Now religious feelings trip Sivakasi firecrackers

Chennai, Oct 17 (IANS) Even as the alleged illegal imports from China have forced the firecracker industry at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu to cut down production, it now faces the charge of hurting religious sentiment.

G. Abiruben, president of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks Manufactures Association, said district authorities had told them to respect religious feelings while producing firecrackers.

“We have received a letter from the district administration to take into account the religious sentiments of the people while manufacturing the crackers,” Abiruben told IANS. The reference is to the bursting of crackers with the images of Hindu gods and goddesses printed on them.

He said a reply had been sent to the administration citing a Supreme Court ruling permitting the manufacture and sale of such crackers.

Sivakasi, the hub of the firecracker industry in the country, is located 535 km from Chennai in Virudhunagar district.

Said Uma Ravichandran, coordinator of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti: “On Diwali, we pray to goddess Lakshmi and also burst crackers with her image.

“The image of the goddess is torn into pieces and people stamp over it. This is not good,” Ravichandran told IANS.

Countering her, Abiruben asked what happens to newspapers and wedding invitations that carry images of Hindu gods and goddesses?

“Once the newspapers or wedding invitations serve their purposes, we throw them out or use it for various purposes. Similarly is the case with the crackers that have the images of god or goddess,” Abiruben said.

“Lakshmi Vedi”, “Vishnu Vedi”, “Krishna Vedi” are some of the firecrackers made in Sivakasi. Needless to say, they do carry the images of goddess Lakshmi and gods Vishnu and Krishna.

Incidentally, Lakshmi Vedi has existed for more than 50 years, and is one of the popular varieties in the market.

Curiously, both Abiruben and Ravichandran do not agree to the possibility of having the pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses on the wrapper and not on individual crackers.

According to Ravichandran, only a government order banning the manufacture of such crackers will be effective in protecting the religious sentiments of the people.

Meanwhile, Abiruben said that firecracker manufacturers in Sivakasi were working only for three days a week due to lack of orders – possibly due to huge illegal imports from China.

“Normally factories would be running three shifts now. But production is restricted to only three days due to lack of orders,” he said.

According to him, the firecracker industry in Sivakasi is pegged at around Rs.6,000 crore. This year, the impact of illegal Chinese imports is estimated to be in the region of around 30 percent.

“Dealers are scared of placing orders fearing illegal imports from China flooding the market as Diwali nears,” Abiruben said.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

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