Diwali with green crackers in distress — production is down and prices are up

Diwali with green crackers in distress — production is down and prices are up
Green firecrackers on saleIANS
  • Green firecrackers are in short supply across shops in North India.
  • Despite the government announcing that there are eight options, only two varieties are available in the market.
  • Green firecrackers are also more expensive than their traditional counterparts.

Last year, green firecrackers were nowhere to be found because they weren’t being produced. This year, the Indian government is doling out licenses for the production of green firecrackers — but they still aren’t easy to find.

It’s not just consumers that are left in a bind, but shopkeepers as well.

Even if consumers are able to track down a shop selling green firecrackers, there are only two types on sale — anaars (fountain crackers) and phuljhadis (sparklers). And, they’re 30-50% costlier than the traditional alternatives.

If consumers don’t have the patience, traditional firecrackers are still being sold in lesser known markets, that too in ample varieties.

For shopkeepers, this creates a conundrum. They can either skirt the new law and sell traditional fireworks — for which there is still demand — or they can offer green firecrackers and have consumers walk away in a huff over the lack of variety or the cost.

Why are there only two options?

The simple answer is that are, in fact, more than two options. Government-run labs around the country have actually come up with eight different alternatives that can be manufactured and sold legally.

These crackers are dubbed ‘green’ because they produce less noise and produce less particulate matter.

According to the Department of Science and Technology and CSIR, traditional crackers produced a noise level of 160 decibels, whereas the noise of green crackers is limited to 125. They also produce 30% less PM 2.5.

Squeeze on the supply of green crackers

The small town of Sivakasi is responsible for 95% of the country’s crackers. The city’s workers went on a six-month strike to protest against the Supreme Court’s ban on traditional crackers.

During those months, a lot of workers migrated to other locations looking for work. So, when factories reopened in May whoever was left was briefed on manufacturing green crackers. By then, there was a 30-40% labour shortage.

Even the overall amount of manufacturers is less than half of last year.

In 2018, there were 1,600 units licensed to produce fireworks. Come 2019, only 350 manufacturers have gotten new licenses to make green crackers.

The industry feels that its usual yearly earning of ₹1,800 crore is likely to dip into the red, this season.

But the government doesn’t seem to be worried. "After the Supreme Court ban, there was a threat of closure of the fireworks industry. However, science has again come to the rescue and millions of jobs have been saved," said Union Health and Science & Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan in a statement.