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Out of job for 3 months, school fees, medicine bills become too dear to foot for Sivakasi workers

Out of job for 3 months, school fees, medicine bills become too dear to foot for Sivakasi workers

Many workers are yet to pay the term fees due since December
MADURAI: With more than 8 lakh people out of jobs in Sivakasi due to the closure of fireworks units, education of the workers’ kids and basic medical needs have become unaffordable.

As many as 1,070 units, big and small, downed shutters in protest three months ago following the Supreme Court’s interim directive in October 2018 that barium nitrate salts should not be used to manufacture fireworks and that laris should also not be manufactured. The SC had stated that only green fireworks have to be manufactured.

Struggling to feed themselves without income, workers say they are too strained to pay school, college fees of their kids. While the children of most fireworks unit workers study in government schools in and around Sivakasi, a sizeable number of workers have enrolled their wards in private schools and haven’t paid the term fees that was due in December. The situation has forced parents to seek more time to pay the sum.

The correspondent of Safire Matriculation Higher Secondary School, A Gnanasekaran, said there are 600 students in the school, of whom close to 500 are kids of workers in fireworks and printing industry. “We collect close to ?15 lakh in third term fees over December and the first 10 days of January. But this year we couldn’t collect even one-third of it,” he said, adding that he has asked teachers not to pressurize children for fees. If the situation continued, it will be difficult for the management to pay salaries of teachers, he said.

V Murugan, of Murugan Colony, said he could not pay the term fees of ?5,000 each for his two children. “But their teachers asked me not to worry and paid the fees. They asked me to repay it when my wife and I get back to work,” he said, moved by the goodwill gesture of the teachers.

Footing basic medical bills, for treatments not covered under government schemes, has also become hard. A leading general physician in the town, who did not want to be named, recalled that a patient of his interrupted him when fulling out a prescription. “He asked if I could give him sample medicines as he did not have money to pay the consultation fees and buy medicines”. The doctor added that another danger was people approaching pharmacies to buy medicines directly, as they were not able to pay for doctor consultations.

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