Synopsis: The mankind is plagued by the continuous human exploitation everywhere that does not seem to go away due to the money the unscrupulous people make so there is greater urgency to find ways to stop it and help those who are so exploited .The blog focuses on this issue and how the NGOs are helping.
Source : Google photo
There is an epidemic of human exploitation everywhere that is unprecedented. It seems that the greed for quick profit and the consumer demand for ever lower prices of manufactured goods is the culprit that is fueling the ever-increasing human exploitation that we see now in poorer countries.
In the guise of creating employment for the poor, these countries allow private entrepreneurs to open up sweat shops in disreputable areas where poor people line up for jobs to feed their families and put themselves in great danger as the following story will highlight.
Source : Google photo
There was a multistory building built hastily with very low standard of construction and absolutely no safety features that are commonly found in developed countries where laws are stringently applied but this was in Dacca where the rules are lax. Poor women of all ages worked in this abominable place for a pittance to sew clothes destined for the western markets where they were sold for a good price reaping enormous profit for the owner.
This cage like building was worse than a jail where the workers mostly women were employed making clothes but locked in during the day and the steel doors were only opened at the end of the day when these exhausted women went out to their shanties and reappeared the next day to work in the sweat shop just so that they could earn a little money to feed their families.
One day a fire broke out in this building no one knows why but most likely due to an overheated circuit and the fire rapidly spread throughout many floors where unsuspecting women were hard at work under the cruel and harsh supervision of their supervisors. The building quickly filled with smoke and fire consuming everything because it was a textile manufactory but the steel doors were locked where frantic people beat it to no avail and died horribly burned and asphyxiated. More than a 1000 people perished in the flame. The owner fled before the police could arrive.
The police finally tracked down the owner who had gone into hiding and eventually arrested him to bring to justice but so many lives were lost due to this man’s greed for quick money.
The government was ashamed of this tragic incident that highlighted the lax rules or the rules that were never implemented due to the corruption of the inspectors who could easily be bribed to look the other way putting lives in danger.
This scene is repeated in many poor countries where people are forced to work under appalling and dangerous conditions to make clothes and other things destined for Europe and North America. I was able to buy signature brand tee shirts in Phnom Penh for the fraction of the price you will end up paying for it in Europe but no one cares for the women who make these clothes for export just like in Bangladesh and many such countries.
Some clothes are rebranded to hide the provenance so that the buyer will not suspect that it was made in these dangerous sweat shops in Bangladesh or Cambodia.
If the factory is well ventilated, well-lit and air-conditioned with comfort in mind for the workers and with easy exit and entry doors that are never closed, the workers can work well and their productivity increases so why such horrible factories are allowed in Bangladesh or Cambodia in the first place?
This brings up the subject of corruption everywhere. Just pay the bribe and you can get the permit to open any business. Just bribe the inspectors who will then issue a certificate that says the owner complies with all the rules and ignores the locked steel doors. These factories are a death trap because of all the flammable materials stored there but the workers can’t complain of the poor working conditions and the locked doors because they get fired for doing so.
This is a far cry from the shiny spanking clean, well-lit and air-cooled factories in Japan or in the United States where the workers can take home a good salary and arrive in their new cars to start the work every morning. They have a mechanism where they can regularly meet with their supervisors and discuss all the problems and how to solve them. This is where good management comes in because the employer sees the benefits to keeping the workers happy because they become more productive.
But in the third world, such good management practices are seldom followed so we hear again and again the accidents that take so many lives just like in Dacca.
I have seen videos of foreign buyers visiting the factories to make sure that the qualities of clothes they make meet the standard they need to sell in their home countries. They totally ignore the appalling conditions under which the women sweat to make these beautiful clothes because their only concern is to buy the goods cheap and sell them back home at high price to generate maximum profit.
Now let us shift to the sweat shops elsewhere and see what happens there. We have all heard of the brick factories in India where bonded laborers as young as 10 are forced to work without pity just because their poor parents had borrowed a paltry sum long ago from the owner. To pay off the debt and the compounded interest, they are forced to work for years getting practically nothing for their hard labor while the owner reaps the profit.
The NGOs try to protect the child laborer from such harsh working conditions but the owners and their guards chase them off with threats. The police do not interfere and the smug ministers in their air-conditioned offices say that the government is trying hard to stop the evil by enacting laws but the laws are not implemented on the ground. Yes. They will show you the laws passed by their government in Bangladesh or India but it remains just a piece of paper while the children and women suffer whole day carrying heavy bricks on their young shoulders.
You may have heard of the poorly paid maquiladoras in Mexican factories near the US border that make clothes and many things for the US market but women work under very difficult conditions where they are molested, sexually exploited and treated badly just because the owner can and gets away with it. Do the buyers in the United States even know how these clothes are made by these poor women and who are they? Do they care? Why they are not protected under Mexican laws that enshrines human rights for all in their constitution?
The widespread abuse of workers in numerous factories worldwide is a matter of grave concern. Their governments send representatives to the UN general Assembly where they make speeches and affirm their commitment to human rights, protection of women and children from abuse and exploitation but back home nothing changes.
There is a movement started by some NGOs that are campaigning for better working conditions and ban of child labor everywhere. They have managed to rescue some children from the brick factories and send them to school. But the scale of the problem is beyond their ability to help everyone so they need the help of the government and stricter rules and regulations that are implemented by the honest policemen but it is a tall order.
Have you heard of scores of children and women scavenging in the garbage mountains in the Philippines where they get buried alive by the garbage? These children should be in school and not scavenging but who helps them? Again they will show you that there are rules against such open exploitation but the story is the same.
I will just mention briefly a case where hundreds of teen agers from well to do families went to a night club dancing and having a good time in Manila when suddenly a fire broke out in the club that spread rapidly and burned to death the kids who frantically beat the narrow door that opened only inward so hundreds of bodies piled up there trying to escape. Why the door was not wider and why it opened only inward and not both ways? Why pyrotechnics were used inside where the ceiling was made of flammable materials? Where were the building inspectors or the fire safety inspectors?
So we come back to the issue of human exploitation that is so widespread that it boggles the mind.
Did you know that the French automakers employed the Algerian men and women in their factories where the women were sexually exploited by the supervisors and given very poor pay? They got terminated if they complained to anyone. These immigrants worked for low pay and poor working conditions just because they desperately needed jobs.
France is supposed to be a developed country where such things are not supposed to happen but they do. A movie was made by the Algerians on this subject where an abused girl fought back against her oppressors although I can’t recall the title of the movie now.
I have been to Bhadohi in India where children work in carpet factories whole day making exquisite wool carpets but do you know how much they get paid? It is the same in Kashmir where beautiful young women toil the whole day at the looms where they make wonderful Pashmina shawls and carpets but earn very little.
One lady in Lucknow helped the abused women and girls from rampant exploitation by the owners, supervisors and middle men for which she received death threats from the middlemen who were making huge profits from the sale of exquisite hand embroidered shawls and clothes that these poor women made and some became blind in old age. Now thanks to the efforts of this kind woman, they have better working conditions and sell their products through cooperatives and get a fair price for them.
So there are kind men and women who through NGOs or other means try the help the abused but they can’t help everyone.
The poor men and women are hired for the massive road and other infrastructure development in India that the government is spending a lot of money on. All over the country such projects employ millions of people but the contractors used to take a share of their hard-earned money leaving them poor as usual. They got fired if they complained so this abominable practice continued until the new government issued a universal ID card to every citizen in India. With this card now they can open a bank account where the government pays directly to their account cutting out the middleman.
I wish all countries adopt these methods that can go a long way to reduce exploitation of people by greedy and corrupt people. They tried and implemented a similar system in the Philippines where the primary school teachers are now directly paid by their government into their bank account thus cutting out the middle men who were exploiting these poor and lowly paid teachers. The senator who helped pass the bill that became law died. He could have become the next president of the country had he lived.
I have only written about the economic exploitation of people so far but there are many other types of exploitation that are just as bad. There are religious, political, ethnic, racial and caste or prejudice based exploitations as well that we are aware of that is worth exposing in a future blog. There are evil people who see money in such practices who should be stopped. The modern-day slavery has many forms that must be fought and the perpetrators brought to justice .
I find in every country good and conscientious people who feel for the sufferings of others and have the courage to do something about them at the risk of their own life just like that lady in Lucknow. But to stop the human exploitation on a national scale in every country needs a strong and very determined government that punishes the wrong doers and protects the rights of every exploited human being. Until then I am afraid it will continue.
If the buyers can be persuaded not to buy the products of slave labor then it can go a long way to improve their lot and put pressure on the manufacturers to improve the working conditions and pay higher wages.
They must put pressure on the importers to prove to the consumers that the imported goods are not made by children or enslaved men and women anywhere. The best solution I believe is to put these bad people out of business through economic boycott of their products until they shape up and adhere to international standards approved by the UN.
It reminds me of the ancient Roman practice of chaining the slave’s ankles to the floor of the galley ship they rowed with the beat of a drummer. They died horribly when the ships were attacked during the naval skirmishes and sank with all hands aboard. Remember how Ben Hur survived in such a ship and saved the life of the Roman General? This analogy is similar to the Bangladesh factories but can such practices be tolerated in 2017? Can people still behave like the Romans today?
To work under humane condition and get a fair wage is not a dole but a human right so I hope that someday this exploitation will come to an end. In the meantime we must speak out through the NGOs and others by bringing these matters to the light, write about them in the internet and upload videos in the U tube so that the whole world knows what is going on behind the locked steel doors of the factories. They need your help and love.
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