Given the support China has shown Pakistan, calls to ban Chinese-made crackers and Chinese products across the country this Diwali season are only getting louder.
After Gujarati traders and citizens, a panchayat leader in Bihar not only called for a ban on Chinese goods but also threatened action against those ignoring its diktat.
Gudia Devi, a woman sarpanch of Obra panchayat, 250km from Patna, called upon residents to boycott Chinese goods during the upcoming Diwali and Chhath festivals. “The idea is to teach China a lesson for backing Pakistan at a time when the neighbouring country has been virtually isolated for exporting terror,” she is quoted to have said in media reports.
The local leader went a step ahead and administered an oath to Obra residents not to use Chinese goods and the panchayat also decided to impose a penalty on those who do not follow its orders. It is not yet clear what the penalty on those buying or selling Chinese-made crackers, serial lights, diyas and toys that are in huge demand during the festival of lights will be.
It all began in Gujarat last week when a Whatsapp message began circulating that “Surat city has banned using, selling, purchasing Chinese products.” It went on to add in Hindi that if one city can take such a decision, we can all take an oath not to buy Chinese goods. It emphasised that unless every city and town takes such a decision, we cannot teach China a lesson. After a plea for its wide circulation, the message concluded with an English footnote: “Salute to Surat citizens.”
The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) immediately seized the initiative and urged its members as well as the general public to boycott Chinese products, saying the giant neighbour was working “against our national interest.”
GCCI Senior Vice President Shailesh Patwari said in Ahmedabad:
Using Chinese products goes against our national interest. The GCCI will also pass a resolution to boycott Chinese products during its executive committee meeting on October 22. China is dumping ceramics, plastics and fireworks, which should not be encouraged at the cost of our domestic industry. China is also siding with Pakistan — using its veto to stall action on Jaish terrorist Masood Azhar as well as blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Patwari said the GCCI’s call has found support with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and that the industry body would also write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other industry bodies in the country.
In 2015–16, the trade deficit with China stood at $52.68 billion, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha on August 1. The figure for the previous fiscal stood at $48.48 billion.
Gopal Singh Deora, a Surat-based diamond merchant confirmed that Surtis were observing the boycott call. “I am sure the message will spread across the length and breadth of India,” he said.
Along with Devi and the GCCI, he feels such small initiatives at the local level will have a cascading effect on the Dragon’s economy which has been dumping cheap crackers and goods of all kinds in India for over a decade now.
Major imports from China include telecom instruments, computer hardware and peripherals, fertilisers, chemicals, electronic components, drug intermediaries and other goods. Indian exports include ore, slag, iron and steel, tin, raw hides, leather and cotton.
Despite all these patriotic gestures, it is too early to tell if such self-imposed bans will have any effect on the swelling trade deficit between India and China.