Who Is Responsible for the Violence in Maruti Suzuki?

After an eerie silence of almost nine months, confrontation between the workers and management once again flared up in Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant (near Delhi), which had witnessed a series of strikes last year. In a fresh bout of conflagration on the 19th July 2012, the workers again rose against the arbitrariness of the management, leading to a bloody clash between them, in which the General Manager (Human Resources) was killed when fire broke in one portion of the plant and as per the company’s official statement, 100 employees were seriously injured. But no one knows, neither cared to find out how many workers were hurt or injured.

According to various reports that appeared in the media, the incident occurred after a worker was abused by the shop-floor supervisor who used a derogatory casteist remark against him. Subsequently the management also suspended the same worker Jiya Lal from work. This act of the supervisor was protested by the fellow workers, and a scuttle broke between them.

The worker’s got agitated when the management deferred its decision to reinstate Jiya Lal till next day. To quell any workers demand, MSIL (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.) has institutionalised the practise of calling in armed goons (popularly referred to as bouncers). This tactic of theirs proved very effective in derailing last years strike and preventing any worker from airing their grievance openly. So as expected the goons were called; who on their arrival immediately closed the gates of the factory premises and started physically assaulting the workers inside the plant with sharp weapons and arms. The workers retaliated in self defence and a scuffle started, which led to some people being injured and the GM, being killed when he was engulfed in the fire that had broken in one part of the premise.

The MSIL management which for past couple of years have come to symbolise the true face of ‘corporate governance’ and also representing multi national capital, came into full swing. The Manesar plant was locked out and the entire incident was portrayed as another criminal act of the workers. The company issued a communiqué blaming the workers responsible for the entire melee and terming them as vandals and murderers.

The Haryana government that has always acted as the extended arm of capital was quickly to deploy its senior police officers, the Director General of Police (Haryana) R. S. Dalal, came to the scene of violence on the 19th July and vowed to take strict action against the culprit. ‘We are going to take stern action against the guilty,’ he told reporters, adding nothing can justify this kind of violence. So without any investigation or enquiry conducted with one stroke the final judgement was pronounced. The workers of the plant are guilty. And then it was time for action. Normally the police force who are always seen as shirking from their duty and are notorious for dragging a case for years nay decades, swung into action. By the end of the day, around 100 workers were arrested and sent to judicial custody. Having been slapped with various charges; including rioting with weapons, murder, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, assault and trespass. A cursory look at these charges suggests the malafide intention of the administration How can a worker who was in the plant be charged with unlawful assembly or trespass? The ‘hunt’ for the still absconding workers continues and with the swiftness that the Haryana police has shown it will be a matter of few days before all the ‘culprits’ are nabbed and put behind the bars. Though it is still not clear whether the death occurred due to inhaling of fumes as a result of fire or due to burning.

The corporate media true to its allegiance to the capital left no stone unturned to portray the workers and the trade union as villains out to derail the country’s ‘stupendous’ progress. Day in and day out both the print and electronic media painted the entire story as an act of vandalism and murder by the workers of the plant supported by the leftist trade unions, who want to bring back the old militancy in the peaceful industrial development of the country. The government went a step ahead and claimed that Maoists have infiltrated the trade unions in the region and are out to destroy the industries. It, as per the newspapers report, has asked the Intelligence Bureau to start investigating the role of Maoist influenced trade unions in the region. Thus in coming days we will witness further harassing of the trade union leaders particularly of the radical left, who would now be termed as Maoists and thus becoming an easy prey of the management to quell any workers organising. Indian McCarthyism has started.

Whatever the public relations department of the companies or the media – that has itself become a PR vehicle of the capitalist’s – say or write, the simmering discontent that has been brewing among the working class in the entire country cannot be brushed aside.

The anger at shop floor – even though the workers are on the defensive owing to the weakening of traditional trade unions and the changing character of industrial employment – is growing and the more neo-liberal policies are implemented the antagonism between the working class and capital will intensify. The workers are feeling the pressure of the decline of real wages which have declined continuously for the last 15 years. The companies to circumvent the labour laws resorted to a contractual work force; who are paid well below the minimum wage norm with no security like Provident Fund, Gratuity etc. and job assurance. The policy of hire and fire, contractualisation, casualisation has become the norm to run a factory. This helps the owners to extract more profits while having to dole out a minimum in terms of wage and benefits. The government and labour department are well aware of these but turn a blind eye or actively connive with the capitalists so as to attract the manna known as Foreign Direct Investment, much to the chagrin of the common masses and particularly the working class. It would be worth noting that in Haryana it is almost impossible to get an independent trade union registered, and without registration a person trying to organise the workers has no locus standi in the eyes of law. This phenomenon of deliberate weakening trade unions and the trend of contractualisation, of the work force particularly in the traditional industrial segment needs to be discussed seriously by the trade unions and activists so that a way out can be formulated. With an overtly pro-capital administration, capitulationist trade unions of the parliamentary left and a hopelessly fragmented radical left, it seems that the workers would have to bear the brunt of the .onslaught of capital.

But then, is not the birth of a new order fraught with pain?

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