Sivakasi’s loss is gain for Assam hamlet

Fire cracker makers at Ganak Kuchi village in Assam's Barpeta district recently. Photo  by Manash Das

The Supreme Court’s order on Tuesday on the bursting of crackers has cheered 2000-odd villagers at Ganak Kuchi, a hamlet in western Assam’s Barpeta district, engaged in making sparklers for more than 130-years.

Many of them hope that the apex’s court’s order would push their demand ahead of Diwali this year as they use “less pollutant” materials compared to those used in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu or the Chinese crackers flooding the markets.

This, they say, could save the village industry which is struggling in competition with more attractive but “high polluting” Chinese products.

“We don’t use barium nitrate which is common in the white sparklers made in China or Sivakasi. White sparklers have huge demand in markets as they give high-frequency flames but those are more polluting. We use earthen pots instead of papers and other polluting materials in making our sparklers. Sulphur, charcoal, iron dust and aluminum dust are the main chemicals we use and so the pollution is much less. Although our business volume is miniscule compared to them, we hope our products will be sold more this time if the Supreme Court’s order is enforced strictly,” said Gopjit Pathak, one of the manufacturers in Ganak Kuchi told DH, on Thursday.

Manufacturers in Sivakasi on Tuesday said 75% of their production would have to be stopped if the ban on barium nitrate, as asked by the Supreme Court, is enforced as the chemical is a crucial ingredient in firecrackers.

Pathak’s grandfather Lakhiram had been inspired to make firecrackers in 1885 after reading a Chinese book on cracker-making techniques translated into Bengali. Satisfied with his work, Queen Victoria donated land to Lakhiram to ply his trade. In 1910, Lakhiram was awarded a licence from the British government to carry out his business and thus began Ganak Kuchi’s journey of making fire crackers.

Situated about 110km west of Guwahati, Ganak Kuchi, often referred to as Assam’s “mini Sivakasi” makes sparklers, flower pots and a variety of aasman golas that lights up the night sky during Diwali, Chritmas and New Year’s eve every year. Although sparklers are their main focus, from last year, they started making crackers to compete with those from Sivakasi and the Chinese ones, to survive in markets. The National Institute of Design, Jorhat, Assam designed a logo for their firecrackers in 2014.  

Ganak Kuchi does a business of just Rs 1 crore in Assam and in a few neighbouring states compared to the market of over Rs 5 crore.

“We must enforce the Supreme Court’s order against high polluting crackers, mainly from China. If monopoly of Chinese products is broken and government supports units like us, we can go for more production and sell in the rest of the country,” he said.

Bahjani village in neighbouring Nalbari district, too started making sparklers a few years ago.

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Sivakasi’s loss is gain for Assam hamlet

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