Despite taking out a peaceful Jan Jagran Yatra from Kaithal in Haryana to the National Capital, the struggle of the families of thousands of Maruti workers – many of whom were arrested and the others sacked, after violence broke out on the factory floor in Manesar on 18 July, 2012 - seems to have had no effect on the government. The workers and their families are now desperate – and angry. More than 18 months have passed, but there has neither been a legal remedy nor any government intervention. The State seems to believe that ignoring this issue will make it go away on its own; but why has the legal system also moved in tandem? The trade union leaders allege that the government in the State has been on a witch-hunt just to ‘please’ Suzuki (and Japanese investors in general). On January 31st. the workers also held a Panchayat at Jantar Mantar, after which a memorandum of demands was presented to the President of India and the UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi. On this occasion, senior AAP leader Yogender Yadav also interacted with the workers and promised them support.
Mahabir, a leader of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), which has been spearheading the cause of the sacked workers, told Friday Gurgaon that all they have got is ‘assurances’ of action from the State government and politicians. “We have seen the pro-corporate, anti-worker and anti-people faces of the Company management, the Labour and other administrative departments, and the police and courts. If we do not get justice urgently, we shall intensify our struggle in the coming days. We appeal to all workers, trade unions, student, youth and women’s organisations, and mass and democratic organizations and individuals, to support us in this struggle”, he says. The Union is asking the release of 148 arrested workers, who have been denied bail for the last 18 months, the reinstatement of all terminated workers, and an impartial investigation into the incident of 18th July 2012. “We want an independent judicial probe into the matter, so that the truth comes out. Our fellow workers, who have been arrested for murder and violence, should be released on bail, as they are not some hardcore criminals”, he asserts. He adds that they also want the probe to enquire why workers have been targeted by both the management and the government - in collusion. “False charges have been slapped on workers, and those who protest are threatened”, he claims.
Dwelling on the Jan Jagran Yatra, Mahabir says that they started the march on January 15 from Kaithal, and walked 300 Km across the cities and towns of the State - including Jind, Rohtak, Jhajjar and Gurgaon - before reaching Delhi. The MSWU leaders claim that they received great support, particularly from the villages, as the farmers whole-heartedly identified themselves with the workers. “The farmers have lost their land to industry and ‘projects’, whereas we have lost our jobs. The State is running on the whims of businessmen and politicians”, alleges one of the leaders. Mahabir says that there was a core group of about 50 workers who walked continuously, whereas in cities the local political activists and workers also joined the ranks. In Gurgaon, the protesters also held a demonstration in front of the Maruti Suzuki factory. The workers and union members from the plant also joined the protest, says Mahabir. The protestors also went to the Vasant Kunj headquarters of Maruti Suzuki. In Delhi, the protesting workers stayed overnight at JNU, where the student unions came to express their solidarity with the struggling workers.
The workers claim that despite suffering at the hands of the establishment, they will continue their peaceful struggle. Mahabir claims there has been constant propaganda against the workers, showing them in poor light - as if they are criminals. The workers allege that the government is more concerned about the ‘investment climate’ of the State and the ‘mood’ of foreign investors - particularly the Japanese - even as it sacrifices the lives of the common men. “We want the reinstatement of the workers who have been summarily sacked - including both the permanent and contract workers. The government must also seriously review the cases against the workers arrested on murder charges”, asserts Mahabir. He says that it is impossible that 148 workers would
be involved in a single ‘murder’! “This case is nothing more than a tool to punish workers who were demanding their rights,” he says. Ram Niwas, a leader of MSWU, also took a dig at the media, saying that when the Delhi Chief Minister sits on hunger strike for one day, they come to his ‘rescue’, but workers who have been struggling for over 1½ years and have walked over 300 km from Kaithal to Delhi -through biting winter - got no space or voice. The workers say that they will intensify their struggle in the days to come, and with elections approaching, the State will have to listen more to the locals than their business ‘masters’.
How can the State and Courts keep 148 people in jail (with bail not allowed) for over 18 months, for violence in a factory that led to the death of one person? Why is even Maruti-Suzuki ok with this ‘justice’ for its erstwhile workers? Apart from these 148, thousands were summarily sacked.