SPARK MISSING AT CRACKER SHOPS

Chennai, Nov. 5: Diwali might just be a few days away, but the festive spirit at the Island Ground specially converted for the sale of fire crackers is as damp as the North-East Monsoon that has just set in.

It is not just the exorbitant price of firecrackers, but a host of other issues including the high rentals and the licence fee for stalls at the ground that are responsible for this.

Shaikh Abdulah, executive secretary of the Chennai Metro Fireworks Dealers Association said that the shop keepers had been forced to leave the Island Grounds because of the increased rent demanded by the Revenue Department.

“Earlier the rent and the licence fee was Rs. 65,000, but this year we have to shell out close to Rs. 1,50,000 for the rent and licence,” said a furious Abdulah.

Mohammed Sahib of Standard Fireworks said the government wanted us to set up stalls at the fairgrounds as it was safe with firefighters and open grounds; but the rent was way too high, and it ultimately affected the customers because the price of the crackers increased.

Some sellers have opened stalls elsewhere in the city.

Numan Ali, who has a shop at Parry’s Corner selling crackers, said, “The middle class buyers are the ones most affected, as they cannot afford such increase in prices, instead they buy sweets with that money.” He also added that the shopkeepers could not risk selling the crackers at the stalls at the Island grounds, because there was no protection agaisnt the rain which dampened their products.

Ramesh of Quality Fireworks who owns stall no. 56 at the Island Ground, rues “I shouldn’t have set up the stall at the fair ground, the business is very poor and the ground lacks in civic amenities.”

Radhakrishnan, Manager at the Tamil Nadu Development Corporation’s Fair Administrative Office, however argued saying that the fairground had enough drinking water facilities and separate toilets for men and women.

Radhakrishnan said, “1,152 applications have been received for temporary licences, and the Fire and Rescue Services Department has issued NOCs to 746 shops.”

However, customers are the ones most affected with this steep increase in prices of firecrackers.

Rajat Jain who buys crackers worth lakhs every year, has spent the same amount this year too, but compared to the amount of crackers he got last year, this year he got much less.

S.S.N. Traders proprietor, Sheikh Nawaz who has a stall at the Island Ground said that since the government’s decision to ban the cheaply available Chinese firecrackers, the customers had not option but to buy Indian firecrackers which were more expensive. This affected the consumers and the business, he added.

Nawaz added, “It’s not good for business. Last year by this time, I had sold crackers worth Rs 7 lakhs. This year, it’s just been Rs 3 lakh and Diwali is only a week away.”

Environmental activist, Nityanand Jayaraman said that the decision to ban Chinese crackers was taken after it was found out that these crackers were made of poor raw material and that they were unsafe for children because they were easily combustible.

Chinese firecrackers contain potassium chlorate which is banned as a raw material in the country. Indians, on the other hand, use expensive materials like potassium nitrate and aluminum powder to comply with the safety norms set by the government.

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