Come Diwali, many state governments start demanding extension of ban on Chinese firecrackers, which are cheaper and more polluting than those manufactured in India. This time the clamour to regulate sale of Chinese firecrackers
has grown, with some political parties demanding the ban of sale of other Chinese goods in the country.
But, despite this, markets in Delhi are flooded with Chinese firecrackers, which arrive months before Diwali
and are distributed to the wholesalers. The authorities only wake up to the menace a few days before the festival. A senior customs officer says most of these products illegally enter into India through the porous border of Nepal. “It is difficult to check each and every consignment," the officer adds.
In state capitals, the authorities have failed to check the sale of such firecrackers as it was never their priority and they don’t have adequate manpower to swoop down on traders and sellers on the day of Diwali, when the firecracker sale is the highest. "During Diwali, the national capital is on the highest terror alert. So obviously our priorities are different,” says a Delhi policemen. Also, it is no hidden fact that the traders please the authorities with cash and gifts to look in a different direction.
For traders, the margin is better with Chinese crackers. Also, the fireworks are a hit among consumers as they make more noise and attain good heights in the sky because of high content of potassium chlorate, a hazardous chemical that can explode spontaneously. Indian crackers are manufactured with the use of potassium nitrate and aluminium powder, which is three time more expensive than potassium chlorate. The lobby of Indian manufactures too has put pressure on the government to take action against sellers of Chinese products as the market size of these products is anywhere between Rs 250 crore and Rs 500 crore.
However, the previous crackdown has not shown much result in post-Diwali
pollution. Last year, the pollution level was 23 times higher than the safe limit in the national capital. Some reports suggest that air quality post Diwali
2015 was worse than 2014.
At the national level, experts warn against the growing clamour to boycott Chinese products. According to an analysis by IndiaSpend, India’s export to China has fallen from $18 billion in 2011-12, to $9 billion in 2015-16, where as India’s import from China has grown five per cent each year in the past five years. It was $55.3 billion in 2011-12 and rose to $61.7 billion in 2015-16.
It means India buys six times more than it sells to China. If India stops importing from China, then the cost of products such as mobile phones, fertilisers, laptops, solar cells, LEDs, heavy power and telecom equipment will go up substantially and directly hit the consumers.