Kolkata: The entire process of giving licenses to firecracker sellers and setting up green firecracker bazaars seems to have gone down the drain. On the penultimate day of the period specified by state officials for these bazi bazaars or firecracker markets to sell firecrackers, eNewsroom visited Tala Bazi Bazar, one of the four designated markets to check if illegal firecrackers were being sold or not.
Surprisingly of the 44 stalls set up, only one was selling NEERI-approved green firecrackers. The rest were brazenly flouting the rules set by the Supreme Court. Most of the shopkeepers were busy trying to pass off illegal firecrackers containing Barium. Many tried using the QR code as a ploy to sell the firecrackers at a higher price.
Stall 21: The only stall to sell NEERI-certified crackers
“Here no one is interested in selling green firecrackers nor are the buyers interested in purchasing authentic green firecrackers. Since we attended the workshop in Nagpur, where we were educated about the chemicals green firecrackers shouldn’t contain, we have tried our best to ensure that the crackers we sell do not further damage the environment,” said Sandip Bose of Apu Stores.
Bose, who has been in this business for decades now, feels cheated when he sees his co-sellers brazenly flouting rules. “Every year, I distribute saplings to my customers along with the firecrackers. But, this year, I haven’t been able to do so. I was busy ensuring that the goods that I got to my stall were green firecrackers. However, when the bazaar became operational, I was a bit disappointed to see how easily people were flouting the rules,” said Bose.
Bose’s customers vouched for the authenticity of his firecrackers. Speaking to eNewsroom, Parul Biswas from Salt Lake said, “We are here at this stall as we know that they are selling authentic NEERI-certified firecrackers. As my aunt is associated with NEERI’s green firecracker project, she asked us to visit this particular stall. Hence, we have travelled from Salt Lake to make our purchase.”
Fake QR codes on firecrackers
All the stalls in the firecracker market had crackers on display that seemed like certified ones. Most had QR codes in place. However, when scanned with the NEERI-CSIR app designed to verify the authenticity of the QR codes on the firecrackers as green ones.
Many of the stalls failed the scan test. Most of those on display when scanned, seemed to have invalid QR codes.
“There is a huge issue about QR codes. Most of the buyers are unaware of this NEERI-CSIR scanner that can be used to check the authenticity of the QR code. Also, the app is not opening on the latest smartphones. So, there is an issue here,” mentioned Aprajoy Chandi Bose, a second-generation firecracker seller.
Watch the QR Code Scam
Not interested in checking the authenticity
A few stalls away from Apu Stores, the shopkeepers were not too keen on even verifying if the firecrackers were authentic NEERI-certified ones or not. “Listen, madam, this is all we have. There is a shortage of green cracker substitutes for the varieties that people are asking for. If you want it, take it. If you don’t want it you can leave,” said the shopkeeper at stall number 23.
He even told the customers that the QR code doesn’t mean that the product is authentic. On being asked how we could verify, he said, “I don’t have much time to explain.”
A little away from the stall, one of the buyers was asked if he was checking the authenticity of the green crackers. S Nandi, who had come to purchase from the market said, “The government has appointed this market as a green firecracker market then it’s their duty to check the authenticity of those being old. I came here to buy, why should I download an app to cross-check.”
When asked, the police officers designated at the market explained why the shopkeepers were not being told to abstain from selling banned products. Prosenjit Dhar, the officer-in-charge of the market, said, “If anyone has any grievances about the products being sold can go to the Tala Police Station. We are here to maintain law and order here.”