Firecrackers traders and artisans who usually eye brisk business during the festive season of the year, are now reeling under acute financial crisis due to the ban imposed by the Odisha government on sale and bursting of crackers in the State.
The State government has prohibited the sale and use of crackers as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, leaving thousands of firecracker traders in dire straits.
Kabiraj Lenka of Bhagbanpur in Patrapada area on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, who is associated with cracker business since decades, used to remain very busy during Diwali. But his livelihood has been hit hard for the last two years due the ban on crackers.
Sans any business for the past two years, he plans to surrender the cracker licence, sell the land where he set up the cracker factory and take up other professions for survival.
“We somehow managed for the past two years, but it is impossible for us now to survive. If the government does not grant permission, the cracker industry will crumble in the State. All the traders are frustrated and will shut down their business,” said Lenka.
The situation is no different for other cracker traders across the State who are under stress due to the ban on the business.
“The ban on the firecracker business has left us penniless. We are struggling to maintain our family,” said Sarat Mallick, a cracker artisan from Salepur in Cuttack.
Apart from the traders and artisans in Odisha, the ban on sale and bursting of crackers has also adversely affected the traders of Tamil Nadu. Recently, Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin requested his counterparts in Delhi, Odisha, Rajasthan and Haryana to reconsider the ban on the sale of firecrackers.
Agreeing with the suggestion, the Rajasthan government has eased restrictions on sale of crackers. The traders of Odisha also seek similar move by the State government.
About 30,000 to 35,000 families are dependent on firecracker business for their livelihood in the State. They question why the government is not easing restrictions despite improvements in Covid situation.
Trilochan Patnaik, president of Odisha Firecrackers Dealers Association, said, “Usually, people do not gather at a place and burst crackers at a time. Rather, crackers are busted by people in their houses along with their family members. Therefore, the government should rethink the decision.”
However, environmentalists opined in favour of ban in order to curb air pollution and spread of Covid-19.
“Air gets completely polluted due to bursting of crackers in such a large scale during Diwali which directly affect our health. As Covid is yet to come under control, it is a welcome step to continue with the ban,” said environmentalist Jaykrushna Panigrahi.