When you first think of Diwali – the Hindu Festival of Light – what comes to mind?
Perhaps you thought of family gatherings, a feast, puja (“prayers” in Hindi) and to top it all off, firecrackers. There’s nothing like the thrill of bursting crackers, especially on the festival of lights, but have you ever stopped to think about who makes these crackers?
Every year, hundreds and thousands of children who live in poverty are forced by their families and factory owners from the industry to produce firecrackers. Children are the perfect demographic for factory owners as they are able to pay them less, and get more efficiency from their nimble fingers.
These children are expected to fill crackers with gunpowder and mix chemicals such as sodium, sulfur and nitrate by hand, often without protective equipment, resulting in life-threatening medical conditions and permanent scarring.
A small town called Sivakasi in the state of Tamil Nadu in India thrives on the production of firecrackers and is known as the second largest firecracker industry in the world. Most of their workers are children. Officially, in India, children are not allowed to be engaged in hazardous occupations, but many factories still employ children and hide them in rooms and villages when the labour inspectors come.
Now lets go back to reflecting about Diwali and ponder what it symbolically means to us and whether firecrackers fit into the spirit of the celebrations.
Many people associate Diwali with the victory of good over evil. Are we really embracing this attitude when we buy firecrackers and support an industry that exposes children to extreme psychological and physical harm? Diwali is a festival in which individuals are supposed to reflect upon what they are grateful for, ponder what is right or wrong, see the value between knowledge and ignorance and extend compassion towards others. Aren’t we going against all these philosophies by bursting crackers?
If you did burst crackers this Diwali, I urge you to not only think about what Diwali means as a festival, but also to think about the children who are exploited day and night to produce these crackers.
India has the largest number of child labourers in the world but we also have the power to change this. As the second largest population, we have the power to boycott products that children are forced to make, like firecrackers, and make a lasting impact.
Therefore, next Diwali, take a stand and “be the change you want to see in the world” by saying NO to firecrackers.