February 14, 2012
Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-waged classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised post-graduates lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, China or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via Gurgaon Workers News.
In the February 2012 issue you can read:
1) Proletarian Experiences – Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
*** Everything but Accidental – Fatal Accident at Machino Plastics Ltd. and a Report by an Omega Construction Equipment Worker
In January 2012, a roof in the factory of Machino Plastics in Manesar collapsed under “heavy machinery and raw material set-up” – two workers were killed on the spot and several others seriously injured. Last summer, a work accident in the Faridabad plant of Omega Construction Equipment nearly killed Dinesh Kumar. Although he worked for the company since 25 years as a permanent employee and despite the fact that – unlike the majority of workers in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon – he had an ESI medical insurance card, the post-accident treatment by both company and medical system turned out to be a nightmare.
*** The Guns of Manesar and the Return of Patriarchal Corporatism: Wage Revison at Maruti Suzuki and Reports from Mars Associates and Motherson Sumi Workers
We include a short note on the upcoming pay revision in the Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar, which has turned into a stage-show for management propaganda. According to the head of Maruti Suzuki’s human resource department, the pay revision “will help stabilize the situation not only at Maruti, but the entire industrial belt in Haryana”. He continues wisely: “Twenty years back, the profile of workers was different. Now, almost 70 per cent of our workforce is in the age group of 24-26 years. These young guns always look for improvements.” Following the note on the wage revision are two reports of ‘young guns’ employed in Maruti’s supply-chain, at Mars Associates Ltd. and Motherson Sumi Systems.
2) Collective Action – Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
*** Two Decades of Unrest at Clutch Auto in Faridabad -
Clutch Auto was one of the first industrial companies in Faridabad. The first factory was opened in 1971, in the mid-1980s the company shifted to a new plant at Mathura Road. Now Clutch Auto is about to open a factory in Rewari, near Manesar, which may result in down-sizing or closure of the Faridabad plant. At around 2 million per year the company is India’s largest clutch manufacturer; producing for the automobile industry, agricultural machines and army tanks. In June 2011 about 350 permanent workers at Clutch Auto went on a 11-days strike. At the time the dispute at Maruti Suzuki in Manesar, about 50 km from Faridabad, was in full swing. The strike officially concerned wages and a ‘wage agreement’, but the relocation of the factory was looming in the background. We include a workers’ report published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. We also translated an older article relating the story of a strike at Clutch Auto in 1992, which broke out after 250 casual workers were sacked from the plant.
*** Green/Nano-Technology, the Long Shadow of the 20th/US-century and the Local Regime: A workers’ Report from Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd.
Worker’s report on a dispute at Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd., Gurgaon, summer 2011. Workers recently formed a trade union, which raised the demand for higher wages and permanent contracts for the casual workers. In response Usha management sacked all casual workers – followed by police repression and entanglement in the net of the labour law. The company Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. is an interesting example of the close connection between so-called ‘green’ and ‘nano-technology’ and the large-scale industries (automobile, aerospace, military-complex). The company history also demonstrates the formation process of ‘global corporations’. Behind the formal display of joint-ventures (in Usha’s case with Honeywell, US; Siemens, Germany; Hitachi, Japan) and ‘capital and technology transfer’, we can see how these corporations grew as part of the state regimes and their ‘opening of markets’.
*** Caparo Automobile Workers in Chennai: Short and Successful Strike against Casualisation and Low Wages
On 1st of December 2011, 500 workers in the stamping and foundry units of the automobile parts manufacturer Caparo (Sriperumbudur/Chennai plant) went on strike. After two days, management agreed to raise wages and to make 110 workers permanent. We report our rather limited information and ask friends and comrades in Chennai to supply further insights on this important struggle. The strike has to be seen as a continuation of the unrest at Maruti Suzuki or Munjal Showa in Manesar, Gurgaon – the unrest of a new generation of workers.
3) According to Plan – News on (Local) Re-Structuring and Crisis
*** The Failing ‘Kingdom of Dreams': The Global Crunch and the Local Crisis of Real Estate -
In the last month we could observe how two very ‘finance’ sensitive sectors slowly, but surely crunched due to lack of liquidity – the airlines and the real estate sector. These are ‘early symptoms’, hinting at the condition of the general economy. I.e. the root of the problem lying not in ‘sector specific issues’, but in the general squeeze; rising costs of credits vs. lower expectations of future profits. The credit crunch translates itself back into the ‘real world’ in form of urban deserts – in particular in Gurgaon. The three symbols of the neo-liberal boom in Gurgaon are shaken: DLF itself, the Reliance SEZ and the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’, a Bollywood entertainment mall.
*** The Middle-Class is Revolting: Devaluation and Social Angst -
The fact that the iron fix-points of society – money, commodity, state power, professional advancement etc. – slowly turn into sand-castles, leaves its impact on the mind not only of workers, but also of the middle-waged classes. Recently Gurgaon witnessed some outbreaks of ‘middle class anger’ towards the commodity-form. ‘Middle class’ people who lose more time in traffic jams on the National Highway, than the new highway would allow them to ‘win’ by speed, forcibly opened the toll gates which are meant to ‘finance’ the highway. Young ‘middle-class’ people came to see Metallica in Gurgaon – a band, which is known for their arsehole attitude towards ‘free music downloads or sharing’ on the data highway. After the announcement that the concert would be postponed, people smashed the concert venue. Two short news items on pent-up anger…