As Diwali celebrations are about to begin in the country, banned Chinese crackers have started flooding the Indian market. Chinese crackers have been banned from being imported in to India. Not only do they affect the Indian firecracker industry according to traders, but they are also unsafe.
Last year, the government banned the Chinese crackers by enforcing guidelines of the Explosives Act, 2008, according to which possession and sale of foreign-made explosives is a punishable act.
Even though Chinese crackers are banned in India, they are still smuggled into the country. “Some dealers get them to make more profits than the Indian ones and the customers are also happy because these crackers are cheaper than the local ones”, says G Abiruben, President of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA).
“If 2000 crores of Chinese crackers are imported into the country it will lead to loss of 600 crore to the Central and the State Government,” says Abiruben, pointing to the loss of tax revenue due to sale of smuggled fireworks. It is also claimed that more than 5 lakh families are affected due to the smuggling.
Anbumani Ramadoss, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader had written to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry last month claiming that in the last six years, more than 600 containers of Chinese fireworks have been imported in the garb of toys.
It is a major threat to the Rs. 6,000 crore Indian fireworks industry, he said. Following this, the Union Minister had reiterated that Chinese firecrackers are banned and that the government will take all steps to curb their sale.
But how exactly are the Chinese crackers unsafe? How are Indian firecrackers better?
According to media reports, on February 1, 2013, a truck carrying Chinese fireworks exploded on a bridge in Sanmanxia city, Henan province. An 80-metre section of the bridge was destroyed, which killed six people and injured 11. This incident is often cited to argue that Chinese crackers are dangerous.
The illegally smuggled crackers that come into the country from China have several issues according to Indian traders, the main problem being that a banned chemical called potassium chlorate, which is highly friction sensitive, is used in making them.
“Majority of their products are friction sensitive. You strike it against another object it will explode. So, if a person buys a product and takes it home and it drops by mistake, it will explode endangering the lives of the public. Largest consumer for the Indian fireworks are predominantly children so, it is more harmful,” says Abiruben.
Chinese crackers are not only a threat in India but also pose a threat in their country of origin. A media report stated that nearly 6000 fire accidents were reported in China in 2011.
Beijing had imposed a ban on fireworks in 1993 but the ban was removed in 2005 after people said that firecrackers are an important part of their culture.
Chemical experts told The New Indian Express that the main reason Chinese firecrackers are banned in India is that they have potassium chlorate chemical in them which is harmful and have six times more explosive than what what is present in India firecrackers.
Dr P Kannan, Head of the Department of Chemistry, Anna University said, “Potassium Chlorate and Perchlorate are more powerful than nitrates.” They also added that chlorates are highly dangerous because they are both impact and friction sensitive. He also added that chlorate is much more unstable than the Sulphur and Potassium Nitrate mixture that a majority of Indian manufacturers use.
Moreover, the reason why the dealers go for Potassium Chlorate is that it is three times cheaper than Potassium Nitrate, which is usually used in the firecrackers, according to the NIE report.
So how does an Indian buyer distinguish between Indian and Chinese firecrackers in the market? If the product is Indian, the box will have the manufacturer’s name along with the full address and it will be more expensive than its Chinese counterpart.
So this festive season, do indulge in fireworks but make sure you don’t compromise on safety.