What’s taking the sheen off Sivakasi’s firecracker sales?

A complete ban on firecrackers in Delhi until January 1, the government’s refusal to grant licences for sales in Karnataka, and restrictions in the Noida region are adversely affecting the business of manufacturers in Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi, which produces over 90 per cent of India’s fireworks.

According to industry players, demand has decreased by 20 per cent compared to last year.

Moreover, the ban on the use of barium nitrate and the manufacturing and sale of joint fireworks is also impacting demand.

“We are now only producing green firecrackers without using barium nitrate.

“The ban in Delhi itself has led to a 20 per cent demand shortage for Sivakasi manufacturers,” said T Kannan, general secretary of The Indian Fireworks Manufacturers Association (TIFMA).

The ban on barium nitrate, an oxidising agent used in pyrotechnics, has affected the making of firecrackers like phuljhari (sparkler), the rolling chakri (ground spinner), and anar (flowerpot).

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee has notified a complete ban on firecrackers in the national Capital until January 1, 2023.

This ban includes the manufacturing, storage, lighting, and sale of all types of firecrackers, including green firecrackers.

To ensure that the ban is implemented in Delhi, around 285 teams, including officials from Delhi Police and the revenue department, are already in action.

“Not just in Delhi; licences are not being issued in Karnataka and in the Noida region too, which is affecting our advance orders,” said another industry source.

The stringent guidelines in Karnataka are following a massive blaze at a firecracker godown in the town of Attibele, on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, that claimed 14 lives.

The state government came out with guidance, including a ban on lighting conventional firecrackers during political processions, festivals, religious processions, and marriages, after the incident.

“A lot of illegal manufacturers are making the firecrackers, including barium nitrate, in the Sivakasi region itself.

“The product is available in all the markets too; even joint firecrackers are available, despite a court ban on them.

“Those who are following the rules are facing the heat,” said Murali Asaithambi of Sivakasi Fireworks Manufacturer Association.

Although the Supreme Court (SC) banned the use of barium nitrate in 2018, it was reconfirmed by the court in 2021, leading to a halt in the production of key items.

According to estimates by the Tamil Nadu Fireworks & Amorces Manufacturers Association, the size of the pre-pandemic industry was around Rs 3,000 crore in Sivakasi, and it came down due to Covid-19, and then demand dipped due to regulations.

“Barium nitrate is a harmless oxidising agent. You can gauge its safety when you realise that it is used for the making of sparklers that children play with.

“This takes the sheen out of an important Hindu festival like Diwali,” said Kannan.

Based on TIFMA estimates, there are around 1,175 firecracker manufacturers in the Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu, which includes Sivakasi.

Almost every household in Sivakasi contributes to India’s festival season, giving jobs to around 300,000 people directly and another 500,000 indirectly.

Delhi had first banned firecrackers in 2017, following an SC order, citing deteriorating air quality.

In 2018, only green firecrackers were allowed in the region, and following that, from 2020 onwards, a blanket ban was ordered on all fireworks.

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