Deepavali is expected to be quieter this year, with many fireworks traders hesitant to set up shop.
With just a week left for the festival, the response for setting up temporary fireworks stalls is lukewarm. Compared to last year, not even half of the applicants have turned up to erect stalls owing to the COVID-19 situation.
In 2019, the number of applicants who sought permission to sell fireworks was around 350. However, this year, only around 150 traders have sought permission, and some of them have decided to step back fearing losses.
Police, Fire, GVMC and other departments have started issuing No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to the traders. Police have issued a set of rules to be followed at the stalls. A number of applications are in the final stage with the police department who are conducting site inspections before granting permission.
“Last year, around 150 applicants approached us to set up stalls at Andhra University College of Engineering grounds. But now, only around 80 applicants have approached us for the same venue. Last year, many traders had set up stalls in Gajuwaka, but now no applications have been received,” said Niranjan Reddy, Regional Fire Officer of GVMC.
Apart from AU grounds, applicants also sought permission to set up stalls at open places in Anakapalle, Old Eenadu Junction, Sheela Nagar, Simhachalam, Gopalapatnam, Karasa, and Madhurawada region, he said.
According to the officer, the COVID-19 situation has taken a toll and many businessmen have not come forward to set up stalls.
Sayyed Siraj, president of Star Fire Merchants Welfare Association, said that many small-scale businessmen who generally invest in this business are not coming forward to set up stalls this year as they have suffered huge losses due to the lockdown.
“Now, we cannot predict the outcome this year. We do not know how many people will come forward to buy firecrackers due to the pandemic situation. Many don’t even want to set up stalls to avoid crowding due to fear of COVID-19,” he said.
Another trader from the city, S. Ramu, said that this is a seasonal business, and business has been average over the years. “We have been incurring losses over the years. We may end up in losses this year too, as people might not spend much on firecrackers due to COVID-19 and due to a rising awareness on the environmental aspects of bursting firecrackers,” he said.
The Police Department is yet to finalise a date for commencing sales in the district. It is learnt that police officials are mulling to give permission for at least five days to avoid crowding at the venues.