Be ready to shell out more this Diwali for firecrackers whose prices have shot up 35 per cent compared to last year. But the festival may well be a visual delight with more colour and less sound in Tamil Nadu due to stiff regulations on decibel levels.
"Following orders of the Supreme Court, local authorities including the police have ensured that crackers should not exceed a sound limit of 125 decibels. For those who love a bit of peace and quiet, this Diwali will be a welcome damp squib," said A.B. Reddy, a resident in the Poes Gardens area in Chennai.
"Repeated requests to the law and order machinery have at last borne fruit somewhat," Reddy added.
Most firecracker chemicals need to be stored in temperature around 40 degrees Celsius - something totally absent during the last week in Tamil Nadu due to the rainfall, worrying units selling the products.
A flash of colours, however, would compensate for the absence of sound, said firecracker manufacturers.
"We have packed myriad flashes of colours that will light up the sky with near silent brilliance which will more than compensate for the absence of sound pollution in a method that is more green than usual," P Ganeshan, who runs a unit, Sony Fireworks, said on phone from Sivakasi, the Tamil Nadu town that is the fireworks capital of India.
"Despite reduction in the use of explosive chemicals in each cracker, we realised that the sound intensity did not fall below decibel levels of 125. Therefore, most units avoided manufacturing noisy, popular items like 'atom bombs' and concentrated on making colourful varieties of sparklers instead. This will be one of the features of the nation's Diwali celebrations this year," Ganeshan told IANS.
Pecuniary reasons have also contributed to downsizing of the noise level.
According to a press statement from the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA), prices of firecrackers are up 35 percent in comparison to last year.
Inputs like potassium and barium nitrates, sulphur, iron wires, aluminium powder, magnesium, paper, board and labour charges have registered an increase up to 30 per cent during the last 12 months, the TANFAMA statement added.
"The cost escalation ensured avoidance of introduction of any new sound intensive product this year from almost all manufacturers here," said a spokesman of Sri Kaliswari Fireworks from Sivakasi.
Instead "missiles" named after big names from Russia and the US with special sound and colour effects will briefly adorn the skies this year, the spokesman added.
The global economic slowdown on the one hand and stringent action by the police against illegal units on the other have also contributed to "controllable limits" of fireworks, a top police official from Madurai said.
"When we heard that more than double the number of the licensed 450 fireworks' factories were functioning in Sivakasi endangering over 150,000 lives, we decided to crack down on the illegal ones.
"Since some of the products posed dangers to makers and users alike we took action, seizing chemicals by the truckloads and closing down units by the dozens in the Sivakasi hinterland," said Sanjeev Kumar, inspector general of police, south Tamil Nadu.
"The firecracker industry is worth over Rs.10 billion with an annual growth rate of 10 percent. Now we have regulated it and only those who safely practise their trade will be allowed. Further, action against those who employ under-aged children are also being prosecuted regularly," Kumar added.
The police, however, have helped those who operate within the law.
Licensed factories are allowed to produce dummy weapons for military training. "Special rockets" used to scare the bird menace around airports are created during off-peak season - providing a perennial livelihood for the fireworks industries, a police press communiqué said.
"Diwali is a festival of lights and not deafening sounds. This year onwards, the law and order machinery has begun encouraging colour and gaiety during the revelry instead of noise pollution. Hopefully, henceforth, the deafeningly dark ignorance will be banished by ample presence of enlightened brightness," R Sekar, the city police commissioner told IANS.