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Corporate Dec 22, 2012

Maruti bosses still clueless about violence in Manesar

By Sindhu Bhattacharya

New Delhi: The management of Maruti Suzuki remains virtually clueless about the motivation of employees who turned violent on 18 July this year at its Manesar facility.

What really made them resort to such large scale violence? Chairman RC Bhargava had indicated at that time that an outside influence could be behind such violence, which left one senior manager dead and scores of employees injured. But today he acknowledged that the police investigation had ruled out an "outside hand" and, therefore, the management has little idea of what led workers to agitate in such a violent manner.

"The police have ruled out outside hand and their word has to be the last word. How can we know what led workers to turn so violent? As far as we can see, it was a 'lose-lose' situation which the workers created. No one - workers, management, vendors, customers, dealers - benefited by what happened," Bhargava said.

PTI

Maruti's Manesar plant is now back to normal production at 1,900 cars a day (slightly above the production level before violence led to the plant being shut down for almost a month) and the company management says it has taken steps to ensure that the violence does not return to its premises. So a significant increase in wages of the workers at Manesar and initiating talks with the Haryana government on taking some land where houses could be built for these workers are two major steps. But are these measures enough to prevent any future recurrence of worker angst?

Bhargava said that there is no new workers' union at Manesar since technically the old union is still registered with the state government, only its office-bearers are behind bars. No new office-bearers have been elected by the workers at Manesar till now.

Unless there is a functional union, workers could well feel victimized again since there is no one to communicate with the management on their behalf.

Bhargava also said that gradually, police presence inside the plant premises is being reduced to normal levels.

The Manesar plant was rocked by perhaps the most violent worker agitation corporate India has ever seen on 18 July this year, prompting Maruti to sack over 500 permanent workers besides about 2,000 contract workers. Till date, only 145 workers have been charge-sheeted by the police and proceedings against them will start soon. But the company has stayed firm on its stand of not taking back any of these sacked workers.

Sources had told Firstpost that the Special Investigative Team (SIT) probing the riot has insisted that the July incident was a planned conspiracy to kill management people present inside the plant at that time and workers came prepared to kill.

But the report has still not been made public.

Now that things are back to normal, at least on the surface at Manesar, the sacked workers are trying to regroup and stage protests.

The Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), whose office-bearers are behind bars, has transformed into a provisional committee of seven - Imaan Khan, Ram Niwas, OP Jat, Mahavir Dhiman, Yogesh, Rajpal and Kartar Singh. This band of seven has been leading unsuccessful protests against the company, seeking reinstatement of sacked workers.

One of the members of this committee had spoken to Firstpost at length earlier about the demands of his sacked co-workers: impartial CBI probe into the July riot, release of jailed colleagues (of which 20 are apprentices, 60 contract workers and rest permanent), and reinstatement of the 546 permanent workers Maruti sacked in the aftermath of this riot.

This worker had alleged that the entire incident was orchestrated by the Maruti management but had no clear answers when asked about why the company want to kill one of its own executives.

So, for the moment, things appear calm and under control at Manesar.

Bhargava again asserted today that Maruti has no plans to abandon its twin facilities in Haryana though it is going ahead, as planned, to start a 2.5 lakh vehicle manufacturing facility in Gujarat by 2015-16.

by Sindhu Bhattacharya

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