Friday, December 14, 2007

Fireworks and Child Labour


- *Think Of These Kids When Sparklers Light Up Diwali Sky* [IANS]

Every time a sparkler lights up the sky during Diwali festivities, spare a thought for Karuppuswamy, Chitra and Muneeswari - three of the nearly 40,000 children toiling away in Sivakasi District fireworks and match industry.

The three children feature in a 25-minute documentary film, *'Tragedy Buried in Happiness'*, shot by South Korean broadcaster Taegu Broadcasting Corp in August with the help of *Manitham, a rights NGO working with children, Amnesty International and the National Confederation of Human Rights.

No volunteer of the National Rural Health Mission ever visits 12-year-old Chitra,who has been confined for four years within the walls of her tiny room - ever since the child, a rank holder in her school, got burnt while making crackers in the town, 650 km south of the state capital Chennai.

Today Chitra cowers before visitors, drawing up a grey sheet to cover her burnt body and her half burnt face. Her eloquent eyes speak to Hyuk Soo Seo's camera and say all that she does not tell.

Chitra's mother is reluctant to admit how much she was paid, what was the name of the unit where the accident took place. She only complains that it would have cost Rs.200,000 for the child's plastic surgery and that no one has helped her daughter.

Karuppusamy, 14, sits in an alley, surrounded by his siblings, stuffing gunpowder into holding trays for crackers. His hands and face are shrivelled. Asked if he feels pain, he says, 'No.'

Muneeswari's hands are yellow; no, not due to henna. 'The gum that the children in her work group use contains cyanide, which stains every hand that contributes to this industry,' said *G. Subramanian, executive director, Manitham.*

On camera, Muneeswari, 12, says she gets Rs.100 per week for eight to 12 ours of work every day. Her earnings help her parents feed her siblings.

Manitham activists say there are about 40,000 children working in the narrow bylanes of Sivakasi District, about 650 km south of Chennai and home to the fireworks and matchstick industry, employing 50,000 people.

'There is a ray of hope,' said rights activist and advocate Ajeetha B.S. 'We are beginning to notice a slight shift in the ages of the child labourers. A few years ago we found 10-year-olds working in these factories, now we find the children a little older, about 13-14,' Ajeetha told IANS at Chennai.

Another activist, not wishing to be named, added: 'What is happening in India today is exploitation of child labour, be it in the firework industry or in the farms. The issue is not poor working conditions, it is exploitation of children.'

India is estimated to have nearly 125 million child workers, 80 percent of them in rural areas. Appreciating the documentary, noted lawyer and rights activist Sudha Ramalingam said: 'We have been fighting to end child labour for more than two decades. The film is a shocking revelation of what still goes on.'

But making the film was not easy. Subramanian said, 'No Indian NGO or filmmaker was ready to shoot the film. We were, therefore, forced to go to filmmakers from Korea.' The documentary is in Korean, dubbed into Tamil and English. (Papri Sri Raman can be contacted at

Mr. G. Subramanian, the Director of the NGO, Manitham which has made this documentary says " This is said to be very first documentary made on Sivakasi Child.
Previously the fame dir. Shayam Benagal tried and failed. After facing a tough lot of opposition, we have made this. Original documentary was made with the support of Korean TV in Korean language. After that, we have dubbed it in English and in Tamil.

We made a jam packed public view on 03-11-2007 at AVM Studio, AVM A/C theatre, Chennai. Several Human Rights activists, film directors and noted personalities participated in that function.

NDTV, Deccan Chronicle, Indian Express, IANS has widely covered the stories Internationally. Thanks for support. You can have an idea by viewing this from our web page "

This DVDs priced, inclusive of postage charges, at Rs. 300 for naration in Tamil and Rs. 400 for narration in English is for sale and a part of the contributions goes to the affected children of Sivakasi. These rates are applicalbe for delivery within India.
The DD payment may be in favour of "G.Subramanian, Chennai" or payment can be made into the account as detailed below
I C I C I Bank:
Account Holder : Subramanian.G,
Account No : 6022 01518582,
Branch : Chennai R H Road, India

Dark indeed!!!


Unknown said...

I'm Prithvi (Social Work student, Christ University) from Bangalore, doing small project with my friends on child labor in Sivakasi... Esp. firework and matches industry. We are going to conduct awareness campaign in Bangalore to camp against purchase of fireworks manufactured in Sivakasi. Our presentations will cover the extent of work done by NGOs in Tamil nadu in field and problem of child labor in these industries for which we are seeking any input from all NGOs, individuals on feild.

WE appreciate any support given to increase our knowledge and work in the field.

Mithali Amin said...

this stupid politicians r stupid leeches hu deserve 2 die

Raam Kumar Nadar said...

This small town has as many as 42 educational institutions. This includes three arts colleges, a women's college, an engineering college, two polytechnics and one pharmaceutical college. About 39,000 students, almost equal number of boys and girls, are on their rolls. Who built this huge educational infrastructure? Not the government. The fireworks owners. If children were their human resource why would they build schools for them? Also colleges. They have enough money to send their children to any place in India or abroad for studies.

Not just that. The government has declared Virudhunagar district in which Sivakasi falls as 100% literate. How can that go with child labour? It is not all. `Child labour in Sivakasi is a myth, a 15-year-old story'. Not the fireworks owners, the District Collector says so. Just three months back. He discloses that in Virudhunagar district in which Sivakasi falls, from four lakh households 2.24 lakh children attend schools. Some of course do not. But lack of awareness, not child labour, is the reason for that, he asserts. The number of those bunking schools, he says, is less than 9%, even though the people below poverty line is between 36% and 40%. He said so in public. The very media, of course only the Tamil media, reported him. More evidence exists, if needed.

Ren Chats said...

Forgotten Ill Effects of Fireworks

I do understand that human being is instinctively self centered, but fail to understand the Parents who indulge in fireworks celebrations: How they overlook the ill effects fireworks even on their own children.

1. The glitter in their children's eyes could be lost in seconds.

2. Air pollution caused initiates a whole spectra of respiratory and allergy disorders.

3. Burns due to fireworks are well known.

More than 80 million children are employed in firework industry around the world; majority being in India.

We in India need to have legislation against use of fireworks. Let us start with creating awareness.

Care for Children:Our Own and Others.