indiatimes.com/the-mainstream- maverick/entry/manesar-class- struggle-of-the-21st-century
Manesar: Class Struggle of the 21st Century
While right wing sections inside the media, fanatically anti-working class bloggers, vested interest in the Haryana establishment, and other sundry forces are baying for Trade Union/Communist blood in the unfortunate incidents that took place inside the Maruti-Suzuki plant at Manesar, sober assessment reveals a different picture.
1991, the year that inaugurated new economic policies and the liberalization drive, marked also the emergence of new ideas regarding the management of productive forces. Large Public Sector sections were dismantled. Enormous human and domestic/foreign capital resources were placed in the hands of private corporate players. In the name of fiscal management, State expenditure was sought to be restricted. But perhaps, most importantly, production relations between labour and capital, workers and management, were altered.
Foreign Direct Investment in the manufacturing sector brought in foreigners in management as well. The new management structures—that included Indians and foreigners—were inculcated with a new work ethic that placed growth above workers welfare: but the crucial change rested in the way the new management culture downplayed the cultural sensitivities of the Indian worker.
In a famous case that took place last year in the Honda factory of Haryana’s industrial belt, foreign trained Indian managers refused to allow workers to celebrate Vishvakarma Pooja. In the Hindu pantheon, Vishvakarma is the lord of tools and workers—his birthday is normally a holiday, no less relevant than Ram Naumi, Buddha Jayanti or the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
Workers worship their tools on Vishvakarma Diwas. In Honda, a worker was assaulted by the supervisor when, the latter tried applying a teeka on the former’s head. Indian workers have their own definition of what constitutes `hard work’. It includes whiling away time, bonding with fellow workers, and then putting in extra work at the right time. Also, the sense of impersonal hierarchy is alien to Indian workers. They can respect an angrez who mingles with them; but they will boycott Indian managers trying to put up foreign airs and indulging in unfamiliar hierarchical behaviour.
Foreign—especially American, German and Japanese personals—were often found dumbfounded by these cultural practices. Because of historic factors—the traditional resistance of the Hindi-Urdu belt to British Imperialism, the rugged-peasant masculinity and sense of honour—dubbed mistakenly, `pre-modern’ by social analysts—the management Vs worker clash was more severe in post-liberalization, North Indian factories.
In the 1990s and 2000s, India saw substantial creation of wealth. The culture of malls and new units in service sector and manufacturing, inducted a new working force emerging from Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. The management culture in force looked more towards casual, contract labour.
Affiliated either to Communists, Congress, and BJP-Shiv Sena—or practicing Dutta Samant type syndicalism—the old Unions were unable to read the modern times. After failing miserably in creating space for casual/contract labour, they started losing their grip over old working class centres as well.
Interestingly, the Gurgaon-NCR based factories flirted at first with CITU and AITUC, the Trade Unions respectively of the CPM and the CPI. The workers—most of them in their twenties—young, restless and ambitious—however, soon grew tired of old negotiating skills of traditional Unions. It is symptomatic that last year, the Manesar Maruti-Suzuki plant, saw the emergence of a new Union with a new, younger leadership. Sonu Gujjar, the erstwhile chief of the Union, typified the novel, 21st century worker. By presenting the viewpoints of workers through con-calls and other modern techniques, Sonu Gujjar grabbed national headlines. His colleagues wanted their own voice, independent of the management, to be heard.
Indeed this contemporary worker, especially in North India/Hindi-Urdu heartland, was both more rooted and cosmopolitan. Unlike his counterpart of 1970s and 1980s, who hailed mainly from a landless labour, poor peasant or a pauperized proletariat background, the contemporary worker came from middle to upper-middle peasant backdrop. In Indian terms, he belonged to a khaata-peeta milieu—he was much more capable of acting on his own. He was part of the North Indian pattidari village community system that ensured both bonding and individuality. He had learned how to fight while growing up, without getting inflicted with the scars of the lumpen proletariat. Averse to slow paced, constitutional ways, he found the quick action recommended by radical Left activists—or `on their own’ marka angry young men—far more attractive.
This contemporary worker disliked both the detached persona of the foreign manager as well as the philistine, pseudo-personalized approach of Indian mangers. He was as impatient with the taalu-chaalu andaaz of the foreigners as with the baniagiri of Indian executives.
In March 2012, while the Manesar plant was facing wage negotiations between the new Union and the management, two workers shocked the managers with their statistical knowledge. The workers knew exactly that between 2007 and 2011 while the Maruti Suzuki workers’ yearly earnings increased by 5.5 percent, the consumer price index (for the Faridabad centre, Haryana), went up by over 50 per cent. Since 2001, profits for the Maruti Suzuki company increased by 2200 percent!
So in any case, the Maruti Suzuki management was throwing crumbs at the workers. The workers’ salary was in no way, by any yardstick, commensurate with the rise in Company’s profit. Yet the Manesar plant management was not ready to grant even a miniscule wage increase. Here, while contract labor got Rs. 7000 a month, regular workers survived on a mere Rs. 17000. Manesar workers were demanding wage increase of Rs. 15-18000, which the management was resisting, even when Honda workers were getting similar pay scales.
In this period of global crisis, the Maruti section(Swift and Dzire cars) was contributing more to Maruti Suzuki’s super profits. There seems to be immense pressure on the management to reduce wages in the name of increasing productivity. But why should Indian workers always suffer during a downward spiral cycle of global capitalism?
The problem is that post-liberalization India has no idea of 1857, India’s first war of Independence. The Bengal Army of the East India Company, which remained at the forefront of the war’s long and torturous course, comprised of soldiers from the Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar belt. They rebelled against what was seen as the insensitivity of a multinational company—the world’s largest that managed a huge country like India plus other colonial stations—towards the sense of dignity, pride and religion of both Hindus and Muslims.
It is imperative to note that the Manesar incident arose following an anti-Dalit, caste slur issued by a supervisor to Jiya Lal, a worker. Then Jat-Gujar-Tyagi-Dalit workers—belonging to the Haryana region—and UP-Bihar Poorabias—united to give a fitting reply to the miscreants belonging to the management. The management brought in hundreds of bouncers to beat workers to submission. In fact, the official statement of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union, states that the bouncers started the fire that killed a senior manager.
So class solidarity overcame caste divisions—a similar phenomenon occurred during 1857.
Both 1857 and Manesar incidents arose out of cultural slights inflicted by an insensitive foreign/part-foreign management. At the other end of the spectrum, it can be seen that like the Manesar incident, the cultural aspect of 1857 carried a slew of wage related issues, and other socio-economic grievances, nursed by soldiers against the British East India Company.
It can be seen clearly that though India runs on the workforce of UP, Bihar, Delhi and Haryana, the people of these regions have historically resisted the homogeneity, uniformity and conformity demanded by global corporate culture. These workers demand their own indigenous-capitalist ethic, different from the west. They are in no mood to comply. Be it Gujarat or whatever take, Maruti Suzuki anywhere—Gujarat is not India. But UP, Bihar, Delhi and Haryana do constitute India. The country is finished without these states. As the author signs off this article, news about certain Jat sections of the Haryana establishment dividing Jats and Gujars and undermining workers’ solidarity is pouring in—massive police repression has been unleashed on workers. Without a proper enquiry, workers are being blamed for the Manesar violence. Such tactics however are not going to work—after twenty years of enormous liberalization, India is on the threshold of a gigantic working class unrest. Indian people regard economic reform and the English speaking managerial elite with disdain. They have tasted wealth—but they also know that, foreigners and their lackeys have amassed riches a thousand times over. With people of North Indian origin—their culture of constructive violence and non-submission to power intact—leading this battle, the stage is set for new class struggles of the 21st century. Like the Anna Hazare movement of August 2011, the Manesar incident has taken all political parties by surprise. Their political response system is simply, not attuned to the new, 21st century Indian reality.Comments:
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Rajesh Upadhyay (Delhi) says:
July 23,2012 at 01:30 PM IST
While references to 'gujrat' may have been avoided in this article and so the 'glorification' of UP, Bihar, haryana... There is no doubt that the article raises the most relevant points that the mainstream media is trying to hide and avoid. Any body who claims to be on the side of justice cant agree that the workers be given only 5.5% raise when the price index goes up by 50% and company's profit goes up by 2200%. The Marutii management should take the responsiblity of creating the situation for such incidents. The labour deptt has been a silent spectator of the violation of rights of workers who had to for strikes for a minimum democratic right of getting their union registered. If the system thinks it can use the 'investment' illusion to convert the workers to mere slaves, the Indian society is not going to tolerate it. Support voices for workers have already started gaining ground. There was a demonstration at Haryana Bhawan in Delhi on 21st July for justice to workers. And this support process continues.
Harsh (India) says:
July 23,2012 at 12:35 PM IST
There is some thing seriously wrong in management admission or in the training as very low HQ people get the job that bound to create problem. The human nature and behavior basically depend on the natural climatic conditions of that particular region and place. It is very much necessary the working conditions have to be managed according to that and global generalization of rules and regulation in human management is wrong. In most tropical country, the human output is low and it has natural reason. The management policies have to strike proper balance between the business demand, requirements and limitations posed by the natural constraints, then only the problems of unnecessary shut down can be minimized.
Sharma M C L (Bangalore) says:
July 23,2012 at 12:07 PM IST
Although the killing of a Maruti executive is not pardonable, the overall approach and demand of the Maruti workers are justified. The workers are right in demanding their religious culture to be practised. Managers cannot stop the workers from performing Vishwakarma worship. In reality, it is the aggression of North Indian Hindus that has saved Hinduism in India. If North Indians were weak then the British or Mughals would have wiped out Hinduism from India
Vee (North India) says:
July 23,2012 at 11:28 AM IST
To, The editor and web site handler and the mainstream maniac Times of India Sirs Is this man who has wrote the above article sane? "Gujarat is not India" are his words. This writer is absurd in his thought process. He further wrote " united to give a fitting reply to the miscreants belonging to the management. People like him are the major reason that we the people of India are suffering from caste-ism and violence. The stage is not set for a class struggle but should be set to give this writer to suffer out of his north Indian constructive violence. If this writer is attuned to his own reality least he should do is reply to all the comments to this article and apologize to the Indians.
Anonymous (Mumbai) says:
July 23,2012 at 11:12 AM IST
After reading this blog, I read the blogger's profile twice and, I am not at all surprised in what he has blogged. The comparison to the '1857 uprising', 'Gujurat is not India', 'constructive violence',etc.etc.(mercifully he did not drag Narendra Modi in to this. Perhaps, in his excitement he simply forgot!) , all fits into his 'dalit/minority/human right activist' profile. I have now come up with what I would to call as the 'ACTIVIST THEOREM' and I think it is time tested and proven true on several occasions. And, it runs like this: THE SUCCESS OF ANY ACTIVIST(HUMAN OR ANIMAL RIGHTS) IS DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL TO OUTRAGEOUS STATEMENT HE/SHE MAKES PUBLICLY OR POSITIONS HE/SHE TAKES.SUCCESS VANISHES WHEN THE ACTIVIST STOPS MAKING/TAKING OUTRAGEOUS STATEMENTS/POSITIONS. Here are some examples to support it: 1) An 'activist' says J & K should be part of Pakistan. This activist will be on on TV channels Prime time panel discussion and allowed to make even more ridiculous statements. 2) An 'animal activist' says that 'stray dogs and mad dogs which maim and bite people should be treated with love, affection and compassion.Actually, it is the human beings which drive these poor animals mad.
(Reply to Anonymous)-
P P Rajagopalan (Chennai) says:
July 23,2012 at 12:15 PM IST 4 Followers
Silver : 782
After replying to your earlier post, I once again read Amaresh Misra's article. Yes, there is a tinge of parochialism in it. I also agree with you that controversial positioning is a passport to get into limelight! But that does not alter the overall substance he presented. That the workers are denied and provoked are beyond doubt. Maruti Suzuki deserve to be blamed more than the workers - that is the bottom line.
(Reply to Anonymous)-
Sushant (Kuwait) says:
July 23,2012 at 12:32 PM IST
After reading this article - which is an insult to any intellectual's sensibilities- I have decided to refrain from reading further articles from this author. Statements made by him are definitely anti nationalistic and divisionary in nature. I agree with Anonymous one his views about the article and the author and certainly wish to know what sort of editor allows such statements like 'Gujrat is not India' to be a part of his newspaper. I am totally for the rights of the employees ( again, please refrain from using the word labourors) and it is the duty of the Maruti Suzuki management to adress their concerns. Each organization, while being responsible towards its employees, is also responsible towards its stakeholders and no matter which company it is, the stakeholders always want to see growth in profits and overall growth of the organization. What happened in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki is not something that anyone wants - netiher the employess, nor the management and definitely not the stake holders. Instead of a post mortem of events form 1857 to current date, what is needed and what will benefit everyone involved is to give time and understand the concerns of all parties and come to a logical, win - win conclusion of this incident.
S Mohandas (pune) says:
July 23,2012 at 11:11 AM IST
Misra ji , your great union leaders should build their own factory having already learnt whatever skills are required to build world class cars. They should employ only Biharis, Haryanvis UPites and ofcourse the great citizens of "Daly"and give them a minimum of Rs 50,000 per month with a mandatory 20% hike every year , 8 hours shift with suitable tea ,lunch , biological and socialising breaks.
akumar (mumbai) says:
July 23,2012 at 11:00 AM IST
Such warped logic! The problem with people like Amaresh Mishra is pure jealousy. These frustrated columnists were left behind by their classmates in pursuit of success and now is the time of retribution. I can say with certainty that Mishra must have prepared for civil services during his student days where he picked up bits about 1857 movement. and now he will leave no chance to apply it anywhere to showcase his intellectual superiority. People like Mishra will leave no stone unturned to destroy the Indian growth just to satisfy their bloated misdirected egos. We Indians have seen time and again the menace of unionism which has served only to destroy job creating industries. Who can forget Datta Samant and his destruction of Bombay textile industries. Or for that matter jute industry of Bengal and absymally low productivity in public sector. Only one sector which has seen tremendous job creation is IT sector, and the only differentiating factor has been the non application of stringent labor laws in the sector. Now even that sector is coming under the gaze of revolution spewing comrades. God save India from these people.
sughoshbansal Bansal (Delhi NCR) says:
July 23,2012 at 10:49 AM IST 3 Followers
Silver : 961
It is apparent that Amaresh Mishra is on this earth 155 years late. 2012 is not 1857 and should not be compared. Today the people are more enlightened, and knowledgeable about their rights and their duties. But alas they care only for their rights but not of their duties. It appears that this Amaresh Mishra was an eye witness to the episode, thenwhy is he not co-operating with the probe. Suzuki is not foreigner to this country and so is the case with many more foreign companies which are running their operations pretty successfully in the country in general and Gurgaon in particular. Labour unrest based upon wages, working environment and many other matters can be justified and there are set procedures to resolve them. And none of those procedures contain or can justify burning a human being alive. People of the like of Amaresh must bear in mind (1) Business is not run for charity; (2) No business is forcing the worker to join them. A worker joins an organisation for the worker’s own self needs and not for the businessmen; (3) The organisation is successful if it operates based upon laid down principles, norms and protocol and not to satisfy the whims of the workers; (4) In any organisation one has to give respect to the relationship between the supervisor and subordinate, elder and younger, experience and inexperience, productivity and inefficiency. If one does not respect these, he has no business to remain the part of that organisation. Amaresh’s dislike of Foreigners can be understood but then throw them out of the country. Once George Fernandes did throw out IBM and Pepsi but his successors brought them in and they are today far more stronger than ever. A worker may be frustrated in his life for various reasons other than Maruti Suzuki but he does not get a license to kill his supervisor. And a Contract worker is working in Maruti for Rs. 6,000 only because he is not able to earn even that out of Maruti.
Mandar Karnik (Mumbai) says:
July 23,2012 at 10:38 AM IST 5 Followers
Silver : 599
Haha so Gujarat is not India but UP and Haryana with its caste cauldron and bad work ethic is India. Shows what a great view of India you have Mr Misra. I agree the workers most of them contract labourers werent given adequate compensation but in these modern times killing isnt the answer. Datta Samant destroyed the textile industry of Mumbai. Manesar is looking to go down that same path now
(Reply to Mandar Karnik)-
Sangharshi (Bangalore) says:
July 23,2012 at 11:42 AM IST
I am surprised whether you have read the piece of Amaresh Misra carefully! It may not have conveyed what you wish to hear. But I can tell you that you have not understood the context of Amaresh telling that Gujarat is not India. What is meant is that in this context Gujarat is not typical of India. He is postulating a theory to understand the labour relation in the changed context, and particularly with reference to Delhi Capital Region. How many Gujarathis do you see there among the workers? Most of the workers come from these states whether it's Gujrat, Delhi or Maharashtra. People can have their own opinion. But that won’t change facts. Analysis of the ground realities matches with class of achievements the author has as an historian and novelist.
Indian (US) says:
July 23,2012 at 10:31 AM IST
Mr Misra tends to blame everything on Hindus. What has rightwing sections of media got to do with this Mr Misra. The hollowness of your mind, in blaming rightwing and Hinduism, stands exposed. Haryana has been ruled by your favorite Sonia Gandhi's party, central govt from 2004 is your favorite Sonia Gandhi's- yet the blame on right wing for criticizing the violence without even issuing a statement against Sonia? You have been at the forefront in criticizing BJP governments for a non issue and yet when this scale of violence rocked Manesar, not a single journalist has questioned the stoic silence maintained by the state CONGRESS govt. You now try to turn the tables by saying fire was started by the management and not the workers - the destruction and damage caused, has many witness' who managed to save themselves, so stop trying your old tricks of fooling people. Finally though every true Indian believes in providing the hardworking workers their due, this kind of violence has to be stopped and guilty should be punished. Amareesh Misra your biased articles have eroded your credibility to provide honest viewpoints. You have been relegated to the trash can and no blogger considers your articles worthwhile (the ratings you receive are a reflection of it). Your answer is anticipated Right-wing Hindus giving you negative marks….??? Search for a new job sir..
(Reply to S.Anand)-
VIKAS (DELHI) says:
July 23,2012 at 10:32 AM IST
a class called worker class has more than often allways been oppressed by foreign trained managers + sympathised by IDIOTS like Mr Aravind if u r statistically unaware about the situation - u r insane!!! No doubt the loss of life is disregarded but how do u retaliate when again n again u r oppressed!!!!! the message is these MARUTI managers must reconcile their differences by undertaking welfare initiatives simply sending in police teams n bouncers will only aggravate the situation a lock -out 'LL LEAD TO DELAYS N I THINK WEN THEY SUFFER THE LOSSES THEY'LL GET THE HAMMER ON THEIR HEAD N THEN THE MANGMNT LL TAKE STEPS POSITIVE AFTERALL THIS WAS NOT XPECTED FROM A TRUSTED INDIAN giant MARUTI
(Reply to S.Anand)-
Pravin (Pune) says:
July 23,2012 at 10:39 AM IST
I am always amazed with the communist/Socialist writers. Right from pre-independence era, they have been the parasites/virus eating at the progress of India. There is no constructive violence. Dont have to go far in history, Gandhiji halted his agitation due to Chauri Chaura incident for the same reason. No agitation or struggle can justify use of violence. FULL-STOP.
(Reply to S.Anand)-
Ashwini (Bangalore) says:
July 23,2012 at 11:51 AM IST
I think it is you who should feel stupid for your lack of understanding even a simple article based on facts and ground realities. You cannot justify violence but at the sametime you cannot neglect the injustice and abuses which were the reason behind it. Most of the uprisings in the world have similar patterns. phrase. I am surprised whether you have read the piece of Amaresh Misra carefully! It may not have conveyed what you wish to hear. But I can tell you that you have not understood the context of Amaresh telling that Gujarat is not India. What is meant is that in this context Gujarat is not typical of India. He is postulating a theory to understand the labour relation in the changed context, and particularly with reference to Delhi Capital Region. How many Gujarathis do you see there among the workers? Most of the workers come from these states whether it's Gujrat, Delhi or Maharashtra. People can have their own opinion. But that won’t change facts. Analysis of the ground realities are eye-opening for the HR management and leadership of any manufacturing company in India. Excellent article!!
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