Perhaps one day, management experts will wake up to the sorry state of affairs and the despicable conditions of those involved in crystal mining
Business is fickle because, like the rising sun, an emerging success is always welcomed and the declining sun is ever-abjured. At the end of the day, there is a lot of jostling to continue to be successful and brand oneself as such. There are instances in post-Independence India where a public system was rapaciously ransacked by voracious and cunning individuals to get an initial breakthrough in the circle of wealth. Interpretation has it that in the most successful of such ravaging for years, nothing was unknown. What was happening was almost in the knowledge of those who cared to know. Even the so-called culprits were known. But no one was really booked because if you booked one of the key functionaries, he/she knew too much. Once they spilt the beans it would cause convulsions in the close circles and nobody knew who would be affected. So at the end of the day, a new business house was born and some flourishing careers in the corporate and governance circles were re-enforced. A few of the vulnerable known to flourish in any regime thrive even today.
The moralist can go into convulsions and the Romanist can thump his chest but the colt had bolted. This cannot be the place to discuss the morality and worse, of such a scenario. Someday if not in an economic history book, this episode would make a successful narrative of a novel. That’s another story. The basic proposition remains that lucre is always dirty. The dictionary defines it as a monetary reward or gain. It is more than that. It is the end pursued by many minds. Whether it is dirty or not, doesn’t seem to affect many in any substantial sense. Not very long ago there was a movie called Blood Diamond. Those who know of it would recall how it made a theme of the kind of exploitation of the human body and more that went into diamond mining. The message was simple, that those who buy these diamonds lubricate the coffers of unscrupulous businessmen who have no conscience. The story does not end there. The high and the mighty, in their search for the distinctive, lubricate the business of the unscrupulous. The public reaction to the information can only be of the type that, however, is material to actual ground conditions. If the movie made any dent on the overall attraction of the business or reformed the processes, the message is still to come in. Such movies and related writings on this theme are neither unique nor once in a lifetime. It’s like a parallel stream. The business does what it does. The objector does what he/she has to.
The art lies in recognising that such writings or presentations, even cinematic, help to contain the problem, because at least something is being set in motion to do so. Unfortunately, ethics in enterprise is a very limited domain, even in business schools. The emphasis seems to be more on proper bookkeeping, integrity of documentation and simple morality of truthfulness and more. There can be nothing wrong with that. However, there are other core issues. It doesn’t happen only in diamonds. It has to do with matters big and small, including child labour. There was a newspaper report of crystals colonising Tucson in February 2019. This was the month of the Tucson gem shows, perhaps the largest crystal expo in the world. A very large species of businessmen, from new-age enthusiasts to major wholesalers would number amongst the customers and there are no prizes for guessing that the US and Europe dominate the users. They include everything, from museums to crystal healers, yoga centres to wellness retailers. This is a specific fallout of the wellness fever which has swept the world. Go to any city or aspiring city and one business which is on the uptake is that of crystals and gems. There is nothing wrong with that. The only thing is that in a world where so many things are being converted into revenue items, there is little surprise that being social media-friendly lubricates business. Aesthetics, combined with cosmic spirituality, is a heady cocktail. Healing crystals are a great rage and when anything becomes such a trend, passions, the like of which can only be selectively discussed, enter the scene. Today there is a crystal for every occasion. The celebrities, the collectors, the investors are all into it.
Predictably the concept of ambient energy enters the scene. Yet, the fate of miners of crystals, even in the age of rose quartz, reminded one of scenes from the Blood Diamond. There is almost a conspiracy of silence because enthusiastic patrons of all kinds of causes, from the most obvious to more subtle ones, are a dime a dozen. However, there appear to be very few applying scrutiny to the crystal industry. There is no certification of fair trade in crystals. Transparency schemes, the likes of which are there for gold and diamond, are yet to enter the crystal industry in any significant way. Perhaps one day, management experts will wake up to the sorry state of affairs and the despicable conditions of some of the poorest of the poor involved in the mining for crystals. Perhaps they will make an issue of matters of human dignity and sound working conditions, if not of terrible business practices. Hope that day comes soon.
(Writer: Vinayshil Gautam; Courtesy: The Pioneer)