GurgaonWorkersNews no.59 – October 2013
October 9, 2013
GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 59 – October 2013
Gurgaon in Haryana 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-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people 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 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. It aims at an exchange of workers’ collectives to forge trajectories beyond state and capital. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the October 2013 issue you can find:
1) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian experiences and struggles in the area
*** Fight the Power: An Energy Regime in Crisis and the Struggle within and against it -
A short assessment of the various forces which crunch the energy regime in India: the financial crisis, which limits dependency on oil imports; the political resistance against (nuclear) power projects; and the resistance of workers employed on the power plant construction sites.
*** (Automobile) Crisis and Twelve Reports from Automobile Workers -
Since 2012 industrial growth rates in India came down significantly. In the automobile sector sales declined. Read a short summary regarding the crisis, followed by twelve reports from workers employed in various automobile suppliers in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Faridabad area.
*** Stitch no More: Collective Action by Garment Workers in Okhla -
Short report on garment workers strike which took place shortly after the massive joyous riot against local factories and managers’ cars during, but independent from the general strike in Okhla in early 2013.
*** Urban Unrest -
In GurgaonWorkersNews no.55 we presented a longer text on the class relation of urbanisation in Gurgaon. In this issue we summarise some updates and short news items on Gurgaon’s urban unrest: from conflicts between state and industrialists about land taxation to several anti-police riots against evictions and repression.
*** Dharuhera – A Small Town Near Gurgaon Wrestles With Change -
We document a recent article on the history and development of Dharuhera, an industrial town near Gurgaon/Manesar. We might not agree with some of the authors assumptions, such as the ‘feudal’ character of Dharuhera in the 1980s, but the article provides some interesting details, from land property relations to emergence of the local industry.
2) Theory and Practice -
Contributions for the Movement
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Following texts are selective, but we think that they can stand as examples for ‘general theses’, ‘concrete analysis’ and ‘historical debate’ of class struggle and revolutionary movement.
*** AngryWorkersWorld: Workers’ Inquiry in the Logistics Sector and new Wildcat translations
The text briefly explains the planned initiative. It is followed by translations from the collective wildcat: an article on the relation between proletarian practice within capitalist production and inquiry; an article on the current importance and class composition of the global logistics sector; a preliminary workers’ questionaire for structured conversations.
*** Angry Workers of the World no.2 out!
New London-based newspaper on the history and current re-structuring of the health sector plus several health workers’ reports.
*** Viewpoint Mag on Workers’ Inquiry out!
Relevant material and new translations of relevant texts on the question of workers’ inquiry. Important material for the debate.
*** New Text by Reproductive Workers’ ‘Florence Johnston Collective’ from the USA
The insightful article looks at the class character of the current cuts in food stamp allowances in the USA. More interesting material on their blog.
*** New Text by Mouvement Communiste on Current Situation in Egypt
The text examines the situation after the army intervention and looks at the limitation of independent working class action. Find the text on their web-site or hereBLT1308ENVF.
*** Wildcat Text on Crisis and Struggles in Slovenia
New translation on the situation in Eastern Europe’s former role-model state.
*** Contribution to the Debate on Socialism and Technology
The article outlines a historical and conceptual perspective on the question of ‘technology’ and the lack of critique within the statist currents of socialism.
*** In Hindi: New translation by the ICC on the Revolution 1919 – 23 in Germany
1) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian experiences and struggles in the area
*** Fight the Power: An Energy Regime in Crisis and the Struggle within and against it -
Below you can find a short assessment of the various forces crunching the energy regime in India: the financial crisis, which limits dependency on oil imports; the political resistance against (nuclear) power projects; and the resistance of workers employed on the power plant construction sites. For a more detailed article on class struggle in the coal mining sector in India see: http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-940/
The falling rupee has meant that India’s increasing reliance on external energy sources (mainly oil and gas) has come under strain. Although India has considerable coal reserves the economy massively depends on cheaper coal imports from other countries, namely Indonesia, Australia and South Africa. Coal is the main source of energy- it, and the electricity it produces, is needed to drive ongoing capitalist development and the growth of the industrial sector, especially as there is not enough domestic natural gas reserves. India is the 4th biggest coal importer after China, Japan and South Korea. But there are risks to such an external reliance. From 1990 to 2010, the net import price for fossil fuels has risen by over 10 per cent and price in rupees has gone up by more than 20 per cent. With a failing Rupee, costs are set to increase further meaning a bigger current account deficit and shrinking foreign currency reserves. This causes problems. In October 2013 Iran’s government refused to accept full Rupee payment for gas exports to India and instead demanded that 55 per cent was paid in US Dollars and Euros. Increasing competition with China for energy sources is also likely.
At this point we can see the structural constraints when it comes to the energy politics of the Indian state: the global financial situation and the price-decline of the Rupee limits the access to oil and gas, while expansion of nuclear power is not only loaded with geo-political power-games (US-Indian nuclear power agreement etc.), but also faces a growing anti-nuclear power movement, which became more politicized after the Fukushima accident. On this background we can understand the current massive investment in coal power plants.
Eight new coal plants are in the pipeline, including one in Tamil Nadu and three in Odisha. The upcoming thermal power plant in Tamil Nadu, a so-called Ultimate Mega Power Project (UMPP), will be using mainly imported coal. We can see a certain division of labour at play: the Coastal Tamil Nadu Power Limited, a subsidiary of Power Finance Corporation Ltd (PFC), a public sector unit, acquires the land (it will need over 400 hectares and 80 per cent of this will be agricultural land). It also conducts the Environmental Impact Assessment and obtains various clearances and then hands over the project to a private party who wins the bid for the project, therefore saving this company the trouble of having to do all the ‘dirty’ preparation and be liable after the sale goes through. There have already been examples of falsified information that is being used to push the project through, especially around the major impacts of the local environment. Other problems include: displacement from agricultural land (although many people wait for a ‘good price’, which is never usually enough to compensate long-term for the process of proletarianisation and low wages); land degradation; the need for a massive water supply, which is already scarce and fuelling conflicts; worsening environmental and health problems; as well as the fact that it will cause rapid changes to local livelihoods as people lose or give up their land for the projects. The Land Acquisitions Bill has not yet come into force but locals have accused the PFC of rushing through the land acquisition process so as to avoid paying the 4 times higher rates that would have to be paid with the new law. In spite of these grand plans to secure energy in India, credit by banks has been tightening because of the future risks of assuring and paying for the ever-increasing costs of imported coal.
While the Gorakhur Nuclear power plant in Haryana is facing a platform of resistance from local activists and NGOs that is delaying the project there is not so much local resistance in Tamil Nadu. If a sizeable resistance does come, it will more likely come from the many fishermen and their families, who do not have land to be compensated for, and who will have to bear the costs of contaminated fish that they send to Chennai, Pondicherry and Kerala. The local population is made up of wage labourers (e.g. brick kiln workers in nearby Chennai), salt-pan workers or fisherfolk, earning between 75 and 100 rupees a day.
(info from: http://www.cheyyur.wordpress.com)
The general situation is fragile, in particular once we look for possible struggle not only ‘outside’ of the industrial projects, but at the same time from within. Below you can find a longer report of a worker who was employed on various huge power and steel plant construction sites all over North-India. You also find a link to an older text of the group wildcat from Germany, which describes the regional political and economical impact of nuclear power plant projects and their effort to organize struggle amongst the co-workers on the construction site. Finally a link to a longer recent interview with a militant oil worker in the UK about organizing on oil platforms.
* A workers who has been working on major construction sites in North India
(translated from: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar)
In 2001, after finishing my 10th class, I started working on the Essar Steel plant construction site in Hajira, Gujarat, as a helper. The plant was constructed on 27 square kilometers. More than 50,000 workers were there, all employed through contractor. They paid me 75 Rs for an eight-hours day. After eight hours they forced you to work two, three, four hours more. We had to work on Sundays, too. They paid double for overtime. After six months they increased the wage by 10 Rs, I worked there for a year. There was a problem with the furnace, some people checked it. One day the furnace exploded and covered a dozen workers with liquid metal. I was 100 feet away, working with two fitters. There was a wall between us and the furnace, so we did not get hurt. After the accident the offical account sauid, that two engineers died, but actually a dozen people died. After the Essar plant I worked on the site of Gas Authority (GL) in Bharuch as a fitter. When work was completed there after three months I went back home.
In 2004 I started working as a fitter in Raygarh, Chattisgarh, on the Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. site, spread out on 30 square kilometers. Again, there were about 50,000 workers employed. I was paid between 140 and 160 Rs a day, overtime single rate. For 12-hours shifts I was paid 10,000 a month. I stayed for nine months and then went to Karnataka, Bellari, to a 40 square kilometer site of JSW. There must have been 100,000 workers, 27,000 employed through Larsen and Toubro and the rest through 500 other contractors. There was at least one accident per day. Hands and legs were lost, people died. A guy fell from 60 to 70 meters when his safety belt ripped. Whenever workers see workers die they stop work, otherwise management would just get rid of the body. Normally construction companies don’t keep a register of the workers employed, and therefore no evidence. After one, two hours workers take a decision about what to do. The first reaction often is to beat up senior staff, they often stop working for the rest of the day. Therefore, whenever an accident happens, engineers and managers flee from the site. After an accident no FIR is filed at the police stations. A decision is made between management and workers on the sites itself. In the JSW plant only the engineers have a permanent contract, all workers are temporary, hired through various contractors (RTS, JBTS, ITMS, ITPS). In the plant machines are not supposed to stop running, so maintenance workers have to work on running machines or with electricity switched on. There are a lot of accidents.
I then went to Orissa, to work on the Jindal Stainless Steel plant site, on 10 square kilometers. There were may be 10,000 workers on this smaller site. I was employed there for one and a half years. In the fabrication department a worker was killed by a snapping steel rope. Workers stopped work. They started to beat up senior staff. All managers and contractors fled from the site. When the company agreed to pay 14 lakh Rs to the workers’ family we started working again. Outside the site people protested against displacement and land-grab for the plant. They clashed with the police, people got killed, ten police officers also got killed. They got the Special Police in.
I then moved back from Orissa to Gujarat, Jamnagar, on an Essar Refinery construction site on 56 square kilometers. There were about 100,000 workers. There was combusting of gas, oil, chemicals for plastic, coal. I worked there for six months. Again accidents. Two dumper trucks collided, many workers got seriously hurt or killed. Management got rid of some of the corpses. Then workers clashed with the security guards and got hold of some of their rifles. The special police arrived and could only recover a fraction of the weapons. I then moved on to the Essar Refinery plant site, where people got injured due to gas leaks. On all the construction sites they have set up police stations at the gates.
A recent article from the Times of India confirms the necessity for capital to secure their contested centers of power:
Tension at Angul’s Monnet power plant
TNN Aug 17, 2013,
ANGUL: Tension prevailed at Monnet Power Company Limited (MPCL) at Malibrahmani following a clash between workers of U B Construction, engaged for Monnet, and private security guards deployed by the company. Workers of U B Construction were protesting against non-payment of wages for two months. More than 45 persons were injured, five of them seriously, in the clash. Things took a violent turn in the morning when some workers of U B Construction tried to lock the main gate. Annoyed over the act, security forces allegedly attacked the workers. In retaliation, workers allegedly pelted stones at the security forces.
Since 2012 industrial growth rates in India came down significantly. In the automobile sector sales declined. Below a short summary regarding the crisis, followed by twelve reports from workers employed in various automobile suppliers in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Faridabad area.
Companies in India have taken up foreign loans in US-Dollars, by March 2014 about 18 billion USD have to be paid back. With the declining price of the Rupee this becomes much more difficult, the default risk increases. Credit Suisse Group predicts the fiscal period ending March 2013 could be “the year of reckoning” as the slowest growth in a decade impairs profitability. “Companies are more vulnerable to currency shocks than at any time in recent history,” Deep Narayan Mukherjee said, a Mumbai-based director at India Ratings. In general the indebtedness of companies has increased, so has their intertwinement with international financial markets. A study by Credite Suisse claims that in the last six years the foreign loans taken by ten major “Indian” business groups surged sixfold to Rs 6,31,000 crore ($97 billion).
How does this play out in the automobile sector? A weakening Rupee increases fuel prices and consumer credit costs, which puts additional pressure on car sales. With the industry reliant on the import of certain auto parts, some automakers, such as General Motors and BMW, have moved to raise prices and more are expected to follow. In the April to July 2013 quarter, Toyota sold 30 per cent less cars, Tata Motors announced that in August 2013 local car sales fell by 33 per cent. Export markets seem less affected than the local market, e.g. Nissan has been less hit by this slowdown as it exports 80 per cent of its production. In the April to July period, while its domestic sales fell 47 per cent, export sales were down only 0.8 per cent. This general condition expresses itself on the stock market: the Indian auto sector share prices are down 7.9 per cent for the year to date.
General automobile production in India is down to 65 per cent of its installed capacity of 5 million. In August 2013 Maruti announced to delay the construction of its Gujarat factory. “It is unlikely that we would be able to commission the Gujarat plant even by the end of financial year 2016. The slowdown in the auto sector is very acute,” Maruti Chairman R C Bhargava. Ashok Leyland cut 1,300 temporary workers jobs in May; Maruti has asked 450 temp workers to go on leave; Tata Motors has reduced its Pantnagar workforce by 10-15 per cent, while Mahindra laid off about 1,000 temporary workers and decided to introduce six ‘no production days’ per month for August and September. Income of many temporary workers have been reduced significantly due to less overtime.
In this scenario the traditional trade union mobilisations become even more toothless, in particular when they don’t include the temporary work-force, which is the dominant condition. In August/September the Hero permanent workers union announced to go on strike at the Gurgaon plant because of ‘police action’ against some workers, who had been accused by the management of assaulting supervisors on the shop floor. A week later permanent workers of Munjal Showa, a supplier company of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), stopped production after four workers were allegedly attacked by management’s goons. “The goons and some workers attacked us on the company premises. It was all done to divert the main issue of our demand notice submitted a few days back,” said All India Trade Union Congress Gurgaon general secretary Anil Pawar. In response, various other unions, including from Munjal Showa, Napino Auto and Electronics and Senior India organised a march in early September to protest their “exploitation” and “harassment” by their respective managements. The march proceeded to Deputy Commissioner’s temporary residence at Sector 15. In his absence, Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Vivek Kalia received the memorandum. The demand notice from Napino workers has been unanswered even after 10 months. Senior India suspended 12 workers without any cause a year ago and they are still waiting for their reinstatement. The same exercise of demonstrating in front of Gurgaon administration buildings was repeated on the 8th of October…
* Twelve Automobile Workers’ Reports from Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.292
(23/7 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
There are 375 permanent, 600 to 625 casual workers and around 1,000 workers hired through 40 different contractors, plus 400 office workers, management and other ‘staff’. Amongst the ‘staff’ there are also workers working on CNC machines, on two or three shift system. On the main assembly line working times are from 8 am till 8:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday off. During one shift we first manufactured 40 vehicles, then 65, now 85 and from January onwards we are supposed to produce 95. In 2011 we managed to produce 100 vehicles if we worked four hours overtime, in 2013 it will be 125. This is according to an agreement between management and trade union. A 3DX JCB vehicle is sold for 18 to 19 lakh Rs. All workers are paid double for overtime, this is the attraction. If there is no overtime, the workers earn too little and have trouble, even the permanent workers. In order to keep them compliant and company friendly around 40 permanent workers are paid high wages, they earn between 100,000 and 130,000 a month, including overtime. On the main assembly line there is little overtime, here permanent workers earn 45 to 55,000 Rs. In October there was 40 hours overtime, they then earned 70 to 80,000. The casual workers are skilled workers. They are hired for six months, then are sacked and only re-hired after a certain period. many of them have worked here several times. They are kicked out if they make any mistake. They earn 6,200 to 7,500 Rs per month. Those casual workers without any special recommendation end up at the main line, because there is little overtime. On the other lines (testing, holding, fabrication) there is more. People are shifted from place to place, a welder will have to do buffing, chipping, grinding, loading with a crane. For the buffing they only give you regular mask, but the pollution is heavy, you cough up black. The permanent workers get expensive masks and air-canisters with filters. And they don’t have to do buffing work. The casuals also don’t receive any presents on Diwali or other holidays. Of the workers hired through contractors around 250 get neither ESI nor PF, although they work at JCB since two, three years. Everyone has to show their ESI card when entering the factory, so these workers are stopped by the security guards, but after a phone call to the security officer they are let in. All workers except the workers hired through contractors enter through gate 1, the others through gate 4, and a huge number of workers without ESI through gate number 4. JCB has outsourced a lot of spare parts and parts manufacturing to work-shops in Faridabad, they actually produce the JCB parts. Machine maintenance, fork lift drivers, electricians, paint-shop workers… the workers hired through contractors in the paint-shop have the worst conditions. The staff people just sit in the office and the permanent workers only give orders, the actual work is done only by the contract workers. Their wages are paid with delay and over-time is paid only single rate – so is the over-time of the security guards and the construction workers. There is no water supply and waste-water system in the factory. Dirty water is disposed off by tractors with tank-trailers, they bring the waste water to an empty plot nearby and let it out there. The workers hired through contractors work on two 12-hours shifts, no weekly day off, they earn in total 7,500 Rs a month. Enforcing divison is what JCB does at any step. There is one canteen for casuals and workers hired through contractor, there is a separate one for permanents and staff. The quality of food is utterly different.
QH Talbros Worker
(Plot 51, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
In the factory 110 permanent workers and 500 workers hired through eight different contractors manufacture steering systems. More than half of the production volume is for export: Germany, Japan, Italy, England. The rest goes to Tata, Leyland, Mahindra, Eicher and Maruti Suzuki. The workers hired through contractor are not paid the statutory bonuses, they work 60 to 70 hours overtime per month, only paid single rate – and 10 to 15 hours get embezzled and not paid at all. There are 18 trainees in the factory, five of them are on trainee status for more than two years, but management does not make them permanent. On 4th of June 2012 these five trainees were stopped at the gate. The issue went to the labour department – the company accused the union of slowing down production. Production was increased by two per cent and on 2nd of July the five workers were taken back on. But at the meantime, on 15th of June, management had stopped two line monitors (permanent workers who also set/program the machines) at the gate. One of these workers was the vice-president of the union. Management did not issue any letters or explanations, they just stopped the workers at the gate. Against this the union issued a strike notice on 6th of July, demanding to take those two back on the job. In August the union held one day hunger strike and two or three days protest in form of wearing a black arm-band. This made no impact. No solution in August, so the union declared strike for September. Both permanent workers and workers hired through contractor started a protest sit-in in some distance from the factory gate. Talbros management hired 300 new workers through contractors and introduced two 12-hours shifts, instead of the previous three 8-hours. Around 100 people of the offices and lower management staff also worked on two 12 hours shifts. The union did not try to stop the newly hired workers, because they were confident that production cannot run without the permanent workers. Workers were still sitting outside on strike when the old union president together with seven permanent workers went back inside to work. And in the Talbros Gurgaon factory (Udyog Vihar Phase 3), production was also running. Union and management had negotiations at the labour department. Witnessed by the deputy labour commissioner they came to a written agreement on 28th of September: the two line monitors will be taken back on duty within the next three months. The 18 days of strike will not be paid. On 29th of September the permanent workers were taken back inside the factory. And the 300 workers hired through contractors when the strike started were kept being employed. The 500 workers hired through contractor who had joined the strike were kept outside – there was no word about them in the written agreement between union and management. Now management and union negotiate about them and the union is confident that they will be taken back by 8th of October…
Bosch Chassis System Worker
(Plot 9, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 25 permanent workers, 125 trainees and 450 workers hired through four different contractors, working on three 8-hours shifts, producing brake systems for Maruti Suzuki and parts for other auto manufacturers. two years ago the company started to take workers on as trainees. The last batch consisted of 45 trainees. The last batch of 26 trainees had just passed their ‘training’: two years of heavy work pressure and under the threat of being sacked for minor issues. But on 3rd of October, after just having passed their training period, Bosch management decided to kick the 26 trainees out. The company did not even issue the obligatory ten days notice. Some of the bosses gave these workers the advice: just remain silent for a while, accept being kicked out, and then after a month you can be hired through contractor again, your wage will be increased by two – three thousand rupees. The company has now the second and third batch of trainees working in production. In the first years they are paid 5,500 Rs, in the second 6,100. They only get one uniform for the two years of work.
Clutch Auto Worker
(12/4 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
The August wages were paid delayed, people received their wage only by 20th of September. In August management changed the shift-patterns from three eight hours shifts to a single ten hours one. Saturday was given off. In September they reduced the ten hours to eight, but people had to work on Saturdays again. There are only 400 permanent workers left in the factory. In the press-shop and heat treatment departments workers work eight hours, in the other departments workers actually only work two or four hours a day. The factory manufactures 1,600 different kinds of clutches for automobiles: Escorts, Maruti Suzuki, Leyland, Mahindra, Eicher and army vehicles. They export parts to 35 different countries. In the recently opened factory in Bhiwari all workers and staff have been removed. The company does not pay in the money for ESI and PF contributions. There is talk that after complains from the PF office people there is now an arrest warrant against the managing director. Another ten workers who worked at Clutch for a long time have been dismissed. They were given their outstanding wages in cheques and the promise, that the cheques won’t bounce. What can be done?
Indo Autotech Worker
(Plot 132 – 133, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
There are 50 permanent workers and 750 workers hired through two different contractors, manufacturing parts for Honda two-wheelers. There are two shifts: from 8 am till 6 pm and from 6 pm till 8 am. Over-time is paid at single rate. Out of 750 contract workers 250 workers have get no ESI or PF.
(Plot 400, Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
The 150 permanent workers work on three shifts, they don’t work over-time. The 350 workers hired through three different contractors work on three different shifts, each shift between 12 and 15 hours.
(Next to Yamaha Motor, Mathura Road, Faridabad)
According to demand there are two or three shifts running. In September we worked on three 8-hourts shifts, since October 2012 on two 12-hours. Over-time is paid even less than single rate, only 20 Rs per hour. There are 30 to 40 permanent workers and 350 workers hired through contractor. We manufacture exhaust systems for Eicher tractors, trucks, busses and three-wheelers, for Honda two-wheelers and for Tata cars. There is a canteen, but only for office staff. During the 12-hours night-shifts the company gives us two teas and two packets of biscuits. Here the website of the company, head-office based in Finnland.
Everfine Plastic Worker
(Plot 283, Sector 6, IMT Manesar)
The 55 casual worklers are paid 3,500 Rs per month, no ESI no PF. Up until mid-2012 they ran two 12-hours shifts, currently two 10-hours. If you leave the factory at 2 am at night, you have major problems getting home. We manufacture plastic parts for Peugeot and Honda. The general director and director swear at people.
JMC Auto Components Worker
(Dabua-Pali Road, Faridabad)
There are 250 workers, working on two 12 hours shifts. We do plastic moulding and alloy die-casting work. There is also work on power-press and lathe. We supply parts to Sandhar, they work with these parts and then supply them to Maruti Suzuki. Only if you work for the company for more than 5 to 6 months you will get ESI and PF. Only after one year of work you will get a uniform.
Roop Polymers Worker
(Plot 31, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There is not a single permanent worker employed, but 750 workers hired through contractor on each of the two 12 hours shifts. As a machine operator you are paid 5,200 Rs. They put pressure on you, they want you to run two machines at the same time. At the rubber-mixing position there are some helpers employed, but that’s it, all other work is machine operating or other skilled work. The machine operators have to get and supply the material themselves, they are nevertheless supposed to meet the target as if they would only run the machine. Injection moulding creates a lot of heat, the workplace is very hot. We manufacture rubber parts for yamaha, Honda, Ju-Chin and Maruti Suzuki. If you leave the job the contractor keeps 1,500 to 2,000 Rs of outstanding wages for himself. The drinking water is bad, the toilets are dirty.
Tasha Automative Worker
(Plot 109, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
Around 100 workers work on two 12 hours shifts manufacturing parts for Sono Steering, which is another automobile supplier. None of the workers has ESI and PF. The helpers earn 4,300 to 4,500 Rs and overtime is paid with less than single rate. There used to be a canteen, but that has been shut three months ago. The drinking water is bad.
(Plot 14, Sector 14, IMT Manesar)
Around 900 workers manufacture parts for Honda and Hero two-wheelers. The guys of the B-shift are often made to work during the C-shift, 16 hours on stretch. They also work on Sundays. If you leave the job you don’t get your outstanding wage – they say that you should come back and work here, then you will be paid.
Report by employed drivers
In Delhi-Gurgaon-Faridabad-NOIDA, driver who fetch workers from their living quarters and bring them to factories or offices work between 10 and 18 hours a day. Over-time is not paid.They earn between 8,000 and 9,500 Rs a month. If you calculate it on the basis of an 8-hours day (calculation of the minimum wage), then they earn between 4,000 and 4,500 Rs. Apart from one day a week off they can’t take holidays. If they end up in traffic jams and arrive late 250 to 500 Rs fine is deducted from their wages. Trying to be on time means to drive too fast, to go through red lights – the pressure is on the drivers’ heads. There are a lot of accidents. If a driver gets injured he is sent home, unpaid. The wages of the guys who drive for call centres are usually paid delayed. Most drivers don’t get ESI or PF. And these are big companies. Around 250 drivers work for Chavi Tour and Travels, 250 for Sagar, 600 for Sihank Tourist Travels, 400 for Rav Tour and Travels, 300 for DTS and 1,000 for Chanson Tour and Travels. Conductors at these companies work 24 hours a day. More cars drive with CNG rather than petrol, which increases fear – last month three buses caught fire due to an electronic fault at Sihank Travels. A conductor got badly burnt. GPS systems are a way to always keep an eye on the driver. The bosses can always see where we are.
* Further Reports by Workers from the Gurgaon-Manesar-Faridabad Area
Tractel Tirfor Worker
(Dhudhola Road, P. O. Prithla, Palwal )
There are 24 permanent and 300 workers hired through contractor employed in the factory. They produce lifting and material handling devices. There is also material coming in from China, we just put a Tractel label on it and then the stuff is sold. For the permanent workers there is a company bus and they don’t have to work overtime. The workers hired through contractor work from 8:30 am till 7:30 pm and are often made to work till next morning 8 am. Overtime is only paid single rate. The 300 workers hired through contractor are not paid any bonueses and 100 of them don’t get ESI and PF. In 1995 to 1996 there were three strikes in the Faridabad plant, after that the number of permanent workers was reduced from 150 to 35.
Benn Export Worker
(Plot 826, Udyog Vihar Phase 5, Gurgaon)
Workers work from 9 am till 8 pm and often then again from 00:30 am till 6 am. Overtime is paid single rate. Helpers are paid 4,500 Rs and the tailors 5,500 to 6,000 Rs. Drinking water is very bad.
Emco Pressmaster Worker
(Plot 19, Sector 25, faridabad)
The factory manufactures 32 to 400 ton powerpresses. Normal working times are 8:30 am to 7 pm. Often we work till next morning 8 am, then have half an hour break and work again. If there is too much to do they don’t let you leave before having spent 72 hours in the factory. you work on public holidays, the factory is shut from outside, but inside people work. The helpers earn 3,500 Rs. Only ten out of 100 workers get ESI and PF. If an inspection comes to the company 90 workers are made to leave before through the back-gate. Once they were locked up in the storage room.
Coca Cola Worker
(Plot 276, Udyog Vihar Phase 2, Gurgaon)
Here 350 of us work on two 12 hours shifts, producing Limca, Thumps Up, Coca Cola and Sprite. The company records show only 80 permanent workers plus 70 workers hired through a single contractor for loading and unloading, officially employed on three 8 hours shifts. Management hides the fact that there are 200 workers hired through contractor employed in production, working 12 hours shifts. The monthly wage for workers hired through contractor is 4,000 Rs, no ESI, no PF, no annual bonus. We also work on Sundays. Overtime is paid only single rate. They used to give us a uniform per year, but in 2011 and 2012 they stopped that. There is no rest room in the factory, no place where to eat your food. When the Coca Cola representatives from America come over once a year the local management puts two table in a room, installs a fan and puts up a sign saying ‘canteen’. Management also says that the company fridges are repaired and maintained outside the factory, while it actually done in a room below the basement, which is officially declared to be a storage room. Fifteen workers do maintenance work their in dangerous conditions.
(28 Industrial Area, Faridabad)
On three assembly lines workers churn out 6,300 fridges (180 and 310 litre) per day. At each line permanent, casual and workers hired through contractors work side by side. From the wages of the workers hired through contractor ESI and PF money is deducted, but they get none of the benefits. Amongst the workers hired through contractors there are 14 to 16 years old kids, even working on night-shift. They earn between 3,600 and 4,200 Rs per month.
For a longer article on the restructuring at Kelvinator/Whirlpool see:
Ratna Offset Worker
(Plot C-101, FDDA shed, Okhla Phase 1)
There are two shifts, the day shift 11 hours and the night-shift 13 hours. There is no weekly day off. When the shift changes, those worker who start working on Saturday at 8 pm have to work till Sunday 5:30 pm, which is a 21.5 hours shift. The other guys then take over and work till Monday 9 am, which are 16 hours. Over-time is paid less than single rate. Workers don’t get the minimum wage: instead of 7,200 Rs the helpers are paid 4,500 to 5,00 Rs. Out of 50 workers 10 workers have money for ESI and PF deducted, but they don’t get PF money when leaving the job. Wages are paid delayed and workers are given cheques which they have to sign, but then the cheques are taken back again. A company official then goes to the bank and pays the workers in cash. In the wage register, which we ahve to sign, the wage sum is not noted down.
Bhurji Supertech Worker
(Plot 244, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, and Plot 272 in Phase 2, Gurgaon)
Wages are delayed over a month. In the Phase 1 factory there used to be 1,000 workers, now only 10 are left. In phase 2 there were 300, this came down to 125. They told the other workers to come back again in two months time. The factories manufacture cooler systems on a 12-hours shift. The company lawyer asked workers to pay him 1,500 Rs in order to get the PF money for them. He paid people in cash, but most workers asked for the PF form. One year after having filled in the PF form there is still no money. The lawyer tells workers to go to the bank and inquire there. He does not tell workers the PF number.
From the company website: “In the year 1969, Mr. K.S Bhurji started small set up of manufacturing unit with 2 people, a year later in 1973 , Mr.G.S.Bhurji joined as Director ,both the Director had a big ambition to facilitate their customers with best quality products which of course resulted this organization from sapling to a tree , now this organization growing a head with committed people ,ownership feeling and with one common dream to achieve the target”
JMK House Worker
(Plot 278, A-Block, Okhla Phase 1)
In the garment export factory 10 workers get ESI and PF, 30 only get ESI and 110 workers get neither. There are 78 workers on time-based wages, they are called ‘staff’, and 72 tailors on piece rate. The workers on time-based wages refused to take the March wage on 10th of April. They demanded a ten per cent wage increase. The director said: the company does not have enough profits, we cannot pay more. Nevertheless, some workers refused to take the money. Next morning the director came and said: Take the wage, next month we will give you a hike. Still, some workers refused to take the money. At 7 pm on 11th of April management announced that they would increase the wage by ten per cent. Even after this increase none of the workers get the Delhi minimum wage (7,072 Rs for ubnskilled, 7,748 Rs for semi-skilled, 8,528 for skilled). The helpers in the finishing department get 5,500 Rs for a six days week and 9 hours day. tailor masters get 10,000 Rs, but they have to work six days weeks and 12-hour days. Most of the finishing work is outsourced. The cutters, tailors and pressmen work between 12 and 15 hours a day. Some workers live in rooms above the production department. First management used to announce the piece-rate before the new orders and pieces came in, since a year we first have to produce the piece and then they tell us what we are paid. The piece-rate in September was very low, skilled tailors were paid between 5,000 and 6,000 Rs per month, for 12-hours shifts and seven days working-week. We talked about this: what can be done? We decided that we will not go and speak to the manager one-by-one, only together, in order to ask for higher rates. On payday all tailors left the factory at 5 pm. The manager sent the masters to call the workers back in. At 6 pm the workers went back in.
Manager: What’s up? Do your work!
Workers: But the rate is to low.
Manager: We will increase it.
Workers: The inflation is high. we want double the rate.
Manager: Ask for a fair and justified increase.
Workers: We don’t know what ‘justified’ means. Is it justified to live in the Indira Camp slum? to work 12 to 15 hours a day? you don’t even pay the minimum wage, is that justified?
The workers said this and left the factory again. They agreed to meet again next day at 10 am in front of the factory. The masters called them and at 11 am the workers went inside, with their demanded rate list. Manager: I won’t look at your list. I want to hear it from your mouth. The manager said he will increase the rate from 75 Rs to 110 per piece. All workers left the factory again. The company had to meet an urgent dead-line for an order. Workers agreed to meet again on the next day. At 11 am the next day they entered the factory. The manager agreed to a substantial rate increase of on average 90 per cent, and promised to tell workers beforehand what the piece rate of new order will be. The workers received wages according to the new rate – though, in the following month the company again, paid less than the agreed rate…
In GurgaonWorkersNews no.55 we presented a longer text on the class relation of urbanisation in Gurgaon. In this issue we summarise some updates and short news items on Gurgaon’s urban unrest. Feel free to re-read the longer article in order to put things in context.
/// The state’s attempt to grapple with the crisis: Land taxation
The financial situation of the state in India, as elsewhere, is in dire straits. This increases conflicts between different sections of the political class, representatives of capital and the ‘middle-class’. The state of Haryana announced to increase land dues for industrial plots and to introduce a house tax in the villages (house owners in villages have so far been exempt from this taxation). In September 2013 the conflict had a propagandistic climax when Maruti Suzuki announced they would shut their Gurgaon plant because they would have had to pay land dues of allegedly 500 crore Rs. (This planned closure was not actually going to take place). The Haryana state in turn explained that land dues have to be increased in order to pay higher compensations for the local population whose land has been acquired for industrial development. The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructural Development Corporation (HSIIDC), had acquired land at the rate of 4.13 lakh Rs per acre in 1997 for the development of phases 2, 3 and 4 of Manesar industrial township. This compensation was later raised to about 37 crore RS by the Punjab and Haryana High Court after a petition by the landowners.
A similar problem is being faced by industrialists in other industrial areas of the state such as Rohtak, Bawal, Sonepat, Hisar and Bahadurgarh. The economic feasibility of running business here is getting tougher,” said Arun Gupta, who runs a small garment manufacturing unit at IMT.
“Notices of resumption [eviction] are issued to the allottees who have not paid enhancement,” said B B Sharma, general secretary of the Chamber of Industry of Udyog Vihar, who has circulated notes to fellow industrialists in the region asking them to ‘unite and revolt’ against the ‘ghost of enhancement.’
(Times of India, 23rd of September 2013)
/// Credit Crunch: Real estate companies delay projects
Currency decline and subsequent liquidity problems are rattling the real estate companies, resulting in large-scale delays of projects. In Gurgaon, only one-third of the total committed supply for 2013 has been delivered by October 2013. Real estate capital has to start new projects before being able to finish previous ones, just to keep the money flowing. “We are currently looking at an environment wherein developers are obsessed with launching new projects rather than making the completion of existing projects a priority”, Moneycontrol quotes a real estate analyst. The state tries to intervene in the bubble-making, e.g. in July 2013 the Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) rejected Parsvnath Developers Limited’s licence renewal application on account of delays in clearing dues running into several crores of rupees for a residential project in Dharuhera near Gurgaon.
(Times of India, 1st of October 2013)
/// A symbol: the public-private conflict about the National Highway 8
No one wants to or can take-over the financial running of the National Highway 8. Six months after the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) announced that IDFC Ltd would buy out a 74 per cent stake in the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway, the deal has been cancelled. IDFC had planned to buy a controlling stake by taking on the debt of Rs 1,600 crore for a token Re 1, but despite this ‘bargain’ the company has now decided to stay away from the business. The necessary bail-out of the current developer will cost about 130 crore Rs tax money. In February 2012 NHAI accused the current developer DSC of being operationally incompetent. One of the point of conflict are the toll-gates: DSC wants to save money when it comes to raising money for developing the highway. They build only a few toll gates, which leads to massive traffic jams, which also impacts on the supply of industrial units with vital parts. An ironic situation. A court-initiated settlement was reached in which DSC was required to construct more toll plazas along the expressway to ease traffic. In October 2013 DSC was charged with fraud: siphoning off toll money by under-reporting traffic. According to NHAI, the under-reporting caused NHAI a loss of Rs 24 crore between August 2012 and July 2013. Less ironic, but rather tragic is the fact that the developer also saves money when it comes to saving lives. There has been a 48 per cent increase in road accident cases on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, compared to the corresponding period last year, according to the data available for the first six months of the year. During the first half of 2013, 223 people were killed on the roads of Gurgaon. The reason for high incidence of pedestrian death is the lack of foot overbridges. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) recently sanctioned Rs 2 crore to PWD to build a foot overbridge at Hero Honda Chowk – this is more than half a decade after the opening of the highway.
(Times of India, 1st of August 2013)
/// A Taksim Square situation in the making: corruption scandal in Gurgaon’s real estate
In August 2013 the UPA government announced that the dubious land-deals of Sonia Ghandi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra in the Gurgaon area don’t require further judicial inquiries. The case shows a deep intertwinement between the political class and real estate accumulation, something which caused explosive situations in the current condition of social crisis, e.g. in Turkey in summer 2013. Khemka, a former public administration official and now ‘anti-corruption’ figure, had raised the issue of the transfer of large chunks of panchayat (village council) land, worth hundreds of crores, to newly created realtor companies under the garb of consolidating fragmented landholdings. In one case in Ankhir village in Faridabad district, he points out how the then Deputy Commissioner cornered a prime plot after partitioning panchayat land in favour of his mother, who happened to be the Chief Minister’s aunt. The phoney land deals of Robert Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality company includes major transaction with DLF, India’s biggest real estate developer and ‘creator’ of new Gurgaon.
/// General signs of urban unrest
The general financial contractions and the involvement of the political class as a rentier class causes social friction, which comes to the fore in various moments, which sometimes seem unrelated to each other.
* On 25th of June 2013 five security guards deployed by a developer in Sector 62 were badly injured by the villagers of Kartarpur and nearby areas. More than 70 villagers came in large numbers after security guards of the developer refused them to use the government PWD road. Villagers allege that the developer had employed bouncers with 9mm pistols on their temporary office premises and prevented the villagers from using the public road. “They used to frighten villagers so that we sell our land to them,” said Rajpal Dayma, a resident of Kartarpur.
* On 21st of June 2013 hundreds of upper-class residents of Gurgaon protested against waterlogging problems in their respective areas and gheraoed (encircle) Huda administrator Praveen Kumar in the courtyard of his office in Sector 14. The protesters also shouted slogans against senior town planner R K Singh. They called him an agent of the builder mafia of Gurgaon.
* On 30th of July 2013 the newly appointed deputy commissioner, Shekar Vidyarthi, has written to civic agencies like the MCG and HUDA not to directly approach the police department seeking protection during anti-encroachment [illegal settlements] drives. “As it is, it is a big struggle for us to get even the minimum police force every time we go to remove encroachments, and on top of it, this high-handedness will not help matters,” said a senior MCG official. “Just a few months ago, when our team went to demolish an illegal house 900 metres away from the IAF depot area, the mob turned violent and attacked our employees. They started throwing stones from rooftops and our men were injured. Apart from this, our vehicles were completely burnt down.”
* On 3rd of August 2013 aggrieved residents from several sectors and nearby villagers blocked the main road at Khandsa Chowk near Sector 10A to protest against the non-fulfillment of their long-standing demands by the municipal corporation. Hundreds of protesters from nearby villages arrived in buses and assembled under the banner of the Samaj Vikas Samiti. “If nothing is done about this issue by August 9, we will once again come out and jam the highway in protest of both MCG and HUDA,” said Yudhvir Singh, an activist, who has been a part of the citizens’ drive pushing for repair works and the construction of an underpass at the Hero Honda Chowk.
* On 25th of August 2013 an angry mob stoned a team of Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) officials who had gone to carry out demolition of illegal plots in Basai enclave near Basai village. The mob set fire to a tractor, a jeep and two government officials’ cars belonging to Joint Municipal Commissioner Veena Hooda and Executive Engineer Raman Sharma of the MCG. The protesters smashed around 12 other cars and blocked the Basai-Dhankot road for two hours. The 110 police men who had arrived with the officials had to retreat. “We tried reasoning with them but they turned violent and attacked us. They thrashed us and threatened to kill us. We had a narrow escape,” said an official.
* On 25th of August 2013 police opened fire in the air in an attempt to disperse hundreds of villagers, who torched vehicles and broke windowpanes of passing trains as they blocked roads and the Delhi-Rewari rail route in the Pataudi area to protest a man’s murder by cattle thieves. Over half a dozen policemen were injured in the clashes. The condition of two of them was stated to be critical. Villagers hit out at alleged negligence and inaction of the police against cattle thieves, who have been active in the area for the last few years.
* On 11th of September hundreds of students, who were declared failed in various first and second year courses, broke open the main gates of Amity University in Manesar and stopped varsity staff and other students from entering the campus.
* On 2nd of October a group of CNG auto drivers continued their protest for the second consecutive day against Gurgaon police, accusing them of harassment through unjustified penalties and detentions. The protest turned violent at times. Even as the ongoing protest by auto drivers in the city has started to take a violent turn, Gurgaon police are in no mood to give in to their ‘unjustified’ demands. Several CNG auto drivers went off the roads and forced many autos to stop midway and even smashed windscreens to register their anger against the ongoing penalty drive by Gurgaon police and their alleged detentions for verification in police stations.
We document a recent article on the history and development of Dharuhera, an industrial town near Gurgaon/Manesar. We might not agree with some of the authors assumptions, such as the ‘feudal’ character of Dharuhera in the 1980s, but the article provides some interesting details. For further reading we suggest previous GurgaonWorkersNews articles on the history of workers’ struggle in Dharuhera and on the struggle at Hero Honda in 2009.
On Dharuhera Workers’ History:
Hero Honda Dharuhera Struggle:
A Small Town Near Gurgaon Wrestles With Change
By ASGAR QADRI – The New York Times, 16th of July, 2013
Dharuhera, a small town in the Indian state of Haryana, spreads along National Highway-8, which connects New Delhi with Mumbai. About 40 kilometers south of Gurgaon, Dharuhera is a cluster of half-built and freshly built concrete buildings. Thousands of men and women from neighboring villages descend everyday into its new and growing market.
Twenty years ago, Dharuhera was a quiet village of famers, who mostly worked on the lands of the local feudal lords, the Rao clan. The Raos owned most of the land and controlled the lives of people.
“We fought the Raos like our fathers had fought against the British,” Suresh Chand, a farmer in his 70s, told me. In his youth, Mr. Chand worked as a laborer on the Rao lands. “It was pure bondage,” Mr. Chand said. “There was no morning or evening for us. We worked on their lands all the time and got almost nothing in return.”
The Raos had collaborated with the British and were given thousands of acres of land by the colonial authorities. The fortune is now divided among the various Rao scions. They continue to be the most powerful and the richest family in Dharuhera. The Raos too have made a transition like the town they ruled: they have reinvented themselves as real estate moguls. Daruhera is dominated by buildings carrying the Rao name: Rao Inderpal Shopping Complex, Rao Matadin Shopping Complex, and Dilip Rao Market. Each complex houses 100 to 150 shops.
Dharuhera is now an emblem of the change India’s economic liberalization has brought to the countryside and its socioeconomic life. In the past seven years, the local market has swelled from about 200 shops to over 2,000 shops, signaling a complete shift from agriculture to business in the local economy.
A new enclave, Bestech City, named after its developer, the Bestech Group, has come up on the elastic edge of Daruhera. Its four residential apartment towers include several hundred apartments — each two-bedroom apartment priced between 3,500,000 rupees ($58,528) to 4,000,000 rupees ($66,889). Bestech City includes a shopping mall, which is not yet functional. A little ahead of Bestech City, two new residential sectors of around 400 modern houses are coming up.
Dharuhera’s population has increased from about 18,000 in 2001 to around 45,000 in 2013. But the small town still lacks a decent hospital. It doesn’t even have a college. It lacks a sewer or drainage system. Heaps of garbage and discarded liquor bottles grow along its potholed and water logged roads. Although dynamism and dysfunction live together in Dharuhera, the social and economic changes it has witnessed are epic.
The feudal world of Dharuhera began to crumble in the early 1980s after the Haryana government acquired a large swath of agricultural land and designated it as an industrial estate. Companies with large operations, like a paper producer, Sehgal Paper Mills, and a synthetics group, East India Synthetics, came and began employing thousands of locals as workers in their factories. A few years later, in 1985, Hero Honda, India’s largest scooter and motorcycle manufacturer, set up its manufacturing plant in Dharuhera. Thousands of jobs were created. Indian Oil, the state-owned petroleum company, set up a plant.
A job in a factory brought freedom from centuries of feudal servitude and bonded labor. The great transformation of the feudal town also tore through the hierarchies of the oppressive caste system. Tej Kumar, a Dalit now in his 50s, was one of the workers to get a job at the Hero Honda factory in 1990.
“We were forced to wear a piece of shroud,” Mr. Kumar recalled. “Our huts were made to face south to ward off the dirty winds.”
He earned 2,000 rupees ($33) per month in his factory job — a princely sum for him at the time. A few years later, he was promoted as an electrician. After two decades at the factory, Mr. Kumar, who now makes 22,000 rupees ($367) a month, bought a modern double story house in one of the newly built housing complexes in Dharuhera. Mr. Kumar’s was the first Dalit family to move into the new residential complex. “I am hoping to buy a car now,” he said.
Over the last decade, however, the enthusiasm that the workers of Dharuhera had about factory jobs has been tempered. Hero Honda, like other manufacturers, has reduced permanent workers and turned to employ more contract workers, who are paid much less.
“The plant now has 1850 permanent workers, who make around 20,000 rupees ($334) a month,” said Dal Chandra Lodi, who has worked at the automobile factory for 20 years and served on its labor union. “There are around 6,000 contract workers. There is an enormous difference between what the permanent workers get paid and what the contract workers make.”
After 50 contract workers were laid off, the resentments came to the fore. Workers went on strike and the factory was closed for two days. At the time of the strike, the contract workers had told the press that they were paid a basic salary of 3,500 rupees ($58) as against the mandatory Haryana government wage of 4,200 rupees ($70) per month.
The second major transformation of Dharuhera came in the past eight years, as Gurgaon swelled into a huge city of shopping malls, gleaming corporate towers, and residential complexes. Real estate developers began their search for lands that could be developed as suburbs to the megacity, with new homes for professionals who can’t afford Gurgaon.
The developers drove 40 minutes on the highway leading past Gurgaon to Mumbai and pressed their brakes in Daruhera. In 2003-04, the urban planning agency of the state, Haryana Urban Development Authority ( HUDA) built two residential sectors in Daruhera. And land prices had begun to climb.
“I did my land deal in 1999. I sold one square yard of land for 925 rupees ($15),” said Ajit Veer, a Daruhera resident, who became a real estate agent after seeing his village urbanize. “That patch of land sells for 40,000 rupees ($668) per square yard today.”
The village of clay was quick to embrace the new townscape of concrete. Hundreds of villagers sold their land and bought new lives: houses, cars, renting or buying a shop from one of the Rao brothers for a small business. Sensing the new opportunities in the town, many people from outside came to settle in Dharuhera, aiding the growth of local market.
The changing dynamics of the town also bought along intense pressure to cope with a cold new world. Mr. Kumar developed great expectations for his son Nishant Kumar. He enrolled the younger Mr. Kumar at the local franchisee of the elite Delhi Public School. Nishant dropped out of school after failing his high school examination twice.
“Everything they taught me was in English. I struggled to understand,” the younger Mr. Kumar told me. He had spent 16 years in a Hindi language school. After failing twice, he was expelled from the elite school. He drifted, frequenting cheap bars in nearby Gurgaon, drinking, smoking hash. “If you paid 200 rupees ($3.3) you could dance with a girl, if you pay a little more you could kiss her,” he said.
In 2008, Mr. Kumar collected his life savings, took a loan from a bank, and bought a shop for his son in Dharuhera market and pulled him back from the innards of Gurgaon’s underbelly. The younger Mr. Kumar has been running the garment store for five years now. He got married and had a daughter. He makes around 10,000 rupees ($167) in a good month. “We have ended up with too many shops and very few customers,” he said.
Although the Kumars have been able to move out of the confines of the feudal bondage and the persistent caste system, the old heart of Dharuhera continues to be divided into the upper caste Yadav quarter with spacious houses, clean, wide streets, and the derelict lower-caste Dalit quarter.
“They still refer to us as Harijans,” said Makhan Lal, a shopkeeper in the Dalit neighborhood. “At least now we live in houses instead of thatched huts.”
(Asgar Qadri graduated from The Josef Korbel School of International Relations at the University of Denver. He works as a researcher and journalist in New Delhi.)