Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu, Apr 5 UNI | 4 months ago

As many as 700 licensed Fireworks factories and cracker transporters in and around Sivakasi - the fireworks hub of India, began an indefinite strike from today to protest against an order of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that unilaterally revised various fees, including license fee.

Talking to mediapersons, A P Selvaraj, President of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' Association, said the Director of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in a notification, dated March 20, 2014, stated that fees payable by the fireworks industry would be revised under the Explosives Rules, 2008 and as per the new notification, the revision of fees was increased from about five times to 27 times.

Terming the hike as unjustified, he said the annual license fee to manufacture explosives of Class 1 or 7 (exceeding 200 kilogram at a time) has been revised to Rs 66,000 from a maximum of Rs 15,000. Similarly, the annual licence fee for possessing fireworks of Class 7 explosives in magazine has been increased to Rs four lakh from Rs 15,000.

Mr Selvaraj said certain changes made in the clauses of the Explosives Rules were allegedly aimed at encouraging import of Chinese fireworks. "Two important rules like the ceiling of 125 decibels of sound created by cracker burst and the ban on use of potassium chlorate in cracker manufacturing were being diluted during mandatory testing of fireworks in Departmental Testing Stations. Chinese crackers don't have any decibel ceiling, which contain cheap and highly dangerous potassium chlorate. These two clauses had hitherto been preventing legal import of Chinese crackers," he added.

He said the fireworks industry had challenged the notification stating that the provisions of the Explosives Act, 1884, have exempted delegation of powers by the Centre to anybody for revision of licence fees.

In view of the indefinite closure of the factories, about three lakh workers were rendered jobless.

Fireworks factories in the Sivakasi region meet up to 98 per cent of the country's demand for fireworks. Nearly 1.50 lakh people depend on the unlicensed sector, whereas the licensed factories employ around three lakh people. The annual turnover of fireworks factories was more than Rs 500 crore.

(Posted on 05-04-2014)