18 July 2012 took Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant by storm. In the aftermath of the violence, death and destruction, it remains a day that has brought to the fore an unsettling picture of the automobile industry’s labour problems. One year later, things still remain unchanged.
While a report by the Special Investigation team in Haryana is still awaited, 547 permanent workers continue to remain dismissed and 147 are still in jail. Workers claim that the dismissals were arbitrary. As workers prepared for a dharna and an indefinite hunger strike at Tau Devilal Park in IMT Manesar, the authorities were unwilling to take chances. Prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were imposed by the District Magistrate to avoid any clashes between the workers and the villagers a day before itself.
About 250 dismissed Maruti workers along with trade unions and students organizations gathered at Leisure Valley Park in Sector 29, Gurgaon this morning to march upto Manesar in protest.
The members of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union Provisional Committee have placed two principal demands. “We want the police to release the 147 workers arrested from Manesar last year and another 10 employees who were arrested during the demonstration at Kaithal in May this year,” Rajpal Gaur, member of the Maruti Suzuki’s workers’ union said. He also added that they wanted the company to reinstate all workers who were dismissed in connection with the incident that led to the death of senior human resources executive Awinash Kumar Dev and a fire at the plant that left 100 injured.
As the workers along with the trade unions and students organization that stood in solidarity prepared to leave Leisure Valley Park to march upto Manesar, they were stopped by the police. “Due to the imposition of section 144 in IMT Manesar, NH8, Rajiv Chowk and the mini-secretariat area, protesters won’t be allowed to leave the premised of Leisure Valley Park,” said Joint Commissioner of Police Maheshwar Dayal.
A peaceful demonstration was then carried out in Gurgaon itself in which the workers reiterated their demands and resolved to continue their fight in a peaceful manner. Speaking to TEHELKA, Rakhi Sehgal of NTUI said, “The fight of the Maruti Workers is one for their rights on the shop floor, dignified working conditions, having an increasing share in the increasing pie of profits. Workers should be given the right to bargain within a collective bargaining framework. These are issues that need to be addressed with urgency and if they are not, workers will take to the streets and this is bound to become a civil and political issue.”
The workers are also demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the matter or a an inquiry by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court into the matter.