BuLENT – ‘Turkey! Grow with safety’

‘Turkey! Grow with safety’It seems like a joke but it is not. They suddenly appeared on news channels among the endless reports of negligence and the pain of the victims and their relatives in the mining tragedy in Soma. They are called “public spots.” Obviously, they are part of a useful campaign to raise public awareness about issues. A short clip was prepared on workplace accidents, similar to clips raising awareness on many other issues including smoking, drinking, drug addiction and traffic accidents which can be simply addressed by basic precautions or other safety methods.Like the others, the spot “Turkey! Grow with safety” made by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to raise public awareness on work safety in our country — where a work accident takes place every six minutes – was, of course, prepared with good intentions. There is nothing wrong with the spot. However, when the spot is watched in light of the chain of negligence by state institutions including the very Ministry of Labor and Social Security that made this spot, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Office of the Prime Minister — which now has full control over the mines as well as the corporations like Soma Holding that have no ambition or motivation other than making profit — it creates a different emotion. The public spot, when watched alongside news reports on negligence and its painful repercussions, does not convey sincerity to the audience. On the contrary, it gives the impression that workers, the miners and the public are being mocked.Everybody is aware that not even a minimal amount of the almost perfect laws on work safety by an administration which propagates the slogan “Turkey! Grow with safety” is actually implemented. For instance, there is no sign or trace of work safety, as aertised on TV, in the Soma coal mine a mine which, no doubt, makes a huge contribution to Turkey’s economic growth. If these laws had been implemented sincerely, would this disaster have taken place? Would such a huge number of miners have died, even if this accident had taken place?Media reports indicate that Soma Holding brags about reducing the cost of coal extraction from $130-140 per ton to $23.8. For some reason, the ministry which sponsors this spot and is responsible for work safety did not consider asking what miraculous methods the company relied on to realize this great achievement. Likewise, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources did not feel the need to ask how Soma Holding, which managed to produce 47 percent more than its targeted amount in 2012, achieved this miracle.To reduce costs, most of the delicate equipment and devices the miners — who are forced to work under inhumane conditions — use for work safety are allegedly transferred from Germany after extensive use in mines there. Of course, it was not easy to reduce production cost to one-fourth of the amount when they took over control in the mine. How could this have been achieved if new and high quality equipment had been used? More importantly, even the gas sensors, indispensable for work safety in mines, had been deactivated because they allegedly slowed down the pace of production.Why wouldn’t a company that reduces the amount of equipment it is supposed to use in its production and steals from the labor of the workers by paying less achieve an annual production 47 percent higher than expected? Why wouldn’t a company that is able to find new workers to exploit in a country where there are many unemployed people and which does not feel the need to comply with labor and safety standards be able reduce the production costs of the coal extraction? And this becomes even more understandable in the light of the fact that the government relies on this cheap production to give coal to poor people in an attempt to win their support in elections.So the government is satisfied with this so is the corporation and the poor people who receive coal free of charge are also content. So why would they pay attention to work safety measures that would negatively affect production and raise cost-related problems, and why would they introduce further measures and make more frequent inspections? Why would the government endorse this as long as this vicious cycle, in which economic and political utility is produced at an optimum or maximum point for those who seek political and economic aantage, remains in place? The government must have been very satisfied with the performance of this corporation for Soma Mining Company, owned by Alp Gurkan, to win mining tenders worth a total of TL 70 billion over the last seven years, even though it was on the brink of collapse and bankruptcy 10 years ago.We now know after bitter experience how Gurkan achieved this miraculous reduction in production costs. Due to the blessing by the ErdoIan government, Gurkan’s company avoided taking necessary safety precautions in an effort to reduce the production costs in mining, the most dangerous sector in the world. He stole from the labor of the workers by paying $2.5-3 per hour to them. He stole from the money that was supposed to be spent on the improvement of the working conditions of the miners. For this reason, he also stole from the health and quality of life of the miners. And more recently, he stole their lives — sending hundreds of them to their death. And the ErdoIan government served as an accomplice in Gurkan’s criminal activities.Unfortunately, these miners were not robotic workers but much too humane for the endless ambitions and goals of the ErdoIan government and Alp Gurkan’s company. As in the remark by famous German writer Max Fischer, who, in reference to Turks emigrating to Germany in the 1960s to serve as a workforce in the industrial fields, said, “We were expecting laborers, but people came,” the ErdoIan government and Gurkan’s company found human beings while they were expecting workers who would be ready to work tirelessly in mine sites. However, they found not only miners, but also people who happen to be tired, saddened or even die.It appears that what the ErdoIan government and the mining corporation Soma Holding needed were mechanized people, not mortal miners. What they needed was the utopic labor depicted in NazIm Hikmet’s famous poem in 1923 in which he described a man who wanted to become a machine.I wish mercy by Allah for the miners who managed to remain mortal human beings equipped with emotions and vulnerabilities, despite the excessive ambitions of the government and the mining company seeking to maximize its profits, and who lost their lives just because they were humans and in the memory of the martyred miners, I am sharing Hikmet’s poem “To Become a Machine:”trrrrum, trrrrum, trrrrum! trak tiki tak! I want to become a machine!This desire comes from my brain my flesh my skeleton! I am dying to mount and ride every dynamo! My wet tongue licks copper wires, Electric motorcars chase locomotives in my veinstrrrrum, trrrrum, trrrrum! trak tiki tak I want to become a machine!I’ll surely find a way and finally be happy on the day when I put a turbine in my belly and fix two propellers to my tail! () I want to become a machine!

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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