august 4, 2012 vol xlviI no 31
Economic & Political
‘Maruti Workers Are the Villains’: Truth or Prejudice?
The events of 18 July in theManesar plant of Maruti Suzuki which ended with the murder of a company manager were not asudden conﬂagration. Anger atthe plant had been building up formonths over the management’srefusal to recognise an electedunion; workers were increasingly frustrated over their inability toexercise their constitutional rightsand the demand of equal pay forequal work was falling on deaf ears. Rather than portray the workers as villains, managementsin this industrial belt of Haryanahave to ask themselves why they have not been able to develop ademocratic industrial relationsframework that can address theconcerns of workers.
n Tuesday, 24 July, a Maruti Su-zuki worker,
from Sonepatsaid that though he had donenothing on 18 July – the day the Manesarplant witnessed large-scale violenceending in the death of an executive of the company – he was coming to surren-der to the Gurgaon police because thepolice were threatening his family witharrest of his father if they could not ﬁnd
. He said he was working in the
-shift in the Manesar plant in the paintshop when violence broke out on 18 July but his ﬁrst name matched the name of one of the 51 workers listed in the ﬁrstinformation report (
) ﬁled by Deepak Anand, general manager at MarutiSuzuki. Some of us tried to meet
andtalk to him before he presented himself to the police, but he was picked up by the Gurgaon police and his family wastold he would be taken to the Manesarpolice station where the
was regis-tered. However, until the time of writing(24 July),
could not be traced eitherat the Gurgaon police station of Sector17-
which picked him up or at theManesar police station where he was tobe presented since the
was lodged atthis station. According to an unconﬁrmed report,the Haryana police has detained the uncleof
, an executive committee memberof the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union(
), because they are unable to locate
himself. Another worker is afraid toseek medical help for fear of arrest andtorture by the police. He is a
-shift worker who injured himself while ﬂee-ing the factory premises on the eveningof 18 July and is afraid to meet anyone orseek medical help.Workers’ colonies near the Manesarplant are deserted. Police swept throughthe area and went up to Jhajjar andRohtak on the night of 18 July to pick upany worker wearing a Maruti Suzukiuniform or carrying a company identity card.
The Haryana police, administra-tion and the Maruti Suzuki managementhave managed to terrorise Maruti workersinto silence and forced them under-ground. This strategy has worked wellfor Maruti Suzuki management as it hashad all the freedom to present only its version of what is purported to havetranspired on the evening of 18 July. A handful of workers we managed tospeak to were unanimous in the viewthat the death of the Maruti Suzukiexecutive Awanish Kumar Dev “shouldnot have happened”. According to a worker, Awanish Dev had agreed to takeback Jiya Lal, the suspended worker, who had protested caste abuse by a su-pervisor during the
-shift on 18 July,but then Awanish Dev got a call froma senior, instructing him otherwise.Naresh Narwal, additional labour com-missioner, and Gurgaon district admin-istration ofﬁcials told a joint trade uniondelegation that they too had received word that Maruti Suzuki managementhad agreed to take back the suspended worker the next day on 19 July and thatthe matter was almost resolved. Some
-shift workers we spoke to report hear-ing the same.What happened in the matter of a cou-ple of minutes that changed the courseof events that evening? Was it the phonecall from a senior manager, reversingthe understanding and agreement withthe union? Were the union leaders whoprotested the alleged reversal of thedecision threatened inside that negoti-ating room? Did union members rushinto the negotiating room to protecttheir leaders who they feared werebeing threatened or attacked? Or was itthe case that some people dressed in workers’ uniforms carrying “weapons”entered the room and started thrashingmanagers, exhorting workers who weremilling outside the room to follow theirlead, and these instigators refused tolisten to union leaders who pleaded withthem to stop and drop their weapons?Was the ﬁre deliberately started or was it an accident, a short-circuit? Was
Rakhi Sehgal (
) is vice-president of the Hero Honda ThekaMazdoor Sangathan which is afﬁliated to theNew Trade Union Initiative.