Maruti Mayhem: NEITHER SWIFT, NOR DZIRE
Was the Maruti violence stage-managed? Did a section of aggressive union leaders go berserk? Or, was it infinite angst becoming sudden explosion?
Amit Sengupta / Sadiq Naqvi Manesar (Haryana)
One General Manager dead, his legs and arms broken, his body asphyxiated and charred. Several management executives injured, some beaten black and blue, other staffers wounded. Cars vandalised, office furniture and computers destroyed, portions of the factory burnt out. Car parts and instruments used with lethal effect. Lock Out. Sine Die. Factory shut.
This was in a way India’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’ moment. Suddenly, the troubled underbelly of India’s industrial sector seemed to violently question a status-quo dressed up to please foreign investors. This incident shocked the smug corporate sector like nothing before. It proved that not only was the much vaunted Japanese management style that brought colossal riches to the Suzuki car company a sham, it ripped apart the fraudulent claim by the Haryana government that the industrial climate in Manesar is the best in the country.
Wipro boss Azim Premji felt that the incident highlighted the social unrest in the country, especially among the trade unions, and that the government should come down heavily. “It was pretty unfortunate. It is important that individual associations take up the cause and the government should act ruthlessly to ensure that such incidents don’t happen anymore,” he said.
An opportunist Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, added fat to fire. During his trip to the Suzuki plant in Japan, he expressed regret at what had happened in Manesar and in the same breath indulged in self praise, praising the “peace” in his own state. With subsidised corporates with doled out benefits eating out of his hands, Modi is desperate to shift the Maruti plant to his state and he does not even conceal it!
Not only Modi, a lot many sinister minds are looking diabolically at the direction of the Maruti plant at Manesar. Why?
Two panchayat heads in a neighbourhood village of the Maruti plant said that there is more to the story than what has appeared in the media
In this sprawling 750 acre establishment that produces 600,000 units for India’s largest automobile manufacturing company, losses are running into Rs 70 to Rs 83 crore plus every day. Work in almost 460 ancillary units is disrupted because production has been stopped at the crucial Manesar Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) plant. The state-of-the-art factory used to produce one car every 50 seconds, automobile brand names: Swift and Dzire.
Almost 3,000 workers have gone underground — they have vanished into the blue. Police witch-hunt continues: 92workers in jail, more to follow. Most workers in jail claim absolute innocence. At least 40 ‘innocent’ workers were sitting ducks,picked up by the police from Aliyar village near the plant, because they chose not to run away that night.
An eerie atmosphere of panic, terror, repression and uncertainty stalks the unhappy industrial landscape. Locals are tight-lipped. No one wants to be quoted. No one wants to resurrect the exact thread of events. Fear looms large.
The government and media are basically one-dimensional. Pro-management, almost unilaterally. No multiple versions or deeper layers or causes discovered. There is no other version other than the management or government version. Everyone is baying for the blood of the workers. As if all of them are killers. No one is reporting the workers’ version. Anyway, the workers have disappeared. Even those inside jail, are stuck speechless with fear. Thousands of lives are at stake, the future of their families in stunning jeopardy.
So whatever happened in the lucrative, profit-making Maruti Suzuki India Limited at the swanky industrial hub next to Gurgaon and Delhi on the ill-fated evening of July 18, 2012?
Often, bouncers stand inside the room when talks are being held. How can normal talks be held under the shadow of bouncers and guns?
Was it spontaneous violence by a section of aggressive workers? Or, was it a pre-planned, targeted, organised act of sabotage by vested interests outside/inside the plant? Or was it, indeed, a possible management dream sequence which turned into a nightmare? Who benefits from the violence and the lock out? Was there a sinister plan to create organised violence?
There are too many uncanny questions which remain unexplained. Hardnews enters this twilight zone of a massive crisis emanating from the golden goose industrial hotbed next to the capital.
Hardnews was informed by two veteran panchayat heads in a neighbourhood village of the Maruti plant that there is more to the story than what has appeared in the media. These ‘panchs’ are rich and powerful, and they have their umbilical links tied up with influential sections in the Maruti management. They are clearly opposed to Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister of Haryana. They told these reporters that two top management executives (names withheld) told them on July 17, 2012, a day before the violence at the plant, that the panchayat should be prepared because “something big” is going to happen on July 18. Also, because the workers are demanding a “huge salary hike of Rs 80,000”!
Something big? What?
And why was this warning being passed on so clandestinely by two top officials of the Maruti management to the panchayat heads?