END OFA DREAM RUN

Vi­o­lence and murder at the Maruti Suzuki’s Mane­sar plant are likely to hit the state’s in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion process. Fu­ture in­vestors may look else­where.

India Today - - THE BIG STORY - By Dhi­raj Nayyar and Asit Jolly

The drive into Mane­sar is rem­i­nis­cent of Gur­gaon 10 years ago. An army of cranes, half- fin­ished apart­ment build­ings, semi- built five- star ho­tels and brand new op­er­a­tional malls dot the land­scape. On the morn­ing of July 18, Mane­sar’s dream of be­com­ing Haryana’s new­est in­dus­trial hub turned into a night­mare. Around 3,000 work­ers at Maruti Suzuki’s man­u­fac­tur­ing unit turned into a ri­otous mob, as­saulted man­agers with car parts and set build­ings on fire. The bru­tal at­tack left Awan­ish Ku­mar, gen­eral man­ager ( hu­man re­sources), dead— burnt alive as he lay un­con­scious with griev­ous in­juries. Ninety ended up in hospi­tal, most of them with bro­ken limbs. It left other busi­nesses in the area shaken, and fu­ture in­vestors search­ing for an al­ter­na­tive des­ti­na­tion.

The al­leged provo­ca­tion was an al­ter­ca­tion be­tween a su­per­vi­sor and worker. Ac­cord­ing to the work­ers’ ver­sion of events, a su­per­vi­sor abused a worker, while ut­ter­ing a slur on his caste. The worker re­tal­i­ated by slap­ping his su­per­vi­sor. The man­age­ment re- sponded by sus­pend­ing the worker, but spared the su­per­vi­sor. En­raged by a per­cep­tion of in­jus­tice, work­ers ri­oted.

The in­ci­dent of July 18 is not the first in­stance of labour trou­ble in Mane­sar. “The prob­lem of labour ( un­rest) has been there for a while now. Last year, there were strikes by Hero Mo­toCorp, Honda Mo­tor­cy­cle & Scooter, In­dia and Rico work­ers,” says P. K. Jain, found­ing pres­i­dent of Gur­gaon Cham­ber of Com­merce. But the Maruti in­ci­dent stands apart from the rest be­cause of the bru­tal vi­o­lence in­volved. This wasn’t a strike like the three that took place at the same fac­tory in Mane­sar in 2011, or the one that took place in Hero Honda in 2011. This was labour un­rest of an al­to­gether greater mag­ni­tude, not wit­nessed in In­dia since the 1970s. Strikes can be tol­er­ated by busi­ness, but not ar­son and murder.

Haryana’s in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion strat­egy, care­fully crafted by suc­ces­sive chief min­is­ters— Bansi Lal and Bha­jan Lal played crit­i­cal roles in the 1970s and 1980s— is fac­ing its big­gest threat in four decades. Bansi Lal laid the foun­da­tion for in­fra­struc­ture in the state by build­ing roads and set­ting up power plants. With the help of DLF’s visionary Chair­man K. P. Singh, both Bansi Lal

fresh in­vest­ment,” says Debroy.

The Haryana gov­ern­ment is on the de­fen­sive. In­dus­tries Min­is­ter Ran­deep Singh Sur­je­w­ala, 45, floated a con­spir­acy the­ory. “It ap­pears the Maruti Suzuki in­ci­dent was a con­certed plan to dis­rupt in­dus­trial peace,” Sur­je­w­ala told re­porters on July 21. Gur­gaon Congress MP Rao In­der­jit Singh added to the cho­rus, “I sus­pect many of the ri­ot­ers were not lo­cals.” Cen­tral in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are sug­gest­ing that Maoist el­e­ments may be in­volved. Sources in the state po­lice say they have no ev­i­dence to cor­rob­o­rate the the­ory.

There is an­other the­ory on who the out­siders could be. Lo­cals in Mane­sar in­sist that the work­ers be­hind the vi­o­lence came from other dis­tricts of Haryana, pri­mar­ily Ro­htak, which is Hooda’s pock­et­bor­ough. In­ter­est­ingly, Maruti Suzuki is in the process of set­ting up an R& D unit and two- wheeler assem­bly line in Ro­htak.

Not ev­ery­one is buy­ing the gov­ern­ment’s con­spir­acy the­o­ries. Hisar MP Kuldeep Bish­noi, whose fa­ther Bha­jan Lal was in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing Maruti to Haryana, says that the gov­ern­ment had enough warn­ing signs of labour trou­ble at Maruti’s Mane­sar plant but did noth­ing about it. “There were three strikes last year. The trou­ble has been brew­ing since 2007,” he told IN­DIA TO­DAY. He be­lieves that Hooda’s gov­ern­ment mis­han­dled the mat­ter by not me­di­at­ing be­tween man­age­ment and work­ers. Trade union leader and head of Haryana’s Cen­tre of In­dian Trade Unions ( CITU) unit, Sat­bir Singh, 55, agrees with Bish­noi, “The Hooda ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­sis­tently ig­nored is­sues per­tain­ing to in­dus­trial work­ers.” He points out that there had not been a sin­gle meet­ing be­tween the state gov­ern­ment and trade unions un­til July 19, a day af­ter the trou­ble at Mane­sar. “Even then, it was at our ini­tia­tive.”

Per­haps Hooda, re- elected to a sec­ond term in of­fice, was ig­no­rant of the build­ing so­cial un­rest. As­pi­ra­tions among Haryana’s youth have risen, like else­where in In­dia. At Maruti’s Mane­sar plant, the 2,100 con­tract work­ers are paid less than half the wage of the 900

“It ap­pears that the Maruti Suzuki plant in­ci­dent was a con­certed plan to dis­rupt in­dus­trial peace.”

RAN­DEEP SINGH SUR­JE­W­ALA,

Haryana In­dus­tries Min­is­ter “The gov­ern­ment had enough warn­ing signs of labour trou­ble at the Maruti plant, but did noth­ing.”

BHUPIN­DER SINGH HOODA,

KULDEEP BISH­NOI

Haryana Chief Min­is­ter

per­ma­nent work­ers. The dif­fer­ence in wages be­tween the younger con­tract work­ers and the older per­ma­nent work­ers was a source of ten­sion. Con­tract work­ers were for­bid­den from be­ing part of the union. Wipro Chair­man Azim Premji warned that the Mane­sar in­ci­dent was part of a larger trend of so­cial un­rest in the coun­try.

“Mane­sar was an ex­treme man­i­fes­ta­tion of long- sim­mer­ing ten­sions be­tween work­ers and the man­age­ments,” says Atul Sood, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for the Study of Re­gional De­vel­op­ment. He be­lieves the prob­lem es­sen­tially arises from “man­age­ments try­ing to by­pass in­sti­tu­tion­alised mech­a­nisms of ne­go­ti­a­tions to set­tle dis­putes with labour”. Sat­bir warns that the cur­rent gov­ern­ment cam­paign aimed at sin­gling out the work­ers as re­spon­si­ble for the un­rest “could prove dev­as­tat­ing for Haryana’s in­dus­trial sec­tor”.

Some ex­perts still be­lieve that the Haryana dream is alive. Ma­hesh Vyas, CEO of the Cen­tre for Mon­i­tor­ing the In­dian Econ­omy, is op­ti­mistic about Haryana’s prospects. “I don’t think a few in­ci­dents of labour un­rest will de­ter in­vest­ment in Haryana,” he says. Vyas ar­gues that other fac­tors are equally, if not more, im­por­tant in de­ter­min­ing in­vestor in­ter­est. Mane­sar’s prox­im­ity to Delhi is an ad­van­tage that won’t go away. How­ever, at least two other ad­van­tages that Haryana once had— steady power sup­ply and easy land ac­qui­si­tion— are in ques­tion.

The Haryana gov­ern­ment is not deny­ing the se­ri­ous power short­age in the state. In the sum­mer, by the state’s own es­ti­mates, there is a short­age of 200 lakh units per day— de­mand ex­ceeds sup­ply by al­most 15 per cent. Speak­ing to the me­dia on July 3, state Power Sec­re­tary Ajit Mo­han Sha­ran ad­mit­ted that “the power sit­u­a­tion at present is quite grim”. P. K. Jain, who runs a man­u­fac­tur­ing unit in Haryana, says that the short­age has hit in­dus­try badly. “For the last three days, there has been no power. We have had to run our fac­to­ries on diesel,” he told IN­DIA TO­DAY on July 23.

Haryana’s once- lauded land ac­qui­si­tion pol­icy, which of­fered bet­ter terms

Hisar MP

of com­pen­sa­tion than the Cen­tre’s an­ti­quated Land Ac­qui­si­tion Act of 1894, has also come un­done. Even as Hooda’s gov­ern­ment was deal­ing with the fall­out of the Maruti vi­o­lence, an ag­i­ta­tion by the farm­ers of Re­wari on July 23 against land ac­qui­si­tion turned vi­o­lent, leav­ing at least 100 farm­ers and po­lice per­son­nel injured. Iron­i­cally, Congress Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Rahul Gandhi’s elec­tion cam­paign in nearby Ut­tar Pradesh ear­lier this year, when he spoke against ac­qui­si­tion of agri­cul­tural land, may have em­bold­ened farm­ers to rebel in a state ruled by his own party. Courts have also stepped in. In a huge set­back to the gov­ern­ment, on July 3, the Pun­jab and Haryana High Court pulled up the state for the ac­qui­si­tion of over 800 acres of agri­cul­tural land in Gur­gaon. The bench of the court said that the state’s land ac­qui­si­tion pol­icy had gone “berserk” and that the courts were “not help­less”.

Hooda needs to re­spond. If he fails, the Congress could well lose con­trol of its last bas­tion in the Hindi heart­land.

QA­MAR SIB­TAIN

CHANDRADEEP KU­MAR/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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