FabIndia Controversy Highlights Deeper Economic Threat?

Following an outcry from the Hindutva right-wing, FabIndia, a 61-year-old fashion retail firm known for its ethnic wear lines, dropped a commercial. The right-wing had a problem with FabIndia’s Diwali 2021 collection having an Urdu name and “damaging the Hindu feast” of lights.

Over the past few years, the trend of boycotting anything and everything has become a norm. Many big brands like Amazon, Tanishq, and recently FabIndia, have received major flak on social media. While the reasons for starting the trends might be frivolous to some, the traction and support these trends get are tremendous. Nevertheless, they also get significant coverage from mainstream media.

The saddening reality is that these trends are supported by some of those in power as well. From those who represent their states in the Parliament to those holding important designations in bureaucracy.

The trend of boycotting FabIndia was supported by Karnataka MP Tejasvi Surya, who in his long tweet also said, “And, brands like FabIndia (tagging the company) must face economic costs for such deliberate misadventures.”

This definitely could be seen as an open threat to the company, which in itself is unconstitutional under Article 19. However, following this many opposition members and journalists quoted this to be “economic terrorism.”

However, this word – economic terrorism –  is not new in the Indian discourse. Earlier, in 2016 during the demonetisation drive, Mamata Banerjee, the current West Bengal CM, called it an act of economic terrorism. She said that the drive had left 10 crore Indians unemployed and only caused more damage to the rural population.

In 2015, the Supreme Court, in one of its judgments noted corruption as economic terror as it destabilises the country’s economy and is a threat to the economic health of the country.

In these two cases, economic terrorism fit in different contexts. But, out of them, only one is true.

What is Economic Terrorism?

Economic terrorism by definition is the act of anyone to destabilise the entire economy of a country. This could be by anyone from the state or out of the state. This economy here denotes the country’s economic functions and hence its wellbeing.

India faced such a situation in 2008 when an estimate of around Rs 40 crore worth of counterfeit notes were found across the cities of Uttar Pradesh. This would have led to a serious breakdown of the state’s economy.

However, the current state of the country does not account for economic terrorism. Or, let us say it cannot be termed as economic terrorism as the definition of it is much wider than we think. And, using the term would take away the attention from the real problem that exists.

Does that mean, there are no economic repercussions of such trends? The answer is NO! There are significant economic downgrades for such incidents.

Let’s get back to the FabIndia trend. After the mass outrage, FabIndia pulled back its ad and also issued a statement. This similarly happened with the Tatas during the Tanishq ad controversy, and even Byjus was targeted in the recent past.

While taking down an advertisement simply means that the company does not want to embroil itself in the controversy. But, this is a disruption in their peaceful working procedure. An outrage for a genuine mistake by the company might be a reasonable act. However, polarised reactions to a harmless campaign just make their job more complicated.

Moreover, FabIndia is a UK-based brand that employs thousands of Indian artisans and workers. In the worst-case scenario, if the online movement translates to an actual boycott. Which does happen in a subtle manner, the company would be forced to minimise their work. In turn, the employees will be fired due to low operations.

These online outrages also lead to on-the-ground vandalism. During the outrage against Tanishq’s advertisement people threatened to damage the outlets. Following this, a rumour went around the rounds of vandalism in one of the Tanishq stores in Gujarat, which was deemed to be fake later.

These instances have made India a very hostile region for foreign investors and corporations to function. The recent decision of Ford to discontinue its operations in India has led to almost 4,000 employees being fearful of losing jobs and the future.

A recent report by AfrAsia established that more and more rich Indians are planning to leave or have left the country and settle elsewhere. This is attributed to the tax, work, and concerns regarding opportunities in the country.

Ease of business is one of the most important factors in developing countries like India for its economic growth. While these trends might seem frivolous they cause deeper harm than we think. They are slowly making it harder for businesses to exist, curbing the probable employment prospects of the country.

While India jumped 79 spots in the World Bank’s ease of business index, these controversies prove otherwise. Unemployment in India is at an all-time high, with the pandemic just worsening the situation. Adding to this, the increasing intolerance would be a big blow to the economy.

Also Read: UP: Meet Dinesh, A Journalist Who ‘Writes’ Newspaper; Sells Ice Cream For Living

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