Despite several Supreme Court rulings in recent years on restricting the manufacture, sale and use of firecrackers, flagrant violation of norms continues to plague the Indian fireworks industry, whose worth is estimated to be around Rs 3,000 crore. Earlier this week, six migrant workers were killed and 14 others suffered burn injuries in an explosion at an illegal factory in Himachal Pradesh’s Una district. The factory had no licence for making firecrackers and was also not registered with the industries department. Last month, seven lives were lost in mishaps in Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi, the hub of firecracker manufacturing. Safety concerns are not properly addressed even by the authorised industrial units, with employees handling explosives and other chemicals without requisite training.
It was in October 2018 that the apex court had banned the production and sale of all crackers — except the ‘green’ ones (made without toxic ingredients) and those with reduced emissions. The court had also ordered that crackers should be sold only by licensed traders and their decibel levels should be within permissible limits. The bursting of firecrackers aggravates air pollution during the festival season, adversely impacting people with respiratory ailments. On Diwali last year, Delhi and some other states had imposed a blanket ban on all kinds of crackers, even though its enforcement left a lot to be desired.
An outright ban no doubt faces practical constraints, but it is feasible to reduce the availability and supply of firecrackers. Making the licensing process tougher can go a long way in ensuring that manufacturing operations are scaled down considerably. At the same time, strict monitoring is needed to weed out the illegal factories. The government-approved manufacturers who show blatant disregard for safety rules, endangering the lives of workers, should be delicensed. The attempts to circumvent the ban — selling products containing harmful chemicals under fake ‘green cracker’ labels and QR codes — must be scuttled by the regulatory authorities. The public can do its bit by shunning firecrackers altogether or limiting their use to the bare minimum.
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