ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Crisis Is Upon Us

Maruti Suzuki and Its Workers

On 19 May in Kaithal, the Haryana police and government let loose brutal violence and repression against workers and their families, led by the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union. The might of corporate India with the government as its agent was on full display even as the mainstream media chose to ignore the entire episode.

When workers rise up to demand their legitimate rights as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution and protest against a corporate entity like Maruti Suzuki, they become criminals and cease to be bona fide citizens in the eyes of the State; they even cease to be voters for the otherwise vote-hungry politicians. It is no longer a matter of the state and its administration being in perpetual limbo; they wield their power to criminalise the working class to aid global capital. Workers and their struggles and the brutal repression by the state even cease to be a news story for the corporate media as such events are blacked out. What happened at Kaithal bears testimony to this and is the reason for this commentary. The long and intense struggle of the workers of the Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar, Haryana was the assertion of collective bargaining for the right to register a trade union fulfilling all norms as stipulated by the Trade Union Act. Moreover, last year’s conflict of 18 July happened right in the middle of discussions on wage revisions that the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) was holding with the management. The incident led to the termination of 546 permanent and 1,800 contract workers by the company, confinement of 147 workers in the Bhondsi jail in Haryana and 66 non-bailable warrants. The management and the Haryana police and administration squarely blamed the workers for the death of the human resources (HR) manager much before investigations were over.1 Therefore, it is only the workers who have been demanding an independent inquiry into the death of the manager. Ever since this death, the vibrant struggle of the MSWU gathered both momentum and support across Haryana and the country. One reason is that the union adopted a wide range of democratic and peaceful means of protest such as appeals, petitions, litigation, marches, cycle rallies, sending of delegations and hunger strikes. All these means of protest form the basic democratic right of workers as guaranteed in the Constitution. However, in an act of brazen cowardice and use of authority, a democratically elected government resorted to brutal repression. What was being planned in Kaithal with much hard work and labour of the MSWU and the local panchayats and what was done to scuttle it by the State has grave implications not only for the rights of the Maruti workers but also for the entire working class movement in this country.

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