Amid the sparse crowd that has gathered in front of cracker shops in the city, kids are far fewer in number, compared to the case a decade or two ago.
“Hardly any of them are interested. Most of them are busy playing games on their mobile phones,” says one of the persons running the shop. But, this lack of interest among the younger generation is the less serious of issues thatthe sector faces.
The Supreme Court had last year banned polluting firecrackers and stipulated that only green firecrackers, which cause 30% less pollution, could be manufactured and sold. For a sector that was recovering from the double whammy of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), this came as a huge blow.
At the market this year, the crackers making loud sounds are less in stock, while the preference is for flower pots and sparklers.
“Sales have dwindled much compared to all the previous years. I have been doing this business annually for more than three decades, but I haven’t witnessed such lacklustre business in any of these years. We purchase all of these items from Sivakasi. The price of all the items have increased by 15% to 30%, which has made it tough for us. The factories there had remained closed for a few months in protest against the new rules, which has led the workers to migrate elsewhere for better prospects. Now, a factory that used to have 500 workers is now working with 150 workers. This has also led to a spike in prices,” says Vijayan, who runs a cracker shop near Kaithamukku.
Traders say that the licensee fee to open such temporary shops during Diwali season has also gone up considerably, making the business less attractive. The fewer number of cracker shops in the past few years in the city attests to this fact.
The stock in most shops does not have much of ‘green’ firecrackers, although many of the packets have the ‘green’ label attached to them. The SC, after banning crackers using barium, had tasked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute with developing formulae for alternatives. Though it has developed two variants, these are yet to be mass produced. Traders say that the demand for loud crackers has fallen in the past two years due to sustained awareness campaigns, which has made them change their stocking patterns too.
The traders these days do not manage to sell off all the stock by Diwali day. Knowing this, they have made arrangements with everyone from festival organisers to film producers to take the remaining stock in bulk at reduced rates.
“Last year, I had seven cartons full of items left after the closure of sales. It was bought by a festival organiser in Thrissur,” says one of the traders.
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