THE concept of outsourcing has been around for a while. Outsourcing to service providers has been the norm for manufacturers, especially under the globalisation mantra where finance and human resources know no boundaries. American and European automobile and cellular phone manufacturers have shifted most production to China — the same China they accuse of political repression and human rights violations— because it offers cheap labour and subsidised utilities to industry. Concerns about Chinese labour laws and weak environmental protection are forgotten so long as it gives the manufacturers a competitive edge.
Similarly, processing payrolls or medical and legal data entry from all over the world happens in Bangalore and Chennai because these places have invested in human resources and technological development. Just imagine. The worst type of xenophobes here get their ‘Sharia-compliant’ profits calculated in the land of Shiva in the Indian south. Money is progressive; it has no religion.
The outsourcing of intellect or the appropriation of ‘others’ inventions while denigrating them as ‘heretics’ and condemning them to eternal hell has been perfected by oily theocracies. Dare to point out the hypocrisy of the arrangement and you are reminded of the West’s crimes of imperialism and slave trade that form the basis of their fortunes. While benefiting from all the scientific development of the ‘godless’ and ‘soul-less’ West, the God-fearing and spiritual holy men in our neck of the woods are quick to point out the ‘moral turpitude’ of materialistic, modern societies. The objectification of women and the breakdown of the family unit are cited as sure signs of decline. It matters little that a spokesperson of a recently dethroned party presenting itself as the standard bearer of spiritual purity, not too long ago publicly insisted that the vernacular translation of ‘prostitute’ be used as a synonym for ‘widow’because of some archaic and convoluted usage in a particular region.
Things come full circle even in subjects seemingly poles apart.
This same party’s leader hit upon the bright idea of outsourcing corruption. It appeared flawless till he got his vendors arrested. This is how it works: allow the wheeling-dealing types to use the ‘charismatic leader’ to mint money so long as a chunk of it is spent on maintaining his clean-as-a-whistle aura, dirty-rich lifestyle, and equally dirty politics. Get caught with your hand in the cookie jar and the leader will drop you like a hot brick. The sugar and cougar brigade goes to jail while the leader looks for the next ATM.
Back to inventions or lack thereof; the so-called scientists here obsess about making genies produce electricity, become public intellectuals, or acquire fat budgets for fake projects to get foreign inventions licensed to their families. Another lot specialises in tracing every scientific invention to the Muslim scientists of yore to prove that all progress is beholden to us. Yet another very elite group of researchers spends all its time proving every technological breakthrough under the sun as having at least one member belonging to some Pakistani ethnicity among the thousands-strong team of gofers behind the invention.
We have also had no qualms about not just crowdfunding and appropriating the most sensitive and potentially lethal technology but open-sourcing it to the larger detriment of mankind. Some insist on continuing in this vein till the Kohinoor comes ‘home’. How interesting that things come full circle even in subjects seemingly poles apart — from offshore accounting to customer care call centres in Chennai to the celebrated Mountain of Light diamond’s origins in the Golconda mines of southern India. Amidst all this East-West controversy, the prospects of South-South cooperation can open up vistas where ‘going south’ need not necessarily mean a downward trend. This leaves the northern hemisphere sticking out like a sore thumb — at least in some people’s imaginations — as the hub of conspiracies and the nub of regime-change plots. Outsource the blame for poor economic management to the IFIs, and the power play between components of the state to foreign conspiracies. As for the fourth estate, the least said the better. It is tethered to estate agents.
A few decades back, we tried outsourcing the country’s power production to the IPPs. A new conglomerate has been launched in the ‘power’ sector, this time referred to as Independent Power Purchasers. The regulators better determine the unit cost and capacity charge wisely and in the public interest this time, lest the new IPP gets embroiled in the same old battles with the ‘oily and gassy regulatory authority’ and the ‘nation transformation company’.
The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satire essays titled Rindana.
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2023