A short report on the campaign and strike in the Gurgaon-Bawal industrial belt

September 4, 2015

A report from Workers Solidarity Centre

Over 10 lakh workers in over 4000 automobile, garment, pharma et al factories struck work on 2 September 2015 in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal industrial area, a core zone of developmental terrorism in India – of super surplus profit extraction, and state repression. A short report appeared here, with only a few marginal voices in the pro-capitalist mainstream media asking the basic question: Why Strike?

We had appealed earlier to stand in solidarity with the campaign which comrades did from mid-August to make the strike successful. The campaign attempted to listen closely to and be with the simmering discontent among the industrial working class here. The street-play ‘Viswakarma’ by Pol-Khol Natak Dal on the life and journey of a migrant worker on four of these days, was popular among workers who identified with it and expressed desire to join such working class cultural initiatives. The workers rally called by Workers Solidarity Centre (Gurgaon-Bawal) on 1st September was attended by hundreds of workers from various factories, who were active in making the strike successful on the 2nd. Find a report of the same here.

The campaign on the 2nd Sept from early morning was very energizing which gave a glimpse of workers collective power! Over 80% factories in IMT Manesar including Maruti Suzuki, Honda HMSI, FCC Rico, Subros, Denso, JNS and so on were shut. In some cases, the managements declared the companies shut on their own, fearing militant workers collective power (as was seen during the February 2013 strike). The entire IMT Bawal with thousands of workers from auto-parts suppliers and factories like Kansai Nerolac Paints, Asahi Glass, Exide was shut with thousands congregating in a mass rally. In the non-unionized garment industry of Udyog Vihar, there was a strong influence of the strike and the campaign preceding it., though the situation there was more difficult in terms of strike. Different units of Gaurav, Richa, Bharat, Modelama Exports were closed, while turnout in other companies were low as a sizable section of workers refused to join work. In a number of instances, activist of WSC and other workers who went to enforce the strike, were faced with conflict with the police-management-contractor lobby who were coercing workers to go to the factories. For instance, in one case with workers of Indo factory in Manesar, workers from three company buses came down after such a campaign and joined the strike march after taking a stand against the threats of the contractors-police.

Find a short video from the area on 1st and 2nd September 2015.

The significance of this strike in the area was, among other things, in:

1. It happened in an ongoing atmosphere of constant state (and non/quasi-state like contractors-bouncers deployed by the managements) repression in the region, which particularly after Maruti Suzuki 2012, had become common-sense with the administration-police actively repressing any protests, demonstrations, distribution of leaflets and so on by workers or workers organisations.

2. It was able to again push forward the agenda to develop an area wise unity of workers in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal industrial belt which took a back seat in last one year or two, after the setbacks of few factory-based struggles like in Minda Furukawa, Autoliv, ASTI, Baxter, Munjal Kiriu etc. Workers continued their struggle within each factory meanwhile, but the area-wise solidarity network suffered. The context of strike prompted many small and large meetings of workers of different factories in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal belt to collectively implement strike in the factories. Because of these bottom-up initiatives, the bureaucratic interventions of central trade unions had much less space. The strike was a moment of freedom in those many factories where the workers could do little against the ongoing repressions on the factory level alone.

3. Beyond the bureaucratism and tokenism of the Central Trade Unions, it prompted workers activity in connecting the larger section of the contract-casual-apprentice-permanent workers to the ongoing workers struggles in the region, and also sought to connect to the unorganized sector. A day after the strike, workers in many factories continued to strike. As with Frankenstein (the working class hero, feared by the bourgeoisie!), the activity will not remain confined to mere distress-help or tokenism, but the collective power is rearing to take form, and march on!

4. Though only in incipient form, within the workers, the activation of the informalized section of workers (contract-apprentice-casual and so on), and of women workers is also significant. As the militant strikes of women workers from Baxter to ASTI in the belt during the past year raise slogans, a comrade converted the slogan of ‘mazdoor-mazdoor bhai-bhai’ usually heard in this belt, to shout out loud: ‘mazdoor-mazdoor saathi-saathi’!