During my interaction with a Chamber of Industries in Karur (Tamil Nadu) I came across the President of the Truck and Bus Body Builders' Association, people who build buses and lorries on bare chassis.
I asked the gentleman how his business was doing. He said that the business was down. Upon being asked the reason an alarming story of de-industrialisation and de-employment unfolded like layers of an onion. It went on like this:
1. Bus body building was down since fewer buses were being brought into circulation.
2. The demand for buses had fallen since the number of intra-city travellers and commuters from nearby villages had come down.
3. The number of commuters had come down since the textile and garment industry in the Coimbatore-Tiruppur-Erode-Karur area was in decline.
4. The textile industry was in decline since they were being priced out in the market.
5. Their prices had gone up since they now had to send their fabric to Rajasthan for dying, which added to their costs. Trucking from Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan and back, attendant handling costs and managerial time was pushing them out of business.
6. They were forced to send the cloth all the way to Rajasthan since the TN State Pollution Control Board decided, one fine day, that the dying industry in the world famous textile belt of the State was a polluting industry. All the dying units were forced to shut down almost overnight sending thousands of labourers into unemployment and misery.
It appeared that most states in India were shutting down textile dying industry on account of pollution. They seemed to ignore that dying was an essential activity. Government's intervention was required to ensure that it was done in environment-friendly ways and not to shut down the industry.
I asked the people around what they would do when Rajasthan also shut down its dying industry, which was eventually inevitable given the shortsightedness of our government agencies, which increasingly work more like activists than enablers.
They said, "We will stop manufacturing, import Chinese or Bangladeshi fabric and trade in it."
So, the writing on the wall in Tamil Nadu is clear - a few lakh artisans will lose their jobs and their families will be thrown into penury. It may happen in the short span of a few years. Since factories will close down, they will also have surplus electricity. So, they can also shut down some power plants making the air even cleaner and create some more joblessness.
Soon, the artisans will either migrate to menial labour or, in any case, lose their traditional skills due to disuse. Our economic slavery to China will be complete. But, we will be able to breathe air as healthy as that in Switzerland and drink water as clean as that from Himalayan springs.