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Sivakasi fires against fee hike, Chinese imports

11th April 2014

Courtesy: Business Standard

Sivakasi fires against fee hike, Chinese imports

Thousands of fire cracker units in Sivakasi, the hub of India-s fire cracker industry, are on an indefinite strike against the steep increase in the licence fee for manufacturing explosives and also against the government-s inability to arrest Chinese imports into the country. Chinese imports are expected to double this year to Rs 600 crore.

Around 300,000 people are engaged in making fire cracker products in and around Sivakasi, which caters to 80 per cent of India-s needs.

K Mariappan, vice president, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces, said, last year around 500 containers with full load of firecrackers were imported, estimated to be valued at Rs 300 crore and this year "we have got information that orders were placed and import is expected to double." Most of these are aerial firecrackers.

"Chinese firecrackers are cheaper than ours because of the cheaper raw material, but are very hazardous and dangerous," said Siva Balan of Pooja Fireworks.

The industry made a representation to the Union commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma and to Union minister of state for commerce and industry EM Sudarsana Natchiappan in February and also met all the secretaries and stressed a public notice should be made in the newspaper that anybody trying to import, store and sell fireworks will be punishable under Section 9B (1)a.

On March 20, 2014, the department of Industrial Policy and Promotion gave an order, which increased the fees to "unimaginable" levels. For example, the storage fee was raised to Rs 400,000 from Rs 15,000, an increase of 2,700 per cent. Licence fee for magazine was increased to Rs 66,000 per year, an increase of around 450 per cent; for a four-month certificate for the supervisor it was increased to Rs 3,000 from Rs 100.

"Besides, they also relaxed various text prescribed for crackers. All these steps clearly show they are laying a strong foundation for free inflow of Chinese imports and they (the bureaucrats) are pushing Chinese imports,” he alleged.

All these have been done without the knowledge of the ministers who are busy with Lok Sabha elections, he alleged.

In a move to protest the department-s decision, the industry has decided to go in for an indefinite strike. The estimated loss for the industry is Rs 15 crore a day. The Sivakasi industry is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore and on average the industry works for 200 days in a year.

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