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Child labour: Crackers that light up your Diwali
DIMAPUR/CHENNAI, Oct 31 (NPN/IANS):
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Published on 1 Nov. 2010 12:56 AM IST
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As many prepare to light up a sparkler to celebrate Diwali the coming week, spare a thought for the around 40,000 children employed in the hazardous firecrackers industry in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, for whom the festival simply translates into more forced work. There are over 60 million child labourers in India.
Sivakasi, about 650 km south of Chennai, is India’s fireworks capital. It employs over 100,000 people - mostly women and children. Child labour, therefore, is rampant in this place.
Take the example of 15-year-old Ponnusamy, one of the several children working in a firecracker manufacturing unit there. He dropped out of school in Class 6 and has been working for the past five years. Asked why and how he got into this work, the shy Ponnusamy mumbled: “I do what my parents ask me.”
Ponnusamy has a back-breaking nine-hour schedule every day - filling tubes, cutting, drying, packing and other preparatory tasks.
His daily wage for the long hours is just Rs.60 - which is 40 percent of the minimum wage entitled for adults for the same work.
Accidents in the firecrackers factories are fairly common. And even though the local employers’ union claims there is no child labour, casualties in accidents tell a different story. In July last year, an accident in a licensed unit, V.B.M. Fireworks, left three children dead. In August this year, eight revenue and police officials were killed while inspecting an unlicensed unit.
According to Child Rights and You (CRY), one of the several NGOs trying to stop child labour in the firecrackers industry, there are about 550 licensed units and 500 unlicensed units. In addition, there are some 3,989 factories making matches.
John R of CRY said: “Despite the worldwide outcry, little has been done by the local government to stop child labour in Sivakasi. The outcry has just pushed the issue underground.”
“Licensed units outsource production of firecrackers to unlicensed, home-based units, unmindful of safety regulations and even the Child Labour Prohibition Act,” he added.
The fireworks and matchstick industry in and around Sivakasi is worth Rs.1,000 crore (around $225 million). It maybe mentioned that the ministry of labour and employment has been taking various pro-active measures to tackle this problem. However, considering the enormity and extent of the problem and that it is essentially a socio-economic problem inextricably linked to poverty and illiteracy, it requires concerted efforts from all sections of the society to make a dent in the problem.
Based on the recommendations of Gurupadaswamy Committee, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others.
In consonance with the above approach, a National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987. The Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes in the first instance. The Action Plan outlined in the Policy for tackling this problem: Legislative Action Plan, Focusing of General Developmental Programmes and Based Plan of Action.

 
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