.The Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC), a key revenue generator for the state, reported liquor sales amounting to an impressive Rs. 708 crore during the Deepawali weekend. This surge in alcohol purchases highlights the economic significance of the Indian Made Foreign Liquor segment, with nearly 780 outlets witnessing brisk sales over the three-day celebration.
Despite the festive spirit, law enforcement agencies cracked down on firecracker violations, booking 2,095 individuals for bursting crackers beyond permitted hours. However, the renowned Sivakasi firecracker industry experienced a 50 per cent drop in sales, reaching approximately Rs. 6,000 crore, compared to the previous year.
To enforce adherence to cracker rules, the government formed a “special force” within the Greater Chennai Police. Comprising 2 constables, each led by sub-inspectors, this force operated in 102 police stations across Chennai. Their mandate included arresting individuals who violated the prescribed time restrictions for bursting crackers and those using firecrackers emitting sound levels exceeding 125 decibels.
A government press release highlighted the deployment of 18,000 policemen throughout Chennai to monitor Diwali celebrations actively. The “special force” and other law enforcement teams engaged in intensive surveillance from November 11 to the morning of November 13, resulting in 554 cases being booked for violating the Supreme Court’s stipulated time limits for fireworks.
Reports indicated a doubling of cases compared to the previous year, with 581 individuals facing charges for violating firecracker rules, including 19 booked for using high-decibel crackers. Additionally, eight shopkeepers were penalised for running cracker shops in violation of Tamil Nadu government regulations.
The Supreme Court had set a two-hour window for fireworks, allowing them only from 6 AM to 7 AM and 7 PM to 8 PM. The “special force” played a crucial role in ensuring compliance with these timings.
The Greater Chennai Police announced on November 13 that their teams had booked a total of 2,206 cases during the surveillance period, with 2,095 people booked and subsequently released on station bail. In the neighbouring areas of Aavadi, police registered 111 cases, including 66 in Avadi and 45 in Redhills.
Despite the efforts to enforce regulations, reports emerged of Hindus being targeted and harassed in the name of Supreme Court rules. Many expressed frustration, asserting their right to celebrate the festival on their terms. Some individuals, heckled by the police, were heard saying, “You can do whatever you want; we will burst crackers only when we can. We cannot follow your time limits to celebrate our festival. We also have our rules and regulations regarding the festival that we follow.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tamil Nadu chief, K Annamalai, responded to the situation by encouraging people to celebrate Diwali with traditional pomp and urging them to burst crackers to support the livelihoods of those dependent on the firecracker industry. Annamalai emphasised that buying firecrackers would aid the lakhs of people working in this hazardous industry, where they risk their lives throughout the year. He reassured the public that celebrating with fireworks for one day would not cause significant harm.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a meeting, asked the public whether they celebrated Deepawali by bursting crackers.
Amit Shah asking people "Will you burst firecrackers on Diwali, Say loudly?" 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/w28kMSUxix
— Times Algebra (@TimesAlgebraIND) November 12, 2023
Reacting to his one netizon said, in Tamil Nadu CM Stalin was stopping them by using police force.
@HMOIndia you are asking to celebrate Diwali by bursting crackers, while CM stalin is trying to stop it by using police force@MSBalajiMSB @MgmPremnath @aakuvan @jkgche @JKalyanaraman @jd @Sevakofmata @aghathiyar @Johni_raja @EURONGREYJOY007 @KishoreIyer5 @SSRPillai @annamalai_k pic.twitter.com/BhLai0byQH
— NKR Iyer (@NarayananKR777) November 12, 2023
Another netizen said this is one of the ways to destroy the Sanatan Dharma that is being adopted by the DMK government.
This is also one way of eradicating sanathana dharma in Tamilnadu by this atheist Dravidian fools, time is watching, karma will dictate lesson soon https://t.co/01MqwhE4ih
— CVG 100% HINDUSanatani (@cvganesh2k) November 12, 2023
Looks like Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights are being curtailed and constrained selectively. Is there an appropriate law enactment to substantiate warrant action against violations? @rajbhavan_tn https://t.co/9UW9Y8xOLi
— VSTimes (@kautilyatv) November 12, 2023
As Diwali celebrations unfolded, the enthusiasm of the people remained undiminished despite the prescribed time limits on firecracker bursting. The festivities were marked by a vibrant display of cultural exuberance, with citizens embracing the spirit of the festival while navigating through imposed limitations.
Sources from the Sivakasi firecracker industry revealed that sales, initially sluggish, gained momentum in the last 20 days leading up to Diwali. Anticipating heightened demand, production was increased by over 70 percent, resulting in an estimated sale of around Rs 8,000 crore worth of firecrackers this year. The hub of firecracker manufacturing, Sivakasi, reported sales amounting to Rs 6,000 crore, a notable increase from the previous year’s Rs. 5,000 crore. This achievement is particularly noteworthy given the hurdles imposed by the state government, including delayed shop openings, stricter regulations, and delayed licensing.
Despite the ongoing legal proceedings in the Supreme Court causing a three-month delay in production, manufacturers expressed scepticism about non-BJP-ruled state governments. Delhi, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu imposed several restrictions, both officially and unofficially, on firecrackers. The Tamil Nadu government’s deliberate delay in granting licences just five days before Diwali added to the challenges. Government officials, under the guise of random checks, sealed numerous factories and retail outlets in Tamil Nadu. NGOs, including non-Hindu organisations, campaigned against bursting crackers, while Muslim organisations actively posted anti-firecracker posters throughout the state. Additionally, the state government sealed several transport companies 15 days prior to Diwali.
Despite these obstacles, the firecracker industry successfully sold its entire produce well before Diwali, narrowly escaping potential setbacks and ensuring profitable business.
In response to the vibrant celebrations, Thanthi TV, a Tamil channel associated with the Daily Thanthi newspaper, shared a video titled “Is Diwali a Tamil Festival?” The video, lasting two minutes, delves into the differences between North and South India’s Diwali celebrations. It addresses the historical origins of the festival and the variations in its observance across regions. The video aims to debunk the notion that Diwali is exclusively a North Indian festival.
However, allegations surfaced that the channel was influenced by the government, possibly due to the significant government advertisements received by Daily Thanthi. The agenda was purportedly to portray Diwali as a North Indian festival.
Meanwhile, the channel also faced criticism for allegedly spreading misinformation about increased air pollution in Chennai due to a firecracker bursting without providing supporting statistics.
On the liquor front, the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) reported sales of Rs. 468 crore during the Diwali weekend. This marked a decrease from the previous year’s collection of Rs. 708 crore during a three-day celebration. The DMK government introduced a unique Diwali gift for liquor enthusiasts with the launch of the brand “Thunderbolt Strong” across TASMAC outlets at a price of Rs. 160. Further plans include the introduction of additional beer varieties by December 2023.
Deepawali in Tamil Nadu was a tale of resilience, with citizens celebrating the festival with fervor despite regulatory challenges. The Sivakasi firecracker industry’s success in surpassing hurdles and achieving substantial sales added a distinctive dimension to the festivities.
The celebrations in Tamil Nadu were marked by a blend of economic achievements and regulatory measures to ensure safety and adherence to stipulated rules. The record liquor sales, increased crackdown on firecracker violations, and nuanced perspectives on celebrating traditions amidst regulations added layers to the festive narrative in the region.