Flying time for Indian kite makers as Chinese strings banned

Until recently, almost 50 percent of the kite strings or manjha, as it is more popularly known, available in markets here were made in China. However, a recent ban on these by the Gujarat government has come as welcome news for local kite makers.

Altaf Raza, a kite seller, said that after the ban on Chinese strings last month, his establishment registered an immediate profit of 20 percent.

"Not many would know that it's not just the China-made toys that flood the Indian markets but also kite strings. In fact, almost half of these strings that you see in the market are China-made. But since the ban has came into effect, we are benefiting enormously -- getting a 20 percent profit almost instantly," kite seller Premchand Gupta said.

"Of course, the Chinese nylon and plastic strings are still available at some places. One of the main reasons why people buy them is because they can easily snap the Indian manjha," he said.

A Chinese string is marginally more expensive here, but it still poses a big competition to the Indian manjha.

"A 1,000-metre China-made string costs Rs.75 while the same length for the Indian thread costs Rs.70," he said.

The Chinese threads were banned by the forest and environment department as they are made of plastic and often pose harm to birds. They also act as good conductors of electricity and "can trigger blasts".

Gupta said that the ban has benefited all Indian kite sellers.
"I am from Delhi. I have my shop at Kishanganj. I come to Ahmedabad every year during the Uttarayan festival because this is when people buy kites in bulk. Since I am a regular here I know that the ban on Chinese strings has increased the profit of those who make the Indian manjha with glass pieces," Gupta said.

The ban has come at a crucial time when Gujarat celebrates the harvest festival of Uttarayan where kite flying is a tradition. And thus, this is the peak season for kite-sellers.

"People don't buy kites the entire year but on special occasions like Uttarayan. Therefore, during the four days of the festival special kite markets spring up across the city selling hundreds of thousands of kites in different colours, shapes and sizes," said Raju Patel, who sells kites near Delhi Darwaza in the city.

Besides the festival itself, in which the entire city and indeed the whole of Gujarat gets together to fly kites and celebrate, the international kite festival which began in Ahmedabad Monday is another reason for the ban on Chinese strings.

The 20th edition of the festival, that kicked off on the Sabarmati riverfront, will end on Jan 14. More than 105 international kitists from 32 countries are participating.

And what happens after the festival of Uttarayan ends on Jan 14?
"After Uttarayan, there is Holi when people again fly kites. Then there is Independence Day and Dussehra. Any festive occasion - and kites are in demand," Raza said.

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