Vendors at the Shahid Minar Maidan firecracker market (Bazi Bazar) are apprehensive that the untimely rainfall might cause huge losses for them. The firecracker market saw a paltry footfall of customers today after it was thrown open for the public.
The famous firecracker market, which started in 1995, is back at its original venue after a year’s hiatus. Shakil Ahmed, who has been putting up stalls at the market for the last decade, said, “I am very worried about the sales as there has hardly been any substantial customer footfall since morning. If the rainfall continues, it will badly affect our market. The number of customers here has been declining with each passing year.”
His views were echoed by another trader at the market. “I am anxious that sales might dip this time if the rain goes on. Over the last few years we are suffering huge losses as the money we invest in our trade is increasing while the profit margin is falling.
Earlier there was only this market where people used to flock to in large numbers, but now firecracker markets are being organised at Talla, Howrah, Salt Lake and Behala which have eroded our traditional customer base. Customers are no longer interested in commuting long distances to buy firecrackers,” said Arup Mondal, who runs his wholesale firecracker shop at Canning Street.
“There is hardly any customer this year. We sell here only the government-approved and eco-friendly firecrackers which some sections of people do not find attractive. If the trend continues, then our sales will be hit. I hope that weather improves from tomorrow so that those who prefer soundless fireworks can come here,” said Rajesh Paul, a shop manager. Most of the stalls today wore a desolate look while a few had a handful of customers.
“The restrictions on firecrackers are increasing each year and the customer footfall is decreasing. Last year we incurred huge financial losses due to the shifting of venue at Vivekananda Park where most of the customers from North Kolkata did not go. But I am hopeful that the situation will be better this year,” said Santanu Dutta, the joint secretary of Burrabazar Firecracker Sellers’ Association.
Firecracker stalls have also been set up in other markets like Jadubabur bazaar, Lansdowne Market and Canning Street. Most of the stalls at Jadubabur and Lansdowne markets are selling sparkles, ground charkas, crackling fountains and rockets along with earthen lamps or diyas, rangolis, parachutes, traditional patterns (alponas) etc.
One of the stall owners said, “Sales of Diwali crackers will peak after Dhanteras with only two days remaining for Diwali. More stalls will be set up tomorrow onwards. We’re selling eco-friendly products as approved by the West Bengal government and we have put limits to our stocks this year.” At Canning Street, most of the local shops have put up stalls at the Bazi Bazaar organised at the Shahid Minar Maidan. As such, they have refrained from selling firecrackers at their respective shops, and notices in this regard have been put up by the shopkeepers. According to some locals, people are visiting those shops at Canning Street and are leaving the area with packets full of firecrackers. This leaves a major question mark with suspicions regarding illegal trade of firecrackers on the rise.