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Gurgaon Workers News – Newsletter 18 (June 2009)

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 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 uprooted by the agrarian 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, Asia’s biggest Special Economic Zone is in the making. 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:

http://www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

In the June 2009 issue you can find:

1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective

*** Lakhani Shoes Fire, the Unknown Deads and a Riot -
Some reports from local workers indicate that the official number of fifteen dead workers at Lakhani Shoes is untrue, it could be as many as 100. In Gurgaon, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, less than a week after the Lakhani disaster another factory burnt down: Bhurji Supertech, a cooler manufacturing plant full of polystyrenes – officially no one came to harm. On the same day in Gujarat workers had enough of fatal accidents…

*** Rural-Urban Migration Reversed? -
Short introduction to the National Rural Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), reference to a new publication by ‘Perspectives’ on the Agrarian Crisis, followed by a poem on the rural plight. Finally a story of a factory worker who became unemployed in Gurgaon and Faridabad industrial areas, who decided to apply for a job with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) ‘back home’ in the village, and who found out that nothing is guaranteed. Translated from Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar issue 250.

*** One and a half years and a global crisis later… -
Rather subjective snap-shots about changes in and of Gurgaon, after a longer absence from the disaster-zone of progress. How did the urban land-scape convolute further, what happened to our old neighbour, who are the new friends we meet…

*** Short workers’ reports from Gurgaon industrial area -
Reports from workers collected during Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar distribution in Gurgaon, May 2009. Workers are employed by following companies:

Dhir International
Food Gallery
Laxmi Embroidery
Orchid
Polypack
Rolex
Spark
Taurus Home Furnishing
Viva Global

2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area

*** Rebel Voices from Female Worker and Friends at Boni Polymers -
Woman Worker’s refusal to be victimised by the crisis in the automobile sector. After having been sacked from work in an automobile parts manufacturing factory in Faridabad industrial area she and her friends fight back and they are fighting fit…

*** Impressions from demonstration for locked-out and jailed Musashi workers -
The fate of many traditionally lead workers’ struggles in the area: first locked out, then locked-up. On 11th of May 2009 around 400 people- most of them members of the official unions in Gurgaon, Manesar area – protested against the lock-out of Muasashi workers and against subsequent police repression. Musashi is a gear manufacturer for Honda HMSI. Since 50 days the workers hold a protest sit-in in front of the factory. Please drop a line of rage at: http://www.musashi.co.in

3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies

*** Babylon will fall eventually: Shaky Grounds of Gurgaon High Rise Real Estate -
The real estate sector in Gurgaon is not only shaken in its money-form, the weak foundation of its high-rising concrete-steel-glass form corresponds to the thin base of its inflated share-holder value. Construction companies and real estate developers consciously ignore the shaky grounds of their Babylonian towers: falling water levels, crispy-sandy-moving soil and increasing earthquake dangers. Short chat with two architects.

*** The upper-class is revolting -
Thin air on the top. The first half of 2009 saw various protests of the middle class: students at a management college and parents at private schools agitating about high fees and other forms of tighter selection processes. Not that we can put much hope in these ‘revolting future managers’, but the protest shows the enormous pressure within the new formed ‘business-class’, aggravated by the crisis – a pressure which inevitably will be channelled into all kinds of political reactions and reactionary dynamics. Or not? Of course we support the struggle of students to be able to wear long hair and to hold hands…

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** Delhi Film Screening -
We plan to screen a series of workers’ documentaries from various times and spaces. If you are interested in the screening or getting hold of the films (see list below), please get in touch.

*** Glossary -
Updated version of the Glossary: things that you always wanted to know, but could never be bothered to google. Now even in alphabetical order.

1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective

*** Lakhani Shoes Fire and the Unknown Deads -

On 1st of May 2009 the Lakhani Shoes factory, plot 122 in Faridabad Sector 24 caught fire, the newspapers first wrote of six, then of ten, then of fifteen dead workers. Lakhani is said to be the country’s largest maker and exporter of canvas and vulcanised shoes, has two dozen units in the district. A younger worker who is employed in a neighbouring factory came to Faridabad Majdoor Library three days later. He said that it is more than likely that 50 – 100 or more workers have been killed. A boiler on the first floor exploded, the floor collapsed and buried many workers who were waiting for their over-time payment in the basement. He said that he saw at least 100 burnt bicycles outside the factory. He met a landlord in industrial village Mujesar who said that his three tenants, employed at Lakhani haven’t returned. He met an older woman whose son is still missing. Most of these workers were not officially employed, their names were not on the Lakhani pay-roll. Many of them were from Nepal and single, meaning that they were not immediately reported missing by their families. From the reported 38 workers who were brought to various hospitals – in Faridabad there is no hospital for severe burn treatment – only one worker had an official ESI health insurance number. The rest is unknown. Some people from NGO’s try to find out what has happened on this sad day.
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Fire at Bhurji Supertech
Only five days later, on the 6th of May 2009, the sky over Gurgaon is black with smoke – see photos on web-site. A factory in Udyog Vihar burnt down: Bhurji Supertech, a cooler manufacturing plant and supplier for Bajaj Electronics. The factory was full of polystyrenes – officially no one came to harm. A friend from Faridabad says: “There are said to be around 20,000 factories in Faridabad – and each one of them is a bomb”.
Enough is enough: On the same day when Bhurji Supertech was on fire a worker in Mundra (Gujarat) died after a work accident in the Siracha power plant, which is under construction by the building company Adani Group. 500 workers started to burn company trucks and destroyed offices. They said that the work-mate died due to improper maintenance of the crane which moved suddenly when the worker was cleaning the chimney. The police used tear-gas and gun-shots to stop the riot which went on till the following day.

*** Rural-Urban Migration Reversed? -

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is supposed to guarantee rural population 100 days of paid work per family – a way to control proletarian rural migration and to curb the worst outcomes of peasantries’ social death: mass suicides, Maoism, insurrection. NREGS jobs are labour intensive – use of certain machinery is ruled out by law – and they are supposed to be for infrastructural development. Meaning road-building, well-digging etc. with simplest tools. For further reading about the NREGS see part on Rural Crisis in GurgaonWorkersNews no.16 and follow links.

If you want to read more about the rural crisis in India you should get hold of a copy of ‘Harvesting Despair – Agrarian Crisis in India’, published by ‘Perspectives” in January 2009. The book contains thorough empirical research and fieldwork on questions of land-distribution, agrarian technology, rural financial streams. Unfortunately the political analysis is rather narrow: instead of trying to understand the rural crisis / agrarian revolution as something intrinsic to capitalist development in each and every country ‘Perspective’ blame external forces – the US and developed countries, the multinationals – for the rural misery, which necessarily leads to a (Indian) state focussed view when it comes to the question of solutions. To get hold of a copy:
contact.perspectives@gmail.com

—–

This harvest of hopes, my friend

Cut down
All these wilted plants
Don’t leave them thirsty and sobbing
Tear down
These restless blossoms
Don’t leave them weeping on the bough
This harvest of hopes my friend
Will go waste once again
All toil, of mornings and evenings
Will still again go in vain

In every nook and corner of the field
Feed again the manure of your blood
Yet again water the soil with your tears
Yet again agonize over the season to come

Agonize, yet again over the season to come
When we are to be uprooted once again
Once this yield is harvested we will be done
Till then we do what thus remain

Faiz Ahmed ‘Faiz’
(Translated by Perspectives)

—–

Story of a factory worker who became unemployed in Delhi industrial areas, who decided to apply for a job with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) ‘back home’ in the village, and who found out that nothing is guaranteed. Told to and published in Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar issue 250.

NREGS Worker
(March 2009)
I am from an artisan family from a village in Mathura district. I have an ITI qualification (two-three years of technical apprenticeship). I have done my internship. In order to find work I roamed Mathura, Agra, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon and Faridabad. I started work in a factory in Faridabad, but I was ‘given a break’ (kicked out in order to avoid having to give a permanent contract) after six months. After the lessons of having been unemployed for some time and the trouble it means, when I got unemployed again I was ready to apply for a job with the NREGS. The first work started in July 2008: digging earth out of a pond for the agriculture panchaayat (village council/authority). The second job was in August and September: digging earth out from an irrigation canal of the irrigation department. In total I worked for 21 days, the documents showed 22 days. The work was done by 35 workers, but the documents showed 50, the other 15 were sitting at home and faked attendance. A lot of earth moving work, all measured in meters – us 35 instead of 50 workers. No payment in November and December. They said that they will open a giro bank account for transferral. They took 20 to 50 Rs in order to open this account. When the first payment was due they kept the 200 Rs in this account. At the time of the second payment they also kept the 200 Rs “for keeping it in the account” – as some kind of fee. They called all of us to come to the bank at 8 am and made us wait till 3 pm. They told us to come back the next day, without having paid out the money. When we said that we won’t accept this they asked for 20 Rs from each of us for expenses. We then had to sign with our finger-print and money was given to the local temporary school teacher and the official from Gram Vikas (Agriculture Institution). From that money 800 was paid to us 35 and 400 to those who stayed at home. The same happened with the second payment, just that this time they asked for 50 Rs instead of 20 Rs for expenses. When we resisted they started to threaten us – “you will come here again and want to work, and then we will see”. Our pass book was kept with the guy from the bank, our job card was with the temp school teacher. We had been promised a daily wage of 100 Rs, we were actually paid 70 Rs and only after several months of hassle. In the meantime we all took time off from the NREGS work, so that when there was gardening work offered in January no worker in the village would lay their hands on it. The temp school teacher and the official from Gram Vikas gave us to understand that we should give money to the area, district and block officials, because they have to drive around a lot on the motorcycles in order to arrange things for us – which obviously cost money. In November – December, when our wages were distributed, the temp school teacher had received his wages from the government for ten months.

*** One and a half years and a global crisis later… -

Back in the disaster-zone of progress after one and a half years – Delhi’s satellite of awe. While walking through the area the brain blips back and forth, having to fill memory gaps with new concrete, steel and glass. More office space, more retail space – leaving less space. Some building sites seem deserted or at least little work is done on them. The 5-Star hotel at IFFCO Chowk seems unfinished business – dried up funds from last year’s crunch?
The old devouring concrete snake. You have to pay now for driving on the NH8 highway. There has been too much blood on the tarmac, they have built two-three foot-crossings – it seems pro forma. Beyond Hero Honda Chowk people still have to play Russian Roulette when crossing. The newspapers report that there is still one fatal accident every ten days – on a 30 km stretch. On 21st of April a 24 year old worker lost the deadly game.
A second concrete snake ploughs through town now – the Metro line. Consumer conveyor belt for the starving shopping malls. Million tons of steel and concrete, 20-30 kilometre over-ground track, on 15 meters high concrete pillars. You could think of German Autobahn construction or Stalinist heavy infrastructure programs – building workers living in make-shift huts on or next to the site. But no Gulag or forced labour necessary, the rural crisis makes the best watchdog.
The Rajasthani family – goat shepards and metal artisans – has finally disappeared. For twenty years they have lived on a spot on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Marg – first in a bigger tribe, the they got surrounded by road works and shopping malls. Three years ago they were still 20 people, last year they had to leave – the space of their tents, goats, washing and play-area is now a groomed-pathetic patch of grass in front of Vipul Mall. The family now lives scattered all over the place, three younger men – skilled blacksmiths – now sell ready-made matkas (earthen pots) Vishwakarma Road. They live in make-shift huts at the road side. They are hassled by ‘big people’ from the adjoining apartment houses and malls.
Disappearance of the unofficial: during election time it turned out that around 250,000 ‘nomadic’ people in Gurgaon area – most of them from Rajasthan – are not registered. They have lived in the local (slum) areas for 20 years or longer, but they couldn’t vote even if they wanted. The same is true for the thousands of ‘illegal’ Bangladeshi workers in Gurgaon.

Chakkarpur village. Still becoming more of an island of former-peasant land-lordism, scratch-a-living small shop-owners and service-proletarian dormitory for the surrounding upper-class fortresses. The local village temple got bigger – the local middle-strata pay their tributes to the Gods or Prosperity. Still very much a ‘Hindustani village’, but some Nigerian people have been seen walking around – big news. During election time the traders and peasants gathered once or twice for election speeches of various candidates. Very few, not more than a hundred, but representing the local elite. First experience of drunken open young men’s aggression during a Congress gathering. The temple got bigger and the beer-and-wine shops spread like mushrooms. Who drinks? Who can afford to drink? The internet cafes have CCTV now – the Mumbai attacks are used as an excuse for the surveillance re-armament out of wider social fear. The small shop-owners still talk about money a lot. Paying 3,000 Rs monthly rent for a garage-like shop or bike repair-shop, the shop’s stock hardly worth half of it. They sleep in the shop, but have a telly now, shackled to their business and status appearance. Watching TV in a small hardware shop – the trickle down effect of second-hand televisions in chai stalls, small shops, back-yard proletarian rooms is noticeable, so is the equipment of young proletarians with Chinese mobile phones – a tele-shop program is on: “English Guru”, an English course, the advert plays on the flute of non-english speakers feelings of inferiority, promising salvation and betterment through anglo-ism. More adverts: Mystical necklace on offer, against the ‘evil eye’, in order to avoid accidents and to make good business. The plastic ornament is sold for 2,400 Rs. Proletarians still cannot afford superstition.

The landlord’s parents – ex-farmers who cling on to the past – still snorkle the hukka and wash the buffalo early mornings – the last remnants of hundreds of years farmers traditions soon to be washed away. The landlord’s son himself has a brand new Hyundai and hardly gets his hands dirty. Over the last one and a half years the rent in the 20 – 30 back-yard rooms went up from 1,600 to 1,800 Rs for two people sharing a room. Gas and transport doesn’t seem to have become more expensive, and food prices seem not much higher than 18 months ago. Though the last years’ moral price of chai has been broken at a chai stall in Udyog Vihar: 4 Rs instead of the usual 3 Rs. No Tea Party in sight though.
The fence between our backyard and the groomed garden of Sahara-Appartments has been finished – it is five meters high. The old neighbours are still there in the backyard. There is still the old daily concern over water-supply, the arguments with the land-lord about when the water will be passed on from the tanks, the speculations about the daily electricity cuts. What has changed for the three women over the last one and a half years? They still sit in or in front of their family rooms 23 and a half hours a day. Some kids go to school now.
All neighbours are still there apart from Kamlesh. He used to work at Motherson Sumi, a car parts manufacturer, he is currently in the village – after having worked as a security guard like his brother. Tinku got a new job, as well. One and a half years ago he worked in a factory manufacturing break-systems for Suzuki – earning less than 3,000 Rs. Now he takes care of the stock in the business of a friend: they install CCTV and security systems. He has to do data entry, process orders. He has done a computer course for 8,000 Rs – a bargain, normally people pay 40,000 Rs or more. Basic Excel and Windows stuff. He now earns 5 – 6,000 Rs per month. People who have some resources and who manage to stick it out in Gurgaon. There are steps on the ladder.
Imran Khan, Bengali, he lives in Chakkarpur since eight years. He still cycles rickshaws, but he also owns ten – a new one will cost you about 9,000 Rs. Other rickshaw-drivers give Imran 30 Rs for rent, if they are lucky they make 150 Rs a day. Nazrul remembers Chakarpur when he arrived in 2001: “A jungle, man. And the now fat farmers were poor sods then, selling lassi. They became rich and they started to give Bengali people shit – for any reason”.
I meet an old friend by chance on a stroll near Maruti factory. Two years ago he used to sell watermelons. You could see that he wasn’t doing well, a small push-car full of watermelons worth less than 400 Rs, he was standing at the corner 12-14 hours a day. Our friendship ailed, because of the watermelon trade and my under-consumption. Today he works as a packer in a textile export factory – he is in his late 40s – he seems happier and better fed. But our conversation is short – this time he is short of time, because work starts soon.
Samar still hangs out at the chai stall after call centre night-shifts. His accent got more American. He is a quality checker now, supervisor. A US process for a medical insurance. His wage increased by 85 per cent over the last two years. Some win, many lose. He looks tired though.

“Around 20 per cent of the migrant workers in the export industry have left Faridabad since October”, says a friend. A rare estimation about the actual impact of the crisis on the industrial working-class. The remaining mass of workers in the textile industry still work on 12-14-16-hours shifts – wages have not increased since the last one and a half years. The textile factories in Udyog Vihar still have signs out: tailors wanted. The automobile production experienced a slump in November, shift-times got reduced, people got kicked out – but now things seem ‘back on track, meaning 70-80-hours working-week track’. Maruti Suzuki didn’t sack people, that’s what friends from Majdoor Ekta Manch Gurgan (Workers’ Unity Platform) say – their new office is opposite of the car plant. NGO-based, they want to organise a union amongst local textile workers – a new development in Gurgaon. A call centre worker, employed by Convergys in the Vipul complex, the company which displaced the Rajasthani artisans: “Work got cut down in the call centre sector, but not on a mass scale. Sapient sacked 500 people. But you notice the crisis. Companies scrap free meals and even more people are squeezed into the company cabs. Profit squeeze”. Young workers from West-Bengal, who worked and fought at Delphi do not live in their old place anymore. Have they returned? Moved within Gurgaon? The whole back-yard was buzzing with young guys one and a half years ago, now it seems deserted. Newspapers report that Delphi is about to sell their Gurgaon factory assets to the Mexican company Bienes Turgon. The young worker from Venus Electronics, a company manufacturing electronic switches for Hero Honda says that workforce has been reduced by a third during the last six months. Too small pieces for the bigger picture of the crisis impact – too many pieces when it comes to the individual impact on people’s life. Compared to one and a half years ago the ex-army security guards at Hero Honda seem much more jumpy and aggressive when facing people distributing dubious workers’ newspapers – let’s hope they have good reasons…

*** Short workers’ reports from Gurgaon industrial area -

Reports from workers collected during Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar distribution in Gurgaon, May 2009.

Dhir International Worker
The factory is situated on plot 299 in Udyog Vihar Phase 2. We work 170 to 180 hours over-time per month. There is a lot of embezzlement, often 100 hours get cut from the over-time, you lose 1,200 to 1,500 Rs per month. The company clock for example shows 11:45 pm while the computer for time-records says 11 pm. If you are a minute late, they cut an hour from your wage. Even when you are ill you are forced to keep on working. They threaten and beat you. The tailors have neither PF nor ESIU. I guess about 5,000 people work there, but I don’t know the buyers (clients). The drinking water is bad, the latrines are dirty.

Food Gallery Worker
The factory is situated on plot 418 in Udyog Vihar Phase 4. 150 workers work on two 12-hours shifts, preparing meals and breakfast for factory and company canteens. No ESI or PF. For a 12-hours shift and a 26 days month you get between 2,000 and 3,500 Rs. The wages are paid delayed.

Laxmi Embroidery Worker
The factory is on plot B-35 in Udyog Vihar Phase 5. They run two 12-hours shifts, 26 days per month. For this working-time you get 2,200 Rs as a helper and 4,000 Rs as a skilled worker. No ESI, no PF, but verbal abuse.

Orchid Worker
The factory on plot 189 in Udyog Vihar Phase 1 employs around 3,000 to 4,000 workers. They work 250 to 300 hours over-time per month, but 20 – 50 hours get embezzled. Yes, they give you 15 Rs for food and at 8 pm some tea. The casual helpers get 2,800 Rs. The 70 female thread cutters are employed through contractor, they get 3,000 to 3,200 Rs. We produce garments for Charley and other clients. There are only five latrines for so many workers, they are dirty.

Polypack Worker
The company is situated on plot 194 in Udyog Vihar Phase 1. The factory management cuts ESI and PF from wages, but you won’t get ESI or the fund money when you leave the job. The annual bonus wasn’t paid either.

Rolex Worker
The factory situated on plot 24 in Sector 4, IMT Manesar runs a long shift, starting at 9 am, finishing at 2 am. Monthly you are forced to work 200 to 300 hours over-time. The payment is at single rate – and only 180 hours are paid, the rest remains unpaid. If you are two minutes late they abuse you verbally – and say that you can come back the next day, that they won’t let you in. If you take three days off per month they would kick you out. The general manager uses any opportunity to give people shit. The 150 workers directly hired by Rolex get ESI and PF – the 1,000 workers hired through contractor don’t. Their wages are paid delayed.

Spark Worker
The factory is situated on plot 166 in Udyog Vihar Phase 1. The March wages have not been paid yet, on 30th of April. If you arrive a minute late, they send you back home. There are 125 to 150 hours over-time each month, they are paid at single rate and delayed – the February over-time was paid on 28th of April. Each month 500 to 600 Rs get embezzled, if you complain the ‘incharge’ abuses or beats you. If you leave the job you won’t get paid the last 20 – 25 days of work. There is only one toilet for male and female workers. No ESI, no PF.

Taurus Home Furnishing Worker
In the factory – plot 418 in Udyog Vihar Phase 3 – the helpers get 2,400 Rs and the skilled workers 3,000 to 3,200 Rs per month. There are 300 workers, no one gets ESI or PF. If there is little work they send you home for eight – ten days. Two and a half months ago an inspector was to come – before his arrival we were sent home and the factory was shown as closed.

Viva Global Worker
The drinking water for the workers in the factory on plot 413 in Udyog Vihar Phase 3 is bad. If you ask for a day off they tell you to hand in your notice. During hiring process the female workers are downgraded by people who examine their work – they say that the women have no experience in tailoring work, despite the fact that they actually are experienced workers. The company does not pay the Dearness Allowance. You won’t get a pay-slip, so it is difficult to tell how much you get for over-time. You get PF money cut from your wage, but no fund money when you leave the job. Such a factory should be locked up.

2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area

*** Rebel Voices from Female Worker and Friends at Boni Polymers -

Woman Worker’s refusal to be victimised by the crisis in the automobile sector. After having been sacked from work in an automobile parts manufacturing factory in Faridabad industrial area she and her friends fight back. Boni Polymers runs four factories in Faridabad and Gurgaon.

Boni Polymers Worker
(December 2008)
The factory on plot 37 P in Sector-6 in Faridabad runs 360 out of 365 days. In the main department, where the moulding work is done, they run two 12-hours shift. In the other departments workers work on a single 12-hours shift which can be extended to 36-hours if necessary. To work 150 to 200 hours of over-time is normal and it is not unusual to work more. The over-time payment is even less than single-rate, around 12 to 13 Rs per hour. The factory manufactures rubber parts for Hero Honda, Yamaha, Maruti Suzuki, JBC, Tata Motor, Delphi, Svaraj Mazda, Mundal Showa and for export to Italy. In the factory there are 4 permanent workers, 100 casual workers, 400 workers hired through contractors and 125 workers who are called ‘staff’. The work-load and pressure is very high – meal breaks are often postponed. In each spot of the plant there are cameras. In the moulding department the temperature is 150 to 200 degrees Celsius and only one fan per four machines. There are 5 latrines for 500 workers. The drinking water is brackish. Coughing is common, the sand blasting department is a house full of illness. Hands are burnt, crushed, fingers cut on a regular level – and workers are made to write letters of apology afterwards. According to the official documents the factory is accident free… When the electricity panel caught fire the managing director Raj Bhatiya ordered to make a ritual fireplace inside the factory. The casual workers are continuously employed, but their documents show a break after six months and they are forced to fill in the form for claiming PF – as part of their ‘official end of employment’. The wage of 50 workers hired through contractors is 2,500 to 3,000 Rs, no ESI, no PF, instead a lot of verbal abuse…
Then at beginning of November 2008 Boni Polymers started to lay off people. Every day two or three people were sacked. Then they closed the factory on two days of the week, Monday and Tuesday. After having kicked out 150 male workers the management started to have a go at the women workers. Two were sacked on 17th of December and four more were told that next Sunday will be your last working day. Despite this order one of the women came back to work on 24th of December. She was not let back in. Her brother also arrived, one manager then said that it is due to the market, that there is no work, that they cannot take her back on, but that they will call her once there is work to do. They would refuse to give this in written form: “You are not laid off, we will call you once there is work”. The brother also brought his children and they all sat down in front of the main gate and they sat down to stay. The management got nervous. They managed to push the brother aside, but the woman worker and the children remained seated in front of the gate. Manager: “Is this your father’s factory that you think you can enforce to work here?” Woman Worker: “Yes, it is my factory! We have built this factory with our blood and sweat!” The brother started to take pictures, the management people started hitting him and tried to snatch the camera. During the lunch break the workers came outside the factory. They started shouting slogans. The group of workers got bigger. The management went back inside the factory and called the police. “We won’t allow anyone to stir up trouble in our district”, said the policemen and took the woman worker and her brother inside the factory for having a talk with the management. The management then went to the labour department by car. Back at the factory – the official of the labour department arrived and told the woman worker to accept an additional monthly pay in order to settle the conflict. The woman worker refused and went back home. On 25th of December the woman worker returned to the factory together with her children and some male and female friends for support – she had written about her story on cardboard which they hold up. They sat down in front of the gate in protest. The management of this glittering factory got fairly nervous. The men were pushed away and the children, too, but the women stayed put. The management brought over a truck to try to hide the women behind it. They abused them verbally and threatened them with jail. After the management did not succeed they called the cops. Then they called the labour department again. “She is not a company worker, but a contract worker”, were some of the statements. In the end the woman worker and her support accepted an additional payment of 11,000 Rs. On 29th of December the company came to the labour department with 6,000 Rs in cash and a check of 5,000 Rs and handed both over to the worker. The labour department and the company had engaged an arbitrator for the required paperwork.

After having heard the story of the rebel worker, the statement from the company website either reads like a sour joke or a call to turn our perverted ‘human capital’-collectivity into collective rebellion:
“Man power is the most crucial factor in the growth of an organization. The capability of the organization is actually the collective capability of its manpower. Bony Polymers boasts of a skilled workforce which is committed to take up any challenging work”.

http://www.bonypolymers.com/infrastructure.html

*** Impressions from demonstration for locked-out/up Musashi workers in Rewari, 11th of May 2009 -

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The NH8 highway turned into a 70-80 kilometres long industrial corridor. The Maruti Suzuki factory and supplier park borders the highway in Gurgaon; then Hero Honda bicycle factory, then a stretch of international suppliers like Mahle or Delphi; the NH8 stretches further to the industrial area Manesar with the Honda HMSI plant situated at the Highway; further on towards Daruhera, where the second Hero Honda plant is located; then further on towards Rajasthan border area, where many metal parts manufacturing companies opened their plants.

Workers’ experiences circulate within this corridor, some experiences seem like repetitions, at least from a superficial point of view. In Juli 2005 Honda HMSI workers were locked out during a dispute about union recognition and then latthi charges – see Newsletter issue no.7. In October 2008 about 1,800 workers of Hero Honda’s Daruhera factory (motorbikes) were sacked. Reason for the dismissals – apart from the economic downturn – is the attempt to get permanent contracts for the long-year temporary workers. Since then the workers have experienced various incidents of police repression. End of March 2009 several hundred Hero Honda workers were arrested on a protest march.

On 6th of April 2009 – after the suspension and dismissal of 40 union leaders – over 200 workers of the multi-national parts manufacturer Musashi were locked out. They have been asked to sign an individual undertaking ‘of good conduct’. This is basically an attempt of the company to prevent union demands, but more than that a move to create an excuse for the lock-out due to the workers’ refusal to sign it: the usual game. Musashi is located at Plot 33 – 35 and 46 – 48 in Sector 7, Industrial Growth Area in Bawal, Rewari. The company did not send the buses to fetch the workers for shift, instead hired new workers through contractors for keeping production running inside the factory. Musashi manufactures about 24,000 gears per day – for, amongst others, Honda HMSI. The locked-out workers started a protest sit-in in front of the factory. According to estimations of young permanent workers the production went down by 50 per cent. Musashi delivers the rest from its various other plants, some from Japan, some from Indonesia. Apart from the 200 permanent workers there were 200 workers hired through contractors employed in the plant, mainly in the assembly department, lots of them women workers. The young permanent workers said that about half of these workers still support the struggle, 30 per cent have left the scene and looked for a new job and 20 per cent still work in the factory together with apprentices, the middle management and the newly hired workers. Unionists in the Honda HMSI plant support the struggle, e.g. by going to demonstrations. They say that the production inside Honda HMSI is not affected by the lock-out at Musashi.

On 2nd of May the Musashi workers were attacked by the police with lathis (long batons) – around 15 were injured and over 50 were put in jail. Muslim workers were abused as “Pakistani terrorist” by the police. In order to protest against this attack a demonstration was called on 11th of May 2009 – when 51 workers were still in jail. The demonstration went according to plan: marching and speeches from union officials. The police stood on alert in riot gear, but did not intervene. By 20th of May all workers were released from jail.

Musashi permanent workers also said that the workload inside the factory was enormously high, particularly in the assembly department; hardly any time to drink water or go to the toilet. Permanent workers would start as trainees and get around 2,800 Rs. After a year they would get a 200 Rs wage increase. After two years of being trainee – meaning full-time production worker – some are made permanent. After five years their wages are 5,000 Rs. Workers also told that Musashi trainees were sent to work at Honda HMSI for several months…

Since 50 days the workers hold a protest sit-in in front of the factory.
Please drop a line of rage at:
http://www.musashi.co.in

3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies

*** Babylon will fall eventually: Shaky Grounds of Gurgaon High Rise Real Estate -

The real estate sector in Gurgaon is not only shaken in its money-form, the weak foundation of its high-rising concrete-steel-glass form corresponds to the thin base of its inflated share-holder value. Construction companies and real estate developers consciously ignore the shaky grounds of their Babylonian towers…

Young architects working in Gurgaon: “There are various reasons why Gurgaon soil is not suitable for high rise building. First of all the ground itself. Gurgaon is built on one of the oldest mountain ranges, the Aravalli ranges. This ground is too weak to hold major concrete foundations. On top of that the rapidly falling water levels, about six metres within the last two years, cause shifts in consistency and actual sub-ground movements. The eradication of forest land in Gurgaon district accelerates the drying-up process: forested area has been reduced, from 4.6 percent in 1980 to a mere 1 per cent in 2004. (Statistical Abstracts of Haryana 1980 to 2004). If that wasn’t enough, in recent years Delhi area shifted from zone 4 to zone 6 in terms of earthquake risk areas, meaning that earthquakes are more likely to happen. There was a strong one two years ago. Builders and developers ignore this fact, the high-rise buildings are not planned according to earthquake safety norms. With the enormous amount of money flowing into real estate, they seem to be able to get away with it – if necessary with bribes”.

*** The upper-class is revolting -

P5220035

Thin air on the top. The first half of 2009 saw various protests of the middle class: students at a management college and parents at private schools agitating about high fees and other forms of tighter selection processes. Not that we can put much hope in these ‘revolting future managers’, but the protest shows the enormous pressure within the new formed ‘business-class’, aggravated by the crisis – a pressure which inevitably will be channelled into all kinds of political reactions and reactionary dynamics. Or not? Of course we support the struggle of students to be able to wear long hair and to hold hands and some comments by students on YouTube (obviously a rather dubious source) read like a liberating revolt:

“a revolt was inevitable and of course necessary. We will escape from this jail… “
“For the first time it felt like “College Life”… it was fun breaking the windows panes and whacking up the lawn…”

From newspaper reports:

At the beginning of February 2009 the Institute of Technology and Management (ITM) in Gurgaon had to close for several days due to student protests. Students complained that the management subjected them to ‘mental torture’ and heavy arbitrary fines for ‘misconduct’.
‘You have to pay Rs 20,000 even if you are one lecture short. Students have to pay parking charges every time they park their vehicles on college premises. There is a barber shop on the college premises, where the students having long hair are forcibly sent to get a haircut for Rs 100.’
Students alleged that they were made to pay heavy fines for things like holding hands, walking on lawns, running or talking loudly in the college corridors and other such things.
However, the college authorities said the students and certain outsiders had resorted to hooliganism and vandalised the college campus in the name of protest.

At the end of March 2009 parents blocked traffic in protest against a fee hike by private schools in Gurgaon. Parents have been demanding a revision of the school fee since January this year after most schools introduced a steep hike of 30-40 per cent. ‘During the economic meltdown when our salaries are being cut, it is no less than an atrocity on the parents, Some schools have even doubled the fee making it difficult for middle class parents to send their children to private schools.’ said Gaurav Sahoo, a parent who works in a call centre.

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** Delhi Film Screening -

We plan to screen a series of workers’ documentaries from various times and spaces. If you are interested in the screening or getting hold of the films (see list below), please get in touch.

Film / Discussion – Night

1. The Heart of the Factory

After ‘The Take’ a more recent documentary on the occupied factory Zanon in Argentina and the struggle of the Zanon workers. The documentary rises important questions for the current times of crisis and factory closures: What is the relation between an occupied factory and the wider social movement? What is necessary to be able to maintain an occupation? When does ‘workers self-management” turn into ‘workers self-exploitation’?

2. The Last Firebrands

Documentary on workers struggle in the chemical hub of Porto Maghera in Italy in the 1970s. The workers struggle’s in Porto Maghera managed to attack the factory in its totality: as a place of exploitation and of destruction of bodies and the environment. The struggles also tried to spread from the factories into the proletarian living areas, rising issues such as rent or health. The documentary also describes the emergence of the Italian ‘Operaismo’, the re-discovery of a practical proletarian Marxism after the political decadence of the Italian CP.

3. China Blue / Taxi Sisters of Xian

Two documentaries on female urban / industrial work and life in China. A generation of women leaves the patriarchal background of their villages and is confronted with the tight social control of the factory and dormitory regime. How does gender change with wage relations and ‘enforced collectivity’ of the industrial world.

4. The Year of the Beaver

Documentary on the 1978 strike at Grunwick factory in England. The documentary is an artful historical document, it portrays continuity from Labour regime to Thatcherism, the long-standing struggle of mainly female migrant workers, their relation to the official British unions, the changes in production technology and consumer patterns.

5. Jari Mari

Documentary on slum production in Bombay – on the background of textile mill closures. What kind of subversive collectivities can arise from the informal organisation of production and daily life in the urban slums? What is the future of the global ‘slum cities’ in times of food price speculation, small scale production, water scarcity – and is the ‘slum’ actually a social cohesion?

———————————

List of films:

Bostrobalikara / Garment Girls of Bangladesh
– Documentary on garment workers and their conditions in Bangladesh.

Strike / A flickering Flame
– Documentary on the Liverpool Dockers strike

Blind Shaft
– Chinese Movie on the background of mining workers misery

Gramo de Arena
– Documentary on Mexican multinational factories (2004)

Maquilapolis -
– Documentary on Mexican industrial border area (2007)

Mardi Gras / Made in China
– Another documentary of working conditions in Chinese export industry

Getting Home
– Chinese Movie about migrant workers daily life and adventures

Amandla
– The importance of music in the South African struggle against Apartheid

Behind the Cables
– SEZ in the United States of America (2001)

*** Glossary -

Updated version of the Glossary: things that you always wanted to know, but could never be bothered to google. Now even in alphabetical order.

AITUC
BPO
CITU
Casual Workers
Contract Workers
Crore
DA
DC
ESI
Exchange Rate
HSIIDC
ITI
Jhuggi
Lakh (see Crore)
Lay off
Minimum Wage
Panchayat
PF
Ration Card
SP
Staff
Trainees
VRS
Wages and Prices
Workers hired through contractors

AITUC
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federation in India and one of the five largest. It was founded in 1919 and until 1945, when unions became organised along party lines, it was the central trade union organisation in India. Since then it has been affiliated with the Communist Party of India.

BPO
Business Process Outsourcing: for example of call centre work, market research, sales.

CITU
Centre of Indian Trade Unions, a national central trade union federation in India. Politically attached to CPI(M), Communist Party of India (Marxist). Founded in 1970, membership of 2.8 million.

Casual Workers
Workers hired by the company for a limited period of time.

Contract Workers
Workers hired for a specific performance, paid for the performance.

Crore
1 Crore = 10,000,000
1 Lakh = 100,000

DA (Dearness Allowance):
An inflation compensation. Each three to six months the state government checks the general price development and accordingly pays an allowance on top of wages.

DC
Deputy Commissioner, Head of the District Administration.

ESI (Employee’s State Insurance):
Introduced in 1948, meant to secure employee in case of illness, long-term sickness, industrial accidents and to provide medical facilities (ESI Hospitals) to insured people. Officially the law is applicable to factories employing 10 or more people. Employers have to contribute 4.75 percent of the wage paid to the worker, the employee 1.75 percent of their wage. Officially casual workers or workers hired through contractors who work in the factory (even if it is for construction, maintenance or cleaning work on the premises) are entitled to ESI, as well. Self-employment is often used to undermine ESI payment.

Exchange Rate:
1 US-Dollar = 43 Rs (July 2008)
1 Euro = 68 Rs (July 2008)

HSIIDC
Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation

ITI
Industrial training, e.g. as electrician or mechanic. Two years of (technical school), one year of apprentice-ship in a company. During the two years at school the young workers receive no money, but they have to pay school fees. A lot of the bigger companies ask for ITI qualification.

Jhuggi
Slum Hut

Lakh
see Crore

Lay off
Lay off in the Indian context means that workers have to mark attendance, but they actually do not work and receive only half of the wage.

Minimum Wage:
Official minimum wage in Haryana in June 2007 is 3,510 Rs per month for an unskilled worker, based on an 8-hour day and 4 days off per month. But hardly any workers get this wage.

Panchayat
A locally elected village administrative body in charge of village-level issues.

PF (Employee’s Provident Fund):
Introduced in 1952, meant to provide a pension to workers. Officially applicable to all companies employing more than 20 people. Official retirement age is 58 years. Given that most of the casual workers belong to the regular workforce of a factory, they are entitled to the Provident Fund, as well. So are workers employed by contractors. If workers receive neither PF nor ESI they also do not show up in the official documents, meaning that officially they do not exist.

Ration Card
Officially the so called ‘governmental fair price shops’ are shops were ‘officially poor’ people can buy basic items (wheat, rice, kerosene etc.) for fixed and allegedly lower prices. In order to be able to buy in the shops you need a ration card. The ration card is also necessary as a proof of residency, but in order to obtain the ration card you have to proof your residency. Catch 22. Local politics use the ration depots and cards as a power tool that reaches far into the working class communities. Depot holders’ jobs are normally in the hands of local political leaders. In return they receive this privileged position, which often enable them to make money on the side.

SP
Superintendent of Police, Head of the District Police.

Staff
In India staff includes managers, supervisors, security personnel and white-collar workers.

Trainees
In general trainees work as normal production workers, they might have a six-month up to two-year contract. Depending on the company they are promised permanent employment after passing the trainee period. Their wages are often only slightly higher than those of workers hired through contractors.

VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme):
Often a rather involuntary scheme to get rid of permanent workers. Particularly the VRS at Maruti in Gurgaon made this clear, when 35 year olds were sent in early retirement.

Wages and Prices:
When we hear that a cleaner in a call centre in Gurgaon, an industrial worker in Faridabad or a rikshaw-driver in Delhi earns 2,000 Rs for a 70 hour week, which is about the average normal worker’s wage, we have to bear in mind that they often came from West Bengal, Bihar or other remote place in order to get this job. In order to put 2,000 Rs into a daily context here are some prices of goods and services:

Housing:
– Monthly rent for a plastic-tarpaulin hut shared by two people in Gurgaon: 800 Rs
– Monthly rent for a small room in Gurgaon (without kitchen), toilet and bathroom shared by five families: 1,300 Rs
– Monthly rent for a small room in a new building in central Gurgaon, single toilet and bathroom: 4,500 Rs to 8,000 Rs

Food:
– Half a kilo red lentils on the local market: 25 Rs
– Kilo rice on local market: 14 Rs
– 1 Kilo Onions and 1 Kilo carrots on local market: 25 to 30 Rs
– McChicken: 40 Rs
– Bottle (0,7l) of beer at Haryana Wine and Beer shop: 50 to 70 Rs
– Cigarettes (10), cheapest local brand: 25 Rs
– Starbucks Coffee (Latte Medium) in Shopping Mall: 59 Rs

Utensils:
– Faulty shirt on Faridabad local market: 40 Rs
– Single gas cooker plus new 2 litre gas cylinder: 720 Rs
– Re-fill gas (2 litres – once every month and a half): 100Rs
– Second-hand bicycle: 600 to 1,000 Rs
– Two simple steel pots: 250 Rs

Transport and Communication:
– Bus ticket to nearest bigger bus stop in South Delhi: 14 Rs
– Daily Newspaper: 3 Rs
– One hour internet in a cafe: 20 Rs
– Cinema (new) ticket Saturday night: 160 Rs
– Single entry for swimming pool: 100 Rs
– One litre Diesel: 30 Rs
– Driving license in Haryana: 2,000 to 2,500 Rs
– Start package pre-paid mobile phone (without the phone) 300 Rs
– Phone call to other mobile phones: 1 Rs
– One month mobile phone flat rate: 1,500 Rs

Luxuries:
– Minimum dowry poor workers have to pay for the marriage of their daughter: about 30,000 Rs (80,000 Rs more likely)
– Money given to poor labourers for their kidney: about 40,000 Rs
– Compaq Laptop: 50,000 Rs
– Flight Delhi to London: 28,000 Rs
– Cheapest Hero Honda motorbike (150 cc): around 40,000 Rs
– Ford Fiesta: 587,000 Rs
– Four hours on Gurgaon golf course: 800 Rs (info from golf course worker earning 2,400 Rs monthly)
– Two-Bedroom Apartment in Gurgaon: 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 Rs

Workers hired through contractors
Similar to temporary workers, meaning that they work (often for long periods) in one company but are officially employed by a contractor from whom they also receive their wages. Are supposed to be made permanent after 240 days of continuous employment in the company, according to the law. A lot of companies only have a licence for employing workers in auxiliary departments, such as canteen or cleaning. Companies usually find ways to get around these legal restrictions, e.g., workers services are terminated on the 239th day to avoid workers reaching eligibility criteria to become permanent. In many industries contract workers account for 60 to 80 per cent of the work force, their wage is 1/4 to 1/6 of the permanents’ wage.

2 Responses to “GurgaonWorkersNews no.9/18”


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