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Not everybody is convinced. "Green cracker is a chimera," declares K. Mariappan, who recently stepped down as secretary of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks & Amorces Manufacturers’ Association (TANFAMA). He and the association’s former president, T. Asaithambi, are among those who say that "green crackers are a myth" and are seeking a review petition.A.P. Selvarajan is the owner of the oldest and biggest firecrackers company in Sivakasi, Sri Kaliswari. He says, "If we want to save Sivakasi’s industries, we have to go green." It was in his laboratory that the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) did its initial tests for low-emission crackers. And it was Sri Kaliswari technicians who went to NEERI to teach researchers the basics of cracker chemistry. Now, CSIR-NEERI has come up with a formula that reduces the chemical weight in the cracker formulations and adds a patented green additive to it. And they’re charging a royalty fee for it, which many manufacturers are unwilling to pay.Companies, however, have been told to enter into an agreement with CSIR-NEERI. Those that signed up were invited to a final testing of the product on March 17. The formula itself will be shared only after the April 3 court order. Rayalu says 160 manufacturers have paid and signed up for the transfer of know-how for safe, clean and green crackers. "Hopefully, work will resume in these factories soon," she says. Meanwhile, another petition challenging NEERI's so-called green additive has also been filed.At the Sanarpatti tea stall, the conversation rumbles on. "We’ve never faced such trouble before," the group says. Of course, they have been told that bursting crackers pollutes the environment and impacts health. But what they understand better is that the barium ban will kill all the traditional smoky and sparkly Diwali attractions like the flower pot and the pencil, the wheel, the whip, the sparklers.Stall owner Ravichandran brews tea as emotions around him run high. "My business is down by 60%. People are buying fewer groceries; people out of jobs often drop in for a free chai," he says.Last summer, it was a different story. Ravichandran was earning rs 1,000 a day selling tea and snacks. Sanarpatti’s residents worked at firecracker units around the town and earned between rs 250 and rs 400 a day for at least 25 days a month.In Sivakasi’s business cycle, as soon as Diwali ends, agents from across the country land up in droves, to float orders and negotiate costs for the next season’s consignments. By the end of March, at around this time, all deals would have been sealed and production would have begun. "What we make today explodes six months later," says Ramesh, 41, who has worked at a firecracker unit since he was 19 and is now unemployed. "Last November, we were told the factory was closed indefinitely. Initially, I did not believe this because my father and grandfather have done this work since the 1950s. Why did nobody think of how we will feed our families?"Many from his neighbourhood moved to Kerala to look for odd jobs in masonry and in timber factories on the Sengottai-Thenmala-Punalur highway. Others found work in Tirupur textile units or construction sites in Madurai. Many like Ramesh, who worked briefly as a cleaner in a Coimbatore hospital, returned within a month because they found it difficult to stay away from their families.