The Shape of a Pocket

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Study The Rich

Almost five years ago CNN-IBN correspondent Aasim Khan filed this report on how banks have been denying not only loan and credit card facilities but also basic banking services to the residents of the Zakir Nagar, New Delhi area.

"The Indian economy is on a roll and there was never a better time for taking loans. But it seems that the Muslim community has missed the great gold rush.

For instance, Delhi’s New Friends Colony has branches of a number of private sector banks, public sector banks, nationalised banks and international banks. Right across New Friends Colony is Zakin Nagar, a Muslim ghetto.

Despite the fact that the area has a larger population living there, all it has is a single bank. Perhaps these are the invisible borders that the Sachar Committee has mapped out in its report.

The Sachar Committee that has now submitted its report to the Prime Minister, claims less than four per cent Muslims have access to subsidised loans. It says banks don’t show transparency in such matters.

"There is no one to interrogate the banks, Muslims suffer from credit bias," says T K Oommen, a member of Sachar Committee."

In these five years the locality has added at least seven ATMs. Does it mean anything? What did the banks figure out in the interim? Does it have anything to with the overall slowdown? Why just ATMs, why not full-service branches? Have loans & credit cards become easier to procure these days? Responses and reflections welcome.

Small is Beautiful

Of all the things about my last workplace, being summoned by one of our editors to her cabin was one that I did not particularly like. The problem was that, unlike other parts of the office, in her cabin I could not even pretend to seem interested in what she had to say. My eyes would involuntarily travel to the soft-board above her desk and get fixated on a slightly hazy colour photograph of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. And if I shifted focus a bit towards the left, then I could also see another familiar figure standing next to Mr. Modi. That of the cabin’s proud occupant.

Now, it is not a hidden secret that the Indian business news community admires Mr. Modi. His biennial Vibrant Gujarat Summits, desi version of international pseudo-events like the Davos World Economic Forum, are a definite hit among business news hacks. How can you not be at a place where deals upwards of $452 billion get signed over just a couple of days?

 Pinning a photograph of a person accused of leading a pogrom in your office – a place usually reserved for friends, family and gods – in my opinion, is a bit too much for anyone; leave alone an influential editor of a business news channel. Forget the overall orientation of the corporate news media with its various filters and biases – another editor doesn’t approve of old, dark, poor, inarticulate people on his show – the effect such gestures could have on cub reporters and newbie producers within the organisation are definitely worth worrying about.

Walk into any newsroom today, and you will find them overwhelmingly populated by very young people – including wet behind the ears interns – who are eager to impress the powers that be and determined to make it big on the small screen. Add to that the fear of joblessness, given the precarious nature of livelihood our times offer, and you get a newsperson who even when not asked to kneel starts crawling.

However, a caveat is in order here. As much as we may all disagree with what we see on our screens, it would be unfair to accuse the gen-next working in news channels of the lack of political engagement. I have worked with some really bright people in my six-years long (or, brief) career, who are full of radical ideas. But, curiously, none of their bright ideas ever reflect in their stories and features. Meet them outside after work and they will come across as altogether different people – full of latent rage against the ideological tyranny of their employers. Come morning, they could again be seen doing what is ‘expected’ of them instead of what they ‘want’ to do. They censor themselves much before the institutional checks begin to kick in. Nowhere does this Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde schism manifests itself more strongly than in the realm of the Internet. Log on to Twitter and you won’t have to wait for long before you get to see the leading lights of the news industry griping aloud about the limitations of the medium they work for.

Pierre Bourdieu describes this dichotomy quite well. In an interview to O Globo, a Rio de Janeiro newspaper, after the publication of the Portuguese translation of his powerful ‘On Television’, he says, I don’t think the (TV) professionals are blind. I think they live in a state of dual consciousness: a practical view which leads them to get as much as they can, sometimes cynically, sometimes without realising it, out of the possibilities offered by the media tool at their disposal (I am talking about the most powerful of them); and a theoretical view, moralising and full of indulgence towards themselves, which leads them to deny publicly what they do, to mask it and even mask it from themselves.”

So, when a special show on the Vibrant Gujarat 2011 went on-air in January this year – a gushing, no-hold-barred celebration of the event and the persona behind it, the same editor called the producer of the show and asked: ‘don’t you think we overdid it?’

Simplistic formulations tend to work well with Big Media – easy to consume, even easier to regurgitate. Like Mr. Modi’s conservative ‘development’ rhetoric, India Against Corruption’s (IAC) narrowly defined idea of corruption and ill-conceived campaign to get their version of the Lokpal Bill ratified by the parliament also found much favour with news editors – unprecedented coverage was accorded to this campaign. The initial class composition of the campaign only sweetened the deal.

More or less at the same time, one could see workers flashing placards reading “Media Se Baat Karaao” at the Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.’s (MSIL) Manesar plant during their protracted struggle to form a union. Big Media did come forward to talk. But instead of talking ‘with’ them, it talked ‘at’ them. Even when it talked ‘about’ them, it did so is disparaging terms.

It was not really a coincidence to see the dominant actors in both the discourses and media outlets invoking similar metaphors; employing the language of pathology and epidemiology to describe what are essentially socio-political phenomena – ‘cancer of corruption’ and ‘labour contagion’, for instance. In both the cases, it was being suggested that the national body politic is in some sort of death grip of fast spreading diseases, where a few malignant elements are debilitating a healthy whole.

Whether it is the narrowly defined idea of corruption by IAC – glaringly leaving out the private sector where corruption is rampant – or the myth of ‘Indian Growth Story’ being disrupted by labour action, the electronic news media tend to privilege one political subject over the other; the tax paying citizen who deserves better governance (or, rather less governance), a consumer who deserves delivery of cars on time, an investor who deserves better return on his investment over the one whose basic rights are being blatantly trampled. While red carpets are rolled out to welcome industry lobby veterans into the realm of politics (I am, of course, referring here to Amit Mitra, Ex-Secretary General of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and incumbent Finance Minister of West Bengal), red flags of the politicised workers’ union are ‘invisibilsed’.

The state is fast being pushed (or, is perhaps receding on its own accord) to the margins of public sphere, which is turn being colonised by the Big Media and, by extension, corporate interests. If you cannot find a place in the imagination of Big Media, you cannot find a place in the state’s imagination also. Actually, state itself has increasingly begun to articulate itself through the Big Media. It has become commonplace for political actors to conform to the codes of mainstream media. When the ‘silent’ Prime Minister is pushed to break his silence he does so only before some of the most prominent news editors of the country.

Can we then say that Big Media is not merely a gate-keeper of agendas, but has also come to occupy all that lies beyond the gates?

This week’s issue of The Economist notes, in a special report of Indian business, that big business groups have begun to resemble ‘mini-states in their own right’. New York Times, just a few months ago, in its report form Gurgaon, the El Dorado of Haryana, reported: “economic growth is often the product of a private sector improvising to overcome the inadequacies of the government.” The report goes on to mention that to function there, companies have had to install huge captive power generators, dig bore-wells, employ bus and car fleets to ferry their employees and hire armies of private security guards, that, incidentally, outnumber the town’s police force by a factor of four.

Elsewhere, companies like Infosys are running in-house training departments that can give even some of the best universities of the country a run for their money. They say, in India the problem is not of unemployment, the problem is of ‘unemployability’.

Right on cue, we come face to face with mainstream media mouthing the corporate agenda. Two decades after India embarked on the path of economic liberalisation, chants of ‘policy paralysis’ and ‘second wave of reforms’ are again at a fever pitch. We are constantly being told that the first generation reforms have run out of steam. A fresh infusion of cheaper capital, increased and flexible labour supply and infrastructure creation is required to set India on a growth path again.

If mainstream media are pushing the ‘development agenda’ at the behest of finance capital then state is merely charged with clearing the path to let this agenda have a free run. Far from being a guardian, the state has metamorphosed into a watchman. It likes to keep an account of people, number them, fix their identities; for how do you acquire land for a factory when you do not even know who owns it in the first place?

To go back to the body politic analogy, state is now the scalpel-wielding surgeon who is charged with exorcising the body of malignant elements.

Even after enjoying the state patronage in Haryana via its labour department – it For instance, forbid MSIL workers from gossiping and singing – and the police force, MSIL in September suggested that it might not setup its proposed Rs 18,000 Crore third plant – after Gurgaon and Manesar – in Haryana. Gujarat has been identified as a tentative location. Why, it is not hard to see. RC Bhargava, Chairman, MSIL, talking about Mr. Modi’s invitation to MSIL to a salivating business news channel said: “Ithink that is a different approach (Mr Modi’s) to what we have heard in the other places where there is more of regulation and less of facilitation and I think that’s one thing that goes in favour of Gujarat.”

MSIL could not have found a better and more experienced surgeon than Mr. Modi anywhere else to purge itself if its blighted parts. One of the reasons he is able to attract finance capital and earn Big Media’s love is that he fully shares their fear of small numbers. Numbers are an obsession with him too. Small numbers that are raising slogans at MSIL, Manesar and those who are trying to occupy the various hideouts of global finance capital. Small numbers that cameras are finding hard to fit into their limited frames. Small numbers that are capable of overthrowing dictators and despots.

In the meanwhile, I have quit my job. I have chosen not to be a part of the big. I am with the small.

F.U. Lushkary

Source: <>

"Gone in 50 Seconds" by Aman Sethi

How the speeding up of its assembly line at Manesar brought Maruti to a screeching halt

On most days in this industrial suburb of Delhi, a phalanx of robotic arms weld sheets of pressed steel into silvery monocoque body shells that emerge from the paint shop in shades of arctic pearl white, glistening grey, blazing red and midnight black. A conveyor belt pulls the candy-coloured shells past 369 workstations, where men armed with whirring tools install engines, doors, windshields, and wiring.

On days like these, a Maruti Suzuki rolls off Assembly Line A every 50 seconds in Manesar, Haryana, and the company sells every second car in India.

Then there are days when the assembly line grinds to a halt, production comes to a standstill, Maruti’s half-year profits plummet by 60 per cent and market share shrinks to 39.5 percent. Last week, Maruti released sales figures for what must count as a financial quarter from hell. Tensions between the management and labour had resulted in production losses of approximately 83,000 cars, resulting in a shortfall of about $500 million, according to a Reuters report.

This summer, a dispute over the establishment of an independent union in Maruti’s Manesar plant exploded, as workers seized control of the Manesar plant triggering a five month standoff with the management. Workers felt that the recognized Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU) was too compliant with the management. A company spokesperson told The Hindu that the management felt that multiple unions would lead to “competitive union politics.”

The issue of wages was never raised during the strike, but two statements reveal the gulf between a management wedded to a particular idea of efficiency and productivity and workers exhausted by the regimentation of factory life. “Indiscipline is not tolerated,” said Suzuki Chief Osamu Suzuki at a meeting with MUKU representatives. “Authoritarianism will not be endured,” said an anonymous worker in Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar, a workers broadsheet.

On Saturday October 29, soon after the most recent settlement between workers and the management, this correspondent and a photographer were given permission to observe the Manesar factory floor under the supervision of the plant’s general manager P.K. Roy. Workers were interviewed outside the factory premises where they could speak freely.

Maruti’s Manesar premises are spread over 600 acres and house two separate assembly lines (with a third under construction), a separate company called Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd. that manufactures Maruti’s diesel engines and a 65- MW gas-fuelled thermal plant that powers it all.

Mr. Roy said the plant was currently configured to work as a ‘50 second line,’ to produce a maximum of about 1,152 cars a day over two shifts of 8 hours each. This summer, according to a company spokesperson and workers, the company hoped to produce about 1,200 cars a day, or a 48 second line.

An assembly line is a complex manifestation of the man-hour-work problems encountered in high school mathematics. Workers stand at stations in a giant covered shed as partially built cars glide by on a moving conveyor; workers step onto the conveyor, fit a specific part, step off and walk back to the front of the workspace to wait for the next car.

The automobile industry produces cars in ‘levelled lots’, meaning the cars come in repeating patterns of different models and variants. “Work content is not fixed across models,” said Mr. Roy, “In one model it may take a worker only 40 seconds to fit a particular part… in another model it could take more time.” In a 50 second line, cars arrive in mathematically determined lots where cars that need more than 50 seconds per task are offset by cars that need less.

“Prior to the troubles we were making about 1070 cars a day,” said Mr. Roy, “At present we are making about 800 cars a day.”

“[Prior to the worker occupation] we were under intense pressure to withdraw our application for the union… the line was moving too fast… there were no relieving workers,” said Pradeep Foggat, a Maruti worker and one of the leaders of the proposed Maruti Suzuki Employees Union, adding that a Maruti worker spends 8 hours on the assembly, and breaks twice for a 7.5 minute tea break and once for a 30 minute lunch break. Those who arrive a minute after the shift’s scheduled commencement are fined half a day’s salary.

In Manesar, Maruti produces about 180 variants of three basic models: the 2011 Swift hatchback, the SX4 sedan, the low-end A Star hatchback and its European variant called the Nissan Pixo. When a car rolls in, the worker looks at a large matrix pasted on the vehicle that indicates if the car is a left or right hand drive, powered by petrol, diesel or compressed natural gas engines intended for the domestic, European or general export market. Depending on his work station he chooses from 32 different upholstered seats, 90 tyre and wheel assemblies, and innumerable kinds of wire-harnesses, air conditioning tubes, steering wheels, dashboard trims, gearboxes, switches, locks, and door trims, in an average time of 50 seconds per car.

For parts like air conditioning tubes, the worker stands between a set of parts racks. As a particular car variant rolls in, a light above the corresponding parts rack blinks with increasing urgency as the worker runs to it, grabs a part and pulls a cord to acknowledge he has chosen the right part. He then steps onto the conveyor belt, fits the part and rushes back to match the next car to the next blinking parts rack before an alarm rings.

If the line halts, signboards across the shop floor light up – flashing the number of the workstation where the line has stopped and the duration of the stoppage. Another board displays the total time ‘lost’ during the shift; a scrolling ticker lists the production targets at a given time of the day, the actual cars produced and the variance.

“For every fault, the feedback is recorded and the worker has to sign against it… it goes into his record,” said a worker, speaking on condition of anonymity as every Maruti worker must sign ‘Standing Orders’ that, among 100 other conditions, bar them from slowing down work, singing, gossiping, spreading rumours and making derogatory statements against the company and management. The work record is examined during yearly appraisals.

Workers said that mistakes multiply as the speed of the line increases, work intensity spikes and workers spend less time on each car. But the management feels that productivity is independent of work intensity. One gets the impression that eight hours of intense physical work is seen as the ceteris paribus of the assembly line. Given these eight man hours of work, productivity is determined by algorithms that plot variables like the pattern in which different car models are made, the length of line, the number of workstations. “The speed of a line is a design issue. A worker works for eight hours everyday. The line is designed so that the worker can safely fix a part, rest and resume work on the next car in the allotted time,” Mr. Roy said.

For a worker, line acceleration can be a harrowing experience. “When I first began working for Maruti, assembly lines used to run right through my dreams,” said a worker with a laugh, “These days I suppose I’m so tired that I don’t get dreams anymore.”

The morning shift ends at a quarter to four every evening. A new shift of young men stream into the factory and take position at their workstations. The handover is seamless, each worker completes the car he is working on and his replacement starts on the next car that glides in. The unblinking clock keeps vigil as lights flash, alarms wail and the line makes its inexorable progress through the assembly floor.

Source: The Hindu <>

A snapshot from Maruti Suzuki&#8217;s &#8220;Standing Orders for Workmen&#8221;. Gossiping or singing can get one dismissed without notice.
A snapshot from Maruti Suzuki’s “Standing Orders for Workmen”. Gossiping or singing can get one dismissed without notice.

Maruti’s Modern Times Clash

By SUJAN DUTTA in Manesar and Gurgaon | 

Oct. 19: In the brown smog that covers Manesar this late autumn, large trucks that pack half-a-dozen cars each into their containers queue on the broken highway from Delhi to Jaipur and park any which way they can.

Their drivers loll in the teashops and dhabas. Few know when their containers will be loaded withMaruti Suzuki's deliverables: cars named Swift and Dzire and A-Star and Sx4 that have been booked by tens of thousands of customers from Madurai to Malda, Srinagar to Srirangapatnam.

The newest plants of India’s largest car maker sprawl over a single campus of 700 acres some 8km west of the highway, 40-odd-km south of New Delhi, in a single facility so spread out that it can take in a town. Workers of the factories huddle under makeshift tents opposite the main gates that are manned by blue-uniformed guards from a private security agency.

The workers take turns speaking into a megaphone and raising slogans and promising to keep up the fight. Like the routine of the shifts they are assigned to, the workers come in for the “A” shift ’ from 7 in the morning to 3.45 in the afternoon ’ and for the “B” shift from 3.45 to midnight ’ to demonstrate.

Maruti and its workers made the car achievable for middle-class India. Today, Maruti Suzuki’s workers are alleged to be undoing that. The reason is among the fresh-faced youths who can be mistaken for high school students in the company’s shaded-green uniforms.

One of them, a Haryanvi named Naresh, was this afternoon discussing the nuances of Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times in his rented one-room tenement in Gurganva, old Gurgaon.

In the 1936 film, Chaplin is a factory worker engaged in assembly-line production and is assigned to tighten screws over metal bricks. Even on his way to the toilet, his hands perform the function in Pavlovian reflex and he unwittingly mistakes the big buttons on a lady’s skirt and runs the drivers over them.

Naresh does not laugh. He says: “Yes, I have seen the film, and, yes, that is it, we are not machines though we deal with them.” Chaplin’s character in Modern Times goes bonkers because he is so work-pressed. Naresh says he wants to stay human.

Naresh, a thinly bearded 25-year-old from a village in Hisar district, some 175km from Manesar, was Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s best worker in April 2010. But this June, he was sacked.

He was among those reinstated following a strike in July. But days later, he was suspended. He cannot find the citation ’ and he could not care less for it ’ but he shows the trophy he was awarded for suggesting how to increase the production cycle of a “side-seal” ’ a component for car chassis ’ by inclining a conveyor belt so that it would be delivered faster to the next workstation.

Workstations in Maruti Suzuki have 40 seconds in which the worker has to do the job assigned to him. This duration may be compressed (or expanded) depending on the production target, just as in Modern Times, the foreman accelerates or slows down the pace of the conveyor belt. All the workers in Maruti Suzuki are able-bodied young men.

There are six shop floors in the main plant:

Press (where metal sheets are shaped for the cars)

Weld (welding)

Paint (this has two departments, where waterproofing and sealing is done of chassis and where the bodies of the cars are painted)

Assembly (where all the parts are integrated)

Vehicle Inspection (VI)

Utility and water treatment plant (WTT).

Naresh used to be assigned to the paint shop. He was so merited, in fact, that he was appointed line supervisor earlier this year. Naresh is one of the 970 permanent workers ’ a position the trainees, apprentices, casuals and contracted workers aspire for.

Like the other permanent workers he passed out of an ITI (Industrial Training Institute), the schools that produce fitters, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, painters and welders.

In Maruti Suzuki, each of them were hired through campus-interviews but the management determined that Haryanvis were the better workers so long as most of them were not from in and around Manesar. Most of the permanent workers of the company are from Jheend and Jhajjhar and Hisar and Katthal, districts in Haryana that are not in the adjoining neighbourhoods of the plant.

Not far from Naresh’s place, Pradeep Kumar and Pradeep Kaushik from Jheend share a room with a worker from the Honda factory, also in Manesar. Kumar’s task is to apply sealants to waterproof the cars before they are painted.

"Every time I go into the shop floor I have to change from this uniform into overalls ’ I even have to change my footwear ’ and every time I leave the shop floor I have to change back into uniform," he says.

Since the strike in 2000 in the Gurgaon facilities, the management introduced stringent measures. In the Manesar plant, the standing orders for workers list 103 types of “misconduct”. Among these are “spending too much time in the toilet” and “chatting”. Workers waiting in queue for lunch in the canteen are told not to talk among themselves because they may get “distracted” from their tasks.

In a shift, the workers have two seven-and-a-half-minute tea breaks and 30 minutes for lunch (or dinner). The time for the breaks may be reduced. “This does not leave me time to go to the toilet, change my clothes, run to the canteen that is 450 metres away and get back on the job before the belt starts running again,” Kumar says.

The seven-and-a-half-minute tea break in Maruti Suzuki is a story that rages across unions in the industrial towns of Gurgaon, Manesar and Dharuhera where workers often compare if they are better or worse off than the likes of Kumar.

The Maruti Suzuki workers were recruited when they were about 18 years of age in 2006. The Manesar plant opened in February 2007 and the first batch of trainees became permanent workers only last year. Almost immediately, the workers were urged to become members of the Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (Muku) that is the only workers’ outfit in the company’s Gurgaon plant. (Manesar is about 18km south of Gurgaon).

The workers were hesitant. As more batches of trainees became permanent workers, the demand to form a union ’ basically the right to collective bargaining ’ was raised towards the end of 2010.

Maruti Suzuki now has 970 permanent workers in a total workforce of around 3,000 ’ a majority being contractual, casual or trainees and apprentices, who are worse off than the permanent workers.

"We knew that Muku was a pliant union with workers in Gurgaon who are much older and have families and, since their strike was broken in the year 2000, they do not have the stomach for a fight," says Naresh.

His friend, the French-bearded Jitender Barot, who at 28 years is among the oldest permanent workers, raises his palms: “These hands have worked so hard that had I put them to use in my family farm in Hisar, my folks would have been very happy. We have delivered 2 lakh cars when the management wanted it, working overtime and breathlessly and we have been taken for granted.”

Asked why he does not go back home to work on his farm, Barot shoots back: “I wanted to be something else.”

As if to illustrate what it means to be young without liabilities, Barot walks us to Shabbir who, too, lives in Ashok Vihar in Gurganva. Unlike most workers, Shabbir, 26, is married and lives with his family ’ wife and two children ’ also in a one-room barsati. There are other workers who say they cannot marry because of the strike.

Shabbir’s eyes well up with tears when he remembers his travails over the weekend when his six-year-old son cried with stomach cramps. “I took him to a doctor who advised me to buy two Rs 30 vials for injections. I dug into my pocket and pulled out a Rs 10 note and gave it to the doctor and said ‘this is all I have, do what you will’.”

The rent for the one-room tenements in Gurganva where many of the workers live is between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500. A permanent worker technically earns about Rs 18,000 per month. Of this less than half is the fixed component of the salary and the rest are added incentives.

Maruti Suzuki’s punitive measures often mean that workers have to make do with cuts. In the case of Naresh and some 30 others who are suspended, this means that their salary slips show a negative pay of Rs 3,800, meaning that the amount would be deducted from their next salary.

"By contrast, the annual remuneration of the CEO has increased from Rs 47.3 lakh in 2007-08 to Rs 2.45 crore in 2010-11, an increase of 419 per cent. The annual remuneration of the chairman has also increased by 91.4 per cent during this period…. This clearly shows the deeply skewed manner in which the benefits of rising sales and profits of (Maruti Suzuki) have been shared between the management and the workers over the years," write researchers Prasenjit Bose, who is a CPM analyst, and Sourindra Ghosh.

It is the sharp contrast ’ and clash ’ of the aspirations of a new generation of workers with the soaring revenues of Maruti Suzuki that has led to the stand-off and the repeated strikes ’ the current one being the third since June.

For now, the workers are not even demanding a hike in salaries. But what they are asking for ’ the right to form a union of their choice ’ is a political demand that may actually spell more trouble.

The workers allege that the Haryana government and the management of the company have colluded to prevent them from registering their proposed union, the Maruti Suzuki Employees’ Union (MSEU). Neither Muku nor the proposed MSEU is formally affiliated to any political party or to any of the central trade unions. The leaders of the MSEU are consulting central trade unions but said their union would be “independent”.

Asked by The Telegraph, Haryana deputy labour commissioner J.P. Mann said: “Yes, they have the right to form their own union. They can. But there is no obligation pending with the state labour department now. Their application in June was rejected on certain legal and technical grounds.”

In its rejection of the MSEU’s application, the Haryana government said many of the workers were still members of Muku ’ the workers say they were forced into membership of the old and “pliant” union that controls the workforce in the Gurgaon facilities.

Also, the Manesar workers went on strike on June 4, a day after applying for registration, even though the constitution of their proposed union said they would give 15 days’ notice. The workers say they were forced to go on strike because of punishment meted out by the management and that they have not been given an opportunity to explain their stand before the state government.

A management official said: “Despite the trouble, we are getting back to work and talks are on with them to find a solution in the presence of Haryana government officials.”

Maruti Suzuki chairman R.C. Bhargava is on record saying that the company cannot recognise a union that is not registered with the government. The Haryana government has declared the strike to be illegal.

In a television interview, Bhargava said a “newer, younger and more restless workforce” in Manesar was “complicating matters” by not sticking to agreements that they had signed since June this year.

Barot, the permanent worker who does not want to return to his farm, says the registering of a union ’ only permanent workers can form registered trade unions under the law ’ is only the first step towards raising more demands.

Ironically, Maruti owes its existence and growth to its ability to meet aspirations ’ its ubiquitous 800cc car symbolising the emergence of India’s new middle class. Three decades since the company was established, Maruti, whose workers in Manesar today were yet to be born when the company was formed, is the birthplace of Gen Y trade unionism.



Maruti Suzuki employees solidarity meeting at Kamla Nehru Park, Gurgaon on 17th October.

Via - Shuddhabrata Sengupta

No Immediate Resolution to the Impasse, Says Maruti’s RC Bhargava

NEW DELHI: There is unlikely to be an immediate resolution to the impasse at Maruti Suzuki unless striking workers at Manesar start respecting the rule of law, Chairman RC Bhargava has said, signaling its determination to not make short-term compromises to bring a swift end to the country’s worst industrial dispute this year.

Bhargava’s comments came on a day India’s largest carmaker started efforts to restart production at Manesar, after the Haryana administration evicted agitating workers from three Suzuki-owned factories over the weekend. The third round of strike at Maruti is now 11 days old, and has caused more than 1,600-crore losses.

"I don’t think there can be a short-term or long-term resolution to the impasse unless the workers start respecting the rule of law. The workers have reneged on two agreements signed in the presence of the Haryana labour department. They are being prosecuted for violating the settlement. How can we reach another agreement when they display such disregard for law?" Bhargava said in an exclusive interview to ET.

He also said the company’s Japanese owner was against short-term measures that would be detrimental to the long-term interests of the company.

Conciliatory talks between the striking workers and management are expected to begin this week. The automaker’s shares touched a 52-week low on Friday, but rose to end 2.37% higher on Monday on news about resumption of production.

Bhargava said the company would be hiring workers to scale up production at Manesar, but couldn’t say at what pace it aimed to scale up or how many cars the company hoped to produce with a temporary workforce.

A former bureaucrat, Bhargava, 76, has been associated with the company in various roles, including as managing director, for much of its 28-year existence. He was appointed nonexecutive chairman in 2007.

Shinzo Nakanishi, a Japanese national and a nephew of parent firm Suzuki’s founder Osamu Suzuki, handles Maruti’s day-to-day operations.

Bhargava said the strike was a result of ‘external influences’ and the company had advised the workers to not have a union with a political affiliation. He said it was not the company’s policy to harass or threaten anybody, responding to allegations that company officials had done so to prevent Manesar workers from forming a new union.

Responding to questions, Bhargava said he could not say if anyone had violated that policy. No inquiry has been ordered into these allegations or those of alleged abusive behaviour by supervisors, as there have been no specific complaints, he said.

He warned the ongoing strike would have an impact on Japanese investment flow to India. “Maruti Suzuki is a very high-profile company in Japan. It’s the face of successful Japanese investment into India. Any major setback to Maruti will certainly have an adverse impact on the decision-making by Japanese companies in investment into India, particularly in this part of India,” he said. After the DCM Toyota plant in Noida shut in the 1990s, no Japanese company has invested there, he said. “Workers must think what is ultimately beneficial for them,” he said.