By Arnab Mitra
Nangi is a small town, located a few miles outside Kolkata. It is well-known for its firework industry. This town in South 24 Parganas of West Bengal is the third largest firework industry in India after Shivkasi and Champahati.
However, the industry has now gradually entered into its sinking phase. Even the workers of Barkantala and Putekhali village in Nangi are living their life in a detrimental condition.
NewsGram talked with some of the workers including factory owners and this is what they have to say about the present condition of the industry.
Arnab Mitra: Out of ten factories only two are running now. What has caused the sudden downfall?
Bapi Mondal (Factory owner): It portrays a dark picture of the industrial situation in Bengal. From Jute industry to the Firework industry, the condition is same. We have to pay a hefty amount at the end of the month to everyone, from political leaders to ‘goons’. It is quite difficult to run the industry in such situation.
AM: So, why don’t you complain to the local administration or police?
BM: From administration to police, all are slaves of political parties. We had made several complaints in the past, but the condition remains the same with no scope of improvements.
AM: Apart from the ‘political’ problem, isn’t the increasing price of raw materials one of the basic problems in running the industry?
BM: Yes, it is. The price of raw materials is increasing with time, but we cannot increase the prices of the products due to the stiff competition from Chinese products.
AM: Did you try to get government’s support to save the industry and the life of workers?
BM: We made repeated attempts to tell about our condition to the government. We also met with the then chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in 2010, but till now the government hasn’t taken any action to help us progress.
“It is hard to feed our families with a daily wage of Rs. 40 for 10 hours of work in the factory,” the workers said.
AM: For how long are you in this trade?
Workers: We are in this trade since ages. Our grandfathers, fathers and now we are working in this profession.
AM: How much are you paid for this work?
Workers: It depends on the factories where we work. But the daily wages vary from Rs. 30 to Rs. 40.
AM: With this meager earning how do you feed your family members?
Workers: It is obviously hard to survive with this earning. Sometimes, we take a single meal in afternoon and some time, at night. We are somehow managing to survive. Look at the condition of our children, they are the ones who suffer from malnutrition. We all will die if something isn’t done soon.
AM: There are so many government projects like MGNREGA, hundred days work, and BPL scheme of state government. Why don’t you apply for these?
Workers: We applied for hundred days work in 2014, but the project abruptly closed after two months. We also have BPL card, but there is a huge anomaly in the system and thus, we don’t get the ration at times. And if we are lucky and get a small quantity of ration, the quality of food is so poor that we can’t eat it.
AM: Do you wish to convey any message to the government?
Workers: We are dying. Please save us!