Curbing outsourcing to India has featured as a part of the election plank of Mr.Barack Obama the president elect of USA. It basically means that outsourcing of jobs to India and other poorer nations is affecting the economy of the developed world. The outsourcing Industry has grown since it has neatly fitted into the capitalistic nature of business. Large companies could see their profits swelling because there are people in other parts of the world who are willing to do the same job for a fraction of the cost and also take flak for it. India is the current beneficiary of the Market forces. There are other kinds of outsourcing apart from business. Post 9/11 USA did not wanted to associate with the dirty work of torture of Muslim detainees and hence outsourced that job to “friendly” Muslim countries who were too willing to torture their own people in order to be in the good books of their “friend” USA. A classic case in point was detention and torture of the Syrian born Canadian Mr. Maher Arar. On a trip enroute USA he was detained and was sent to Syria where he was tortured in sub-human conditions for a long period. We don’t know the outsourcing fee which USA paid but Syria did a pretty good job at that. He was later released at the intervention of the Canadian government. It’s a different matter that he fought a legal battle in Canadian courts against Canada and was compensated to the tune of 10 Million Dollars by the Canadian government. He is partially fortunate because his chances of getting compensation from either USA which orchestrated his detention or Syria which executed the “outsourcing” job of torture are pretty slim to none. He did fight a valiant battle though.
This article is to talk about another kind or outsourcing, Garbage.
Check these facts
• The US dumps 150 thousand tonnes of ewaste in India annually
• 890 tonnes of hazardous waste from New Jersey dumped at Tuticorin port
• 35 large containers lying untouched for the past three years at southern port
• Huge amounts of toxic waste sent from New York seized at the Kochi port
• Garbage from UK lands in Dump in Chennai
• Waste from USA was dumped into farm wells near Coimbatore
• Ships laden with toxic asbestos are routinely headed to Gujarat for dismantling
What are the things which are affected by this trade? The first casualty is health of the citizens of India, health affecting the people involved in this trade. It’s usually the poor from the un-organized sector, including rag pickers and small businessmen who process such waste in crude manner. Second is the damage to the environment which includes damage to crop production as toxins from dumped garbage seep deep into the agricultural soil. This in turn raises the toxicity of food ingested by the poor, middle class and rich which consume agricultural produce from such toxin infested land.
Let’s examine a few key players in this trade:
First of course are the capitalistic trading communities from India who ink the deal to import such hazardous waste into India. Waste management obviously generates lot of revenue. Electronics waste is the largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry, having surpassed one trillion US dollars globally. It’s believed that the waste enters India through customs as second hand, mixed metal scrap, for charity/donations. In the first place India has been producing 400 tonnes of e-waste every day, yet only up to 5 tonnes a day gets treated. The remaining is diverted to illegal treating centers, where the waste is manually treated to extract materials that can be recycled. This process exposes workers to toxic substances which are hazardous to the health, while, at the same time, poisoning the soil where the waste is processed. When this is the case with waste produced in India is India really in a position to receive large amounts of illegal waste without any monitoring? But it still arrives regularly.
We quote Mr. Gopal Krishna an environmental health researcher from the Jawaharlal University, “India has little resistance to imports of waste. In fact in India there has been an attempt to alter the very definition of waste in order to keep the waste streams flowing. In the last meeting of the Basel Convention, which bans export of hazardous waste from rich to poor countries, the Indian government said that it encouraged trade in recyclable ‘metal scrap’. They defined the problem in a way as to justify its continuation.” India has still not ratified the Basel Convention which would have made it mandatory for India to change its domestic laws and stop this nefarious and dangerous trade.
Second are the traders in India who trade in waste and give an encouraging nod to the waste management dealers from western countries to send their garbage to India? Is there any regulation to keep tabs on such dealers and charity organizations who are playing this unhealthy game? Who are the waste management agencies abroad which show great motivation to get rid of that part of their garbage to India which does not contribute to their profits? Italy being the moral leader of the world ( remember the advisory they gave to India post orissa riots) should have taken the lead in denouncing this garbage outsourcing. If it had done so it would have demonstrated that its moral authority extends to garbage managment also.
Third is the great Indian politician. No picture in India cannot be complete without the great Indian politician making his presence either felt or absent depending on which direction the wind is blowing. In a typical well functioning government this should have happened,
The health ministry which is headed by our beloved Mr.Anbumani Ramadoss should have sent a missive to the ministry of Environment and forests headed by the Prime Minister Mr. Man Mohan Singh saying that such imports are affecting the health of the nation. The agriculture ministry which is headed by Mr. Sharad Pawar should have chipped in saying that such imports are affecting the quality of agriculture production in the country. Since the Prime Minister has important things to attend, he should have deputed his minister of state for Environment and forest Mr. Regupathy (An M.P from the DMK party) to arrange a task force to monitor and prevent such hazardous imports. Even better is the Minister of State should have taken the initiative himself. The autonomous body of pollution control of India under his ministry should also have taken note of such reports and showed inclination to respond either unilaterally or in co-ordination. While it’s justified to say that there can be lapses in the functioning of such a huge establishment called the Government of India, it’s difficult to justify that all the above ministries with its huge apparatus of budgets and Bureaucrats, have been silent. The opposition BJP which has established a shadow government since it got itself self ejected out of power last election and the other high decibel parties like Communist party of India were magnanimous enough to each other in maintaining the code of silence over these dangerous imports.
Fourth and finally its the hapless citizen of poor India who is forced to absorb the garbage into his / her system. In the first place he/ she cannot protest. Because the main stream media may at the most give them a one para support in a single day of their entire political existence. Moreover any kind of protest will be cut down ruthlessly by the political establishment which is open to receiving funding from the importer businessmen of this dangerous waste. Third he / she has to choose between earning a living or fighting out a system which cares more for the votes of the un-educated poor who are the majority and matter just at the time of elections.
Meanwhile for the principal outsourcing industry “call centers” the educated Indian graduate worker is abused orally by thousands of rude clients across the western continent each day. There was a television show a few years back in US which actually encouraged such behavior. Look at the combination of Irony. First it’s raining profits for such western companies, second their aggressive profiteering policies irks the western customer who dump their rude behavior onto to the innocent hearts and souls of the young Indian. Third the government and press abroad also get to do some nice India bashing since its sounds politically correct. Fourth there are rumors that lots of evangelical workers come into India posing as call centre businessman to do some cultural bashing too. So it’s bashing in multiple forms for poor India.
It’s going to be a long time for an average Indian politician to match up to the sharp guile and awareness levels of an average western politician / businessman. Till that time, the hapless Indian citizen has little option but to be a witness to this new kind of outsourcing polluting the shores of the nation and his / her doorstep.
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