Of Exploitation & Boycott

More and more people are looking for various methods including herbal medicine, massages, meditation and Ayurvedic science to ensure good health and ward off physical disorders and diseases.

If anything, our common cultural affinities draw Mauritians across the social spectrum to a more natural way of caring for their physical and mental health.

Needless to underline that not only does it contribute to our well-being but it is also a promising economic sector which appeals to locals and visitors as well. Be they Thai, Swedish or Ayurvedic massage, breathing exercises, Rei-Ki and like-minded healing techniques, they are gradually expanding and promoting awareness of holistic well-being.

One such thriving business is run by a gentleman in Triolet who felt the urge to develop what he felt as an innate gift and spent four years in India to improve his knowledge of the human body. He employs locals, but he needs more Indian specialists to operate a branch that he intends to open in Trou-aux-Biches given the number of tourists who queue up for treatment at his centre in Triolet.

Request for work permits for Indian nationals was flatly declined by the Ministry of Labour on grounds that are best known to the ministry itself. We should think that the development of such a sector will bring a significant contribution to the economy and will provide an alternative to the sun and sea tourist destination. The consequence of the ministry’s refusal to issue work permits is that the manager of the centre in Triolet is responding positively to an invitation to open a centre in the US. He has already opened two centres in Germany. Is this how this government encourages développement à partir de la culture in the country? Or are there other reasons for impeding progress in this specific job-creating sector? A much-needed explanation from the Ministry would enlighten public opinion on this issue.

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Following the presentation of the Budget and measures announced for the benefit of vulnerable groups, the question of exploitation of workers by unscrupulous employers has still not been addressed. In her early forties, Marcella walks quite a long distance from Shivala Road in Triolet down to a restaurant in Trou-aux-Biches where she works 60 hours a week including Sundays with a day off on Wednesdays. She was initially recruited as assistant cook, then asked to do all the cleaning also. She is toiling for a Rs 7000 monthly salary.

To make ends meet Marcella works as housemaid on Wednesdays. The hotel where her husband worked as cook for years closed down without giving any compensation to employees. Recruitment in hotels is getting quite scarce these days. In the meantime he is helping a friend to prepare and sell food on the beach.

How many women like Marcella are toiling for monthly peanuts is anybody’s guess. What vulnerable groups need is a decent salary for their hard work. Female labour is easy prey for the predator mindset prevailing among many employers. Huge disparities in income engendered by wildcat capitalism are bound to grow wider if no measures are taken to review the policy of low wages for the working classes.

Quite a number of employers have never heard of workers’ right to a few weeks off in a year, which exists in any civilized country. Just imagine how overwork affects one’s health and impacts on children’s performance at school, family and social life with far-reaching consequences. Those who have been entrusted with the duty to govern the country are to be blamed for the ongoing exploitation of workers.

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One month in prison is too long for any youngster who is arrested for anti-social behaviour. A one-year sentence for two young minors who put up their Gothic performance in a most foolish way in a cemetery is totally disproportionate. Any incident which supposedly might hurt religious sentiment is given undue importance as if society were going to pieces and the country were on the brink of a civil war.

All sorts of respectable high-ranking rogues get away with embezzlement, illicit self-enrichment, complicity with drug barons, etc., to the detriment of the public interest. Not to mention our representatives of law and order who have acquired the grotesque habit of arresting and interrogating accusers who dare to denounce wrongdoings committed by specific ‘personalities’. Just mind-bogging! Protect the mighty and powerful, and take ordinary people as scapegoats for one’s own failures and shortcomings. Come on!

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One last point is the avalanche raised by the stance the PM should take as regards the forthcoming Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka. For a more consistent position, no Mauritian representative should go to countries which persecute Christian minorities in Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Pakistan should be boycotted for ethnic cleansing of Hindus, Christians, Shias and Balochs. Minority religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianism have almost disappeared in Afghanistan. Iran has wiped out undesirable religions.

The PM should also boycott any summit in England for the embargo which starved millions of Zimbabweans due to the expropriation of lands by a handful of white people. Incidentally, England has been greedily pocketing huge sums of money from the Americans for the occupation of Diego Garcia with total disregard for the human rights of Chagossian people and to the detriment of Mauritian sovereignty and interests. Both England and the US should be boycotted for the irresponsible and ruthless invasion of Iraq after starving its people for a decade. The mess in Libya and Syria is largely due to the support given by Israel, the UK and the US and their allies to radical forces.

Sporadically, these countries don the cap of the righteous guardians of a higher moral order in the world and expect other countries to buy into their rhetoric. Well, no one dares stand up to the powerful. Sri Lanka is smaller fish!

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid asks: How do you deal with the Sri Lankan government and build 50 000 houses and other infrastructure for the Tamilians in the North if you do not go there? Sounds quite pragmatic.


* Published in print edition on 15 November 2013

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