Chinese manjha trade thrives in Delhi amid inadequate legal deterrent
On Thursday, a seven-year-old girl was killed in west Delhi’s Paschim Vihar after her throat was slit by Chinese manjha (glass-coated kite string).
For residents of Delhi, kite-flying assumes significant nostalgic and sentimental value. However, the unabated use of illegal glass-coated strings in these kites is proving fatal for residents.
On Thursday, a seven-year-old girl was killed in west Delhi’s Paschim Vihar after her throat was slit by Chinese manjha (glass-coated kite string) while she was sitting in front of her father on his motorcycle.
The Delhi government in January 2017 and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July that year prohibited the sale, manufacture and supply of glass-coated thread across the city.
Despite Delhi Police’s claims of taking stringent action, incidents like the recent one — and the sale of the glass-coated manjha — continue to take place in the national capital.
Even if someone is booked for using, keeping or selling these strings, they are let off comparatively easily. The maximum punishment for this offence — prescribed under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code — is imprisonment for up to only six months or a fine up to ₹1,000 or both. Shockingly, none of the accused booked in Delhi for this offence since the 2017 ban has been jailed so far.
A senior Delhi Police officer said that punishment for the offence is not significant enough to cause any fear of legal consequences.
“All the police stations in Delhi have been asked to increase vigilance around kite shops and see if rules are being flouted...Any person found selling metallic powder or nylon or plastic manjhas would be booked under Section 188 of IPC. However, the maximum punishment for this offence is so small, people do not fear much,” said the officer, asking not to be named.
The officer added that surprise raids are also being conducted at various shops in different parts of the city. “Most of the manjhas sold in Delhi come from Firozabad, Bareilly, Meerut and Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Rohtak in Haryana. While many people including children have fallen victim to the deadly manjha, it is difficult for us to identify the suspects through CCTV footage. Moreover, since several kites fly high in the sky, it is difficult to identify the source of the strings,” he said.
Quoting the 2017 NGT judgment, the officer said that the term “Chinese” is simply a terminology commonly used for nylon, metallic or synthetic threads.
“This ‘Chinese’ manjha is in fact predominantly manufactured in different parts of India that are famous for its manjha and kites. The respective state governments can easily stop this menace at its roots, but they have not done it so far,” he added.
Suman Nalwa, the deputy commissioner of police (public relations), said that a notice has been issued from the police headquarters on Thursday, in which all the deputy commissioners of police have been asked to create awareness among target groups, and utilise “eyes and ears” approach to ill-effects and illegal use of Chinese manjha.
“They have also been asked to ensure strict surveillance and carry out sustained enforcement. A fortnightly performance assessment of DCPs with regards to this shall be discussed at PHQ (police headquarters) level,” she said.
When HT visited Old Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area, it found an instance of open flouting of norms on Chinese manjha. A man was seen standing with a kite thread roll and Chinese manjha in his hand near a thread shop. When HT tried to approach the man, he left the spot.
When the shopkeeper was enquired about this, he denied availability of any Chinese manjha at his shop. “We don’t sell any manjha. Our shop is 50 years old, and we only sell tailoring materials,” he said.
However, a paan shop owner nearby said that manjha is sold to those customers known to the thread shopkeeper.
“You can easily get it in Patang Bazaar near Lal Kuan,” he added. However, he claimed that one could buy thread rolls with Chinese manjha from roadside eateries itself.
When HT approached a roadside eatery in Patang Bazaar, the paan vendor’s claims proved true as the illegal string along with a thread roll was available for ₹1,500.
Sunil Kumar Mishra, a lawyer at the Supreme Court, said that the sale of manjhas won’t be curbed with such lenient laws. “The law must be more stringent for all the stakeholders of this business. Otherwise, putting a check on it will remain a distant dream,” he said.