Five months ago, a young man riding his motorbike on the Maa flyover suffered serious injury when a kite string slit his throat. Saikat Dutta, 45, was just short of being killed by the Chinese kite string, popularly called Chinese manja, that barely grazed past his trachea. Several incidents of serious and sometimes fatal accidents have been reported where every time the culprit has been the Chinese manja. The glass powder coated kite string may be quite a favourite among kite-fliers, but it has had dangerous effects on common people around the city.
Judging the hazards of this string, the Supreme Court in 2016, imposed a ban on the Chinese manja. After the initial hush-hush, after the ban, the Chinese manja has returned to the Bengal markets with regained fervour. The thread is selling like hot cake just before Viswakarma Puja in the kite hubs of Howrah, Hooghly and North 24-Parganas. It’s a traditional practice in West Bengal to fly kites on Vishwakarma Puja.
The Supreme Court has imposed the ban while delivering a judgment on a public interest litigation in 2016. The petitioners argued that the glass powder coated Chinese manja had caused over 50 deaths in the last two years alone across the country. They also alleged that the manja was not only a threat to the human life but also killed birds and animals. Earlier, the thread was banned in Delhi after it claimed the lives of two children in two days.
“There is a huge demand for the glass powder coated Chinese string because it is durable, stretchable and cheaper than the traditional cotton string. Its made of synthetic material and is coated with fine glass powder that makes it very sharp – enough to smoothly cut the cotton string. In kite flying competitions, a participant using Chinese manja easily emerges as winner,” said the owner of Paley Kite Centre at 60/A, P. K. Biswas Road, Kharda, North 24 Parganas.
The price of Chinese string ranges between Rs 150 to 250 for 6,000 metres while the traditional cotton thread costs Rs 150 to Rs 200 for 700 – 1,000 metres.
“Earlier we sold cotton thread but after the Chinese string came to market, the demand of cotton thread has fallen,” said the owner of Ashish Kite at 63 P.K. Biswas Road in Khardah. Kite-lovers who thronged the market in the past few days were seen buying Chinese strings in almost every kite shop in Kharda, even at a stone’s throw away from Khardah Police Station. The traders, who claim to have no information about the ban on Chinese thread, have subtle understanding with the police so that they do not interfere in their matters.
At Uttarpara’s Rajendra Avenue, Chinese string was sold from two kite shops. “Out of hundred, the demand for Chinese string is ninety. Only ten per cent of people are asking for cotton thread. So, we have to sell Chinese string to make money,” said a kite seller.
Kite-flying is also a popular sport in areas like Tikiapara, Kadamtala, Sankrail, Andul, Uluberia, Bagnan in Howrah district where Chinese manja is widely used.
“We are fully aware of the danger posed by the glass powder coated Chinese string. So all the kite associations under our organisation have been directed to use cotton threat and chemical manja,” said Nasir Ahmed, president, Calcutta Kite Association. He said that while Chinese nylon string coated with glass powder could injure or even kill animals, birds and also humans, the cotton thread with chemical manja snaps as soon as it comes in contact with any living being.
The ban was introduced last year by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on account of the danger posed on wildlife and humans. It had clarified last year that the ban order would apply on nylon, Chinese and cotton manja coated with glass. Further, the tribunal directed the All India Manja Association to submit a report to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on its harmful effects.
“We have sent a report to CPCB asserting that that the members of our association do not use glass coated Chinese string. Instead we use cotton thread and chemical manja,” said Yaseen Chukta Beg, the president of All India Manja Association.