With uncertainty continuing to loom over the sale and use of firecrackers during Diwali, the Indian fireworks industry production has come down drastically by 60 per cent at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, said industry officials.
Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the country's firecracker production, and has 1,070 firecracker units located in and around the city.
About 300,000 workers are directly employed whereas another 500,000 workers are in the allied sectors.
"The demand from North India has come down drastically as there is uncertainty about sales of fireworks during Diwali. Further the huge left over stock of last year with the wholesalers and retailers is also impacting the production this year," Rajendra Raja, Vice-President, Indian Fireworks Manufacturers' Association, told IANS.
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"Dealers in seven states have leftover stocks. Hence the demand has come down. As per the market reports, people want to celebrate Diwali with firecrackers and dealers are willing to buy. But uncertainty on being allowed to burst the firecrackers and the fear of Covid-19 third wave are preventing them from placing orders," Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA) President Ganesan Panjurajan told IANS.
According to him, the industry players are making products that are not less than 30 per cent less polluting as compared to their old products.
Even though the bulk of the industry's production is consumed during Diwali, seasonal demand during Holi, Raakhi, Patang festivals which used to be there has gone down this time around, industry officials told IANS.
The NCR, Punjab, Rajasthan and other North Indian areas are major markets for firecrackers accounting for not less than 40 per cent of the industry's sales.
Normally after Diwali, the wedding season would kick in where novelty items would be sold. Then sales of firecrackers during New Year, mainly hotels being the buyers and Holi will happen.
"Fireworks units have not only scaled down their production but also stopped making some items. The units are not making all the products they used to make," Raja added.
While sales have gone down, the prices of raw materials have gone up by about 30 per cent, he added.
"We are not in a position to pass on the input price hike and hence decided to absorb it ourselves. We are also holding on to our workers by paying them the regular wages though the production has come down," Panjurajan said.
The lack of demand woes of the industry is due to the order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last year linking sale and use of firecrackers during Diwali in NCR and in any other city or town across the country to the average ambient air quality.
The NGT passed the order based on the 'Precautionary' principle.
Nowhere around the world has any country banned fireworks during Covid situation during their festival celebrations, industry officials said.
According to Raja, sales in Tamil Nadu normally pick up around this time, but it has not happened.
Raja said the industry is apprehensive of the government classifying them under the `hazardous industry category' from the current classification of `dangerous industry'.
The firecrackers manufactured in factories in Sivakasi are valued at around Rs 2,500 crore, while the retail sales total around Rs 6,000 crore.
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The fireworks industry has been under fire in the past as well. First, the manufacturers were targeted for employing child labour, followed by accusations pertaining to noise pollution.
According to Panjurajan, both the central and state governments are sympathetic to our situation and are trying to help.
Though it may not be a `boom' Diwali this year, industry officials are hopeful that it would not be a doom Diwali.