Small Cracker Owners Expect Deepavali to Light Their Lives

Sivakasi: Sivakasi is a city in Tamil Nadu that majorly survives on firecracker industry. They are the major suppliers throughout India for various festivals such as Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Christmas and New Year. 90% of the production is made for the peak season which is Diwali. All the capital is spent and the labor is engaged for the production throughout the year for the much-awaited Diwali sale. Other than festivals, customer base is mostly political parties, celebration of events such as marriage and for deaths. 

This industry is totally labor dependent. The engagement of labor in the production of crackers is so much so that it is even difficult to find house help (maid) in this area. Many families have been doing this work for generations. In an era of technology driven business market, an industry like the fireworks uses minimal technology. Machinery usage is also minimizing since the heat generated by machines is a threat for the explosion of fireworks.  Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and IndiaMart are used for marketing and advertising.

The market size is about 2500 crores and it is predominantly in India. Though there is demand for exports of fireworks made in India in the international market, there are supply side problems such as shipment. Also, the recent environmental policies in place for the control of pollution have led to the innovation of new generation green firecrackers which are much safer and biodegradable in nature. But the sustainability of this industry in the long run is a big question as there is decline in celebration of Diwali with crackers in Urban India and the pandemic has led to various restrictions for containing of the virus. A year-long efforts put in by laborers in making of these fireworks is ruined in minutes due to restrictions put forth by government. For example, a recent tweet by Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal regarding Diwali celebrations ban in NCR saw a fall in the sales. Since it requires investment of a huge capital, only the big brands such as Standard, Sony, Kaliswari, etc., survive while the smaller traders exit early. The COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in reduced liquidity which further reduced purchasing power among people definitely affecting the sale of fireworks.

Though occupationally risky in nature, most people in and around the city of Sivakasi depend on fireworks making for their survival. “It is an industry which provides about 8 lakhs jobs of which 55% are women in Virudhunagar district alone and around 1.5cr jobs across India”, says P.Ganeshan, President of TANFAMA and head of Sony Fireworks. He also added, “Diwali is a festival which doesn’t require a public gathering like other festivals for the celebrations and till date rural parts of India celebrate this festival traditionally by bursting crackers. Hence, the demand for fireworks is still high and people should be allowed to celebrate at least for a day as it doesn’t violate COVID-19 norms and does not trigger the spread of virus further”. Years of practice in making of these fireworks has resulted in lack of other skills of these laborers making them suitable exclusively for the firecrackers industry. So, drop in the sales of these fireworks will impact many people and households directly and indirectly. Owing to the increased pollution levels and decreased festival celebrations especially due to COVID 19, the production of crackers has been reduced by 30% in 2021 as there is fall in the purchase of crackers. The cracker business which is majorly reliable on festival seems to have a tough road ahead without proper government support.