Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

07.21 Greta Thunberg: ‘They see us as a threat because we’re having an impact’ [We love a sane smarty-pants! Trump, you won't understand any of this, so just go off and tweet or chant, or whatever...]

07.20 Until Emissions Drop, Nothing Has Been Accomplished: The Climate Resistance Handbook Is Here. [Trump can't be bothered as the world turns into a large cinder. His laser focus is on personal greed.]

07.20 Cargo ships are emitting boatloads of carbon, and nobody wants to take the blame [1:19 video; Governments must commission to fight deadly shipping emissions, previously omitted in climate summit agreements....]

07.20 Babies Born Near Oil and Gas Wells Are Up to 70% More Likely to Have Congenital Heart Defects, New Study Shows

07.20 Giving 'Upper Hand to Corporate Polluters,' EPA Drops Surprise Inspections

07.20 With Petition to Congress, 100,000+ People Demand Green New Deal 'That Fixes Our Food System' [Realtime proactive response to reality—now and threatening—doesn't get attention in this greed focused administration]

07.19 Trump administration won't ban pesticide tied to childhood brain damage [There is no truth to the persistent rumor that chlorpyrifos pesticide was heavily used at Trump's childhood home in Queens]

07.19 'Unprecedented' Decline of Plants and Animals as Global 'Red List' Reveals Nearly One-Third of Assessed Species Under Threat

07.17 ‘Off-the-charts’ heat to affect millions in U.S. in coming decades

07.17 Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen forced out by board [Given that states have lost abortion rights on political grounds recently, Wen's philosophical approach to protect abortion rights based on ‘health care’ was smarter – therefore it was that smarter strategy that was killed at the secret meeting.]

07.17 Billions of air pollution particles found in hearts of city dwellers

07.17 What is happening in America's Cancertown is tragic, immoral and evil [Niggardly white government policies could change to produce better students, better jobs and net revenue instead of costs. But it seems they enjoy more cruelty—like Trump.]

07.16 US aid cuts to UN agency will hurt vulnerable women and children, critics say

07.16 Trump abortion restrictions in effect for taxpayer-funded clinics

07.15 The response to DRC’s Ebola crisis isn’t working. Here’s what we need to do

07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]

07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]

News Media Matters

07.19 Fox News’s star names excuse the inexcusable after Trump's latest racist attack

07.18 In Sinclair's New 'Must-Run' Segment, Former Trump Adviser Tries to Defend Racist Attacks on 'the Squad'

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

07.21 Of course Donald Trump is a racist – and his Wall Street enablers know it

07.21 A court ruled it was legal for guards to strip search female inmates and force them to remove their tampons in front of male officers for a 'training exercise' [The frequency and degree of immorality and degradation being reported in the media is very disturbing, as if society has been reprogrammed overnight to be more like the worst behavior of Nazi Germany]

07.21 THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS GETTING CRUSHED IN FUNDRAISING: “THEY NEED TO GET THEIR SHIT TOGETHER” [Since so-called moderate Democrats will prostitute themselves in many conceivable ways (offering that special quid pro quo) they have effectively become competitively ANTI-PUBLIC, like Republicans. Whereas progressive Democrats must promise not to take corporate donations at all as an effective litmus-test. The DNC refuses to raise funds for moderate and progressives separately, and thus donations fall short. Which is it to be: 1) Will the DNC change? or 2) Must progressive Democrats become corporate whores too? or 3) Maybe you don't need corporate contributions at all if your policies are fantastic?]

07.21 State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

07.21 State and Local Taxes Are Worsening Inequality

07.21 We're no longer in Brave New World. We're back in 1984. [1:35 video; Our despicable President is at it again]

07.21 BALTIMORE'S FILTHIEST HOODS [7:38 video. Ask your governments, why are our cities so much worse than Europe's? Why is our healthcare worse and so much more expensive? And why are our Billionaires so much richer? Ask if those results of bad government are all related, and why? Are they all caused by a power-elite with greed-obsessed immorality?]

07.21 Nancy Pelosi's Dem Socialist Challenger Shahid Buttar: "We're Gonna Win" | Full Interview [5:43 video]

07.21 Jon Stewart goes viral excoriating Rand Paul after blocking vote [9:02 video]

07.21 Nicolle Wallace Refuses to Broadcast Trump Live [5:43 video]

07.21 Sassy Bernie Sanders Sh*ts on Jeff Bezos on His Home Turf... Numerous Times [17:22 video]

07.20 Puerto Rico: top US politicians join chorus calling for governor's resignation

07.20 Fact check: Trump says Puerto Rico got $92 billion. They've seen only a fraction [If he opens his mouth, Trump's lying.]

07.20 "Trump Says Go Home, Ilhan's Community Says Welcome Home": Rep. Omar Greeted With Cheers of Love and Support in Return to Minnesota

07.20 WATCH: Amid Extreme Anti-Refugee Push, Trump Displays Neither Interest Nor Knowledge of Asylum Seekers' Plight in Oval Office Meeting

07.20 Trump Denies Being at North Carolina Rally [Not sure if Trump supporters 'get' satire, but here goes....]

07.19 Are progressives working on a climate plan for 2021? You bet.

07.19 House Democrats demand Hope Hicks clarify testimony after Cohen document dump

07.19 The 51 most outrageous lines from Donald Trump's repugnant North Carolina rally

07.19 The Real Meaning of ‘Send Her Back!’

07.18 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Breaking up Homeland Security

Justice Matters

07.19 UN urged to act over 'purge' of Turkey's lawyers by Erdogan

07.19 DOJ Releases Strong Evidence of Trump’s Campaign Finance Violations But No Explanation of No Charges [The statement]

High Crimes vs. Human Rights

07.19 Conscientious objectors of first world war – their untold tales [The record proves they were morally right by avoiding violent early deaths of their cousins and themselves]

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

07.18 Corporate tax cuts blocked at least 15,000 affordable homes in California. Here’s how

International & Futurism

07.21 Millions face hardship as Zimbabwe comes close to ‘meltdown’

07.21 Spain set for socialist-led government after Iglesias deal [Some loaded drama going on here...]

07.20 US to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia in face of 'credible' regional threats [Working with Osama bin Laden's godfathers, Trump wants to profit like Erik Prince (for-profit education secretary Betsy DeVos' brother) of Blackwater infamy (hurriedly renamed ‘Academi’), the U.S. taxpayer to pay inflated costs while Trump siphons off long-term emolument largesse]

07.20 Iran on 'dangerous path' with seizure of Stena Impero, says UK [Which is this, a tit or a tat?]

07.20 'Dark satanic mills': Tony Abbott continues his crusade against wind turbines [Too much CO2 air pollution makes you stupid, and turns your country into an “Idiocracy” (1:36 video clip)]

07.20 Bolsonaro declares 'the Amazon is ours' and calls deforestation data 'lies' [Lazy and willfully stupid whenever it serves his purpose, just like Trump. “And the rest of you can all go to hell.” Again, just like Trump. Has your country turned into an “Idiocracy”? (1:36 video clip)]

07.19 U.N.'s Bachelet says Congresswomen opposing Trump are 'fantastic'

07.19 Iran makes 'substantial' nuclear offer in return for US lifting sanctions [Was barbaric Saudi Arabia—whose citizens were more involved in the 9-11 attacks—the wrong ally all along?]

07.19 “The Task Ahead Is Enormous, and There Is Not Much Time” [Read this and learn. Or read Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) | Twitter and/or President Trump (@POTUS) | Twitter. Are you serious? Or are you in hideously criminal denial?]

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Print view: India's ''Hearts of Darkness''

FACTS & COMMENTARY:

India's "Hearts of Darkness"

by Stephen Lendman
Sunday, 11 July 2010

Pretty agates are polished by sweatshop labor
Grinding wheels like this are used by women and children to polish minerals for pennies an hour. As little as seven microns of silica dust can cause silicosis, dramatically shortening their lives.
Pretty agates are polished by sweatshop laborHow could something as beautiful as a gemstone cause so much suffering and death, without a word or explanation in America where most of them go? Yet gemstone grinding in India involves exploitation, misery, deprivation, disability or a painful death for thousands of the country's poor.

The National Labor Committee's (NLC) puts "a human face on the global economy," saying in its mission statement that:

"Transnational corporations (TNCs) now roam the world to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workers." They're mostly young women in poor countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Haiti, and many others working up to 14 or more hours a day for sub-poverty wages under horrific conditions.

Because TNCs are unaccountable, a dehumanized global workforce is ruthlessly exploited, denied their civil liberties, a living wage, and the right to work in dignity in healthy safe environments. NLC conducts "popular campaigns based on (its) original research to promote worker rights and pressure companies to end human and labor abuses. (It) views worker rights in the global economy as indivisible and inalienable human rights and (believes) now is the time to secure them for all on the planet."

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

  1. " Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

Article 24 states:

"Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

Definition of a Sweatshop

This writer's earlier article defined them, a term that's been around since the 19th century. Definitions vary but essentially refer to workplaces where employees work for poor pay, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments, are treated inhumanely by employers, and are prevented from organizing for redress.

The term itself refers to the technique of "sweating" the maximum profit from each worker, a practice that thrived in the late 19th century.

Webster calls them "A shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under unhealthy conditions."

According to the group Sweatshop Watch:

"A sweatshop is a workplace that violates the law and where workers are subject to:

  • extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or long hours;
  • poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards;
  • arbitrary discipline, such as verbal or physical abuse, or
  • fear and intimidation when they speak out, organize, or attempt to form a union."

According to the US Department of Labor, a sweatshop is a place of employment that violates two or more federal or state labor laws governing wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation or industry regulation.

It's mainly a women's rights issue as 90% of the workforce is female, aged 15 - 25, but men and children are also affected, besides the enormous environmental toll through air pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, ocean and fresh water contamination, and an overtaxed ecosystem producing unhealthy, unsafe living conditions globally.

Horrific Working Conditions in India

In February, NLC published a report titled, "Hearts of Darkness," saying "Workers in India, including children, will die young grinding gemstones for Valentine's Day," explaining that:

  • since record-keeping began in 1988, over 2,000 men, women and children died from silicosis (by breathing silica dust), from polishing gemstones for export to the West; yet operations began in the early 1960s when rural villages first got electricity, making motor driven grinding possible, so in all likelihood, the death count is multiples higher; earlier, silicosis victims were diagnosed to have TB, not thought connected to agate grinding; even today, radiology equipment needed to diagnose and monitor workers with silicosis is lacking;
  • all workers inhale it on the job and experience other occupational hazards, including toxic chemicals exposure, ergonomic dangers, and high noise levels;
  • items made include semi-precious gemstone hearts, beads, pendants, earrings, bracelets, ornaments, rosary beads, and the Star of David;
  • workers are paid 17.5 - 33.5 cents an hour "to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world," exposing themselves to deadly silica dust;
  • they begin as young as 12 or 13 (some younger), paid from 11 to 13.5 cents an hour;
  • 30 - 38% of them die from silicosis;
  • up to 13% of non-working family members and neighbors, living near grinding units, also die from exposure to airborne silica dust;
  • "scores of others are reduced to skin and bones, unable to walk and struggling to breathe;"
  • workers become "bonded labor" by borrowing money from "traders" who supply raw stones, and arrange for manufacture and export; wives are asked to continue their husbands' work if they die; then their children if they're incapacitated;
  • with proper safeguards (including wet grinding and exhaust ventilation), silicosis is up to "100 percent preventable;" without it, grinding gemstones is a death or disability sentence; and
  • the Indian government has done nothing to enforce its labor laws, in deference to its monied interests.
Making Gemstones

Six processes are involved:

  1. Heating, by drying stones in the sun for several days, then "firing" (heating) them in pits in the ground.
  2. Size reduction, by workers called "chippers" (without safety goggles or other protections), using small ox horn hammers to break stones in small pieces.
  3. They're then "tumbled" for 48 - 72 hours in wooden drums, a noisy, dust producing process, escaping into surrounding neighborhoods.
  4. Workers grind and polish stones by pressing them against revolving emery wheels, by far the most dangerous operation, during which workers and others in nearby communities inhale deadly dust.
  5. Aluminum oxide, other chemicals, emery gravel, and water in rotating metal drums give stones luster.
  6. Traders control everything, profiting on death by defining agate grinding as a cottage (not an organized) industry, stripping workers of legal protections under Indian law.

No labor laws in India protect them - no minimum wage, compensation for injuries, healthcare, pensions or retirement benefits, nothing. India's Factories Act excludes them, the principal law covering health, safety, welfare, minimum wage, and other worker rights, if enforced.

Indian Agate - "An Industry of Death"

The Vadodara People's Training and Research Centre (specializing in occupational health and safety standards) estimates well over 2,000 grinder deaths since 1988, processing gemstones in India's two centers - Khambhat in Gujarat state and Jaipur in Rajastan state, the latter by far the biggest.

NLC researched Khambhat, employing an estimated 15,000 - 20,000 workers in hundreds of small grinding units. Jaipur has many more.

"Valentine's Day Massacre"

In the report's preface, NLC's executive director, Charles Kernaghan, headlined it, asking:

"How could something as beautiful as a gemstone cause so much suffering and death," without a word or explanation in America where most of them go? Yet gemstone grinding in India involves exploitation, misery, deprivation, disability or a painful death for thousands of the country's poor, Naran Dhula Bhil one of many victims.

In February 2009, he was hospitalized at Dharmaj, in Gujarat state, coughing, very weak, struggling to walk, and unable to lift anything heavier than five pounds. Since mid-2008, he lost almost half his body weight, dropping from 132 to 70 pounds of skin and bones. On April 14, he died of silicosis, the result of greed, indifference, and consumer ignorance about buying "gemstones of death."

Bhil was 11 when he began working as a grinder, shaper, and polisher, making gemstones into hearts, pendants, rings, beads, and various type ornaments.

For a day's work, he produced 100 - 150 for 15.5 cents an hour, $1.08 daily, or less than a penny for each stone produced, each giving off silica dust that killed him. By age 20, he knew it, stayed on the job, borrowed money to buy gemstones, and became "bonded," meaning he couldn't quit until out of debt, what few grinders ever do.

Bihl said his shop employed 35. Only four or five are left, the others sick or dead. "So many have died," he said, and when he expired "he did not have a single penny to his name," as true for most others.

Haresh Mafatbhai Parmar was another grinder turned to skin and bones by February 2009. He couldn't walk and struggled to breathe even lying down motionless. He began at age 13 or 14, less than 20 years later he was sick and dying, told he had tuberculosis. His mother and father both died seven years earlier, victims of gemstone grinding.

On June 11, Parmar died, not of TB, of silicosis after silica dust destroyed his lungs.

Rama Lallubhai Vaghela began at age 12 or 13, earning $1.19 a day, for 20 years until he died. At the end, he was ill, eyes bloodshot, too weak to work, always short of breath, could barely walk, and was thin as a rail. By the time symptoms emerged, it was too late. Silicosis is incurable.

"Everyone knows about the dangers," he said, "but we're helpless. There are no other jobs." He was an artist, creating beautiful gems and images for his parents' home. He was also one of the first to rally for worker rights, including exhaust systems to control the dust. Before he died, he said his trader never once stopped by to see how he was doing. He only wanted his output.

In another village, children as young as 10 grind gemstones, one 10-year old looking more like 8, meaning he started years earlier and already showed the effects.

Watching him and others grind, dust flew everywhere, and fell on his hair, eyebrows, ears, nose, hands, arms and clothing. He earned 13.5 cents an hour for four hours daily, or 54 cents.

Another very young boy and girl had swollen, cracked hands and calloused finger tips. The grinding wheel wobbles as it spins. To shape items, workers use their fingers to press them against the wheel, creating friction, heat, sparks, and constant vibration, taking its toll on hands, fingers, and lungs.

Their father worked 15 feet away, knowing the risks. "But what can I do," he said. "We are landless peasants with no money." He was trapped in poverty and misery with no way out - either work or starve, even if it kills him and his children.

Throughout the shops visited, researchers heard stories of illness, disability or death, about themselves, their families and others they knew, an epidemic of poverty-induced misery.

An old man said his son died in 2006 after being sick for four or five years. Another man said 15 in his village succumbed after years of grinding, leaving widows and children behind, and others are declining fast. One man worried what would happen to his wife and children "when I die." Their turn comes next.

In 2009, in Khambhat, 29 gemstone grinders died, the report listing them by name, age, date and cause of death. Most were in their 40s, victimized for a dollar or so a day, less than a penny per item produced.

Shakapur village has about 200 grinders, yet up to two-thirds of its 7,000 population is exposed to silica dust. As many as 900 will die from exposure, besides the high percent of workers.

Merchants of Death

Throughout the West, gemstones are widely distributed, in over 600 US bead stores alone, much supplied from India, consumers unaware of the human toll for their trinkets.

Also, more than a dozen US and Canadian bead societies hold monthly meetings, and 27 websites sell or supply product information.

Novica, in association with National Geographic, sells "Treasures of the world, living treasures" in the form of gemstone earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and pendants, made from Indian agate, onyx, amethyst and lapis - retailing at $57.95 for heart-shaped earrings, certified by The Global Compact and Green America "Approved for people and planet," featuring the artistry of Wayan Rendah, saying "It gives me great pleasure when one of my statues inspires somebody," mindless that gemstones kill.

For Valentine's Day, the Phoenix Orion Gift Emporium sells Indian heart-shaped stones, its Chevron Amethyst one for $39.95, "beautifully hand cut and polished....foster(ing) integration of the emotions, enhancing creativity....reinforc(ing) decisiveness and enhanc(ing) leadership qualities (and also a) well-known healing stone," by killing its maker.

Star of David pendants come from Indian agate as do Anglican and Catholic rosaries, the former selling for $34.95, its maker earning pennies.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art sells deco marcasite and black agate drop earrings for $150, capped onyx necklaces for $175, and amethyst stone necklaces for $110 - no country of origin listed.

The Rainforest Site (shop.theRainForest.com) sells Indian agate necklaces for $29.95.

Indian-made agate and other semi-precious gemstones are everywhere, readers likely having some in their homes, unaware how much misery and death produced them.

India's Bureau of Mines reported 686 tons of agate exported from 1998 - 2002, the latest figures available. Most went to America, then Germany, Italy, Thailand, and Britain.

A "Dusty Death"

As little as seven microns of silica dust can cause silicosis, by inducing fibrosis, scarring lungs with non-functional fibrous tissue, eventually becoming pulmonary massive fibrosis (PMF, characterized by large conglomerate masses of dense fibrosis) after enough exposure.

At this stage, grinders become weak, can't walk, suffer extreme weight loss, struggle to breathe, experience chest pain, followed by a slow, painful death.

People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC) and Agate Worker Demands

PTRC's director, Jagdish Patel, lists them:

  • cover agate and gemstone industry workers under India's Factories Act;
  • make traders legally accountable for their workers;
  • let them organize and be able to form large cooperatives to negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions, including health and safety protections;
  • mandate India's National Institute of Occupational Health develop safe grinding methods;
  • provide medical care, compensation and family stipends for silicosis victims; and
  • make traders pay for their decades of profiting from death.

Add another - inform consumers about the real gemstones cost, the thousands who died painfully producing them, for a dollar or so a day.


Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His blog is sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



Copyright © 2010 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on July 11, 2010.
 



Public Service Ads:
Verifiable Voting in Maryland