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Friday, May 25, 2007
The entry of the private sector into retail meant small shops had to lose business. A trite paradigm that has been doing the rounds ever since Walmart announced its plans to tap the Indian market. Political parties like the Pattali Makkal Katchi had been crying foul and demanding that the government not permit the private players. Members of the PMK had been protesting in front of RelianceFresh outlets in several parts of Chennai. It seemed to have little impact on the state government and Reliance and only goes to prove that the PMK's act is nothing but a mere eyewash.

It should be mentioned that the acts of the PMK are mere publicity stunts. How else could one explain their turning a blind eye to the mushrooming of the Pazhamudhir Nilayams and Pazhamudhir Cholais in the city? Two Pazhamudhir shops in Thiruvanmiyur have thrown a small vendor out of business. The two outlets located themselves strategically on either side of the small shop. During the past six months the small shop, which had, for long, been a favourite of the residents of that locality, began witnessing a drop in number of customers. Now the shop is no more but Annachi (as how the owner of the shop is known) is not giving up. He says he has shifted his shop to Tambaram and hopes to start his business on a new note.

The Pazhamudhirs in Thiruvanmiyur may satisfy their customers but are a nuisance for passing by motorists. Most of the customers to these shops come in cars and park right in front of the shop causing build up of traffic on one side of the road. Pazhamudhir Cholai is located near the Adyar Depot traffic signal and at times, when the signal is green, cars block the path of motorists and by the time the motorists could cross the signal, it turns red, resulting in another agonising 70-minute wait. The opposite side of this shop is where the Adyar Depot bus stop is situated and it doubles as parking space. It so happened, once, that a bus driver shouted angrily at a car driver who had stopped his car shamelessly in the middle of the road and the store personnel came to the support of the car driver. One of the personnel tried to slap the bus driver but in vain. Instead he rammed hard on the body of the bus. Following this incident bus drivers tend to be cautious when passing that way. I learnt from one of the drivers that the staff at Pazhamudhir Cholai were offering a hefty amount to the traffic policemen every month. Call it high-handedness!
Property of Sheks @ 7:43 pm   13 comments
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Kanchipuram, as the whole world knows, is syonymous with silk. The town is a major hub for export of silk to all parts of the country and overseas. The industry generates revenues to the tune of millions of dollars every year by way of exports. But how many of us know the real inputs that go into making the colourful silk sarees? This remained a mystery until BBC World exposed the truth in its programme, "Our World".

The truth is that the industry employs thousands of bonded labourers who are victims of heavy drudgery. The programme showed labourers working in unhealthy and hazardous conditions that take a heavy toll on their health. Subject to the same fate are numerous child labourers. In addition, it was found that most silk looms were being operated in the backyard of houses without government licences.

The objective of the programme was to bring the problem of bonded labour to the notice of the Government. The programme's anchor chose one Ashok Kumar, a ten year old boy, who was weaving in one of the looms. The anchor met the Kanchipuram collector, Pradeep Yadav, and explained the problem to him. The collector, denied witnessing instances of bonded labour and assured, perfunctorily, that he would deal with an iron hand, those who violated the law. But what the collector did not know was that violation of the law was happening just a few metres from his office.

As a means of proving the existence of bonded labour, the anchor called three officers in the collectorate to accompany him to the "mill". They did so, but half heartedly and with indifference. When they arrived at the place where Ashok was put up, they beat a hasty retreat without even bothering to look around the street they were in, which had garbage piled up at one corner and a drain overflowing. Problems right in front of their eyes.

Having met with failure in his efforts, the anchor decided to break protocols and took Ashok straight to the collector who was busy in a meeting. The collector had no choice except to direct his subordinates to take necessary action which included funds from the goverment for education and a healthy living. In addition Ashok's employer was prosecuted and his mill shut down. Now Ashok leads a happy life, free from the physical and mental traumas of sitting for nearly 8 hours a day doing nothing but weave silk and earn a meagre Rs.25 everyday.

The best thing about the programme is the impact it has had on the government. The Kanchipuram collectorate is now aware of the reality surrounding them. An eye opener of a programme, it was way different from Indian news channels in its style of reporting that included more of content and fewer ads. I expect more and more such issues to be brought to light in the coming weeks.
Property of Sheks @ 11:29 pm   4 comments

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Name: Sheks
Home: Madras, TamilNadu, India
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