Supping with the devil

Chanchal was joking about supping with the devil for lunch…

He manages the handcraft production unit at Silence, a training and employment centre for physically challenged people in Kolkata, and I was visiting to see if they had products that we could sell through our online shop at home. He tells me if we go to KFC we’re likely to be served by a deaf mute person. In India such physically challenged people are still very much discriminated against in employment and get no government assistance, which means those who can’t get support from family frequently resort to begging to survive. So a job at KFC is a big thing and we should support them. It’s not often you hear positive sentiments from a Fair Trader about multinational fast food chains, and given their sometimes dubious international reputations and tendency to displace small-scale cafes and food vendors Chanchal admits to a high degree of ambivalence about them. But he has to admit their relatively recent expansion in Kolkata has on balance been good for the disabled of the city. Continue reading

Bollywood aprons and a beauty parlour in Chennai

New Internationalist Australia’s fair trade specialist, Paul Deighton, visits Chennai, India and is in awe of the resourcefulness and energy he finds there.

My hotel window looks over a huge white elephant. Looking somewhat like a modern day Grecian mausoleum, it’s the erstwhile octogenarian Tamil Nadu leader’s legacy to his people – a new parliament house cum government offices that seems to stretch away into the distance for half a kilometre. The new premier has, according to Philip, refused to move in and wants it to be turned into a shopping mall or some other such function, and the high court is set to decide its future – most likely forcing the new leader to use it for its intended purpose. Such is politics in Tamil Nadu… Continue reading