The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pandal protest against cracker ban

It promises to be a cracker of a puja — but under the watchful eyes of a fire department wary of the slightest spark.

The Shahidnagar Sarbajonin Durgotsab Committee, near Dhakuria, has picked as its theme the poor condition of the state’s fireworks-manufacturing industry following strict imposition of the decibel barrier ban by the pollution control board and the police.

To highlight how the fireworks industry has fizzled out, more than 250,000 crackers of 27 varieties will be used to make up the pandal. But long before the crowds troop in, the puja has caught the ear of the state fire department. Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee said news of this puja had reached him.

“The organisers have given the state fire services an undertaking that none of the crackers on display would have any explosive material inside. But I have also asked my officials to keep an eye on this puja,” added Chatterjee.

Shahidnagar Sarbajonin Durgotsab Committee spokesperson Paltu Majumdar allayed any fears of a flare-up. “Our objective is to call attention to a burning problem — the death of the fireworks industry — about which we feel very strongly,” he said. “We are a responsible puja committee, into our 54th year, and we will, of course, keep in mind the conditions that the authorities want us to follow.”

There is no attempt, however, to play down the theme. “This is a desperate attempt to draw the attention of the people to this problem. The authorities do not seem to have any concern for a home-grown cottage industry that sustains thousands,” complained Majumdar.

“The government should have urged and even trained fireworks manufacturers to utilise their skills in developing items that would adhere to the sound pollution norms and not deprive them of their livelihood. We hope this puja can play a part in resuscitating a dying industry,” added Majumdar.

The pandal will depict the day-to-day activity of fireworks manufacturers, with the help of 31 models, said organisers. According to plans, the pandal will be covered with thousands of crackers, with many also making their way to the dress and the finery of the idols.

The special crackers — minus the barood — have been ordered from Nungi, near Budge Budge in South 24-Parganas, one of the biggest centres of the fireworks-making industry and the now the symbol of its decline.

“It has taken us six months to conceptualise and then implement the cracker puja and we only hope that it does not rain during the four days and people get the message,” concluded Majumdar.

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