More than 600 containers of firecrackers are likely to be smuggled into India from China via sea ports like Kandla, Mumbai, Kolkata and Tuticorin, according to information with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The firecrackers contain potassium chlorate, an explosive chemical that is banned in India. Manufacturing, possessing and use of explosives or firecrackers containing sulphur or sulphurate, mixed with any form of chlorate, is prohibited in India. Complying with the ban, Explosives Rules, 2008 guidelines issued by the Petroleum Safety Organisation, prohibits granting licence to any company for import of Chinese firecrackers.
The ministry has written a letter to the chief secretaries of various states, warning them to keep a check on entry of prohibited firecrackers.
Recently, a few firecracker traders were arrested from Sadar Bazar in Delhi for storing 2,440 kg of Chinese firecrackers illegally. The firecrackers reached the capital city via neighbouring state Haryana.
Many traders feel that since the China-made firecrackers look better and are sold at much cheaper prices, they find many buyers in the Indian markets. Over the last three years, there has been a surge in demand for these firecrackers.
But, these crackers may easily cause serious accidents because of their chemical composition. “It is illegal to sell Chinese firecrackers but we also need to cater to public’s demand. These firecrackers are cheaper and innovative and they look better than the ones manufactured in India, says Satish Gupta, a firecrackers seller in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. What he usually does is hide Chinese firecrackers and take them out only when a customer asks for them or when he thinks a customer’s demand is genuine and will not cause him any trouble.
Chinese fireworks usually enter the Indian markets via Nepal. Unconfirmed reports and estimates reveal that firecrackers worth Rs 100 crore get smuggled into India, whose domestic firecracker industry has a turnover of Rs 1,500 crore.
According to J Tamilselvan, president of Sivakasi-based Indian Fireworks Association, India is still in the kerosene-era when it comes to variety of firecrackers and China has graduated to CFL-age. “Chinese firecrackers are cheaper. They look a lot better. We cannot use potassium chlorate, the main ingredient that adds colour and height to fireworks, but Chinese can do it. Potassium perchlorate that is baned in India is used in China a big way,” he says.
Tamilselvan also feels that government should amend Fireworks Act so that India can compete in the global markets. The fireworks industry employs around 150,000 people and provides an additional 300,000 indirect jobs.