Barpetra: For most people, Diwali is incomplete without earthen lamps (diyas) and firecrackers. The two components are somewhat symbolically attached to one of the most significant festivals of India.
However, while bursting firecrackers this Diwali, spare a thought for the scores of workers of the fireworks industry in Barpeta, Assam, who work without any basic safety gear in place. In the process, they are exposing themselves to harmful chemicals and, not to forget, endangering their lives.
Fireworks industry is known to be a hazardous industry. Right from the initial phase of manufacturing till the transportation and storage of fireworks in the stores, risk to life and property is high. The manufacturing process, type of storage and handling are some of the important factors that can turn a fireworks unit into a veritable tinderbox.
The plight of the 200 workers associated directly or indirectly with the Barpetra fireworks industry is no different. It is only because of their hard work and devotion to the cause that consumers in the state are getting to light up those colourful fireworks and make their Diwali a memorable one.
In the Barpeta fireworks industry, everything is done manually. Workers make crackers with their bare hands. With meagre wages ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 450 per working day, they are not provided even the basic safety gear like gloves or masks.
When this EastMojo team visited the fireworks village at Ganak Kuchi in Barpeta recently, workers were seen making firecrackers without any safety gear in place. Some of them were also seen putting gunpowder into the firecrackers without wearing any mask, helmet or gloves, exposing themselves to the harmful chemicals.
Even a mandatory health insurance scheme remains a distant dream. Except the daily wages, these workers don’t get anything from any sources.
“I have been making these fireworks for the past 14 years or so. We are not facing any medical problems so far. But who knows, what will happen tomorrow? We would like to request the state government to launch some health insurance-related schemes keeping our interests in mind,” said Narayan Das, a fireworks worker.
Some of the workers here, on condition of anonymity, also criticised the owners for not taking their health-related issues seriously. “Nobody is taking care of us," a worker said.