Nov 5, 2013

Spare a thought for a million cashew workers. They live in penury, work in appalling conditions, while the supermarkets rake in millions.

No, they are not in a metal pelting unit. Believe me, these women are processing cashews -- Guardian photo

Diwali -- the festival of lights has just passed by. I am sure hundreds of thousands of people must have distributed or received cashew nuts (and other dry fruits) as part of the gift exchange culture that prevails and predominates the festivities. More so, at a time when adulteration is becoming rampant in the production of sweets, the focus has not shifted to dry fruits. There is nothing wrong in this. My preference too is for dry fruits.

I am sure business worth several millions of rupees, just from the sale of cashews, must have transacted during this Diwali season. But how many of us even know the plight of roughly 10 lakh (1 million) cashew workers and another 200,000 cashew growers in the country? Roughly 60% of the global cashew processing takes place in India, and that according to what I have learnt is value addition. Every time I am listening to speakers at a seminar/conference I hear the world value addition. Unless Indians try to add value to the raw material they produce, the economics will not change for the better, we are repeatedly told. Isn't cashew processing also a part of the value addition chain that is tossed on to us every now and then?

The Guardian report Cashew nut workers suffer 'appalling' conditions as global slump dents profits (Nov 2, 2013. Link here: came as a shocker. I had thought that since India imports bulk of the cashews for processing (about 60% of the global output) it must be a good business for the people engaged in processing. But the report tells me, how wrong I was. Of course, I had known about the plight of people who suffered from the indiscriminate sprays of the deadly Endosulfan chemicals. My colleagues at the voluntary organisation Thanal had been on the forefront along with the villagers of Kasaragod that spearheaded the movement against Endosulfan. But somehow had remained oblivious to the crisis the cashew workers were faced with year after year, some for over 30 years now.

I must admit I have been to Kollam (in Kerala) a number of times to visit Mata Amrita but never used the opportunity to visit cashew growers and workers nearby. The next time I am there, you will get a first hand field report.

Spare a thought at the plight of the cashew works, and of course the cashew growers. The Guardian picture above is more than a thousand words.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes . we have visited the factories many times in Kollam and Trivandrum districts to look at the pesticide exposure of workers( majority women) . So many academic studies have been done about the condition of the workers. But the situation is still very bad. I would say that they are one of the poorest working class in Kerala.