Delhi’s oldest firecracker market, which lies on the street just opposite gate No. 3 of the Jama Masjid, has for years catered to the demands of fire-works in the Capital.
But due to Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) order on October 6 banning the manufacture, sales and bursting of all kinds of firecrackers up to January 1, 2024, the market is deserted even on the afternoon of Dussehra — a festival involving crackers which burst out of effigies of Ravana — and despite Diwali just weeks away.
The shutters of the shops are pasted with many pamphlets reading, “As per the orders of the Delhi government, sale of firecrackers is banned. Don’t disturb by asking again and again.”
To ensure that the ban is fully implemented, hundreds of teams from the revenue department and the Delhi Police have also been formed.
Police was patrolling the market when Patriot visited it.
The DPCC has also banned the sale of firecrackers through online medium.
It is not surprising then to see shopkeepers angry and blaming the government for their struggles.
Ramdas Mahajan, who has been in this business for around four decades, is one of those facing problems due to the ban.
He told Patriot, “Those like us in Delhi who are following the law and not selling in secret, are struggling. These two months will be a waste for us. The customers can still buy from the NCR areas where shops continue to sell them despite the ban. Either they should impose the ban on the entire Delhi-NCR region properly or not impose it at all.”
Usually, this market is thronged by huge crowd and witnesses chaos at this time of the year but at the moment there are only a handful of customers who too are returning empty-handed.
Mahajan added, “We are facing difficulties managing our household expenses. We can’t do anything, and are disturbed. We also tried talking to the government but there was no relief for us. There is no compensation from the government for us.”
He said that this is their biggest season, one for which they wait the whole year.
“Our business is in loss. We are suffering losses every year over the last five years due to the government’s measures. Those who want to buy and burn crackers anyway manage to buy them from other places,” he said further.
The government has been forced to take this extreme step due to the prevailing health crisis caused by pollution.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 500 last year and pollution levels were severe, forcing the government to ban firecrackers even during the festive session. Only green crackers are allowed now.
Praveen Srivastava, another shop-keeper, was very angry at the ban.
Srivastava expressed his frustration, “A person whose business is shut for three months, how will he manage livelihood?”
His shop is one of the oldest in the market. It is around one-and-half-century old and was there even during the British era.
“Pollution happens only for a limited time during festivals. It doesn’t extend for long,” he pointed out before lamenting about the financial crisis he is in.
“Who will manage our children’s school fees, home expenses? We have paid taxes, so why doesn’t the government provide any compensation? They should give us something. Why doesn’t the government think about it?”
Patriot tried to speak to some more shopkeepers but they refused to talk on the matter.
While the old shopkeepers are suffering, some others have stepped in to exploit the business opportunity by selling green crackers like machis bomb and pop cop on push-carts. However, their sales aren’t good.
“I am doing this temporarily till Diwali. But the sales are not as we had expected. There were 24 packets, and I have been able to sell only two packets till around 4 pm. Earlier the same period would have yielded a lot more,” he told Patriot.
The Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai, on September 11, had said that the move to ban firecrackers was part of the government’s 15-point Winter Action Plan against air pollution.