Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SWADESHI FACTORY-a short story

SWADESHI FACTORY [Published in the Times of India, New Delhi, 19th January, 1999]

I was barely 12 years old then. My father had been out of any decent job for months. Helplessly he made a number of distress calls to my uncle settled in the UK. "I can manage something for you if you come over here'', he replied ultimately.


Some running around had to be done for passports and visa for all of us, but finally everything was settled. "This is the land of opportunity'', my father had said with a highly optimistic shine in his eyes when we landed at Heathrow.


My father was right. By the time it was my 23rd birthday, I was running my own shoe factory in a London suburb. However, the constant pain of being treated as an alien in the country where I had lived for 30 years was becoming unbearable. So I decided to pack up.


The whole plant and machinery in the factory was carefully dismantled and shipped to India. I was very apprehensive about the time that it may take to install it in India. My apprehensions proved to be wrong and the factory was set up quite efficiently.


"How many workers would you need for running the plant'', I asked the newly- recruited manager -- Muthu. "Eight will be more than enough,'' he replied. "What? Eight, you said? You know 12 persons were running this plant back there.'' "You leave it to me. I have run similar plants,'' he said very confidently.


After returning from a short visit to my village, I found the factory running at its full capacity. However, Muthu appeared to have recruited a large work force. "What is this? How many persons have you employed?'' I enquired. "Sir, only 21'', he replied. "But you had assured me that eight persons would be enough for running the plant'', I said. "That is right, Sir. Only seven persons have been recruited for this purpose'', he said politely.


I was puzzled. "What are the rest of the employees for?'' I asked. Muthu was equally surprised at my question. "Sir, we have to maintain a number of records for sales tax, octroi, central excise duty, income tax, municipal tax, modvat, leather cess, customs duty....'' "You certainly do not need so many persons for all this.'' "Please let me finish, Sir. Someone has to maintain the statutory registers prescribed under the Factories Act, Workmen Compensation Act, Employees State Insurance Rules, Companies Act, Provident Fund Rules, Boiler Inspection Act, Pollution Control Act, Prevention of Electricity Misuse Act...In fact, I would have needed at least 16 persons for this but I am managing with only nine.'' "Then what about the remaining five'', I asked. "They are required for maintaining liaison with a number of departments which we have to deal with'', Muthu explained patiently.


Muthu is unable to explain why there are so many rules and regulations for running even a small shoe factory. Is it one of the strategies to deal with the unemployment problem, I wonder.

By D.D.Rishi

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