SC ban takes light out of Diwali firecracker trade in NCR

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SC ban takes light out of Diwali firecracker trade in NCR
Traders in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk have downed their shutters after the SC ban. | Source: Sabah K.

The apex court order has impacted not only wholesalers and retailers, but also jobs in the informal sector dependent on fireworks business.

New Delhi: Traders across the National Capital Region (NCR) are shocked and aggrieved by the Supreme Court’s ban on the sale of firecrackers. Not only has the apex court’s order impacted wholesalers and retailers, it has also hurt jobs in the informal sector dependent on the Diwali fireworks business.

“I had employed 50 workers earning a wage of Rs 500 a day. This was their bread and butter, but how will I pay them now,” asked Amit Jain, owner of Ajit Fireworks in Chandni Chowk’s Dariba Kalan area.

Jain, a member of the Delhi firecracker traders’ association, claimed that the move was “unfair” as it targeted only the sellers. “Why only us? The ban should have been imposed both on manufacturers and those who burst firecrackers as well.”

Citing deteriorating air quality in Delhi and neighbouring areas, the top court Monday upheld its 11 November, 2016 order, suspending all licences that “permit sale of fireworks wholesale and retail within the territory of NCR”.

The latest SC order has hit the traders’ income, many of whom are already debt-ridden. “The ban has brought us to the streets. We are all running in debt and we won’t be able to earn anything this Diwali. We can’t even sell the crackers elsewhere as the supply is sealed. My stock worth around Rs 40 lakh has been wasted and most of the traders in my circle are facing similar losses,” said Ashish of Indian Fire Works in Faridabad’s Dabua area.

In old Faridabad’s Daulatabad, a woman with a grim face was selling a small quantity of crackers. “I got my daughter married this year and had taken up loans from informal sources. I have brought a few toy guns and sparklers from my hometown Jhajjhar, but this ban has added more burdens on me,” she said.

The latest order comes barely a month after the SC had allowed traders to sell their existing stock, modifying its 2016 ruling imposing a blanket ban on firecrackers.

“Last November, we were told to stop selling crackers. Later on, we got approval and invested our entire capital in buying them for this Diwali. But this order has ruined my business and my family is at a loss too,” said Maheshwar Srivastava, owner of Majestic Fireworks Co. in Chandni Chowk, which has been in the cracker business since 1875.

In 2016, the World Health Organization ranked Delhi as the second most polluted city in the world. For NCR — India’s largest urban agglomerate housing almost 46 million people — the deteriorating air quality has become a major cause of concern.

Traders, however, look at the ban as unjust and unequal. “What about other people sitting elsewhere in India? They will earn their living but we will not. If banning firecrackers was an absolute necessity, it should have been extended to the entire country,” argued a trader in Old Delhi.

 

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