Kendrapara (Orissa): As the demand of crackers swells on occasions like Diwali, children are forced to work in fire cracker units in Orissa's Kendrapara district.
Villages like Putinga, Keruan Garapur and Sujanagar are hub of locally-made palm-leaf fire crackers.
"Children are forced into the hazardous work of making crackers by their parents...Those who engage their kids in cracker making are unaware of the legal embargo on engaging children in making of crackers," child rights activist Binayak Swain said.
Employing children in fire cracker industry is a punishable offence under Child Labour Restraint Act.
Ghanashyam Jena, who works in a fire cracker manufacturing unit at Keruan village, however, sees "nothing wrong" in employing children in the hazardous job.
"After all, cracker making is our source of earning. Why should we be penalised (for employing children)? They are our children. We have every right to engage them in family trade," he said.
Jena is a landless labourer and makes a living from making crackers for three to months a year. "For the rest of the year, many of us work in farms," he said.
Subal Jena, who also works in a fire cracker making unit, said the age-old profession has now been reduced to a part-time job. "It's only during the peak marriage season and Diwali that we have to work real hard and our children help us," he said.
Children mostly work in processing, dying and cutting into pieces the palm leaves for the crackers. Some of them, however, do the work of filling crackers with the explosive.
"Of course, we take calculated risk in engaging children in such jobs. Slight carelessness would spell danger," said Anama Rout, who manufacturers palm-leaf crackers at Garapur village.
Cracker making involves a lot of risk and needs utmost care. Children are well-trained and guided to be vigilant while preparations for making the crackers are on, he said.
According to Swain there are more than a dozen cracker manufacturing units in the area. They have temporary licences issued by police and engage over 200 children.
Officials, however, deny engagement of children in fire cracker trade. "There is no official information of children being engaged in firework trade," a labour welfare department said.