Following the unfortunate death of a senior manager of Maruti-Suzuki's Manesar plant on 18th July, 2012, state terror has been unleashed against workers in the Manesar industrial belt in Gurgaon District of Haryana. Section 144 has been imposed in the entire area. The Haryana police have arrested over a hundred workers and their leaders and locked them up indefinitely. The annual joint rally organised by trade unions in the area on 25th July each year, to mark the large-scale terror that was unleashed on Honda workers on that day in 2005, was banned this year. A climate has been created in which any worker who raises his or her voice in defence of workers’ rights is treated as a criminal and liable to be arrested. Most Maruti Suzuki workers have fled their homes. After declaring an indefinite lockout, the Suzuki management has threatened to throw out at least 1000 workers and hire new ones in their place, before reopening the plant.
Turning truth on its head, and covering up their premier role in creating the present situation, the capitalist owners of Maruti Suzuki and the Haryana government have been spreading disinformation day in and day out through the paid monopoly print and electronic media, alleging that the violence on July 18 was the result of a "conspiracy" on the part of workers. The workers views are not heard because their leaders are in jail. Sensationalised programs have been aired in TV channels, in which the Chairman of Maruti Suzuki in India, RC Bhargava, has alleged, without a shred of evidence that the violence in the plant was “pre-planned” and the handiwork of Maoists. The reason he advanced for his belief was that allegedly there was no outstanding problems between the capitalist owners and the workers of the plant, after the settlement reached at the end of the last strike in October 2011! This is a total falsification of the truth.
The Suzuki management went on overdrive to torment the workers ever since the end of the last strike. In April 2012, the Union put forth a charter of demands which included regularization of the large number of contract and casual workers, and wage hike for all workers. In gross violation of the Contract Labour Act, the company bases its production on a majority of contract labour. (Bhargava has publicly admitted in front of the whole world that “only” 60% of the nearly 3000 workers of the Manesar plant were on contract!) Negotiations have been going on between the Union and the Company over the Charter of demands, and no head way had taken place. The Company has tried to weaken the authority of the Union through various ways. Frustrated at the Company’s anti worker attitude, workers had resorted to peaceful forms of protest like boycotting the pre-shift meeting with supervisors. Precisely at this time, a worker was suspended after he objected to being insulted by a supervisor for not participating in the pre shift meeting. The union demanded revocation of this suspension, or simultaneously suspending the guilty supervisor. According to reports, the Company first agreed to take back the suspension, and then reneged on its promise, making the workers even angrier.
If the conditions were so harmonious, how come there were 70 armed policemen stationed at the gate of the plant? This is apart from 150 hired goondas who can always be seen at the gate. According to workers, goondas marched inside the HR office near the gate and began roughing up the workers leaders who were engaged in negotiations, while the police waited outside the gate. Enraged by the attacks on their leaders, the workers fought back. According to the police who are investigating the incidents, it now turns out that not more than 100 workers were involved. The jury is still out as to whether the HR manager was attacked by the goondas or by the workers.
The Communist Ghadar Party of India condemns the Haryana government for unleashing the reign of terror against the workers of Maruti Suzuki. The CGPI calls upon all communists and workers organisations to stand firmly in defence of the Maruti Suzuki workers, and unitedly expose and oppose the disinformation campaign of the bourgeoisie and the government.
The real conspiracy
Gurgaon district is a major hub for automobiles and auto parts manufacture, garment exports, and pharmaceuticals, IT and IT enabled services, and so on. Over 5 lakh industrial workers work in the belt. Over 1.5 lakh workers work in the call centers. Apart from this, are the lakhs of workers in other services.
How did Gurgaon district get transformed from a cluster of sleepy villages into a bustling ultra modern township of over 1.5 million in just two decades? This has not happened by chance. It has happened as a result of the ruthless implementation of the program of globalization through liberalization and privatization over this period. The most favorable conditions have been created for Indian and foreign capital to make colossal profits.
The state has completely abdicated its responsibility to even ensure that the labour laws of the country are implemented. The majority of the companies operating in the belt, including auto and auto parts, as well as garment export, extract colossal profits through maximizing the hiring of contract workers. In the case of the garment export industry, the figure is more than 90 %. They produce all the top brands which are marketed in London, New York and other major cities across the world. These workers are not even paid minimum wages.
The laws that prevent hiring of women in night services are routinely violated by the biggest multinationals.
The capitalist owners of most companies have a band of permanent hired goons to intimidate workers and prevent them from organizing themselves into a union. The labour department of the government has been instructed to ignore the flagrant violation of labour laws taking place in front of everyone’s eyes. It has been instructed to assist the capitalists in preventing the workers from forming unions of their choice. The capitalist owners, in league with the government, are forcing unions to not seek affiliation with trade union federations, they are imposing that unions must not deal with the demands of contract workers, and that they must have no experienced activists from the class from outside the factory as their members.
The big capitalists and the central and state governments have made maximizing the degree of exploitation of labour the cornerstone of their policy to attract maximum investment by capitalist monopolies of the world. This is the source of the inevitable class conflicts that are breaking out in one factory after another in Gurgaon district.
Super exploitation in the auto industry
The Industrial Township of Manesar (IMT) is 30 Km from Gurgaon city. A major hub for the auto industry, it already houses several leading global auto monopolies including Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda and Suzuki, who have also made colossal investments in Manesar’s real estate. It also houses numerous auto parts companies.
The central Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has published an Automotive Mission Plan, 2006-16, which reveals that the Central Government has been encouraging state governments to ensure that every such auto hub in our country becomes a“destination of choice in the world for the design and manufacture of automobiles and auto components”.
The Mission Plan includes proposals for state governments to use their powers under Section 65(2) of the Factories Act to grant exemption from the legal protection of workers’ rights provided by the Industrial Disputes Act, to export oriented auto companies and other capitalist investors in special zones such as Manesar. In particular, it recommends that legally permitted working hours be increased from 48 to 60 hours per week, and from 9 to 11 hours per day. It also recommends that contract labour be allowed in core areas for “temporary periods” to meet market demand, and eventually be allowed on a permanent basis.
A typical worker in the auto industry in India today works 1 hour and 12 minutes for himself and the rest for the capitalist owners. A decade ago, he worked 2 hours and 12 minutes for himself and the rest of the day for the capitalist owners. (Mazdoor Ekta Lehar, August 1-15, 2012 issue). Government policy has greatly facilitated this intensification of exploitation of the auto sector workers.
The average cost of labour power in the auto industry in India is about half that in China, one fifth of Brazil, less than one-tenth of South Korea and less than one-twentieth of that in the US and Japan. Why should our workers be paid such a low fraction as compared to others in the world, when they have proved themselves to be no less productive?
Blame the capitalists and the State, not the workers!
The source of the problem lies in the denial by the monopoly capitalists and the central and state governments that workers have the right to claim a share in the surplus they create. It lies in the subordination of workers’ rights to the greed of the monopoly capitalists. It is this that lies at the heart of the many powerful struggles that have erupted time and again in the Gurgaon Manesar belt. Workers fight for their just rights. The ruling class arrogantly denies them their rights. It resorts to brute force and repression.
Orient Craft Private Limited, a garment export company was in the news in March 2012. The company — a top export house which runs 21 factories in India, supplying clients in Europe and the US, has nearly 90% of its workforce hired on contract. The workers work 12-16 hours a day, and are paid less than the statutory minimum wages. To deprive them of even these meager wages, the contractor used to throw out workers before pay day, hiring new workers in their stead. He also used to physically assault workers with weapons, taking advantage of their vulnerability. When the cup filled to the brim, workers of the factory were joined by thousands of workers of the nearby companies in protests that spilled onto the streets. Hundreds of workers were charged with rioting and arson. Nothing happened to the capitalist owner.
RICO Auto, an auto components plant in Manesar, was in the news in August 2009, when the workers formed a union. The capitalist owners of RICO declared a lockout. Hired goons killed and burnt a worker inside the factory on October 18, 2009. The whole of Gurgaon District erupted in protest. On October 20, 2009 around 100,000 workers of 70 to 80 different factories in the belt went on strike in solidarity with the RICO workers. Workers organizations demanded punishment for those responsible for the heinous murder. However the Haryana government ensured this was never done. Instead, it intervened in the negotiations to ensure that most of the leaders were not taken back to work.
The struggle of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter workers (HMSI) in 2005 was a landmark. These workers, joined by thousands others, blocked the National Highway. Police violence was used to clear the Highway. The workers were called for negotiations with the authorities at the mini secrteatiat. Within the premises of the mini secretariat, police unleashed a preplanned bloodbath. There was an all India opposition to this fascist onslaught. Faced with the country wide condemnation, the HMSI owners had to come to a settlement with the union. This marked the beginning of a tide of unions being formed, as well as of massive solidarity actions of workers in the belt implementing the slogan “An attack on one, is an attack on all”.
Working men and women have the right to the eight hour day. They have the right to regularization of their employment contracts, and all other rights that are recognized in the Industrial Disputes Act. They have the right to form unions of their choice to defend and fight for their rights, and to take the assistance of experienced organisers of the class. Why should any worker be permanently kept on contract basis, with no security of tenure?
So-called economic growth that tramples on the fundamental rights of those whose toil creates the wealth is not acceptable and must not be allowed to pass.
The Communist Ghadar Party calls on all communists, all parties and organisations of the working class, and all women and men of conscience, to raise their voices in defence of the rights of the workers.
Condemn the fascist terror unleashed against workers!
Super-exploitation of workers cannot be the condition for the country’s progress!