Munna Lajpal has been sitting at his shop since 10 am but Sardar Pataka Mart on Laxmi Road has only seen one client today translating to only Rs 100 in the whole day.
“This is the slowest we’ve seen the market in years,” he laments.
Goods and Service Tax (GST) is levied at 28 per cent on fire crackers, making them slightly more expensive compared to the previous years. A blanket ban on fire crackers in New Delhi and NCR has led to speculation that the Maharashtra government might follow suit.
Most vendors selling fire crackers and Diwali decorations have stocked up only on Indian products, leaving the Chinese products out.
“We will give our first preference to Indian goods only. But despite that, due to GST and demonetisation, no one is willing to spend this season.
The market is just down. We aren’t seeing any customers at all,” states Sujit Pardesi, who has been in the business of Diwali decorations in the past 15 years on Laxmi Road.
Similarly, Rajesh Phadtare, selling Diwali lamps and decorative items claims, that this year has been unprofitable.
“Our prices are up by 20 per cent due to GST. Diwali is coming in a week but despite that, we’ve had no business. To add to this, it’s raining so the public aren’t venturing out of their homes.”
The SSPMS Ground next to the Pune RTO is deserted. Stalls that sold fire crackers for years at Mhatre Bridge were shifted to the grounds citing safety reasons. Kedar Karhadkar who runs stall number 26, claims that there is a conspiracy against fire cracker sellers.
“Fire crackers do not cause pollution. Why is the matter of pollution raised only during Diwali? What happens during the other months?
Pollution is caused because of the number of trees being axed. It is not specifically because of fire crackers. We are sitting here with our legal licenses. We have followed all the rules mandated to us by the corporation and we’ve taken safety measures as well. We’ve been here since the last five days but we have barely seen any customers. Demonetisation has had a huge impact and so has GST in a smaller manner.”
He also adds that if the government wants to ban fire crackers then they should offer an alternative to the traders. “You can’t just impose a ban on something. We don’t have any other business apart from this and it is seasonal. We have people coming from Solapur, Latur and Osmanabad to work at the stalls. These workers need money too. I have been in this business for the past 40 years, but I have never seen such a slack market.”
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