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By Anjana Pasricha
23 October 2008
In India, police say at least 25 people including 12 children have been killed in an accidental explosion in a small, illegal fireworks factory. Officials say at least 17 people were injured in the explosion. The tragedy occurred less than a week before the country's main Hindu festival. As Anjana Pasricha reports, thousands of poor children are employed in small establishments throughout the country despite a ban.
Police say a huge explosion early Thursday tore down a house where fireworks were being illegally manufactured in the town of Deeg in western Rajasthan state. Many of the victims were young boys and girls employed by the workshop.
|Television frame grab from AAJTAK TV shows onlookers at site of illegal fireworks factory which exploded in Deeg, some 160 km south of New Delhi, 22 Oct 2008|
Police and volunteers helped sift through the rubble to pull out those killed and rescue those injured in the explosion. Police say an accidental fire may have caused the blast.
The tragedy occurred less than a week before the main Hindu festival, Diwali. Setting off firecrackers at night is an intrinsic part of the celebration, and hundreds of small,
illegal manufacturing establishments come up at this time of the year to meet the huge demand in the market.
Many of these factories employ young boys and girls despite a law banning the employment of children.
Child rights activists say the latest tragedy highlights the lax implementation of these laws.
An activist with Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save Childhood Campaign, Bhuwan Ribhun, says there is neither political nor administrative will to clamp down on the use of child labor.
"Law is nothing but a piece of paper until and unless it is enforced, whether it is a fireworks factory, whether it is domestic child labor, whether it is any other form of
child labor," said Ribhun. "The administration is not equipped with the knowledge, with the training, as well as the necessary political will behind the administration to say it must be considered as a crime."
Estimates of the number of children working in India vary widely. The government says that there are about 10 million boys and girls under the age of 14 working in the
country. Child rights activists say the number is 60 million.
Children from poor homes are pushed to work by parents to supplement a meager income. Employers hire children to save wages. They work in homes, factories, shops
or in fields across the country.