New Delhi: Tamil Nadu fireworks manufacturers are gearing up for the festival with new varieties of crackers to compete against those made in Chinese as their influx was posing a threat to the Rs 3000-crore domestic industry.
Eight new varieties of crackers have been introduced for the festival which falls on October 22, and the cost ranges from Rs 2150 to Rs 11,350, manufacturers and retailers here said.
Sivanadar, a local retailer, said 'panorama-500', which would burst for 500 seconds, would cost Rs 11,350. Bullet train is another variety, he said.
"We have introduced more varieties this year to compete with the Chinese varieties," he said. Tamil Nadu Fireworks Manufacturers Association General Secretary Sundar and K.Chitraijothi, an expert and advisor to manufacturers of Indian Crackers, claimed Chinese fireworks might be a cheaper, but are harmful to the environment.
"Our crackers are definitely far better in quality and safety. They can be burst anywhere but Chinese crackers can be burst only by experts in an open ground," they claimed.
Indian crackers use raw materials like newspapers, cardboards and jute while Chinese ones have chlorates or per-chlorates, they said.
Abiruben, President, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' Association (TANFAMA), said Chinese crackers could burst even due to small friction.
Association members said Chinese crackers were sold at a cheaper rate because the cost of potassium chlorate used as raw material was only Rs.50 per kg compared to the aluminium powder in Indian crackers, which is much less harmful but costs Rs 300 a kg.
Sundar said North Indian traders expected the government to give clearance for import of Chinese crackers and had reduced orders from Sivakasi, the country's fireworks hub. "This had affected our sales to the tune of about Rs 1,000 crore."
But the Centre has asserted that the possession or sale of fireworks of foreign origin is "illegal and punishable" and has tightened its grip over illegal import of Chinese crackers which are reportedly flooding the market by issuing a public notification warning importers and public of legal consequences.
Association members said price of domestic crackers hadbeen hiked by five % this year, though costs of raw materials like cardboard and sulphur had gone up by 15%. This was taking into account the competition posed by the Chinese crackers, they said.
Chitraijothi said government should encourage only Indian varieties as the fireworks are handled mostly by children.
Explosives department officials said fireworks are smuggled into the country through the container route. Though the government had ordered seizure of containers, the customs department did not have adequate facility to seize containers having crackers. They had only one scanning equipment at Tuticorin, they said.
The department is keeping strict vigil as it wanted to promote local manufacturing of crackers which provides jobs to five lakh people in the Rs 3,000-crore industry, officials said.
There were about 800 fireworks factories in Virudhunagar district alone. Officials should ensure that traders do not display Chinese crackers or those of any other country except India. The Centre had started strictly imposing the Explosives Act against Chinese crackers, Chitraijoti said.
The government imposed the ban on foreign crackers on a plea from various manufacturers. However,there was information that foreign fireworks had been smuggled in, in 2000 containers. What was now needed was banning the display of Chinese crackers. This would be possible only if local officials stepped up efforts, Chitraijoti said.
Sivanadar said people in urban areas demand only Indian crackers. Besides retailers did not want to take a risk by selling Chinese crackers.