Sunday, 5 January 2014

Questions without answers

I still feel guilty about that sweater - but not guilty enough to stop me wearing it.  Besides, no good would be done to anybody if I did stop wearing it.

It was a week or two before Christmas when the old Bat and I wandered into Asda, our local supermarket, to do the regular Tuesday afternoon shopping.  I can't remember what it was she wanted, but the Old Bat headed right into the non-food section of the store with me in train.  It was then that we passed a rack of sweaters priced at just £12.  Those in lovat green caught my eye.  The OB was quite taken with them as well, so we added one to the trolley.  It was only later that I paused to wonder.  Granted, the material was not cashmere, or even lamb's wool; it was simply acrylic so I could hardly expect the price to have been £80 or more, but had this sweater been made in one of those sweat-shops one hears of in countries such as Bangladesh or India?  Had I been party to the exploitation of some of the most down-trodden people in the world?  Had child labour been involved in the production of this sweater?

This was brought to the front of my mind once again this week.  The BBC, in an evening news bulletin, aired a piece by a reporter in India.  in this we learned of the harsh conditions endured by workers in the Indian brick-making industry, conditions which we would consider slavery.  Child labour, dangerous working practices, miniscule pay packets - all to make the bricks to build factories and sweat-shops.  I was reminded that not so very long ago, a building in the Indian subcontinent (either India or Pakistan) collapsed, leading to numerous deaths of workers in sweat-shops in that building.  It transpired that the building was not strong enough to support all the machinery installed, although we were told that the government department involved had granted a license for that purpose, the suggestion being that money had changed hands.  Be that as it may, I had to wonder if British companies were buying the products of those dead workers.

I have heard that British companies are supposed to check that goods they are buying from overseas are produced in decent conditions, but just how well do they check?  If at all?  And how far down the line do they or should they go?  It might be suggested that we should avoid buying clothes that might have been produced in these sweat-shops and then they would stop using what almost amounts to slave labour.  But, on the other hand, the workers need their wages and if they are not producing cheap clothes for we Westerners, they and their families will starve.

Plenty of questions, but no easy answers.


Past Stanmer House and the church we come to the village.  Just one street with flint-faced cottages and a shop.

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