Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rs 100-cr dragon fire snakes in for Diwali


By G Saravanan
Published : 04 Oct 2009

The dragon may be a myth, but the fire it supposedly spits looks real. Come Diwali time, loads of crackers are smuggled from China into India.
The pyrotechnics are worth Rs 100 crore a year, sources say, noting that the illegal business picks up at this time of year with the start of the festival season. And all of them are genuine goods, even as the government is maintaining constant vigil along the country’s ports to curb illegal entry of cheap and substandard commodity.
Sources say more than 20 containers (each carrying Rs 7 crore worth of Chinese firecrackers) make into the local markets of different states from the eastern ports of Kolkata and Haldia ahead of Diwali. Wholesalers note that the market rate of these total to around Rs 600 crore.
An enquiry with the exim circle reveals importers based in Nepal leg­ally import such firecrackers from China via Kolkata and Haldia, both designated ports for entry and exit of Nepalese transit cargo.
The firecrackers then move to Nepal in containers by road from Kol­kata, but in most occasions only 10-20 per cent of the actual cargo crosses into Nepalese territory. The remaining is “distributed” in between to “gullible on-road buyers”. The goods then reach the rest of the country.
The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association confirms the flourishing illegal trade. “We keep filing complaints with the PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) which is responsible for monitoring movement of firecrackers,” says a representative, “but there was no remedy since the cargo enters the Indian territory legally.”
A senior Customs official in Chennai points out that unlike importing other Chinese goods devoid of too much documentation, importing exp­losives warrants a licence from PESO. “Getting it is not that easy.”
PESO’s Joint Chief Controller of Explosives was not available for comment.

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