SC ban on firecrackers: Industry stares at Rs 1,000 crore loss, layoffs

Workers from the firecracker industry lamented, saying crackers cause pollution only for a week at best, but vehicles pollute 24×7 all 365 days.

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​A Supreme Court ban on crackers in Delhi may clean up the capital’s air this Diwali but the decision is likely to choke the livelihoods of lakhs of workers in Tamil Nadu’s fireworks manufacturing hub of Sivakasi that fears a loss of more than Rs 1,000 crore.Fireworks manufacturers in the tiny southern Tamil Nadu town, which accounts for 85% of all crackers sold in the country, say they are worried that other states might emulate the top court order.

“Diwali is the time we make maximum profits and the SC order will completely smash many units,” Asai Thmabi, president of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association, told Hindustan Times. He said there was no time for a review of the top court order as only 10 days remained for Diwali.

“We cause pollution only for a week at best, but vehicles pollute the city 24×7 all 365 days. What about that?”

Sivakasi has an annual estimated turnover of about Rs 7000 crore and employs more than 300,000 workers directly in the firecracker manufacturing factories. Another 500,000 are engaged in related industries – packaging, printing, paper rolling transportation and the like.

“We are worried about loss of jobs and livelihood options for people if firecrackers are banned in other cities too,” added Asai Thambi.

Sivakasi has been in the news frequently for its dangerous working conditions, employment of child labour and a rash of accidents in unsafe manufacturing units, but the industry has thrived.

“Some NGO or other petitioner can spoil the Diwali of manufacturers by filing a petition in any court, citing the SC ban seek a similar order to prevent noise pollution and environmental pollution,” the Sivakasi manufacturers association said.

G Sivaraman, another small manufacturer, said that Diwali celebrations were part of the tradition and culture of people. “How can the court disregard the fact that stopping use of firecrackers would hurt the sentiments of many people?” he asked.

Accidents in Sivakasi:

September 5, 2012: Explosion in an unlicensed factory kills 52 people and injures 70.

September 12, 2012: Explosion in small factory kills 3.

May 15, 2013: Three people die and 13 get injured in a blaze that rips through a private fireworks factory after an accidental explosion.

April 28, 2013: Eight people killed in an explosion in a firecracker factory.

May 23, 2014: Three people die in a fire at a cracker unit.

October 20, 2016: Eight killed in accidental fire at a firecracker factory.

December 2, 2016: Eight patients at a scanning centre in Sivakasi die after a neighbouring firecracker unit catches fire. Thick fumes engulf the centre and choke the victims.

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