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Covid shadow looms large over firecracker industry

Covid shadow looms large over firecracker industry
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Kolkata: The shops selling firecrackers at the Bazi Bazar in Nangi wore a deserted look on Sunday—the last holiday before the Kali Puja on Saturday with hardly any customer turned up for buying of firecrackers because of the Calcutta High Court's direction about total ban of firecrackers till the month of November amidst the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The shrill litanies of the shopkeepers in a bid to attract customers to buy a plethora of firecrackers that emit light which has been the picture in this part of the state soon after the Durga Puja till Diwali for at least the last five years was missing. Most of the shops in and around Daultapur Road, Putkhali and Balarampur at Maheshtala in South 24-Parganas have kept their shops closed while some courageous shopkeepers kept their shops open with the hope that at least there will be a handful of

customers.

1 lakh people in this area are directly and indirectly involved with this industry and the sales turnover every year is to the tune of Rs 100 crores.

"We manufacture firecrackers through out the year and look for the sales during the Kalipuja and Diwali to earn our living. But this year we have manufactured fire crackers and when we were gearing up for the sale, the restrictions have dealt a telling blow. Many shopkeepers purchase crackers from us and sell them in the city or other parts of the state. But we have got no response from them also," said Shahjahan Alam, who runs a permanent stall in Nangi for the last three decades.

The firecracker business in this area is like a cottage industry. In villages like Putkhali, Balarampur, Chigripota, almost every family is dependent on this business to eke out a living. "I have mortgaged some gold ornaments of my wife for investing in the business with the that we will be able to sell firecrackers We had to sit idle for at least three months since March after the lockdown was enforced. We worked overnight for manufacturing the firecrackers since July with the hope that we will be able to sell during the Kali Puja, but now we are at a complete loss," said Mitul Das, another trader.

At least 500 odd temporary stalls are set up in this are after the Durga Puja but no such stalls have come up this year.

"We have informed the traders not to indulge in selling of firecrackers as it violates the Calcutta High Court's order," said Sukhdev Naskar, secretary of Maheshtala— Budge Budge Atasbaji Byabasayee Samiti.

The traders held a rally in different parts of the area to voice their plight with total ban on buying and selling of firecrackers.

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