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Sivakasi fireworks units shut down due to superstition, convention

13th June 2014

Courtesy: The Times of India

Sivakasi fireworks units shut down due to superstition, convention

Fireworks manufacturers of Sivakasi closed down more than 700 of their units on Thursday, risking Rs 50 crore loss, fearing that an astrological prediction about accidents could come true.

While the ostensible reason for the mass shutdown was a convention organized by a forum against Chinese fireworks, sources said elderly members in the industry found a mention in an astrological calendar about Thursday being an inauspicious day when fireworks explosions could occur. Sivakasi, the countrys fireworks hub, has seen several accidents every year that kill hundreds of workers.

Forty people were killed in one of the worst accidents in Om Sakthi Fireworks in Sivakasi on September 6, 2012. The accident occurred on a day when similar planetary positions and conditions prevailed and it was a Thursday, a manufacturer, who is a staunch believer of astrology warned the industry, sources said.

Based on the prediction, fireworks manufacturers decided to suspend operations for a day. Workers were told they were being given a day off to take part in the convention, seeking to persuade the government to ban exports of Chinese fireworks.

"Most of the owners felt it was better not to take a chance and decided to suspend operations on Thursday," said A M S G Ashokan of We Two Brand.

Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA) vice-president A Mariappan said besides such a fear among the owners, workers were keen to participate in the convention organised by the Tamil Nadu Fireworks & Workers Protection Movement against Chinese fireworks.

"Workers wanted to participate in the event and owners, uncomfortable with the astrological prediction, decided to close down operations to give them a day off," Mariappan said. He estimated Rs 50 crore loss due to the one-day shutdown. "It was a closed holiday without pay. We will compensate by working on a holiday," he added.

However, the workers association claimed they had no choice but to go with the "whims and fancies" of the owners. "Workers were not paid for almost a week during the total lockout in April to protest the hike in explosives license fee," rued Fireworks Workers Association in Sivakasi district secretary M Mahalakshmi.

Later in the day, the convention passed resolutions mainly urging the Union government to ban exports of Chinese fireworks. The forum also urged authorities to destroy Chinese fireworks consignments seized by officials and punish the smugglers. A resolution urged the state government to regulate small units functioning under district revenue officer license and demanded that owners abolish sub-contract and leasing methods, suspected to be reasons behind the accidents at fireworks units.

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