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Discussion on Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers

The Last Rites of Exemplary Punishment

On Sunday, 12th March, there were discussions with 8-10 friends and comrades from Kathmandu-Morena-Delhi-Gurgaon at Majdoor Library. The 10th March judgment in the Maruti Suzuki Manesar case was also discussed. There were some discussions on the same case on 16th-17th March with temporary workers of the Honda Manesar and Maruti Gurgaon factories. We had more discussions with friends from Gurgaon-Delhi-Kolkata-America after the judge sentenced thirteen workers to life imprisonment on 18th March.

Relations became increasingly close post June 2011 amongst 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 the other in order to reestablish control. Despite the concessions, on the evening of 18 July 2012, four thousand workers of Shifts A and B, attacked two symbols of the wages system - managers and factory buildings. This was not a sudden outburst of anger. The question was: Why should any one be a wage worker? The radiance arising from this knock to end wage work reached all over the world. A possibility of that radiance spreading through thousands of factories in the Industrial Model Town of Manesar and nearby industrial areas emerged. But that did not come to pass.

In this scenario:

- The government, scared by the radiance, 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 radiance and the chairman called it class war. The management of the Manesar factory discharged 546 permanent workers and dismissed three thousand apprentices, trainees, workers hired through contractor companies.

- Central trade unions, scared by the radiance, immediately constituted a committee of sixteen 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, making Gurgaon the arena for further action. Temporary workers did not get entangled with the committee. But the discharged 546 permanent workers and the friends, comrades and families of the 147 jailed workers became as if bonded to the committee of the sixteen union leaders, like a captive audience. Within six months, the committee breathed its last. But those using aggressive language moved the demonstrations-hunger strikes two hundred kilometres away to the rural environs of Kaithal. At the end of a year, on 18 July 2013, under the umbrella of 19-23 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 revolutionary groups, scared by the radiance, denied the very radiance ignited by the workers. For them, workers are poor and helpless, and there is no such thing as acts by workers. According to activists and revolutionary groups, workers need direction from others even to resolve daily problems. In their view, workers merely react. For the activists and revolutionaries, who are experts in reacting, governments-companies-capital act, and the people-workers react. And so, activists and revolutionary groups fabricated a story for 18 July 2012 also: 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 radiance. 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 revolutionary groups go well with the liberals. Liberal reporters and liberal lawyers readily lapped up the stories on Maruti Manesar fabricated by activists and 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 pro-worker manager farce.

Managers in terror

Factory managers in Faridabad were scared of the radiance ignited by the workers at Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory on 18 July 2012. Every branch of the state in India was in consensus regarding removing the fear of this radiance from the hearts and minds of the company higherups here and the Chairmen-MD-CEOs of corporations in Japan, America, Europe. Towards that end, it is as per the scriptures to spread terror amongst 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 commandoes were of course there. And middlepersons trained by protocols of worker control continued playing their role in spreading terror among workers through their shenanigans-writings-speeches-pamphlets-posters.

‘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 the stationing of 600 commandoes, 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. Be it workers of Palwal district at the Prithla- Baghola industrial area or the workers of Dhruv Global and Lakhani Vardhan group factories at Faridabad. Managers and directors fled from factories terror stricken by the workers in Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon in February 2015. The fearlessness of women workers in the tea estates in Munnar, Kerala who chased away middlepersons, is another example. Without any middlepersons, 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 4th and 10th January 2016, 2400 fearless workers of Lucas TVS factory aged 18-20 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 accordingly mere 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 sides, company officers, government officers, activists, 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 declaring one or two days' boycott of lunch in the factory canteens when the judgment convicting workers was announced. One hour tool down in Maruti Suzuki group of factories after the sentence was pronounced. The government, assuaged now by sunday struggles [1], allowed unions to hold a meeting at IMT Manesar on 23 March. That meeting was organized by forty unions from IMT and surrounding industrial areas at the end of the A shift in the factories and was attended by five to seven thousands. Despite the large turnout, union leaders in speech after speech talked of going to the High Court in 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. As per law, permanent workers alone can become members of factory unions. As per 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 condone 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 conversations, 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.

Lets have 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 eighteen thousand and eight hundred rupees. Then, in the three-year settlement in September 2015, permanent workers wages were increased by sixteen thousand rupees. The wages of young permanent workers at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory is in the range of fifty to sixty thousand rupees. The Maruti management was so pleased with the settlement of September 2015 that it gave a gift of three thousand rupees to every permanent worker. And on 26 September, the day after the settlement was announced by leaders, four hundred temporary workmen refused to enter the factory for the morning 6:30 am 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 collected at the factory gate. Immediately some men from the fourteen villages adopted by the Maruti Suzuki company, reached the factory in vehicles and clashed with the workers collected 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 1440 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 from the April 2017 issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. Email: majdoorsamachartalmel@gmail.com

1. For more on Sunday struggles, refer to July 2016 issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. Write to us for English translations. Email: majdoorsamachartalmel@gmail.com

Frontier
May 12, 2017


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