Being an owner of the brick kiln, receiving a notice from State/Central Pollution Control Board every Oct/Nov has become a new norm for my father’s firm, ordering temporary closer of manufacturing of bricks “until further notice”, as Delhi is gasping for clean air. Kilns run on coal.
My father’s firm falls under the category of MSME, employs more than 100+ migrant laborers, and 20+ permanent employees. During monsoon season (3-4 months) operations remain closed as unbaked clay bricks melt down due to rain pouring, thus, manufacturing of bricks happens effectively for 8 months subject to other conditions.
Operations start the post-monsoon season; accordingly, the father hires skilled labor from the state of Bihar or UP before their availability becomes an issue. As usual this time also he hired them, but could not use them as operations have been shut down, sustaining the labor involves the cost of 2 lac rupees per month if not more, if closed for two consecutive months, it will make the whole business either unprofitable or will lead to an exponential increase in prices, which are already accelerated by rising in the price of coal due to its scarcity in the country.
In addition to this, it will only render 6 months to operate, hindering the manufacturing unit in achieving its full efficiency.
If it would have been a one-time scenario, this ‘disruption of operations and subsequent rise in price could have been easily dealt with. However, in the last few years as Delhi’s air quality has consistently remained ‘severe’ especially in winters, therefore, operations, too, are consistently getting disrupted, taking away the ability from MSMEs to handle such issues on their own.
Today when ‘climate change’ has gained a global consensus, leaving aside former US President Donald Trump who considers it a myth, this action by the State to tackle Delhi pollution seems valid and appropriate, however, a closer look reveals the patchiness of this action.
Imposing such restrictions is certainly not economically viable- rising price, the decline in infrastructure projects, rising unemployment, etc.., yet it is the only option State is left with every year and this needs to be criticized.
These brick kilns and many other such MSMEs definitely need to upgrade to better technology and environment-friendly practices, not surprisingly, they are very much willing to do so, however, it will be cruel and unrealistic to expect these MSMEs to do it, own their own.
Father and many other MSME owners, who are under the radar of climate change, are neither interested nor understand global high table talks such as COP26 or climate change reports like IPCC report. However, what they do understand is that their decision-making power has been paralyzed by mentioned words like “until further notices” in government’s orders, abandoning them in dark and vagueness.
Moreover, unlike big corporate houses, these MSMEs do not have enough readily available finances and expertise to transit to eco-friendly practices.
Not only my father’s firm but many others, which are not aligned with futuristic vision and requirements, are in dire need of State assistance for finances and more importantly for expertise and technology in order to immunize themselves from such restrictions. If not done so, these myopic actions employed by State to tackle issues like Delhi pollution might help it win this one battle, but not the war i.e., climate change.
These talks at the high table and the government’s vision are not materializing on the ground as they are expected to be due to the gap between the industry’s needs and govt.’s actions, instead of rejuvenating these MSMEs, govt. is putting thousands of cuts on their body and letting them die slowly and steadily.
Thus, Greta Thunberg’s ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’ speech becomes too relevant to mention.