The Supreme Court may have banned the sale of firecrackers in the national capital region (NCR) in the run-up to Diwali, but that needn’t necessarily mean that this festive season will be any less colourful – or polluted – than the last.
Street vendors in Old Delhi continue to sell phooljhadis, anars and chakris with gay abandon, caring little for the environment or the khaki-clad policemen patrolling the area. The moment these small-time traders are alerted to an impending raid, their wares are hastily whisked away to a hiding place far away from probing eyes.
When an HT team visited Esplanade Road near Jama Masjid on Thursday, it beheld firecracker shops with shutters closed tight and dozens of businessmen complaining about how the ban had cost them their livelihood. Until last year, this area used to host wholesalers feeding the high demand for fireworks that usually precedes the days leading up to the festival of light.
However, a different reality presented itself at another area in Chandni Chowk about a few hundred feet away. The bustling street was lined with vendors openly peddling everything from sparklers and rockets to high-decibel ‘sutli bombs’ despite clear orders from the apex court that the sale of all such products be banned in NCR until November 1.
Incidentally, this was also the same place where HT had found banned China-made fireworks last year.
One of the vendors described how they take evasive action in the event of a police raid. “We are warned about an impending raid much before the police make an appearance. So we just pack our stuff and run. What are we to do? We had stocked up on firecrackers much before the ban was announced,” the man said, adding that he has stocks worth Rs 2.5 lakh to sell off.
HT came across at least nine other hawkers of the kind during its visit to the area.
Sometimes, however, even their best-laid plans go awry.
The Delhi Police conducted a raid in Bhagirath Palace area on Thursday night, and nabbed two firecracker vendors. “Two cases have been registered under Section 286 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 9b(b) of the Explosives Act. The duo, Israeel and Kaleemuddin, were not even issued temporary licences,” said deputy commissioner of police (North) Jatin Narwal.
Police said they are leaving no stone unturned to curb the illegal sale of firecrackers in their jurisdiction. “We will identify anybody illegally selling or purchasing firecrackers, and take appropriate action. We have teams on the ground to monitor the situation and enforce the Supreme Court’s order,” said spokesperson Madhur Verma.