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   Dead Ringers
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
06 Oct 2011

Mimicry generation

Dead Ringers is somewhat disturbing as it chronicles the life of workforce in the outsourcing industry. This workforce represents globalization enthusiasts who have compromised their names, accents, habit and lifestyle because mimicry is their job requirement. That they are being trained to tell ‘lie’ to their (un)suspecting western clients neither concerns them nor their orthodox parents. What counts is the relatively high wages that they muster by mimicking.

The flipside to the otherwise great story of economic upturn is that global corporations view the outsourcing industry as a low-cost, often low-skill sector. Add poor labour conditions, graveyard shifts and accent neutralization to it and what you seem to get is a workplace that not only mentally stresses its inhabitants but helps them lose their sex drive as well. Behind the high rise world of luminous signage there is dark and dingy world of silent sufferers.

Shehzad Nadeem argues that these high wage earners of the new and emerging India are also subject to what Karl Marx called the ‘dull compulsion of economic relations’. They have bargained for high wages by mortgaging themselves, their freedom being caged to strict discipline and deft surveillance. That the educated middle-class youth are being colonized into hybrid lives is the price the society would need to pay in the long run. No one seems to care!

The promise of outsourcing-led development has seemingly been wildly oversold. Nadeem has drawn a wide canvas wherein the socio-cultural impact of outsourcing has been measured against many downsides of the globalised workforce. Through lively ethnographic detail and subtle analysis of interviews with workers, managers, and employers, Dead Ringers offers evidence-based picture on several hidden but disturbing facets of outsourcing industry.

Dead Ringers is riveting and engaging, peeling layers after layers of what goes on within the glitzy world of outsourcing. Most notable fact being that this industry is dependent upon the temporary condition of the global labour market. Should the demand collapse, the situation of these workers may no longer be as enviable. At the end, outsourcing industry has stressed its workforce by exposing them to ‘political economy of insecurity’.

Dead Ringers
by Shahzad Nadeem
Princeton University Press, Princeton
273 pages, US$ 35

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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