On 8th October, 2016, a village court at Obra panchayat in Aurangabad, Bihar banned all Chinese goods from being bought or sold in the region in the wake of China’s support of Pakistan on the recent Uri attack. The gram kachahri has also branded China an enemy for its stance on Pakistan (and Kashmir) and passed a consensus-based provision that will see people punished in case they are found violating this order.
Officials have said that a fine would be imposed in such a case. This is the first time that such an action has been taken in this eastern Indian state. The village has a population of at least 10,000 people and this order is expected to affect the prospect of China-manufactured products in the region.
Officials such as Gudiya Devi, Sarpanch of the Obra village panchayat, and Baban Mehta feel that this decision would weaken the economy of China. At present, there are around 24 shops in Obra that sell products made in China. During the festive season in 2015 the value of Chinese goods sold in the village ran up to around lakhs of rupees. Most of these goods are toys, plastic products, fancy lights, decorative goods and gifts. Goods made in China are especially popular in the rural parts of India, since they are cheaper than the ones made in India.
Situation in Madhya Pradesh
What has happened in Bihar can rightly be regarded as a microcosm of what is going in the rest of India, what with many people calling for a ban on goods made in China. Recently, the district administration in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh has placed a ban on importing firecrackers from other countries. The decision has come after a notification provided by Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) on 27th September. In fact, the District Collector has also provided orders to each and every police officer and Executive Magistrate to check various shops and go-downs of firecrackers to make sure that they are not keeping any such stuff in a clandestine manner.
Similar orders have also been passed in the following districts by collectors:
The Ujjain Municipal Corporation (UMC) banned the sale of products made in China on 4th October for the occasion of Kartik Mela, a fair that is organized over 25 days and is expected to have more than four lakh visitors. On 9th October, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) had organized a demonstration in Bhopal against Chinese products.
Activists belonging to SJM, too, said the same thing that the officials in Obra have said – terming China as the top enemy because of its support for Pakistan. They have also called for people to buy goods made in India. In fact, a number of BJP leaders are known to have strict reservations – to put it mildly – against Chinese products being sold in India. One of the most prominent names in this regard is Kailash Vijayvargiya, who happens to be the National General Secretary of the party.
The environmental aspect
Sellers of firecrackers in MP say that people like to buy Chinese products because they cost less. However, they also point out that because they contain sulphur they spread a lot more pollution. They also reveal that even in normal circumstances it is illegal to buy and sell these products, but the ban is being imposed this time because of the circumstances all around.
Ban by Delhi Government
The Delhi Government, too, has stated that it will work hard to make sure that a ban on the sale of firecrackers from China is properly imposed during the upcoming festive season. It has also admitted its previous failure in imposing the ban properly and preventing the sale of these products in spite of restrictions placed on them.
Kapil Mishra, who is presently heading the Environment Department, has asked the Secretary to come up with a proper plan of implementation for this. An advisory is also expected to be issued in this context.
In his tweets, Mishra has made it absolutely clear that he has asked the Secretary for a complete ban to be imposed since they are highly dangerous and can have negative impact on the health of people using them. He has also admitted that going by what happened in 2015, these products are perhaps still being sold and used everywhere in the state.
He has also pointed out that teams will be formed to monitor the situation and if the need arises these units shall conduct raids as well. It is expected that at the time of the drives, the governmental teams will be helped by civil society organizations and resident welfare associations. In 2015, the state government had asked the Customs Department to make sure that the ban on these products was properly enforced. In 2014, the Indian Government had in a public notification warned common people and importers of the legal ramifications of importing these products.
While one can understand the reasons behind such decisions, there are a few aspects that have to be highlighted as well. First of all, it is expected that before such major festivals – celebrated by a huge majority in India – this decision would act as a major boost for Indian manufacturers who have so far seen their higher-quality products left unsold because of the cheaper Chinese alternatives.
The Indian economy is at such a critical stage that it needs the manufacturing sector to thrive and do so for the longest term possible.
Thus, when the Chinese products are off the market Indian buyers will have to use the Indian ones that are significantly better in terms of quality. What has started in Obra is significantly much more important than what is being done in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh considering the fact in the former, there is a blanket ban on all Chinese goods and in case of the latter, it is just the firecrackers. The decision in Obra will give much breathing space to the local manufacturers who are critical to the long-term well-being of the national economy.
Manufacturing is one sector, which has now become primary in an Indian context and if Indian goods are offering better quality then definitely the inferior products available at cheaper rates need to be banned. What also needs to be seen in this context is how far this movement spreads, the extent to which it affects the prospect of Chinese products in India, and the effect it has on China’s support towards Pakistan.
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