LAHORE: Thousands of skilled craftsmen who make kites and string are waiting anxiously for a decision from the Punjab government on whether or not it will lift the ban on kite-flying on Basant.
The Punjab government is reported to be considering allowing kite-flying on February 26 and 27, the proposed dates of Basant this year.
The sport has been banned in general since 2005, and has not been allowed on Basant since 2007.
Manufacturers have started contacting firms for supplies such as paper, string and other materials used to make kites and glass-coated string.
“It would be great news for the industry because we have been suffering for several years under the ban,” said Lala Billu, a manufacturer and dealer of kites and string. “But unless they give us proper notice and time to prepare, Basant will not be as colourful as it used to be.”
Billu conceded that many people opposed kite-flying on moral grounds, since glass-coated string caused several deaths. “But there are still hundreds of thousands of kite lovers who believe that the ban should be lifted, provided the government forcefully cracks down upon the manufacturers and dealers who use metal wire, or string coated with inflammable chemicals, or with excessive quantities of glass.”
He said that the district kite flying association had met with manufacturers of chemical-coated string and ‘tandi’ string and urged them to stop breaking the law, because they were putting the whole industry at risk.
“Many agreed to stop but they later broke the agreement. We are always ready to cooperate with the government against such manufacturers. They should be given heavy fines,” Billu said.
Muhammad Shafi, another string maker, said that his family had been in the business for decades and did not know any other work, so they suffered greatly over the last few years. “My mother died because I didn’t have the money for her treatment,” he said.
A Lahore-based kite maker said that since the sport had been banned in Lahore, he had started selling more in other districts. “Many kite lovers still enjoy flying kites in other districts regularly. Their passion has kept me and my family alive at least,” he said. “We make a lot less than we used to but when I look at what has happened to others in this industry, I thank Almighty Allah.”
Azhar Ali, another kite maker, said that before the ban, he and his family would be extremely busy at this time of year trying to meet orders for kites. Lifting the ban for two days was not enough. “How much can I make [in two days]? What am I supposed to do for the rest of the year?”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2011.