Despite a ban on sale and use of firecrackers made in China, pop-pops, match crackers, pulling fireworks and other such popular firecrackers continues to be available in abundance in Delhi markets.
When HT visited Chawri Bazar, Chandni Chowk, and Esplanade Road on Saturday, wholesalers denied having any Chinese crackers for sale. But retailers and street vendors claimed that one could still buy Chinese crackers as long they knew where to look and whom to ask.
Earlier this year, the Centre had banned imported Chinese firecrackers, citing safety reasons. The Delhi government too had vowed to implement this ban in totality.
On Saturday, HT’s search, however, told a different story.
At Esplanade Road, home to the main wholesale firecracker market in the area, firecrackers were spotted in abundance, but no Chinese crackers were visible. “Licensed stores in Delhi do not sell banned crackers,” said a wholesaler, RS Sharma. “We are Indians. Our sales should benefit our own economy and industries only,” he said.
Sagar Chauhan, another wholesaler, added that the ban on Chinese crackers had helped their profits. “Chinese crackers are cheaper as they are made with inexpensive and unsafe materials. The Indian brands are better, safer, and a little more expensive. We are afforded better profits,” he said.
The story, however, was starkly different a couple of hundred feet from the Esplanade Road market.
The roads here are lined with street vendors openly peddling banned Chinese firecrackers. Delhi residents were also seen clamouring to get their hands on the coveted ‘pop-pops,’ and pulling strings; no matter how unsafe or illegal.
One such vendor claimed that many wholesalers, who earlier denied having any of the banned products on stock, supplied the crackers to them. “They won’t sell it to you or just about anybody,” he claimed. “This year the products are being sold covertly. We buy 2,000-2,500 boxes from them. We are their regular customers,” he said.
Some other vendors claimed that they had personally procured the goods, prior to the clampdown on imports. On Tuesday, the Delhi government had announced 11 inspection teams who would check the availability of imported firecrackers in the market. This came after an earlier statement from the government that conceptualized an action plan to ensure a safe and green Diwali.
The vendors claimed that they were flouting the ban in order to be able to cater to the high demand for such crackers among the Delhi consumers. “Sometimes even the 2,000-odd boxes we get, are not enough. People like and want Chinese crackers,” said a trader, who had run out of his stock of Chinese pop-pops by Saturday.
“The wholesalers also understand the demand. We had to place orders at least two or three months prior to the festive season. If I were to try and buy more stock now, I would have had to pay thrice the regular price,” he said. The trader, however, also conceded that the amount of Chinese crackers available in the market was less compared to previous years.
Another trader explained that if they were to abide by the state imposed ban, they would suffer great financial losses. “If we don’t sell Chinese products, shopkeepers will all die of hunger,” he said. “Every household will have at least one Chinese product, be it the bulbs, ‘ladis’ (string of crackers), or chandeliers.”
When asked if he was worried about possible raids by the authorities, he seemed nonchalant. “We do not store too many products anyway. If we hear of any raid, we will simply shift our shops.”