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Sivakasi, the firecracker capital of India & its grim side

Chennai, Oct 15 (): At least 800 adults had lost their lives in fire accidents at Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu,affecting around  2000 children’s lives in the last decade (1999-2011), revealed a survey by Campaign against Child Labour, an organization that works in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Only 500 deaths had been documented since they took place in registered factories while the other 300 were recorded by the surveys after meeting the affected persons.

Nicknamed as “Kutty Japan” by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sivakasi enjoys huge revenue by producing fire crackers, matches, calendars, posters and other printing works. It supplies firecrackers and sparklers all over India during Diwali season. With a huge turnover of around 1000 crore rupees (around 200 million dollars) per year, this small town supplies matches for 70% of India and has a large number of industries around the city.

“In some villages such as Vijayakarisilkulam, Kothai Nachiyapuram, Muthandipuram and Ammaiyarpatti, about 30 per cent of the children have dropped out of schools and are engaged full-time in fireworks making,” said Thenpandian, Deputy Director, Centre for Child Rights and Development.

Children employed in the unorganized sector were involved in paper tube rolling and paper cutting. On weekends, the children work full-time. Even though their parents are aware of the dangers of working in such centres, they are helpless as the daily wages are linked to productivity and more hands mean more money. Most of the registered companies operate through sub – contractors who in turn use homes in far-flung villages, thereby evading the labour department officers.

It is a grim irony that people who light up other’s lives and festivities are caught up in impassable dark.

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