Thirty-year-old Prince, who hails from Aligarh, is working overtime to make Diwali crackers like anaars, phuljharis and chakris at a non-cemented unit built with bricks at Farrukhnagar-Asalatpur. He is one among the hundreds of workers toiling in makeshift cracker manufacturing units, their clothes smeared with fine particles of aluminium dust, barium and sulphur.
Gauging the hazards of fireworks’ manufacturing, these craftsmen are cautious every moment so that nothing causes even a minor spark.
“Manufacturing crackers is a hazardous activity. We do not use any iron-plated materials as a minor spark can cause a fire. The floor inside the manufacturing unit is non-cemented and we even use hammers which do not cause sparks. We also inhale the chemicals that are used to make crackers as the fine particles float in the air,” Prince said.
The workers consume sugar syrups to clear their throat of the chemicals they inhale.
“We eat ‘gur’ (jaggery) and ‘chaashni’ (thick sugar syrup) of jalebi so that the throat is cleared of the fine particles of chemicals we inhale at work. Earlier, I was at a fireworks factory in Haryana where a minor spark resulted in a major fire. After that, I moved here and we all take maximum precautions to avoid any mishap,” he said.
Most of the workers who make crackers hail from areas such as Aligarh, Amroha and other parts of western Uttar Pradesh.
“This is the time when we earn a good amount and send a portion back to our families. Although my family members tell me not to continue with this profession, I cannot move to other jobs now. The perfect mix of chemicals and the precise handmade preparation of crackers are all fixed in our minds,” Krishna Kumar, another worker, said.
Even local women find the Diwali season as an opportunity to make a quick buck for their families.
“The village women usually help out in non-hazardous activities such as preparing metal sticks for phuljhari. All labourers have been in this trade for several years and know how to handle the inflammable material. They earn around Rs.200 a day or about Rs.7,500 a month,” Asif Ali, another manufacturer said.