40 per cent of the labour force in match industry is Dalit

The blast and subsequent death of three innocent lives in a cracker unit blast brings many issues to the fore.

The challenges before the district administration are abundant as many illegal units mushroom with an economic desire to exploit the upcoming Deepavali season.

Vijayakarisalkulam village is notorious for its illegal fireworks manufacturing unit and has been one among the 30 villages, including Thayilpatti, Vijayarangapuram, Konachipuram, Kovilankulam, Meenakshipuram, Ramalingapuram, Kottur Salvarpatti and Vembakottai, where many unlicensed units function.

The owners who are at present absconding belong to a dominant intermediate caste group and all the dead, K. Kumar (45), J. Bhagyaraj (26) and K. Kaliraj (26) hailing from Vallampatti village in the district was identified as Dalits (Adi Dravidar).

The Hindu in its September 12, 2012 edition in a report titled ‘Dalits are victims of bonded labour’ stated that almost 40 per cent of the labour force in match and fireworks industry is Dalit and found that in the September 5, fire accident that among the 38 people killed, 24 (63 per cent) were Dalits.

Unavailability of alternative means of livelihood and poverty has been the major reasons among the Dalits to enter and be part of such a hazardous industry where safety to their lives is conspicuously missing, said an office bearer of Puthiya Tamilagam.

It was a modern form of bonded labour where they are lured into jobs in cracker and match industries by brokers who pay them an advance before recruitment.

Later, they not only have to repay the advance but also become clients of usury which has entered the industry.

Illegal Units

Studies reveal that illegal units manufacture as much as half the quantum of fireworks produced by the licensed factories and in most of these villages, the illegal units function within the domestic spaces.

Already in 2005, the district administration and police went on a major crackdown warning people on illegal units.

Despite warnings, these illegal units mushroom as it becomes easier for them to start a small unit within their houses. As there is no need to pay licence fee, payment of excise duty and sales tax many try to venture into these illegal units.

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