It will be a smoke-free and cleaner Diwali for Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) as the Supreme Court on Monday banned the sale of firecrackers till November 1, asserting that it wants to assess the impact on the air quality.
The top court said that it had issued a similar ban in the NCR region last year, but it didn’t have the opportunity to observe the impact on pollution levels. So, it ordered that a relevant agency compute the impact of a noise- and smoke-free festival this year.
The apex court simultaneously suspended all licenses issued by the Delhi Police to shopkeepers that allowed them to sell fireworks.
However, the ban by the Supreme Court has left the shopkeepers in anger and dismay, with many of them threatening to go on strike and insisting that they won’t follow the order.
Shopkeepers in Sadar Bazar and Jama Masjid, two of Delhi’s biggest cracker markets, said that with losses running into crores, their Diwali was going up in smoke.
“All dealers across NCR have been affected. The ban was imposed in 2016 last year and was lifted temporarily around 20 days back. Now, what will be do with the old stock? Crackers worth crores will go waste,” Amit Jain, who sells firecrackers in Jama Masjid, told PTI.
Also Read: No firecrackers this Diwali: Ban on sale of firecrackers in Delhi/NCR to continue till Nov 1
Another dismayed shopkeeper in Sadar Bazar asked the top court to “ban nuclear weapons, not crackers”.
A banner saying “Patake hi Patake” was pulled down to make way for a new one declaring, “Nashe se mar rahe hai log, Patakon se nahi (People are dying because of drugs, not of crackers”.
“We are selling crackers not nuclear weapons that you impose a ban. This is India, not Taliban that you can go on banning things like this,” Chhabra told PTI.
Shopkeepers in Sadar Bazar have threatened to go on strike and insist they won’t follow the order.
“We can’t sell in shops so we will sell on the pavement if nothing works out,” Chhabra said, addressing a crowd that had gathered near his shop.
“This is not child’s play. They have revoked the old ban only to bring it again. What do we do with these crackers that we bought,” he added, showing his licence giving him permission to sell crackers till November 21.
Sandeep Mahajan, another shopkeeper from Sadar Bazar, is wondering what would he do with the 600 kg of crackers worth Rs 8 lakh that he has.
Many of them said they were just getting over the blow of “28 per cent GST on crackers”.
“We are clueless about what to do next! For us Diwali is finished. The last I knew, Supreme Court was authorised to regulate, not ban.
This will only create new avenues for corruption. I can already see policemen taking rounds to harass us,” said Surinder Chawla.
While environmentalists and others have welcomed the apex court’s order, many shopkeepers are still hoping that the biggies of Sivakasi – firecracker manufacturing hub – will manage to get a stay.
“People running the industry in Sivakasi are big shots. They will get us out of this situation,” Chawla said.
Reacting to the top court’s order, renowned author and television personality Chetan Bhagat said: “Banning crackers on Diwali is like banning Christmas trees on Christmas and goats on Bakr-Eid. Regulate. Don’t ban. Respect traditions”.
Fireworks industry fears loss of over Rs 1,000 crore
The SC ban on firecrackers in the national capital is likely to affect the lives of lakhs of workers in Tamil Nadu’s fireworks manufacturing hub of Sivakasi that fears a loss of more than Rs 1,000 crore, according to a Hindustan Times report.
Fireworks manufacturers in Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi, which accounts for 85 per cent of all crackers sold in the country, said that they are worried that other states might follow the footprints of the top court order.
The small town has an annual estimated turnover of about Rs 7,000 crore and employs more than 300,000 workers directly in the factories that manufacture firecrackers. Another 500,000 workers work in related industries like packaging, printing and paper rolling transportation.
Noticeably, Sivakasi has been under the scanner for its dangerous working conditions, employment of child labour and a spat of accidents in unsafe manufacturing units.