While the country celebrated the festival of light with much fervour, the recent inflexible rules imposed on the sale and use of firecrackers by the Supreme Court has subdued the festive merriment of many. Air pollution is becoming a bigger and bigger issue in our lives and given that condition, SC’s decision to ban firecrackers is a welcome step; however, it has costed a significant distraught to the firecracker industry and the shopkeepers as they have marked a huge loss in the foremost season of their businesses.
On October 23, the Supreme Court ruled that only firecrackers with reduced emission and decibel levels can be manufactured and sold during all festivals that too with strict time limits. On Diwali, firecrackers could be burst between 8 pm and 10 pm, on the Christmas and the New Year days, people will be allowed to burst firecrackers between 11:45 pm and 12:30 am.
Vrushali Kalekar, a bank employee residing in Mira Road asserted, “I have stopped bursting crackers since a very long time especially those that create a lot of noise and air pollution. Nowadays, people are also more aware of the pollution; so, comparatively, there has been an overall decrease in the number of families bursting crackers this Diwali in my locality. However, the kids are unaware of all these facts; hence, they enjoyed the festival bursting crackers. It would be a bit harsh if kids are also stopped from doing so.”
The court has also stated categorically that crackers cannot be sold online and warned of strict punishment for any violation. The apex court had also allowed the bursting of ‘green crackers’ in a short time frame between 8-10 pm. The ‘green crackers’ also created enough scepticism, especially in the unorganised manufacturing industry. When AV spoke to the shopkeepers in the city, we found hardly anyone who knew what the green crackers are!
Green crackers are the ones without harmful chemicals that would cause air pollution — hazardous components in the firecrackers are replaced with others that are “less dangerous” and “less harmful” to the atmosphere. Firecrackers manufacturing industries employ lakhs of people. Upset with the SC judgement that came into action just two weeks before the festival, a large part of the firecrackers industry and workers regretted that the decision has largely impacted the sales.
While many factory owners and workers criticised the short notice and lack of time that led to remanufacturing of the firecrackers, small retailers and dealers faced loss as the customers went reluctant with their shopping spree. Moreover, since the transportation of the crackers across the country usually starts a month before the festival arrives, many small-scale businessmen failed to renew their stock with ‘green crackers’ and eventually got suffered from a declined sale.
A retail firecrackers vendor Umesh Yadav expressed, “Diwali feels incomplete without crackers; the SC’s conditional ban has led to sales decline this time than the previous year. We hope people won’t completely stop buying them as we are still expecting a better market spree in Christmas and New Year.”
According to a Supreme Court bench, 10 lakh kilograms of firecrackers are used every day during Diwali, a festival that is celebrated for around five days. According to the World Health Organisation global air pollution database, India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations. Considering the extremism of the situation, the conditional ban on firecrackers and a noise and smoke-free Diwali was a relief to the residents. Environment experts too welcomed the apex court’s order and reminded the government that only a sustained focus will be effective in tackling the menace. However, the same cannot be said for the traders. On the one hand when the 28 per cent GST on the crackers acted as a major whammy, the unsold stock and dwindling market put the final nail in the coffin.
Shruti Mogre, a student from Mumbai said, “Just like previous years, this year too we have bought the crackers. Keeping the ban into consideration, I personally haven’t observed any huge difference in the amount while buying them if compared from the last year. We usually buy those crackers that create less amount of pollution so that the essence of festivity remains amongst the children and also it doesn’t harm the environment.”
Apart from the loss suffered this festive season, the firecrackers manufacturing industries across the nation fear a massive job loss from next year — these units not only employ workers for manufacturing but also engage workers in related industries such as packaging, printing, paper rolling transportation, and others.
Azhar, a firecrackers vendor from Andheri bemoaned the ban and stated, “Diwali is the time we make maximum profits. I had a whole stock but the sale was so marginal that we are clueless about what to do next! For us, Diwali is finished.”
Agreeing with air pollution becoming a pain in today’s time, he welcomed the SC judgement saying, “It could’ve helped many workers and traders if this judgement came a few weeks ago.”