The saga of struggle in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki that has unfolded over the past two years has both wrenched our hearts as well as filled it with hope. The courage and fortitude with which the workers and their families have carried on the struggle has been remarkable. At the same time, the unflinching posture assumed by the state and our political leaders in open and unqualified favour of the multinational auto manufacturer has once again underlined the skewed power relations in this country that prides itself on its vibrant democracy. The right to association, to a life with dignity and freedom of expression seems clearly dispensable against the weight of corporate interests.
The incident of18th July that led to the death of a HR Manager snowballed into international news. However, what was not reported was the way the Haryana police literally hunted down workers from their homes and even the streets. After the first few days of frenzied arrests, the police started picking up people to their own admission according to a list supplied by the management. 546 permanent workers were terminated along with 1,800 contract workers. The shop floor was conveniently purged of all those who had been part of the previous process of unionization or had ever dared to question unfair labour practices. The force with which the company, the government and unfortunately also the media has been putting forth the fact of a manager’s death serves to hide numerous other facts. Facts such as the prime witnesses presented by the company naming the accused in alphabetical order; such as the ever vigilant CCTV cameras being inexplicably switched off; such as the absolutely instrumental role played by the one manager who died in the incident in the registration of the Workers Union; and the presence of 100 hired bouncers in the premises. Instead, a sum of Rs 1.43 crore has been paid to the Public Prosecutor who in contravention to his mandate of representing the law of the land has turned a deaf ear to all these and other such inconsistencies in the management’s account. The workers have been demanding an independent enquiry into the incident because of the explicit bias of the Special Investigation Team of the Haryana Police, but to no avail. Evidently, all the arguments and requests being made by the workers have been conveniently set aside by branding their protests as that of “Ultras”, where even asking for one’s basic Constitutional rights appear as stretching the limits of democracy and in that having the verdict as good as passed against them even before the charges have been framed.
For the workers, 18th July has never been the defining moment of their agony. The enormous workload, the absolute denial of any paid leave and the deduction of almost 50% of the monthly salary on account of just a few days of absence are what constitute the major part of their narrative of the Maruti story. The 2,600 employed on contractual basis would add to this list the pittance they received as a salary, life under the constant threat of losing their jobs, no transportation facility and the added humiliation and harassment at the hands of the contractors. It is no wonder then that the promise of their own union, a collective which could voice these countless personal agonies that none of them could individually raise, has been so precious to the workers and even their families. More precious than any “package” that was offered to them to surrender this one right, more precious even than the job many of them had worked so hard to get, in a
We invite you to be a part of a solidarity program along with Achin Vanaik; Anand Swaroop Verma; Arundhati Roy; Ashok Bhowmick; Bhasha Singh; Manglesh Dabral; Maya Rao; Pankaj Bisht; Praful Bidwai; Professor Jagmohan; Prashant Bhushan; Rahul Ram; Rajinder Sachar and others to express support and solidarity for the struggle of the workers of Maruti Suzuki.
Date: Saturday, July 13 Time: 3pm to 6pm,Venue: The Indian Society International Law
auditorium, Bhagwan Das Road, New Delhi.
world where they knew that another such job would not be easy to come by having once been thrown out of a company like Maruti.
The Chandigarh High Court verdict dismissing the bail application of nine workers who have been in jail since July 2012 states, “The incident is a most unfortunate occurrence which has lowered the reputation of India in the estimation of the world. Foreign investors are not likely to invest their money in India out of fear of labour unrest.” On one hand, stand all the prospective foreign investors that India might have ever had, on the other, the entire lives of 147 innocent young men and their families. The fear of labour unrest among foreign investors that the Honourable High Court is so keen to allay is one deeply grounded in the knowledge of the brutally oppressive and exploitative work conditions prevalent across manufacturing units in the country.
Today in July, 2013, the entire past year weighs heavy on the hearts of the countless members of the workers’ families who have, every new day, been expecting relief. Not only has relief not been forthcoming but every attempt that they have made to appeal to the government has faced the threat of severe repression, precipitating finally on the 19th of May when Haryana Police contingents from six districts confronted and brutally lathi-charged workers and family members on their way to the state’s industrial minister to seek justice and to protest the arrest of 100 workers the night before from a peaceful demonstration in front of the District Commissioner’s office. Moreover, the workers and their families are now being denied any space to voice their protest, with all their appeals for permission to continue their peaceful demonstration at any given site being met with steady refusal. Manesar has been veritably turned into a militarized zone with heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces in the entire industrial area and permission being denied to any program being organized by trade unions or workers organization, extending even to as basic a freedom of expression as distributing a pamphlet. Such are the conditions, in which the workers have decided to launch afresh their attempts to be heard by our administrators and have declared a peaceful demonstration and an indefinite hunger strike in Manesar starting on 18th July, 2013. In our opinion, such a challenge to the abject denial of their democratic rights by the workers will not only lend courage to the numerous other voices lying buried under the glitzy story of mounting profits in the entire industrial area, but also to all other democratic voices in the country struggling to be heard.
The treatment being meted out to the workers of Maruti and their family is a message to the people of the entire country that no argument for justice or rights shall be considered in the face of encouraging “development” and investment at any cost. On the passing of a year since the incident which has now come to epitomize the strong hand of corporate influence over justice and democracy; in the glow of the determination of the workers to continue their struggle against the many odds that face them; sharing their spirit and courage, we appeal to you to stand in solidarity with the struggling workers of Maruti Suzuki and against the ongoing ridicule of democratic rights. Further, to create a common platform for our messages of solidarity to the workers’ ongoing struggle movement and to send a clear signal to the administration and the judiciary that the people of this country will not remain silent bystanders to the violation of all democratic rights, let us meet on July 13. Your presence and support will go a long way!
Immediately Release All Arrested Workers of Maruti!
Stop the Routine Violation of Democratic Rights!
Stop Favouring Profits over People!