Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shiksha Adhoori V [Education Incomplete V]

Compared with the rest of my posts on Shiksha Adhoori series this is on a different note. This has a few interpretations extrapolated from my point of view which might be wrong. However I'd strongly like to make a point on profit driven corporate way of working.
A couple of days back I got an opportunity to attend Independent People's Tribunal at constitution club here at Delhi. The issues addressed were land acquisition, resource grab and operation green hunts. It was a 3 day program where there were people from Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa and other affected area to share their experiences. I however got a chance to attend the session on the issues faced by people at Jharkhand. The session started with a movie called The Iron is Hot. The movie actually talks about the problems faced by the village [or in fact most of the villages around Jharkhand] because of the coal / steel plants over there. On a critical note on the movie it tries to summarize that all the industry / plant around the area are the problem creators, including land acquisition, health problem and pollution of the environment which is very true!. It was actually disturbing to see the movie and listen to the people.
One could see powders and particles from the plant everywhere. As a Chemical Engineer, I feel very much disturbed that the contribution from us has been very less [mostly negligible] to overcome such problems. In a portion of the movie a person talks about the dust [not the normal ones which is present in the air around us] particles getting released to the atmosphere because of the failure of dust collection instruments like cyclone, bag filter and ESP's. I work with a world renowned Professor who has a 30+ years of expertise in powder science and particle technology. He has done a lot of industrial projects across the country and has also implemented cyclone separators which have an efficiency of 99.7 %. In the world today we talk about cyclone which can collect nano dust. Here in the movie we are told that these dust particles are not collected because the technology is not available.
Now let’s see actually if the technology is available why it's not implemented. It's because of the way Economy has been taught to the people. We are always taught to have profit driven models. However we were not taught ethics. I had a course on Economy during my Diploma days. I seldom learned anything out of that course and recently a couple of our friends were having a conversation on Capitalism. I could recall the things I learned in the course and could somehow relate those. It actually teaches "where should one start an industry?". A place where the raw materials are abundantly available, other resources are cheaper [including human resources], a river / water source near by, easily accessible by road / rail / air and sea [preferably] and also a place where the product could be sold easily. It also teaches to make things which would create need. Ultimately the crux of the story is to make the processing cost as cheap as possible so that one could earn the maximum margin of profit out of it.
Now with this kind of economics let’s come back to the current industry which we are talking about. They have to collect dust coming out of the plant and for the same they would need a cyclone. The 99% efficiency cyclone is generally available at a very high price and an alternative locally fabricated one is available 100 times cheaper [in fact even more cheaper] than the efficient one. Industry would obviously try and reduce the capital cost so that they have more profit and install the local make. That cyclone can only operate to its capacity and trust me any instrument which is not properly studied, will not fulfill its need. This is one common case with a lot of industries [small and big scale] in India. There is a huge gap of Industry - Academics interaction as well. Unless we bridge the gap this is tend to fail. Majorly most of the plants pay more attention to economy and less attention to technology. Once the attention shifts to technology, automatically economy would boom up!...
Closing the plant is not the solution to the problem.. it's making it function on a proper way using technology... that would be the solution... don't know if our economists would pay attention to this as well!...

4 comments:

Suresh said...

very enlightening article Selva. Yes, the thought of the day is the quick economy not the proper and effective usage of technologies and alternatives available.

Kunal Chandra said...

Indeed a very charged blog and I do agree that it stems from personal experience is fuelled by first hand experience. i would howvever like to challenge you to look into your logic this particular time. First of all what about steel factories and coal mines in developed nations. They do work pollution free and they dont always create similar problems for their residents. In that case should we criticise the model of Cpaitalism as a whole or should we rather criticize the way it has been implemented in India.
On Economics - Let me challenge you again... Do you think anything which is not sustainable will survive ? So even if we put these very expensive cyclones which might eventually lead to erosion of profits, dont you think that this will not be sustainable ?

In my opinion government has a major role to play here. Not in the Marxist sense of subsidizing things but instead creating very strong regulatory frameworks. There is no problem with Capitalism if it is implemented in its true spirit.. and that spirit demands welfare of all stakeholders. And as long as employees and community is concisdered as an important stakeholder we will not see the kind of plight that you witnessed. But the absence of governance has given rise to a skewed form of capitalism.

vk said...

I agree with Kunal. Sometimes profit making organizations are short sighted and think about short term profits and they dont consider all stakeholders. Government regulations force them to think about all stakeholders. This works as long as the regulations are enforeced properly(i.e. company is not allowed to take shortcut by using corruption).

Rahul Banerjee said...

basic steel making has become so costly in the united states due to the need to follow environmental standards that steel production is going down continuously in the US and it is instead being imported from China where obviously there are no such environmental standards. just read this story - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/business/economy/16pipe.html. in fact steel production in the US has dropped from 98.1 million tonnes in 2007 to 58.1 million tonnes in 2009 and imports went upto about 10 million tonnes. this is happening in many other spheres also as dirty industries are being shifted to the third world because it is too costly to run them in the US. thus the problem is still with capitalism and its profit lust that makes it cut costs in one way or the other