According to AIFFA, the Supreme Court wanted to experiment on pollution levels and ordered that it wanted to see Delhi without fireworks during Diwali-2017, imposing a ban on their sale.
"It is to everybody's knowledge that even without fireworks; Diwali 2017 witnessed high peaks in the pollution levels. Then to everybody's surprise, from November 6 to December 5, nearly one-and-half months after Diwali, the second smog turned Delhi into a 'gas chamber' and the air quality deteriorated to unprecedented levels, without any use of fireworks," Mariappan said.
This terrible state of affairs in Delhi was discussed worldwide by international media on December 5, when the Sri Lankan cricket players vomited on the Delhi cricket ground due to the intense pollution levels, he added.
Smoke pollution by firecrackers is a single day affair but what needs to be tackled is the perpetual pollution causing factors, he said.
Mariappan said manufacturers and other trade partners from across the country will be at Sivakasi on December 28 to take stock of the situation and also to seek support from the wide spectrum of people in their respective states.
"If our products are the main reason for smog in Delhi then Sivakasi by now should be a ghost city. The units here daily burst around Rs 100,000 worth of crackers for testing purposes.
"But people here breathe good air, there are different kinds of birds, including peacocks, and also butterflies," G. Abiruben, Managing Director, Ayyan Fire Works, told IANS in a recent interaction. S. Maheswaran, Director, Standard Fire Works had told IANS that the firecracker industry in Sivakasi is slowly sinking and the younger generation are moving out. The last three or four years were very difficult for the sector and some units were sold.
(with inputs from IANS)