A million dollar question

Dollar City, a documentary by R.P. Amudhan, brings to light the consensus among the stakeholders who want the Tiruppur garment industry to run at any cost.
 
“For the past 20 years Tiruppur has not seen a workers’ strike,” claims a garment exporter. “Though the companies are governed by labour rules of eight working hours per shift, the rule is mostly followed in breach,” admits a trade union leader. “I stick to this company just because my employer helps me,” says a worker. The statements recorded in the documentary Dollar City can be seen as a classic example of the Antonio Gramscian idea of manufacture of consent.
 
Tiruppur is called as Dollar City for its thousands of export oriented garment hosiery units and millions of migrant workers. A major money spinner, the city symbolises a development model where the state machinery, exporters, small and big entrepreneurs, commission agents, trade unionists and workers converge to prioritize export. Their collective aim is to earn foreign exchange and in the process all the laws that protect environment and workers’ rights are given a go by.
 
The 77-minute film by award-winning documentary filmmaker R.P. Amudhan brings to the fore a successful economic system where ambitions and loyalties collapse, rights become a privilege, duty becomes an opportunity and where one’s desperation is another’s aspiration. Amudhan provides a ring side view of the system where consensus among the employers, mediators and workers put to rest all arguments on workers upliftment. “Every time I visit Tiruppur, the first thing that strikes me is the consensus among all the players in the field. Right from the auto driver to hotel manger to tea master, all want the industry to run at any cost. Their desperation caught my attention. I wanted to record their version of consensus,” he says.
 
The documentary, produced by Raj Kajendra, also takes a dig at the role of Government in promoting the business in a big way by giving several sops to the manufacturers. One exporter even claims that the Government initially waived income tax and gave incentives. People are fully aware of the exploitation and resign to the fate. The acceptance has given the employers enormous strength to flout all the rules.
 
Amudhan has adopted a different narrative technique by recording the statements of people who talk about themselves. “The complexity of the problem led to this narrative technique. It is a kind of hypothesis, which I attempted to realise or materialise or prove or argue in the film. I deliberately chose the ones who appreciated the industry and through which I have attempted to understand the hegemony of the industry,” he says.
 
T. Saravanan
The Hindu | 19 May 2016
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