Despite Court orders & pollution, sale of firecrackers is “rocketing”

Mumbai, Nov 10: Regardless of the rising pollution and the court orders, the demand for fireworks has not declined in Mumbai. A shopkeeper at K Fidally, one of the many famous firework-selling shops at Mohammed Ali Road, said, “You are crazy if you think there is a ban. Around five to six lakh people will die from pollution, those many firecrackers have already been bought.”

This is in spite of the fact that crackers and sparklers are roughly 30 to 40 percent more expensive than last year.

He did not sound happy at the high volume of sales, more angry in fact. It could have been because of the crowds that thronged his establishment.

The Bombay High Court had issued a notice on November 7, wherein they specified a time limit, between 7pm and 10 pm, for the bursting of firecrackers in Mumbai during Diwali. On the same day, the Supreme Court clarified that its earlier directions against the use of barium and banned chemicals in firecrackers are applicable across the country, legally binding in all states and not just the Delhi-National Capital Region.

Ironically, barium is used to produce the colour green in firecrackers, which are then referred to as “green firecrackers”. Many think that this means they are environmentally safe, which is not the case at all. The same firecrackers also contain other banned chemicals, according to a report from the NGO, Awaaz Foundation.

The famous Essabhai Fireworks store has throngs of customers during the festive season.

Essabhai, another famous fireworks shop owner, said that people would buy firecrackers no matter how expensive they were. “The prices have increased a lot since last year. The formula of green crackers has changed, that is why they are costly. But people do not care, they want to celebrate Diwali with fireworks,” he said.

Essabhai’s  is the oldest such establishment in Mumbai which offers retail as well as wholesale. He sells throughout the year in Mohammedali road and is considered a spokesman for the trade.

A temporary fireworks stall owner said that he sells fireworks ranging from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 50,000 and does not let anyone go empty-handed.

In terms of buyers, the large majority didn’t mind splurging on fireworks because the occasion only comes once a year. They didn’t seem to care too much of the health hazards.

Vijay Deshmukh, an advocate, said that he bought fireworks worth Rs 5,000 for his children. “We buy them only once a year, so the price does not matter. It is a tradition and a joy for the kids,” he said.

Fireworks of all shapes, sizes and price ranges are found here in this temporary stall which has something for everyone’s needs.

House painter Bhimrao, said that he bought fireworks worth Rs. 3,000 for his “ six-seven kids.” “They are very happy to see the fireworks. They wait for this day all year,” he said.

However, not everyone was oblivious to the rules and the risks. A police officer, Pramod Pawar, who was also buying fireworks, said that carrying firecrackers in public transport is not allowed because of the danger to other citizens. He also said that the government has already made rules and that the police will take action against anyone who breaks them.

Meanwhile, the taxi drivers are making a killing. Since people cannot board trains carrying firecrackers, they are the only alternative.  To go home.

Written by PG Journalism students of St Pauls Institute (SPICE), Ronan Carvalho & Sidhant Shekhar

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