Mentally handicapped persons display candles at the PAMHJ centre in Dhatkidih on Monday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
The flames are tiny but they light up the hearts of sellers and buyers alike.
About 10 mentally handicapped persons, who are trained under the banner of Parents Association of the Mentally Handicapped, Jamshedpur (PAMHJ), are making wax candles to turn self-reliant.
As of now, the manufacturing unit under PAMHJ makes 55 varieties of candles ranging from Rs 3 to Rs 95 per piece.
Be it boats, flowers, Ganesha, trees or decorated beads, these gifted artistes reproduce every form in wax.
One among their regular customers is Sri Sai Centre, which buys 5,000 tea candles from the unit every month.
Individual consumers can also buy their wax favourites from the PAMHJ centre at Dhatkidih.
An NGO associated with the National Trust, PAMHJ had launched the unit in 2008 as a seasonal employment opportunity — read Diwali — for the mentally disabled. In its maiden year, wax candles made by them had amassed Rs 10,000 during Diwali.
Later, the unit started functioning round the year. Last year, revenue touched Rs 1.5 lakh. PAMHJ has set a target of Rs 3 lakh this year, with a profit margin of 30 per cent.
“We started very small but have grown fast. We are trying to expand our business so that the mentally disabled can have a steady income,” said PAMHJ secretary P. Babu Rao.
The outfit has now decided to invest in technology. There are plans to use gel wax instead of paraffin and silicon moulds instead of iron. Talks with Archies Gallery and other stores to supply candles are on.
The mentally disabled involved get Rs 300 a month. But, what they really earn out is a purpose to their lives. “I love making candles. They give me joy and there are so many colours to choose from,” said a beaming P. Bharti.
“Our students took about 18 months to get trained and they’ve learnt well,” said Tandra Chatterjee, a trainer.