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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Two varieties of green crackers available, sales low on Day One

cities Updated: Oct 23, 2019 23:57 IST
Vatsala Shrangi and Soumya Pillai
Vatsala Shrangi and Soumya Pillai

New Delhi

Just three days to go for Diwali, the wholesale firecracker markets in Delhi on Wednesday finally opened for customers wanting to buy the newly-launched green crackers. The low availability and the high prices, however, kept the sales low on Day One.

Hindustan Times did a spot check at Sadar Bazar and Jama Masjid, the two wholesale cracker markets of Delhi on Wednesday, only to find that most temporary fireworks stores weren’t much crowded.

Traders said that with only two varieties of firecrackers available — phuljhari (sparklers) and anar (flowerpots) — on the first day of sale of the green varieties of firecrackers, many customers left without buying much.

Some roadside vendors were also found selling Chinese varieties of crackers that burst on impact — like ‘pop-ups’ — which are banned in Delhi.

Sushil Joshi, 50, who has been buying crackers from Jama Masjid area for the past 20 years, said the cost of sparklers and flowerpots this year was almost double, compared to conventional crackers in the past.

“There are only two varieties of crackers. Earlier, one could buy a single pack of sparklers for around Rs 40- Rs50, but the green version costs over Rs 80. I have only bought a few this year,” said Joshi, a marketing professional.

While traders were relieved that they could at least set up shops this year unlike the last two years, they said that there was a lack of awareness about green crackers among the masses. They added that even those who were aware, were not enthusiastic to buy the limited options.

“Only limited stock has come, as green crackers were being manufactured for the first time and the samples took time for testing. Earlier, we used to have 200-250 varieties — including rockets, ladis, bijli bombs, chakris etc. This year the sparklers and flowerpots we are selling have been manufactured by local manufacturers in Rajasthan and Haryana. The bigger brands in Sivakasi are yet to send in their stocks. Also, we got licences to sell only three days before Diwali and could not procure much stock. Business is still low. We hope to have full-fledged sales next Diwali,” said Narender Gupta, president, temporary fireworks and general traders association, Sadar Bazar.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had ordered that only less-polluting crackers, with improved chemical formulas that reduce emission levels by at least 30%, could be sold in Delhi, owing to concerns of rising air pollution.

This year he said, only nine licences had been issued in Sadar Bazar, against the 72 issued in 2016. “Before the ban was put in place in 2017, Sadar Bazar alone had 81 licenced cracker shops. That year, more than 1,000 licences were issued all over Delhi. This year, many traders did not apply as green crackers were still not available. Nobody wants to run into losses at the last moment,” Gupta said

In 2017, the Apex court had put a blanket ban on sale and purchase of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR ahead of the festival.

Rajiv Kumar Jain, owner, Gudiya Fireworks, a manufacturing unit based in Haryana’s Jhajjhar, said they are able to make only two varieties of firecrackers, as the chemicals allowed to be used absorbs moisture from the air and takes longer to dry up. “We could produce a limited stock, as these crackers take at least three days to dry and their shelf-life is also small. This is because barium nitrate, the base chemical that was used in making 80% of cracker varieties earlier, was banned and substituted by potassium nitrate, which absorbs moisture. This is why manufacturing even small items, like sparklers, is tough.”

He added that an improved formula of making fireworks using barium nitrate, which causes at least 40%-50% less emissions, was approved by the CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). But hearing on the matter is pending in the Supreme Court since May this year.

“We are waiting for the hearing that is scheduled on November 5,” said Jain.

Besides, traders rued that this year licences were given just for five days, October 23 to October 29, unlike 24 days earlier.

Temporary licenses are issued to traders to sell fireworks by Delhi Police.

A senior police official said, “This year, we have issued 57 licenses all over Delhi. Initially, many applications were rejected for not meeting required parameters. We called for re-applications, which took some time after which licences were issued.”

According to Maheshwar Dayal Srivastava of Jama Masjid, whose firecracker shop was established in 1875, the sheen of Diwali had vanished, even though there are so many other extreme sources of pollution, such as diesel vehicles, which are not being reined in.

“The cracker business is only 20%. We have been suffering huge losses since the ban. I had switched to making artificial flower decorations over the past two years. This year with some stock in market, I have again set up shop, buit the crowd is just not there,” said Srivastava.