Some Heart-Rending facts
Pyrotechnics or the commonly known fireworks have become an inseparable part of festivities not only in India but all over the world. India produces roughly Rs. 250 crores worth of firecrackers annually. Despite the erratic fluctuation in the market prices this commodity sells liker hot-cake during almost all national festivities including marriages, victory celebrations and other occasions of revelry. Of these, Diwali is one festival which accounts for the highest consumption in our country.
For a person with a bent of mind towards the social cause and possessing a humane heart, the under mentioned points on the dark reality of the dazzling fireworks would provide food for thought.
The effulgent, colourful and deafening crackers come out of the tiny hands of over one and half lakh children compelled to toil day and night in suffocating worksheds, anticipating death or mutilation due to the explosive nature of the material they handle.
The matches & fireworks industries of Sivakasi, Virudh Nagar, Sattur districts of Tamil Nadu state are holding more than a lakh of children, crushing the very enjoyable span of their childhood. Besides, Agra, Jhansi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Etawah, Varansi districts of Uttar Pradesh; Jaipur, Bikaner, Udaipur of Rajasthan; Bhopal,, Indore, Raipur of Madhya Pradesh; Rohtak, Bhiwani of Haryana, Howrah, 24 Pargans of West Bengal also account for child employment in thousands in this extremely hazardous industry. Even places unknown earlier for firecrackers have been reported of having illegal firecrackers units. 100 child labourers were rescued last year from 15 such illegal firecrackers units in the town of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.
The production pace gets accelerated during September-October to meet the enormous demand during Diwali. To cope up with the target, thousands of children are employed on casual basis.
A large number of accidents occurring in units located in remote areas go unreported.
The raw material for firecrackers are highly explosive in nature. A speck of slackness could mean instant death or crippling. Besides, due to constant exposure to chemicals like sulphur, potash, phosphorous, chlorate etc., the children contract deadly infections of lung, skin, kidney and eyes.
Matches & fireworks industry being highly hazardous, the law provides for imprisonment from 3 months to years and a fine upto Rs. 20,000. But, thanks to the various law-enforcing agencies, this legal instrument has remained a paper tiger till date. Leave alone the imprisonment, till date the maximum penalty imposed for violation of this law is a paltry Rs. 200/-.
The revelations of both governmental and non-governmental studies on this subject agree that these units keep flouting the norms and provisions of Explosive Act, Factory Act and Labour Laws. Yet there is a mushrooming of such units all over the country are run without registration of license.
How can we tackle the menace?
“Charity begins at home”. Let us not buy crackers and educate our children about the darker side of this illuminating object. In its place, provide your children with colourful candles, attractive toys etc. The children might be obstinate in the beginning. But certainly they will watch the point with our perseverance and commitment.
Spread the message among your friends, relatives and well-wishers. Try to arrange an informal family get-together of theses persons, well ahead of Diwali and explain the plight of the children engaged in the industry. Try to convince them and the children on the wasteful extravaganza, the environmental pollution, risk of accidents and dangers to lives and property involved in lighting fireworks.
If you happen to be a teacher, or doctor, or people’s representative, social worker, or a village head your responsibility naturally assumes greater dimension. Try to educate the children, parents and others taking few hours off your schedule. You are doing a world of good to those lakhs of children fro whom Diwali or Dussehra does not convey anything special than a killing routine at work.
Social workers can organize wall-writing, distribution of handbills, personal contact of head-masters/head-mistresses etc. The children will easily get influenced through their teacher. If possible the teachers can arrange a rally in their area to highlight the issue.
During the festivities of Diwali, Dussehra and other religious functions, cultural programmes like street drama, audio-visual programmes etc. cam be organized.
Contact press/media and get them involved in highlighting the issue. Press statements be issued covering the entire gamut of the campaign. Launch a signature campaign in support of boycott of fireworks involving prominent personalities of the area.
If you are running a school or a center a take out procession of children and others to spread the message in the school and the neighborhood.
Just a couple of days before Diwali, organise a public gathering of like-minded persons to demonstrate symbolic boycott of crackers by immersing them in water.
Celebrate Diwali by lighting lamps, not by blasting childhood.