Uttarkhand – Police lathicharge striking workers in Dehradun; more than 300 detained

April 25, 2012

Update on May 8 :

On Friday, the workers of Satyam Auto called off their strike after reaching an agreement with the management of the company on the taking back of workers who had been illegally suspended. Six such workers are to be taken back immediately and the others in batches of two (for a total of 28). Their application to register their union is with the Labour Department and they have been told it will go ahead. Negotiations will continue regarding the other demands, including the workers’ wages. After two weeks of the second hunger strike, four weeks for the first set of hunger strikers, and six weeks of a strike, neither the government nor the company has yet to concede most of the workers’ legitimate demands. No action has been taken, nor even contemplated, against the company for its gross violation of labour law.

Rockman refuses to even negotiate with the workers. In the face of utter intransigence from both the management and the government, the six Rockman hunger strikers in the hunger strike also called off their hunger strike yesterday. The workers have planned to shift their protest from Dehradun to the Rockman headquarters in Delhi in the next few days.

Shankar Gopalakrishnan

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May Day in Dehradun :

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Update on April 30 :

The struggle for justice of the Rockman and Satyam Auto workers continues. Since last Sunday, 12 more workers from both factories have been on hunger strike at the Parade Grounds in Dehradun (and are now on their eighth day). A rally is going to be taken out by the workers shortly.

The original 11 hunger strikers, five of whom had been on hunger strike since April 6th and six from April 9th, and who had been forcibly hospitalised since April 15th, were discharged from hospital at the end of last week. They called off their hunger strike late last week after being severely beaten on the night of April 19th and forcibly put on drips, tearing out the drips, and being threatened with further beatings. The workers decided on this after noting that further beatings would probably result in some of their comrades losing their lives.

The strike continues and has now crossed almost six weeks for the Rockman workers and five weeks for the Satyam Auto workers. There is no sign of any negotiation on the part of the government or the companies. No action has been taken against either the police for their brutality or the companies for their gross violations of labour law.

Nothing, not hunger strikes nor protests nor month-long strikes, is enough to move the conscience of the Central and State governments, wedded as they are to brutal exploitation of workers by any means possible. But the workers have refused to give up.

Shankar Gopalakrishnan
Uttarakhand Nav Nirman Mazdoor Sangh

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Update on April 25 :

The strike by the workers of Rockman and Satyam Auto (both plants in Haridwar), suppliers of Hero Motors, has now crossed a month in length. 11 hunger strikers are still being forcibly detained in hospital. The Rockman workers have been on strike now for five weeks (since March 19th) and the Satyam Auto workers for almost as long (since March 22nd). Six Rockman workers have been on hunger strike since April 6th (19 days); five Satyam workers since April 9th (16 days); and 12 more workers since Sunday. These last 12 hunger strikers have not yet been detained. The workers are still protesting in the Parade Ground at Dehradun after their release from jail last week.

Aside from an expression of regret by the DGP (who has also said he has directed an inquiry into the beating of the hunger strikers in the hospital), the government has taken no action whatosever. Both companies – which grossly violated labour law – are functioning with contract workers and supplying to Hero Motors, which reportedly is accepting substandard and shoddy parts from them just in order to break the strikers.

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Update on April 21 :

The struggle of the Rockman and Satyam Auto workers is continuing in Dehradun. The 11 workers who have been on hunger strike since April 4th were transferred to the ICU of Doon Hospital on Thursday evening and then beaten up that night in order to force them to accept IV drips. One was beaten so badly that he began to bleed from his wounds. The workers resisted the IVs and repeatedly have tried to remove them; this battle is continuing. On Friday they registered a complaint against the beatings. The remaining 326 workers are still in the Parade Ground, Dehradun, after repeated rallies, and today another 40 workers were considering joining the hunger strike.

The management continues to ignore the struggle and the protests. The government has made no effort to re-initiate any dialogue. The workers demanded that the SDM tell them why this is happening, he professed ignorance and said he will check with his superiors.

Meanwhile, since practically the entire permanent workforce of both Rockman and Satyam Auto is out on strike, it has been something of a mystery as to how they continue to supply Hero Motors. It is understood that the three managements have reached an agreement whereby Hero has suspended its quality rules and are accepting the inferior parts being made by overworked and new contract workers that have been press-ganged into replacing the strikers. This is of course a betrayal of those who purchase Hero products and could have safety implications.

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Update on April 16 :

As reported earlier, 326 workers are in jail and 11 hunger striking workers are detained in hospital. As of yesterday evening, all 326 workers in jail have joined the hunger strike. The 11 hunger strikers already in hospital have resisted force feeding. They are weakening but still in good health.

It is understood that the SDM has directed their detention until April 20th, though the legal provisions under which this has been done are not clear. The government has also announced to TV channels that the Labour Commissioner will be asked to intervene. Protests are planned today and tomorrow in Dehradun.

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Press Statement released during Delhi demonstration on April 17

Today, a joint protest demonstration of more than a dozen organizations was organized in front of the Uttarakhand Niwas, Chnakyapuri. A five member delegation handed over a memorandum to the Resident Commissioner of Uttarakhand, with the following demands.

We condemn the police atrocity on striking workers and demand that:

1. Police officials responsible for lathicharge on workers and illegal detention of workers be reprimanded and charge sheeted;
2. Labor minister of Uttarakhand Government resolve the labor dispute by calling a meeting of agitating workers and management of Rockman Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Satyam Auto component Ltd.;
3. Restore labor laws in Rockman Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Satyam Auto Component Ltd as well as in other industries in Uttarakhand;
4. Terminated workers of Rockman Industries be reinstated without any condition;
5. Illegal contract system be abolished;
6. Management of Rockman Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Satyam Auto Component Ltd. be punished for violation of labor laws;
7. Workers of Rockman Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Satyam Auto Component Ltd. be paid wages proportionate to the workload and they should be paid overtime as required under law.

The protestors raised slogans against the management of Satyam Auto and Rockman Auto, and the anti-labour Uttarakhand government. They also organized a protest meeting in front of Uttarakhand Niwas. All the speakers strongly condemned the brutal lathicharge on struggling workers, and their illegal detention in various jails acroos Dehradun.

The following organizations were present:

Inqulabi Mazdoor Kendra, Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, AIFTU(New), Mazdoor Ekta Kendra, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan, Uttarakhand Nav Nirman Mazdoor Sangh, Mazdoor Patrika, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, PDFI, Pragatisheel Mahila Ekta Kendra, TUCI, Radical Notes

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Memorandum in solidarity with workers of Rockman and Satyam

We are in solidarity with the workers of Rockman Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Satyam Auto Component Ltd. of SIDCUL Haridwar who are on the path of agitation for their trade union demands from management. Labor department and state government is well aware with the rampant violation of labor laws in these companies, like other industries situated in SIDCUL, however they do not feel any necessity to intervene in the matter to check the super exploitation of workers by the management. Contrary to their administrative responsibility assigned under the law of the land, they are hobnobbing with the management and resorted to repress the workers movement.

On 15.04.2012 workers who were on Anshan w.e.f. 06.04.2012 in capital city of Dehradoon were lathicharged and detained under various penal provisions. 326 workers are in jail and 11 were forcibly hospitalized. Management who is responsible for industrial unrest is moving freely and hobnobbing with newly elected congress government which is determined to crush worker’s movement like Haryana and other states.

Uttarrakhand government claims that after formation of new state it has gone ahead with industrialisation of the state and in order to do so, SIDCUL has been established in different parts of the state like, Haridwar, Rudrapur, Pantnagar, etc. However, we have found that these are hell for the workers. No Job security, no wage norm, no labor law and sheer exploitation of the workers are the only norm in these industrial areas of Uttarkhand. It is a tax heaven for the investors and corporates and hell for the workers. Casualisation and contract system that too, illegal contract system is norm in the industrial belt of Uttarakhand.

The above named industrial units are major vendors of Honda Motor Co., which do not adhere to labour norms. Illegal contract system is going on in these factories and workers are forced to work on lower wages upto 12 hours a day. Workers in these units of Haridwar are paid only Rs. 6000 P.M. for similar work, which gets Rs. 12000/per month in the company’s Gurgaon plant. Workers are deprived of basic right to form the union of their own choice. Five leading workers were terminated since they had taken the initiative to form a union and put forward their wage related demands. Around 600 workers of Rockman Industries are on strike since18th March 2012, however, Labor department and civil administration is unmoved by the agitation of the workers. Both regular and contract workers joined the strike for furtherance of their demand.

We condemn police atrocity on striking workers and demand that:

1. Police officials responsible for lathicharge on workers and illegal detention of workers be reprimanded and charge sheeted;
2. Labor minister of Uttarakhand Government resolve the labor dispute by calling a meeting of agitating workers and management of Rockman Industries and Satyam Auto;
3. Restore labor laws in Rockman Industries and Satyam Auto as well as in other industries in Uttarakhand;
4. Terminated workers of Rockman Industries must be reinstated without any conditions;
5. Illegal contract system be abolished;
6. Management of Rockman Industries and Satyam Auto must be punished for violation of labor laws;
7. Workers of Rockman Industries and Satyam Auto must be paid wages proportionate to the workload and they should be paid overtime as required under law.

* Inqulabi Mazdoor Kendra
* Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha
* Mazdoor Patrika
* Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan
* Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
* PDFI
* Pragatisheel Mahila Ekta Kendra
* Radical Notes

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Between 12 and 1 today, the Uttarakhand police lathi charged more than 300 workers who have been sitting on a protest in Dehradun for the last ten days. 11 workers who have been on hunger strike (six from April 6th and five who joined them on April 9th) have been forcibly hospitalised in Doon Hospital, where they are resisting attempts to forcefeed them. 326 workers have been arrested and detained in various jails in the city.

The workers have been on strike for more than three weeks now. They are employees of the Rockman and Satyam Auto plants in Haridwar, both major suppliers of Hero Motors. As in Manesar, Haryana last year, these workers are being paid extremely low wages for more than 12 hours of work a day; when they sought to form a union to demand respect for labour laws, the five leaders of the union were illegally sacked immediately and the others threatened with punishment. On March 19th the majority of permanent workers at Rockman came out on strike in protest at this illegal brutality, and on March 22nd they were joined by all the permanent workers at Satyam. Their main demands are:

* That they be allowed to form a union as per law, which both companies are trying to suppress;
* That the five workers who were illegally terminated be reinstated;
* That all labour laws be complied with within the factory;
* That their wages be made proportionate to the workload and that they should be paid overtime as required by law.

In the first week of April, in an attempt to suppress their protest, the Uttarakhand government declared section 144 in force in Haridwar. On April 4th the workers sough to come to the capital, Dehradun, to take out a peaceful march. This too was thwarted by the police, whereupon the workers sat down on dharna at the Parade Ground in the city. On the 6th, six Rockman workers went on hunger strike, and they were joined by five Satyam workers on the 9th. They have been fasting ever since, weakening every day.

No response has come from the government. When a delegation sought to meet the Chief Minister, he told them that these workers are overpaid, that the strike and protest is a conspiracy, and that they would be “dealt with.” The meaning of those words has been demonstrated today.

Workers in other factories in Haridwar, including in Eveready ITC, VIP, and the public sector company Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., have declared their support for the strike. A protest and delegation from other factories in Haridwar is planned tomorrow.

Shankar Gopalakrishnan
Uttarakhand Nav Nirman Mazdoor Sangh