India: Firozabad bangle sector complains at kerosene costs

Bangles are an important product from the Firozabad glass cluster. Manufacturers, however, complain that their business is threatened by the high cost of kerosene and are asking for regulation of supp…

Bangles are an important product from the Firozabad glass cluster. Manufacturers, however, complain that their business is threatened by the high cost of kerosene and are asking for regulation of supplies. Kerosense is used to fuel soldering units for converting a continuous spiral of coloured glass into individual pieces joined together at one end to form bangles. Until 1992, bangle units received kerosene under an industrial quota. However, it was inexplicably withdrawn by the government and since then the industry“s demand for a kerosene quota has not been met. Glass industry sources said that while bangle making and baking units could use anything ranging from wood to coal to natural gas as fuel, the operation of bangle soldering units was completely dependent on the availability of kerosene. Each worker solders as many as 2000 bangles in one, 8-10 hour shift and this process requires a continuously burning kerosene lamp. Though most units are able to arrange fuel through the black market, its cost is as high as INR 35-40 per litre, almost 2-3 times the market cost. Considering a daily requirement of about 25 kilolitre (kl) of kerosene for the 140-150 bangle soldering units, the additional fuel cost has been slowly killing the industry. Around 35 units have closed over the past decade. To revive these units, which employ about 150,000 people in Firozabad and nearby towns, the Firozabad district administration has asked the state government to re-allocate the industrial quota of 500 kilolitres of kerosene per month for the bangle soldering units. Sudhir Kumar Srivastava, general manager, district industrial centre, Firozabad, said the Firozabad district magistrate Amit Gupta had sent a request to the principal secretary (small-scale industries) B. Rajgopalan for the allocation of an industrial quota, emphasising the difficulties the industry faces due to the lack of fuel. He said that the fuel crisis was also discussed in December 2008 in the meeting of Udyog Bandhu, following which, the district supply officer had also been directed to initiate discussions with petroleum companies to obtain discretionary kerosene supplies. This supply, though, was expected to be expensive, at INR 32 per litre. Mr. Srivastava claimed that the only permanent solution to the industry“s woes was the state government agreeing to allot a industrial quota for the soldering units and hopefully, a decision on the matter would be taken in the coming few months, saving almost 50,000 families from the threat of unemployment. Established in the 15th century, the Firozabad glass industry is one of the country“s biggest glass industry clusters, with nearly 2 million people employed in manufacturing various items out of glass, ranging from electric bulbs and chandeliers to multicolored bangles, generating an annual domestic and export business of over INR 8 billion.