The choice of Kailash Satyarthi for the Nobel Peace Prize is the result of an old tussle between India and the US. Throughout the 1990s, the US used trade sanctions as well as the World Trade Organization to foist its version of the so-called “free trade” which came complete with patent laws, genetically modified seeds, Enron’s shenanigans, and stringent standards related to environmental and labour laws. The Indian government as well as Indian activists resisted these moves at that time and there was friction between the US and India.
The environmental and labour laws were intended to make it expensive for businesses to run their operations in India by forcing them to go through a costly certification process, and one such law that targeted the Indian carpet industry was the Child Labour Deterrence Act which was passed in the US. The law was first proposed in 1992 by Democratic Party politician and American Senator Tom Harkin who drafted it with inputs from Kailash Satyarthi.
Not only did the American law grant NGOs in India the status of inspectors of Indian businesses, but Satyarthi also demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills and set up one such NGO named Rugmark in 1994 with venture capital from a German Protestant group named Bread for the World. He thus profited from his venture while also effectively becoming an inspector on behalf of Western forces ensuring that Indian businesses would lose their competitive edge.
Satyarthi’s benefactor, Bread for the World, does not hide its political agenda when it declares on its website that it seeks “to influence political decisions in favour of the poor.” Many cables on the whistle-blower website Wikileaks too show that money from the group has ended up with churches in at least one country (South Korea) where these churches attempted to foment political trouble.
In 1994, Kailash Satyarthi appeared before a Senate subcommittee chaired by Tom Harkin instead of raising the issue with either the Indian parliament or the Indian government thus calling into question not only his motives but also the veracity of his claims made before his international audience.
When USA passed Tom Harkin’s law, India already had laws against using child labour and the American law, rather than helping families of children who were employed in the carpet industry by finding them alternative means of earning their livelihoods, merely aimed to help Western firms by weeding out competition. This point seems to have been noted by Dr. Subramanian Swamy who was appointed the Chairman of the Commission on Labour Standards and International Trade by the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.
Dr. Swamy writes in his book, India’s labour standards and the WTO framework, ‘It would be of interest here to note that Section 2 of the Child Labour Deterrence Act of 1993 — Tom Harkin’s Bill — introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate in USA says brazenly: “adult workers in the United States and in the other developed countries should not have their jobs imperilled by imports produced by child labour in developing countries”.’
Children who worked in the carpet industry did so out of desperation but Tom Harkin and his assistants cynically portrayed it as a case of exploitation. In many cases, the employer too was from a similar socio-economic background as the children they employed, and both parties viewed the arrangement as a means of providing a livelihood for the families of children involved in the manufacture of carpets. The result of the Harkin-Satyarthi effort was that scores of families of carpet manufacturers as well as families of their employees were reduced to misery and many of them even faced starvation.
Satyarthi’s NGO, Rugmark, later changed its name to Goodweave International and it is pertinent to note that a majority of its board members have Christian names and at least two of them are from Western churches that use the alleviation of human suffering as a cover for proselytism, a strategy that has been effectively used by Western governments to destabilize several countries. While one board member, Rev. Pharis J. Harvey, is from the United Methodist Church, another board member, Pat Zerega, is from the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
It also turns out that Tom Harkin was responsible for nominating Kailash Satyarthi for the Nobel Prize, effectively making the prize a quid pro quo for Satyarthi’s services rendered to American politicians.
Although Satyarthi was unknown in India and around the world until he was named as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize – making the award even more questionable – Western countries seem to have decorated him with many prizes such as the Robert F. Kennedy Award, Defenders of Democracy Award, an award from the US State Department and other awards from European countries. Many of the awards he has received are known to have been used in the past as rewards for advancing the agenda of American and European governments.
Despite the US government honouring Satyarthi with awards, a Wikileaks cable acknowledges that they understand he exaggerates the number of children who are engaged in child labour in India. Others have complained that Satyarthi has made tall claims of rescuing up to 50,000 children but has been unable to provide details of the identities and whereabouts of the children when challenged to do so. Satyarthi has also been accused of staging a ‘rescue’ operation for the benefit of Dutch television cameras by using a child who acted out the part of the victim.
The West has shown that its relationship with India is in bad faith and has sent the message that working for its mercantile agenda by acting against India’s economic interests can be rewarding. It should be noted that among the five Norwegian politicians who form the panel that decides the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, two of them have a history of actively interfering in Sri Lanka and supporting the Sri Lankan terrorist group LTTE. Of the two, Gunnar Stålsett is a former bishop and served as the state secretary of the Ministry of Church Affairs and Education while Thorbjørn Jagland is a former Prime Minister and a member of the Labour Party in Norway which grew out of the Communist movement. It is time for Indians to realize that the Nobel Peace Prize is just an award given by a group of politicians from Norway who pursue their own agendas, and the process of awarding this prize too has had its share of corruption scandals.
[The author can be reached at [email protected].]
Arvind Kumar is a writer and an activist who focuses on politics, economy and civilizational issues. He can be reached at arvind at classical-liberal dot net.