Maruti Suzuki Manesar: The Last Rites of Exemplary Punishment

Faridabad Majdoor Samachar

On Sunday, March 12, there were discussions with some eight or ten friends and comrades from Kathmandu, Morena, Delhi and Gurgaon at Majdoor Library. The March 10 judgment in the Maruti Suzuki Manesar case was also discussed. There were some discussions on the same case on March 16 and 17 with temporary workers of the Honda Manesar and Maruti Gurgaon factories. We had more discussions with friends from Gurgaon, Delhi, Kolkata and America after the judge sentenced 13 workers to life imprisonment on March 18.

After June 2011, relations became increasingly close among apprentices, trainees, workers hired through contractor companies and permanent workers at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory. The company and the government also gave the workers one concession after another in order to re-establish control. Despite the concessions, on the evening of July 18, 2012, 4,000 of Shifts A and B attacked two symbols of the wage system — managers and factory buildings. This was not a sudden outburst of anger. The question was: Why should anyone be a wage worker? The luminosity produced by this rather hard knock given to wage work in order to end it reached all over the world. The possibility that such luminosity could spread through thousands of factories in the Industrial Model Town of Manesar and nearby industrial areas became distinct. But it did not come to pass.

In this scenario:

– The government, scared by the luminosity, immediately stationed 600 police commandos at IMT Manesar and arrested 147 workers. The police commandos continue to be stationed there even in 2017.

– The company was scared by the luminosity and the chairman called it class war. The management of the Manesar factory discharged 546 permanent workers and dismissed 3,000 apprentices, trainees, workers hired through contractor companies.

– Central trade unions, scared by the power of this luminosity, immediately constituted a committee of 16 union leaders to take matters out of the workers’ arena. The committee turned it into a matter of petitioning officers and ministers in Gurgaon with applications, memoranda, dharna, demonstrations, hunger strike and such like, making Gurgaon the arena for further action. The committee couldn’t entangle the temporary workers. But the 546 discharged permanent workers, their friends and comrades, and families of the 147 jailed workers became as if bonded to the committee of the 16 union leaders. They were like its captive audience. Within six months, the committee breathed its last. But those using aggressive language moved the demonstrations, hunger strikes, etc., 200 km away to the rural environs of Kaithal. By At the end of the year, on July 18, 2013, under the umbrella of 19-23 so-called revolutionary groups, with police permission, a charade was enacted in the form of a candle-light procession in daylight at the Leisure Valley park in Gurgaon, with grim faces, hoisting a picture of the dead HR manager, declared ‘pro-worker’, since he had gone (he was sent by the company) to Chandigarh for registration of the union.

– Activists and so-called revolutionary groups, scared by the luminosity, sought to deny the existence of something the workers had themselves produced. For them, workers are poor and helpless, and there is no such thing as acts by workers. According to such revolutionary groups and activists, workers need direction from others even to resolve daily problems. In their view, workers merely react. For such activists and ‘revolutionaries’, who are experts in reacting, governments, companies, capital act, and the people-workers react. And so, activists and the so-called revolutionary groups fabricated a story for July 18, 2012 too: it was a conspiracy of the Maruti Suzuki Company; 200 bouncers attacked workers; workers defended themselves in response, and the tragic accident resulted.

– Liberals are very scared of the luminosity. In order to maintain the prevalent hierarchies, liberals wish to do something for incapable workers, helpless peasants and the pitiable poor. Ever conscious of their own interests, the liberals further promote their self-interest even in the course of “doing something”. So, the stories fabricated by activists and the so-called revolutionary groups go well with the liberals. Liberal reporters and liberal lawyers readily lapped up the stories on Maruti Manesar fabricated by activists and so-called revolutionary groups in opposition to the fabrications of the company and government. And, courts and litigation became the next stop for the hypocrites after candles in the daylight and the farce of the pro-worker manager.

Managers in terror

Factory managers in Faridabad were scared of the luminosity produced by the workers at Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory on 18 July 2012. Every branch of the state in India was in agreement that the fear of this luminosity must be removed from the hearts and minds of the company higher-ups here, and the Chairmen/MDs/CEOs of corporations in Japan, America, Europe. Towards that end, concerted attempts were made, following a time-tested script, to spread terror among workers. This is why bail was denied to the 147 arrested workers by the district court, high court and the Supreme Court for three years. Armed commandos were, of course, around. And middlemen, well-versed in the protocol of controlling workers, continued playing their role of spreading terror among workers through their shenanigans, writings, speeches, pamphlets, posters, etc.

‘Punishment shall be exemplary’ — workers in Noida busted this notion in February 2013, and workers completely tore asunder this concept at Okhla industrial area on the following day. This series has gone on unbroken. It is spreading. At IMT Manesar, even with 600 commandos stationed there, the fearlessness of the men and women workers in the factories of Munjal Kiriyu, Auto Liv, JNS, Baxter, Napino Auto, ASTI Electronics, Jay Ushin, etc. has been fascinating. The same has more or less been true of the workers of Palwal district at the Prithla- Baghola industrial area, and the workers of Dhruv Global and Lakhani Vardhan group factories at Faridabad; managers and directors fled from factories terrorised by workers in Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon in February 2015. The fearlessness of women workers in the tea estates of Munnar, Kerala, who chased away middlemen, is another example. Without any middlemen, the women workers of garment factories in Bangalore, Karnataka scared the central government into canceling the new PF rules. Honda Tapukara factory workers… workers of Bin Laden group in Saudi Arabia … garment workers of Bangladesh…. In December 2015, eight workers of Pricol factory in Tamil Nadu were sentenced to double life imprisonment and yet between January 4 and 10, 2016, 2,400 fearless workers (between 18 and 20 years old) of Lucas TVS factory put the management and the government in a spot.

Formalities-formalities-formalities

In such a time, the matter concerning the jailed Maruti Suzuki workers shifted from being in the purview of workers to a series of formalities, which has continued till date. In this period, when laws have become irrelevant, the scope of legislation-constitution-law is no more than a formality. Police investigation (farcical investigation), witnesses (farcical witnesses), evidence (farcical evidence), company lawyers, government lawyer, district judge, High Court judge, Supreme Court judge, defence lawyers, journalists sympathetic to either side, company officers, government officers, activists, so-called revolutionary groups, union leaders kept playing their formal roles. Punishment is also a formality as it has already been hollowed out. All these people involved in formal acts were essentially ‘going through the motions’.

Union leaders called for a lunch boycott in factory canteens for a couple of days when the judgment convicting workers was announced. An hour-long tool-down happened in the Maruti Suzuki group of factories after the sentence was pronounced. The government, assuaged now by Sunday struggles, allowed unions to hold a meeting at IMT Manesar on March 23. That meeting was organised by 40 unions from IMT and surrounding industrial areas at the end of the A shift in the factories, and was attended by 5,000-7,000 workers. Despite the large turnout, union leaders in speech after speech talked of moving the high court with an appeal. A comrade who attended the meeting called it a fundraising meeting. At present, 80-90% workers in factories are temporary while 90% at this meeting were permanent workers. According to the law, permanent workers alone can become members of factory unions. According to the law, temporary workers cannot become members of factory unions. Then, on April 4, country-wide protest demonstrations, events in other countries demanding the release of the workers and, at the same time, a memorandum asking the President of India to commute the sentence was handed by leaders in Gurgaon to the Deputy Collector of Gurgaon.

We can only give them our love

An eighty-year-old ‘revolutionary’ came from Kolkata to Gurgaon. In his view, solidarity of militant unions is essential to speed up the revolution. Maruti Suzuki Manesar union is, today, an example of a militant union. Two leaders of the Maruti Suzuki Manesar union came to meet the senior ‘revolutionary’. In the course of conversation, the senior ‘revolutionary’ kept devising strategies out of blind alleys, dead ends. The two young leaders, who had been present during the heady days of 2011-2012 at Maruti Manesar, repeatedly said that a lot had changed and now they could only give their love to the temporary workers.

Let’s take a look at this love. In the three-year management-union settlement signed in 2012, the wage of permanent workers at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory was hiked by Rs 18,800. Then, in the three-year settlement in September 2015, permanent workers wages were increased by Rs. 16,000. The wages of young permanent workers at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory is in the range of Rs 50,000-60,000. The Maruti management was so pleased with the settlement of September 2015 that it gave a gift of Rs 3,000 to every permanent worker. And on September 26, the day after the settlement was announced by leaders, 400 temporary workmen refused to enter the factory for the 6:30 am morning shift, in protest against the management-union settlement. (Temporary workmen, TW, are the workers hired directly by the company for seven months, a practice since July 2012, and are kept besides the workers hired through contractor companies.) Friends of the TW from B Shift also gathered at the factory gate. Immediately some men from the 14 villages adopted by the Maruti Suzuki Company, reached the factory in vehicles and clashed with the workers gathered there. Police intervention. Inside the factory, the ‘militant’ union cooperated with the management to keep production going. The company claimed normal production in the A shift but instead of 1,440 vehicles being assembled on the three assembly lines in the A shift, only 781 vehicles were assembled as the temporary workmen stayed away from work.

Translated by Anuradha from the April 2017 issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. Email: majdoorsamachartalmel@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: