Last October, shortly before Diwali, a festival normally associated with the sound and light of firecrackers, S.Srinivasan, who has known all his life only of making firecrackers, embarked on the cultivation of mulberry trees. The fireworks maker in Sivakasi – the hub of firecracker manufacturing – went a step further in March this year and set up a silk reeling unit, also in Sivakasi. The mulberry is fed to the silkworms and the cocoon drools are wound together to make raw silk thread. It’s quite an entrepreneurial leap and for many a smart move and a textbook case of a smooth business transition, but Srinivasan is still a worried man.
The 62-year-old, who for 52 years has only known about making firecrackers and runs a unit set up by his grandfather in Sivakasi, says “it’s new to me and it’s not easy and warns that is also too simplistic. thinking that any firecracker maker can go into any other business or that business diversification is an option. More than an arduous journey for the entrepreneur, he says, the real big challenge is to support the workers in the fireworks sector who, for several decades, have provided their service and do not know much about it. beyond firecrackers. Moreover, given the challenge of the viability of the established units, they are absorbed by small illegal firecracker-making units that do not necessarily meet the standards.
Even as an entrepreneur, he said, “It will take me a few years to break even and about three to four years to make reasonable returns and grow and until then support my workers who only know how to make firecrackers?
This, at a time when activity is shrinking, is an additional challenge. “Over the past three years, my fireworks company’s turnover has dropped by 80% and the number of employees has dropped by a quarter.” He says he is not alone and many of Sivakasi’s roughly 1,000 units are feeling the pressure and finding little opportunity for commercial viability. The trend to limit the use of firecrackers and the emphasis on green firecrackers that comes with its set of challenges has many firecracker manufacturers worried, he says.
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In fact, Srinivasan, who for several years was active in the fireworks makers association, even wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in March this year highlighting the challenges of making green crackers and mentioning among other than “barium nitrate, the use of which is not permitted, cannot be effectively or completely replaced by any other nitrate such as strontium nitrate or sodium nitrate. Both, he says, “are still used with caution and sparingly by firework makers as they are very sensitive to moisture. Several fatal accidents and property damage have occurred over the past decades due to the thermal decomposition of strontium nitrate and sodium nitrate in industry.
Add to that, he points out that “strontium nitrate is obtained from two minerals – celestite (SrSO4) and strontianite (SrCO3). Since these minerals are not available in India, domestic manufacturers of strontium compounds and end users of strontium nitrate necessarily have to import these materials from countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Germany and Spain . With the appreciation of the dollar against the rupee, these imports are also proving costly.
Chemicals such as potassium nitrate or barium nitrate or now strontium nitrate or sodium nitrate are used for sound and light in firecrackers.
Among other things, it suggests that the additive solution suggested by CSIR NEERI (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur) be reviewed and revalidated (including their certificates Green Cracker) by any other research organization before being applied. on the industry. That apart, in order to ensure more effective pollution control, the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO), formerly known as the Explosives Department, Nagpur should be tasked with introducing a oxidizer or a more efficient fuel in the manufacture of fireworks, which can bring a tangible reduction in pollution in place of CSIR NEERI’s additive technology.