|Fireworks unit workers go on fast at Sivakasi|
Fireworks unit workers go on fast at Sivakasi
Thousands of firework industry labourers who have been jobless for two months went on a one-day fast in 12 places in Virudhunagar district on Thursday, urging the state and Union Governments to press their case before the Supreme Court and ensure the speedy reopening of the 1,070 cracker units in Sivakasi. This cracker town produces more than 90% of the fireworks produced in India.
These units customarily stop production two days before Diwali. The units which were closed on November 4, 2018 (Deepavali was on November 6) could not resume production due to the stringent guidelines from the Supreme Court (SC), banning the use of barium salts in fireworks and not to make laris. The Apex Court also said that firework units should only manufacture green fireworks, for which guidelines are yet to be framed.
Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' Association general secretary K Mariappan said that this would mean 80% of the nearly 400 fireworks they make cannot be manufactured unless the SC is ready to consider the plight of 8 lakh labourers directly and indirectly employed in the industry in and around Sivakasi. The next hearing in the case before the SC is on January 22.
Since firework units in Sivakasi announced indefinite closure of the units till the SC relaxes the norms, the labourers have gone jobless.
They have been organizing a series of protests to grab the attention of the governments, to relax the norms and resume production. The first protest was a march across the district in the first week of December, followed by a protest staged at the Virudhunagar collectorate on December 11. A black flag protest was organized on December 18 with black flags tied to their houses. On December 21 around 15,000 labourers once again thronged the Virudhunagar collectorate for a mass petitioning protest, affecting traffic on the Madurai to Kanyakumari national highway for close to three-and-a-half hours. The fourth protest was a one-day fast at 12 places on Thursday.
PN Deva, Virudhunagar district general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) that organised the fast, said that 4,945 people including over 3,000 women took part in the one-day fast at the Sivakasi bus stand, Sathiyapuram bus stop, Tiruthangal Ambedkar statue, Poolavurani, Kanniseri, Uppodai, Aamanthur, Chinnakamanpatti, Vembakodai, Thayilpatti, Sattur-Madurai bus stop and Yelairampannai.
The police claimed that 2,400 people including 1,300 women participated in the fast. Women in tears said that they are forced to undergo unexplainable hardships due to the closure of their workplaces. They had two demands, viz. reopening firework units to give them back their jobs and seeking monthly relief of Rs 10,000 per labourer from the state government till the units are reopened.
“When the government can announce Rs 1,000 each for all the 1.7 crore family cards in the state for Pongal, why not meet our genuine demand to compensate the loss of livelihood,” Deva asked. He said that the fifth stage of protest would be on January 30, where firework unit workers would resort to road blockage at 30 places across Virudhunagar.