The Customs department has been asked to keep a hawk-eyed vigil on the illegal import of firecrackers from abroad, particularly from China, officials said. The Central Board of Excise and Customs’ (CBEC) recent order to chiefs of customs zones across the country comes ahead of Diwali on October 19. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has been, from time to time, issuing alerts regarding sensitisation of officers and taking suitable measures to ensure prevention of illegal import of fireworks/crackers of foreign origin, the order stated. “In view of the above, it is requested that the officers under your jurisdiction may be suitably alerted and appropriate measures may be taken to ensure strict compliance with the notification,” it said. The import of fireworks is restricted and requires an import license from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
“Further, till date, no license to import fireworks has been granted for possession and /or sale under the Explosives Rules, 2008, by Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation,” said the order, issued by the anti-smuggling unit of the CBEC on September 27. It cited a Supreme Court directive last month asking the Centre to ensure strict compliance of a 1992 government notification regarding the ban on the import of fireworks.
The notification was issued by the Department of Industrial Development (now Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) on January 27, 1992. On October 9, the apex court banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR region till November 1. There have been attempts from across the border to smuggle cheap and dangerous fireworks, especially of Chinese- origin, into India ahead of Diwali, a DRI official said.
These illegally-imported firecrackers are often camouflaged as toys or imported illegally by concealing them in other goods being brought into the country from abroad, he said. Foreign remittances in case of import of Chinese fireworks are generally made through hawala channels and such goods are sold illegally in India, the official claimed. Chinese-origin fireworks are known to contain sulphur and other hazardous substances, impacting on the environment and on the general health of the public, he said.
The DRI, the lead agency to check smuggling and customs duty frauds, had in January this year seized China-made fireworks worth Rs 10 crore. They were imported illegally by a Punjab-based importer, the DRI official said. During an examination of containers carrying goods at the Inland Container Depot (ICD), Tughlakabad, DRI officials found fireworks hidden behind cartons of bicycle pumps and plastic packing material to avoid detection.