Skip to main content

Failing to get justice for a decade, sacked Maruti workers decide to fight it out legally

By Bharat Dogra* 

As and when the history of the struggles of industrial workers against injustice in India is written, will a detailed chapter be devoted to the various injustices suffered by Maruti vehicle workers in Manesar (Haryana) following the violence of July 2012?
More than a decade later this struggle is still continuing, as was visible in the hunger strike of a large number of these workers in Gurugram, Haryana, recently.
Going back to those days in 2012 when this chain of events started, there had been a growing feeling among citizens dedicated to justice and workers' rights that Maruti workers had been the victims of several injustices in recent years.
Some reports on working conditions which prevailed here and gave rise to unrest among workers indicated that the working conditions were so tight and rigid as to create health hazards for workers. The injustices faced by non-regular, contract workers were the most acute. They received much lesser wages and suffered more problems.
There were deliberate efforts to put more workers in this category, even if their work was of a regular and permanent nature. It had also been pointed out that whenever workers made efforts to form a genuine union committed to their welfare, repression against them was stepped up.
A true democracy based on justice and equality can flourish only if all sections of people have access to justice. Sometimes when the poor living in very remote villages suffer shocking injustice, it is said that their remoteness led to denial of justice to them from our democratic system. But in the case of Maruti workers injustice was suffered very close to the capital city and had yet gone largely unreported and unquestioned.
Once industrial unrest grew, violent incidents were reported. Any violence and loss of life is very unfortunate. Anyone responsible for this should be condemned and should get deserving punishment.
But what cannot be denied is that the versions of violent events given by the management and the workers were very different. In the interest of democracy and in the interest of truth, it was important that workers' version should also be properly heard and carefully considered.
It was important that truth should prevail and any move to implicate workers in false cases by powerful persons should have been checked at the outset. The available evidence indicates that several innocent workers and their family members had to suffer a lot.
If the government and the labour department did not come forward to protect truth and justice in such an important case so close to the capital of India, then how can we maintain the trust of workers in the ability of our democracy to provide justice to them?
Nearly 148 workers were arrested. 546 permanent workers were sacked by the company in 2012. About 400 of them were sacked citing ‘loss of confidence’ even though they were not accused of any violence. As they carried the stigma of loss of confidence and termination by a leading company, an industrial giant, many of them could not get employment elsewhere or faced a lot of problems in this.
After about to years, On July 27, 2014, this writer had issued an appeal for justice and help for 148 jailed Maruti workers. These workers were languishing in jail following the unfortunate incident at Manesar plant in Haryana in July 2012. 
Since then several reports and eminent activists have expressed their surprise and indignation at the imprisonment of such a large number of workers and the one-sided actions ignoring the workers’ point of view of the happenings of July 2012. Trade unions have emphasized that the point of view of many innocent workers was not heard properly.
This appeal of year 2014 also pointed out that many of the imprisoned workers were in very poor health conditions. Their families had suffered untold hardships during the last two years, to the extent of being denied the basic essentials of life.
They also suffered great hardship in travelling long distances to meet their (imprisoned) family members whom they had sent to work in such a big company with great hopes. Family members had also been very distressed by the fact that for such a long time bail had been denied which was rare.
Notably, the skilled and technically trained workers who came to join Maruti-Suzuki even from far away parts of the country had come with high hopes to the highly reputed company, carrying with them even higher hopes of family members who believed sincerely that once a young man joins such a world-famous company success and prosperity are assured. They could hardly have foreseen that a journey begun with such high hopes would end all too soon in tears, shattered health and even imprisonment!
All this happened during the Congress rule in Haryana when the chief Minister was Bhupinder Singh Hooda, son of a great freedom fighter who did not hesitate to collude in and inflict such grave injustice on workers (while the union government was also in the hands of UPA/Congress government).
If someone wants to do a case study of how and why the Congress during those days lost the confidence of people then this shocking victimization of workers can be an appropriate case study for this.
Out of the 148 workers arrested, in 2017 the trial court at Gurugram convicted 31 and acquitted 117. Even those released had lost some of the best years of life in jail and while undergoing great tension and experiencing other health problems as well, apart from economic ruin.
An obstinate, ill thought-out, cruel decision of a few extremely powerful persons and the willingness of corrupt, undemocratic authorities to carry this forward has ruined so many promising, innocent lives.
Recently, a hunger strike by several sacked workers to get back their jobs has attracted attention to the struggle of these Maruti workers. Having suffered so much, these workers deserve much more Let us see how various political parties now respond to this, now that they are also preparing for elections.
For the Congress, with its current emphasis on social justice, this can be a time of prayashchit (penance), to atone for its sins of 2012-14. Will it do something big for these workers?
The BJP is now the ruling party in the centre and the state. Even if it does not go the extent of ensuring their re-employment in Maruti, it can at least give them a generous rehabilitation grant and get the due credit for securing some justice in a case of injustice caused by the previous Congress government.
The Aam Aadmi Party is in the most convenient position -- it only has to make a promise of some specific act of justice or generosity to these victims of injustice, if it comes to power. This will get it support among a lot of other industrial workers as well.
Out of 546 sacked workers, about 340 are reported to have sought the path of pursuing the matter legally and they can hopefully get back their jobs also through the rather slow-moving wheels of justice. Hence legal help for them should also be strengthened. In addition there is a strong justice-based need for reconsidering the cases of those Maruti workers who are still in jail.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; his recent books include ‘A Day in 2071’, ‘Planet in Peril’ and ‘Man over Machine'

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr