Monday, October 29, 2007

“Gap” in implementing laws

There was never an issue with making laws in India. The Indian constitution and our penal code is probably the most comprehensive written legal document in the world. Yet, its magnanimity can only be matched with the monumental failure in implementing these laws. Gap, the major US retailer finds itself amidst reports of using an Indian sub-contractor who apparently has been enslaving children for the job.

Investigative journalism is probably the only way to get such stories out. Given Gap's good record in ensuring that its contractors abide by laws, investors and consumers might consider this on instance as an oversight. However, what needs to be taken note of is the fact that there are perhaps of thousands if not millions of small businesses which get away with such horror due to Indian alacrity in law implementation. If there is any area where money needs to be spent is probably in setting up processes of governance which oversee such issues. Infrastructural issues such as power, roads, and energy get their due attention in any discussion involving India's growth. What is forgotten is the fact that the country lacks proper institutional practices in law-implementation.

Moreover, there is also a chicken and egg situation playing out in the US economy. First, China was embroiled in a controversy involving lead-paint - a direct consequence of lack of quality control processes and adherence to international laws. Now, if the Gap fiasco is any indication there are bound to be hundred of such cases in India, where some major US retailer is involved. India and China provide an excellent backdrop for such fiascos to play out. So is the increasing consumer need in the US for lower prices driving manufacturers in these countries to lax out on their policy implantation? Or, is it the lax policies in such countries that is enabling major US firms and subsequently the consumers to benefit.

Capitalism provides a quick and dirty solution to solving hunger and poverty in India, because the kids working at such sweatshops to at least get a meal a day. If we remove the ability to work from them – who is going to feed them? Gap? US? India ? who? But then, is it morally justified to exploit this need for survival in poor countries to wear fancy clothes?

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