Concerns around air pollution had already affected the firecracker business, with multiple states temporarily banning them during the festive season over the years. Then came the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, where weddings, festivities and celebrations took a complete backseat.
The impact? Firecracker units in Sivakasi, that contribute more than 90% of the country’s demand, could face losses upto ₹800 crores.
#TNIEeditorial | A complete ban on fireworks will mean loss of livelihood for over eight lakh people engaged in the fireworks industry concentrated in Tamil Nadu's Sivakasi. @gsvasu_TNIE @xpresstn https://t.co/PyIiHkJcNw
— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) November 9, 2020
The fireworks industry concentrated in Sivakasi, a town in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district is a means of livelihood for over eight lakh people. Earlier, social distancing norms and limitations on guests at functions meant celebrations were muted and their business was severely affected.
Health experts have also pointed out how pollution due to crackers can make people more susceptible to Covid-19. With pollution levels rising across many parts of India, multiple states and union territories — from Rajasthan and Delhi to Karnataka, Odisha and Sikkim — have banned or put restrictions around firecrackers during Diwali.
Diwali firecracker ban is latest blow to Sivakasi factories, 2020 loss seen at Rs 800 cr
— ThePrintIndia (@ThePrintIndia) November 9, 2020
The industry could be looking at huge losses. “This year, we are estimating a loss of close to ₹800 crore. The two-month lockdown and decline in the number of orders has hurt us badly,” said Ganesan Panjurajan, director of a company called Sony Fireworks, who is also the president of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association (TANFAMA), a body representing firecracker firms.
Manufacturers claim that demand has dropped over 35 per cent and production units have been functioning at less than 100 percent strength because of coronavirus guidelines and many workers not returning post lockdown. “First, it was the concept of a green Diwali that affected our sales. Then came the pandemic, and now our orders have reduced by more than 30 per cent (since last year). How will we survive?” asked S Ulaganathan of Virgo Fireworks, staring at a loss of ₹100 crores.
.@TN_PYC appeals for financial security of unemployed workers.
Today, Virudhnagar DYC president Meenachi and Sivakashi AYC president Venkatesh led the protest against the union govt demanding govt support for firecracker factory workers who have lost their jobs. pic.twitter.com/N4nysd5Vnz
— Youth Congress (@IYC) November 6, 2020
Manufacturers are now placing all bets on “green crackers”. As reported by The Indian Express, Tamil Nadu has been claiming at all forums that most of its products are certified “green crackers” because the raw materials it uses would reduce emissions by 30 to 35% and emit 125 decibels as compared to 160. Karnataka originally banned crackers but has since allowed the sale of green crackers.
The only silver lining has been the campaign against Chinese goods, which has led to more people buying local variants instead of Chinese counterparts.
Bought some green crackers. Pleasantly surprised by reduction of smoke. Sivakasi enterprises are made of amazingly hardworking people. They have been resilient despite many challenges. Hope this nation supports them. Atleast, we the Tamils should support them @manickamtagore
— Sundar (@doc_sund) November 8, 2020
Sivakasi has been torn between a life-threatening virus and people’s livelihoods. In the long run, firecrackers factories can look to produce only green crackers and stay on the right side of Government initiatives as well as Supreme Court directives. People’s health, as well the economic prospects of the people of Sivakasi are of prime importance. And true sustainable living is only when all sides are taken along.