The recent disaster in Sivakasi is not an exception. Not a single year passes without similar disasters in the cracker-village called Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. Right now there are about 3000 living martyrs in and around Sivakasi who inherited burn injuries from the disasters and were rendered impotent for living normal life. The hundreds who sacrificed their lives to the industry and the delight it gives to Diwali-celebrating Indians as well as the profit-reaping industrialists are always forgotten history.
The crackers industry makes an annual turnover of about Rs800-1000 crore. But the worker in the industry gets a daily wage of Rs100 to Rs200. The industry employs about 40,000 workers directly and 100,000 indirectly (ancillary jobs that cater to the needs of the labourers).
Two questions arise.
1. Is the industry required at all?
2. How to find alternative employment for the workers who depend on the industry?
The second question is not likely to be of any interest to most people. Why should we care?
The first question matters. Should we be denied of our pleasures of fireworks?
I think we should be. We should learn to raise the level of our pleasures to much greater heights, heights beyond firework-rockets.
Or to the deeps within our souls that religion is supposed to touch.
Why should our religion be about burning up the lives of other people? Why should it be about burning up the skies and the environment?
I would like to quote a few lines from an article written by Prof Badri Raina in today’s Hindu newspaper on a slightly different matter (ranging from Maya Kodnani to Narendra Modi). “Religion is an insult to humanity,” says the quote whose source is mentioned as “somebody” but is actually Steven Weinberg (Nobel laureate in physics). “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” [I’d request readers to log on to the article and read the comments too.]
Why not make religion enhance the human dignity rather than insult it? Why can’t religion celebrate the human life rather than mutilate or kill it mercilessly?
Peter Beyer who studied rigorously the role of religions in our world wrote a book titled Religion and Globalization (published in India by Sage Publications). Beyer argues that religion is made more conservative by those want to reap political benefits from it. Not only the Islamic terrorists bear out Beyer’s argument but also people like Narendra Modi and events like the demolition of the Babri masjid in India as well as the rise of Christian fundamentalism in America.
We need to make religion a social affair, an affair that uplifts the society, everyone in the society. Unless religion looks after the welfare of each individual in the society, it will remain without soul. Soulless religions can find joy in burning up rockets in the sky when hunger burns bellies on the earth.
We can change the situation. We can decide to celebrate life.
The choice is always ours.