96 licenses only: From boom to doom for cracker traders in Chandigarh
With the UT administration issuing only 96 cracker licences to traders this Diwali, strong resentment prevails among those left out. Having bought the stock around two months in advance, most of these traders now face huge losses.
Last year, around 480 traders had got the licences. In fact, more than 300 licences were issued on Thursday as well, before being scrapped owing to the Punjab and Haryana high court’s order on restricting sale and bursting of crackers.
The fresh licences were issued on Monday through draw of lots under the supervision of UT deputy commissioner (DC) Ajit Balaji Joshi at his office in Sector 17. The licences have been issued for only three days — October 17 to 19 — and the number of designated sites for sale of crackers has also been reduced from 17 to nine.
To mark their protest, all traders who attended the Monday draw chose to sit on the floor instead of chairs arranged there. Surprisingly, none of the members of the governing body of the cracker traders’ association got a licence.
More than 600 traders had applied for the licence this year. However, the high court (HC) restricted the issuing of licences to only 20% of those given last year.
‘Bought stock already’
“Most of the traders had already bought the stock, hoping that they will get the licences,” said Devinder Gupta, president of the cracker dealers’ association.
Gupta said those left out will have to try and sell their stock to those with the licence at lower prices.
“We will be facing huge losses, but we are helpless,” he said.
“We are witnessing such a scenario for the first time,” said the association’s general secretary, Chirag Aggarwal. “First, the UT administration harassed us over the allocation of sites. Now, we have been provided nine sites, but the number of licences has been slashed drastically. Ninety-six traders could have operated from just three to four sites.”
Poor response in part of Mohali
Meanwhile, the Mohali administration issued 40 licences as compared to 218 last year for the sale of crackers in the district .
As many as 311 applications were received. In Mohali city, 14 licences were issued against 132 applications. Even as four licences were to be issued in Lalru, only one application was received. In Nayagaon, no one applied for the licence.
In all, the administration has designated 10 places in the district for the sale of crackers. Outside Mohali city, these will be set up at government senior secondary schools in Banur, Dera Bassi and Lalru besides the Dussehra ground in Baltana, Zirakpur.
In Panchkula, all 13 traders who got the licence on Monday will set up their shop at Hafed ground in Sector 5. In all, 130 applications were received.
Up to 2-yr jail for illegal sale
Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) issued by UT district magistrate Ajit Balaji Joshi on Sunday following the HC’s order also covers illegal sale of crackers. The orders will remain in effect till October 26.
Violating Section 144 of the CrPC can lead to registration of a case under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If convicted, the violator may be imprisoned for up to two years along with fine of ₹1,000.
Additional DC Rajiv Gupta said if any trader is found selling crackers illegally, action will be taken under Section 188 of the IPC. All three sub-divisional magistrates will be provided the list of 96 license holders.
“We have formed one more team to check subletting of licences,” he said.
Meanwhile, during the draw of lots in Mohali, deputy commissioner Gurpreet Sapra warned the traders against selling banned crackers. She said minors will not be allowed to sell crackers. The dealers were also given instructions on arrangements for fire safety.