Thursday, October 27, 2011


Lack of hospitals in Sivakasi kills hundreds

Come Diwali and the sky across India would glitter with magnificent fireworks and sound. This is one night which when starts even overshadows the moon under the cracking light and glamour of fire-shows. This is one night where every corner of India tries to match Sydney’s’ New Year celebration in its own way. But then, the entire Indian shines on one night because of life-risking production works done in one small town of India – Sivakasi.

Sivakasi is the non-official fireworks hub of India. But this is one place that had to pay the price for the entire celebration. When India rejoices and celebrate this day of light, every year, hundreds of homes across Sivakasi mourns the death of their loved ones. Every year hundreds of workers in numerous crackers factories lose their lives due to accident – which is termed as ‘occupational hazards’ in the most callous conventional term. The lives of these workers are blamed on occupational hazards and issues on implementation of safety measures are thus overtly neglected. In 2011 alone, more than 25 people died while working in cracker factories. On Aug 6, 2011, seven workers were killed in Sivakasi due to a fire in the factory. And mind you, these deaths are more due to policy neglect. Every single cracker purchaser knows that the box that he owns comes from Sivakasi, but our government seems to be ignorant about this fact. Otherwise, what else on the earth would explain an absence of burn speciality hospital in the town. Accident victims have to travel 70 kms to reach the hospital at Madurai – which is the nearest hospital that can handle cases of burns and fire accidents. As per a survey conducted by Campaign Against Child Labour, more than 800 people died in fire accidents and more than 2000 children (in last one decade) lost their parents due to industrial accidents.

In order to ensure safety, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulates explosives in the US while the same is done by the Health and Safety Executive in the UK. In other countries, there are specialised and dedicated departments that scrutinise the working of these factories. Most of the developed nations have reduced the interference of human and adopted automation to contain casualties. Given the very economies that Sivakasi creates, it's imperative for the government to take necessary measures. Introducing new technologies and automation would make the factories a safer place to work. According to ASSOCHAM, the firecracker industry is estimated to be worth Rs.1,200 crore and employs over 1.5 lakhs workers in its 9000 plus factories. All licensed factories should be forced to issue insurances to workers (and to family, if possible). But then all these measures will still not bear any fruit until the government incepts couple of burn speciality health centre and at least one government state-of-art advance burn specialist hospital in the vicinity. What is needed to be understood that it is the lack of post-burn treatment that kills more people than the accidents alone.

India may match Sydney or New York when it comes to the creativity in fireworks but still have miles to go to match their safety standards. Opening up a speciality burn hospital would be the least that the government can and should do, leave aside a blanket ban on child labour, closing illegal factories and making the working condition safer. Till then hundreds of families would think twice before celebrating this festival for Sivakasi.



  1. Dear Sir,

    Thanks for this article,hardly people are aware of their conditions & thousands of child labour involved with this .

    so let us joined hands to "Say 'No' to Fire crackers and 'Yes' to life!"

    For most people lighting of firecrackers is the highlight of Diwali. But little do people realize that in our increasingly populated and polluted cities, the temporary joy of watching the firecrackers is soon replaced by the intense air pollution caused by these. The toxic substances used in the firecrackers release toxic gases that are harmful to the health of all living beings.

    School kids should be made aware of the effects of the fire crackers how they cause pollution to the atmosphere and to our surroundings,and this message should be wide spread by Govt thru media , NGO’s etc ..

    This year we celebrated a Cracker free Diwali ( although I myself been an all time crazy for crackers ) & also motivated few of my daughters friends for the same ….
    to spread the message, I was so proud and happy on seeing those little kids...
    So the younger generation is ready to celebrate Eco friendly Diwali!Infact they need parents true support ....

    Dr.Rachna Bohrey

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