Brum Anti-SEZ campaign, a campaign against sweat shops in developing countries, is showing a film on resistance to Special Economic Zones (management-speak
for legalised sweat shops) at the MAC on 11th Nov at 7.30-9.00pm. Film (which runs for about 40 minutes) will be followed by a short talk and discussion. Also attached is a leaflet about the event and campaign here.
See you there.
One of the most oft found features of the globalisation process across the world is the establishment of business friendly enclaves in developing countries. These enclaves known as Free Trade Zones or Special Economic Zones (SEZ) share common traits such as: exemption from labour and environmental laws and massive tax benefits lavished upon the businesses operating within. It has been argued, by the governments and the corporations that the exceptions made to the businesses in these zones allure investment (foreign and domestic) which would, in turn, kick-start the stalled local and national economy by increasing employment as well as due to the trickledown effect. In short, SEZ, in all their garbs, have been touted as the panacea for gamut of problems arising from economic underdevelopment.
Indian subcontinent, India in particular, has seen a recent upsurge in the number of these SEZ. To establish SEZ, central and regional government of India, are making use of a British colonial law, Land Acquisition Act 1894, which enables the local authorities to acquire land from its owners, mostly marginal farmers, without being liable to offer a rehabilitation package to the people being ousted, and give it to the multinationals. The British when colonizing India used these laws to acquire land for their military cantonments and factories. The Indian peasantry resented losing their livelihood and rebelled at various times against these acquisitions. The Indian uprising of 1857 was the paramount example of people’s resistance against land grabs by a multinational corporation like the East India Company.
Impact of SEZ and these land grabs on the local communities is as devastating as it was in the colonial era if not more. For the loss of every five livelihoods the multinational corporations provide one. Due to the skills required the peasant uprooted from his land would, in all likelihood, be left without a job. Due to the nature of the multinationals the impact of their business practices is being felt by the surrounding communities. For example, Coco Cola when they built a plant in Maharashtra, a state in the west of India, destroyed the water resources using detergents in manufacturing thus contaminating and making the water unsafe for human and agricultural use. Exemptions in the labour laws provided to the corporations operating in SEZ would also have a drastic negative impact on the working conditions and rights of the workers and the workers’ organisations. For example, Gokaldas Exports, the main manufacturer for the High Street clothing chains like, GAP, H&M, M&S, Primark, TESCO, ASDA and others, is paying 13 pence per hour to its employees in India. Similar manufacturers for the multinational corporations are providing 4 pence per hour to the workers in Bangladesh. Most of these multinationals pride themselves as members of ethical trade initiative though, certainly, the level of exploitation within SEZ companies and the trading relationships between some of our household brand names are not any example of so called ethical trade.
Though it appears that the cheap clothes and other items available benefit the British consumers and allow the chancellor to keep the inflation under control, one needs to examine whether it actually does so (don’t we often hear, ‘food and clothes have never been cheaper’). Remember, when our companies close down the authorities always argue that we need to do this to shift them to underdeveloped countries to make them competitive. They also do not keep it a secret that the competitiveness lays in the low wages (read starvation wages) paid to the workers of the underdeveloped countries. The British workers are not competitive as they have to be paid minimum wages which itself is the result of the struggle of the working classes here and elsewhere. The British workers, when they are employed on contract jobs, with low wages, they become competitive again. Low wages of the working people in underdeveloped countries and their miseries first come to us as cheap clothes and other consumer goods but later as job losses and low wages. People’s struggles in underdeveloped countries are not only their struggles for better wages but they are also our own struggles for a decent survival. It is a struggle against the unjustifiable profit making by the corporations. We need to make these companies accountable for the level of exploitation of both human and natural resources that is counter-productive and highly damaging to the global environment.
Film screening of “This land is mine” and discussion
Sunday 11th of Novermber 7.00 pm
Midlands Arts Centre,
Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH.
The film “This land is mine” captures the resistance mounted by the residents of Nandigram village in Indian state of West Bengal, to a proposed SEZ, subsequent police attacks on the village in which 14 villagers were killed and numerous went “missing”, ongoing attempts to intimidate them into submission through an economic blockade, and the repression unleashed on the students, workers, activists, and intellectuals who have come out in the support of the defiant villagers. Film will be followed by a discussion on how neo-liberal policies implemented in the third world countries are not only exploiting human and natural resources there but also are damaging rights of the working people in the developed countries.
For further information:
Phone: 07721427690 Email: email@example.com
Brum Anti-SEZ campaign