herohonda
Hero Honda Workers

GurgaonWorkersNews no.19 – July 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 July 2009 issue you can find:

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

*** Thermo Workers Power to Quit Work -
Short report by a worker who was employed on a site of the Rashtrya Taap Vidyut Nigam / NTCP (National Thermo-Electricity Corporation). The biggest contractor on site is the multi-national construction company Larson and Tubro.

*** Worker who works his machine in various textile export factories -
Short report from a worker who is shifted from factory to factory – together with the special sewing machines he runs. The machines are owned by a contractor who gets orders from various textile export companies.

*** Short report by older daily wage worker drudging for Food Corporation of India since 30 years-
One of 30,000 daily workers employed by the public Bhartiya Khadya Nigam. For several years he has worked in a huge storage hall in Delhi industrial area.

*** Supply Chain Gang: Five short stories of workers manufacturing parts for Maruti Suzuki, Honda and Hero Honda in Gurgaon -
The workers are employed by Motherson Sumi, Denso, DM, Super Auto and Hightech Auto in Faridabad and Gurgaon industrial area. The parts they manufacture end up at the assembly lines of, amongst others, Maruti Suzuki, Honda HMSI and Hero Honda in Gurgaon and the German company Knorr Bremse.

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

*** Report on struggle of temp and casual workers at world’s biggest motor-bike factory Hero Honda in Dharuhera (Gurgaon/Manesar) -
The story and outcome of their struggle reminds us of many similar conflicts in the area’s recent past: angry casual and temp workers, a collective action, some tactical negotiations and repression from the company, the attempt to form a union, a mass lock-out and dismissals, hundreds of replaced workers hoping for a legal solution…

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

*** The Gurgaon Model and a Murder -
Documentation of an older article on the legal adjustments which were undertaken in order to convert Gurgaon farm-land into real estate assets throughout the 1990s. It gives an idea of the collaboration between village and rural hierarchy, the local political class and (multi-national) real estate developers. The outcome of the sudden money inflow is brutalisation…

*** Water Wars -
Short glimpse on the waterfront. Short summary of a newly published report on global water privatisation. Then a look at the local water crisis. A dyeing worker reports on how water-wastage in the dyeing industry in the Delhi industrial belt is covered by police and officials. A friend from Faridabad tells us how water gets to his slum-area – followed by a description of how water supply expresses social hierarchies in a Gurgaon back-yard.

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** Workers’ Film Documentary about Proletarian Life and Struggles in Gurgaon: Help needed! -
A workers’ film documentary on life and struggles in Gurgaon and wider NCR area is in the making comprising many interviews with workers from different generations and sectors. Given that we either have mothers whose tongues did not make use of Hindi or English language or that we do not have regular access to computers we want to ask you for help with translating the Hindi-spoken words into English subtitles. We started with the rough work, but need help with the subtleties. If you want to give us a hand, please contact us!

*** 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

*** Thermo Workers Power to Quit Work -

Short report by worker who was employed on a site of the Rashtrya Taap Vidyut Nigam / NTCP (National Thermo-Electricity Corporation). The report was sent to Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar and published in Hindi in FMS no.251, in May 2009.

“We were 30 workers, all of us employed through two different contractors on the Uttar Pradesh plant of the NTCP. We were given gate passes for the period between 30th of January and 28th of April 2009. The biggest contractor on the site is Larson and Tubro, we were hired through a smaller contractor named AIM Constructions. We had to fit a cable tray for the boiler at a height of 56 meters and also attach the conduct pipe. The supervisor gave us a little money for expenses three times and said that the wages would arrive soon. When wages were not paid on 25th of March we all quit work. We also complained to the official of the NTCP, but we haven’t seen the money for the accomplished work yet – today is the 30th of April 2009″.

Larson and Tubro is an international construction company, which is also heavily involved in the Delhi Metro construction:

http://www.larsentoubro.com/lntcorporate/common/ui_templates/homepage_news.aspx?res=P_CORP

*** Worker who works his machine in various factories -

The story was published in Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar no. 251, in May 2009. “The contractor from Tugalkabad has fifteen Kanzai Smoking machines. He sends these machines and workers to various textile factories to perform elastic sewing work. As a helper I get 80 Rs for an 8-hours shift. In the last four months I have worked in factories in NOIDA, Piraghari, Faridabad (Shahi Exports) and in Okhla Phase 2. The daily working hours vary between 12 and 16 hours – the over-time is paid at single rate. No ESI, no PF”.

*** Short report by older daily wage worker drudging for Food Corporation of India since 30 years-

In the depot situated in C-135, Okhla Phase 1, there are 138 daily wage workers employed by Food Corporation of India (FCI).

http://fciweb.nic.in/

All over India there are 30,000 of us. All of started to work for FCI before January 1994, we have worked day in, day out since then, but we are still daily workers – none of us has a permanent contract. We load and unload 50 kilo sacks of rice and wheat – heave them up on piles – our knees and backs are done in and ache. There are a lot of accidents, too. The Bhartiya Khadya Nigam neither insures the daily workers nor does it care about medical treatment if the worker falls ill. There is a legal process pending at the National Tribunal in Mumbai. We are tired of the (union) leaders repetitive promises that there will be a decision anytime soon. We get a quarter of the wage the permanent workers get. I started working at FCI through a contractor, that was in 1979. Since 1994 I am on daily wage work, The Sixth Pay Commission (which decides about wage increase for public workers) doesn’t have anything to do with us.

*** Supply Chain Gang: Five short stories of workers manufacturing parts for Honda and Hero Honda in Gurgaon -

The workers are employed by Motherson Sumi, Denso, DM, Super Auto and Hightech Auto in Faridabad and Gurgaon industrial area. The parts they manufacture end up at the assembly lines of, amongst others, Honda HMSI and Hero Honda in Gurgaon. The young temp workers in this industry are self-confident. We published reports about a series of wildcat strikes to enforce the minimum wage in GurgaonWorkers News no.9, also the struggle at Delphi in GurgaonWorkers News no.6. Some things have changed, e.g. the Delphi factory was closed in December 2008 and re-opened some 30 kilometers down the National Highway 8. Most of the 2,000 temp workers have lost their jobs.

Motherson Sumi Worker
In GurgaonWorkers News no.6 we already published a Motherson Sumi worker’s report. This worker had to leave the Gurgaon factory after six months of employment. He was offered a job in the Faridabad plant – he worked there for some time, then as a security guard, now he is back at home in his mountain village. The following report shows that not much has improved at Motherson Sumi.)
The factory is situated at Plot 21, Sector-18, Gurgaon. The main client of Motherson Sumi is Maruti Suzuki – the assembly plant is only two or three kilometers away from Motherson. We do wiring work – I have to cut around 9,000 cables per shift. You can achieve the target if the machine works well. If you don’t achieve the target, the supervisor tortures you verbally and you might have to work four hours longer. You will not get paid for these four hours. Out of the 2,000 casual workers about 1,100 are women, they do the harness wiring work at the assembly line. They only work two shifts a day, the machine departments work around the clock. Sometimes the supervisor hassles us more, he says that parts are needed urgently. In these moments more accidents happen. Motherson will only pay for one day treatment after an accident. You get some time training on the machines, but if you leave during the first 15 days of employment, these days will not be paid. Nearly three quarters of all people leave the job after two months. We get 3,800 Rs per month, for a six day week. Sometimes we work Sundays, as well – but I refuse to work Sundays. After six months of employment they issue you a new company card, so that they won’t have to give you a permanent job. I come from a more or less middle-class family from Bihar. I am 23 years old. Till the age of 21 I didn’t work much, I played a lot of cricket. Then my father got ill and I had to support the family, I first went to Delhi and then to Gurgaon. The atmosphere in the factory is bad, also amongst the workers. People are rather selfish.

Denso Worker
The factory is situated on Surajpur-Dadri Road in NOIDA. The work is done at assembly lines, you have to stand upright throughout the day. The night-shift starts at 1am and is supposed to finish at 8 am, but we are often forced to work till 4:30 pm. After eight hours you are tired, but they make you stay longer – 125 hours of over-time each month, paid at double rate. They manufacture parts for Hero Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki Motorbikes and for Maruti Suzuki and other four-wheelers. The casuals, which the company calls temporaries, are hired for six months – there are 1,500 temps and they come from Bulandshahar, Kanpur, Agra, Mathura, Noida, they all have ITI qualification. The company runs ITI courses for the operators, but instead of having one year of learning period they have to do normal production work. The operators get 3,000 Rs the temps get 4,500 – if you take a day off in a month they cut 500 Rs from your wage. Day-shift starts at 8 am, you have to be inside the factory at 7:50, if you arrive at 7:51 you can go home – if they are eager for work the foreman will take you inside, but they cut half a day’s wage for the ‘delay’. They make you stay till 1:30 or 1:45 am, but will pay only till 1 am. If you work on the screw manufacturing machines you not only have to show your cards, but also give finger-prints – the guards also checks you and your belongings – both on the way in and out. There is always a huge crowd and lots of pushing and shoving. Most of the 2,500 permanant workers are locals, their wages are 15,000 to 20,000 Rs. Management and workers have a joint canteen.

DM Worker
The factory is situated in Sector 25. There are 2,000 workers working from 8:30 am till 11 pm or midnight. If you work 12 and a half hours a day, 30 days per month they will pay you 5,000 Rs. If they make you stay longer after 9 pm at night you won’t get paid for these hours. We run power presses, manufacturing parts for Honda and Hero Honda. They won’t give you an ESI card and PF is a question of believing in god.

Super Auto Worker
The factory is on plot 80 in Sector 6. There are two 12-hours shifts, though the packing department only works day-shifts. Over-time is paid at single rate. We make parts for Yamaha, Honda, hero Honda.

Hightech Auto Worker
The factory on 4 Nehru Ground runs two 12-hours shifts, manufacturing parts for Hero Honda and Knorr Bremse. The wages of the helpers is 2,500 to 2,800 Rs. Out of 40 workers only 16 have ESI and PF and eight workers are between 15 and 16 years old. The drinking water is not ok and the latrines are dirty.

http://www.knorr-bremse.com/en/global/

http://www.knorr-bremse.co.in/html/in/index_in.php

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

*** Report on struggle of temp and casual workers at world’s biggest motor-bike factory Hero Honda in Dharuhera (Gurgaon/Manesar) -

The following report was given by suspended Hero Honda workers. They were employed in the second Hero Honda factory, situated on the NH8 Highway, in about 30 kilometres distance from the Hero Honda Gurgaon plant. The story and outcome of their struggle reminds us of many similar conflicts in the area’s recent past: angry casual and temp workers, a collective action, some tactical negotiations and repression from the company, the attempt to form a union, a mass lock-out and dismissals, hundreds of replaced workers hoping for a legal solution…

The factory is situated at 69 Milestone on the NH8 highway. About 16,000 bikes are manufactured every day. In April 2008 about 1,400 permanent workers, 1,500 casual workers and 3,500 workers -hired through four to five different contractors – were employed in the plant. The wages and working conditions of these workers differed considerably. The permanent workers earned between 30,000 and 40,000 Rs including incentives and seniority bonus. The casual workers would earn between 5,000 and 6,000 Rs, the workers hired through contractors between 2,800 Rs and 4,800 Rs. Some of the workers hired through contractors worked in the factory for 5, 10 or 15 years. The workers hired through contractors doing canteen work received 3,500 Rs per month, but about 1,500 Rs were cut, allegedly for PF. While permanents got a 50 Rs voucher for the canteen per day, the other workers got only 5 Rs. Not only wages differed, also working times. The permanents would work on three 8-hour shifts, while the majority of casuals and temps would work on 16-hour shifts on a regular level. Over-time was paid less than single rate. While permenents often had supervisor positions, most of the production and assembly line workers were casuals and workers hired through contractors.

In order to improve their situation the casuals and workers hired through contractors asked to become members of the permanent workers union . The union refused. A superficial explanation could be that the majority of the work-force were non-permanent, so the existing union leadership might lose the next election when allowing everyone to participate. The more important reason is the deal between management and union to keep a small section of the work-force in a slightly better position and thereby separating it from the rest.

On 14th of April 2008 the company organised a cultural program for the workers and their families. Only permanent workers were allowed to attend. The anger amongst the rest of the workers grew. On 3rd of May 2008 all casuals and workers on the A-shift hired through contractors struck work inside the factory. The permanents did not join them, but were not able to keep up production. The B-shift joined the strikers. Production was stopped for two days. Police waited outside the factory. While the strike was a collective decision the negotiations were lead by a small group of workers. The workers who told us this story said that “these comrades are not with us anymore for some reason or other”. Management and this delegation of workers agreed on a deal which promised some improvements in the future. Workers accepted the deal and restarted work. The permanent workers union did not support the strike, but gave vague promises to accept casuals and workers hired through contractors as members in the future. In fact they again refused to let them take part in the union body election in May 2008. Room meetings and open meetings amongst casuals and workers hired through contractors started. On 29th of June the Hero Honda Mazdoor Sangathan (Hero Honda Workers Union) was formed and an application for registration issued. The registration is still in process in July 2009. On 2nd of July 2008 union delegates handed over a general demand notice to the management. The management reacted by threatening individual workers, trying to prevent them becoming union members. Nevertheless 1,200 to 1,500 out of 5,000 workers joined the new union.

On 12th of October – at a point when international automobile industry was facing a sharp slump – the Hero Honda management announced a lock-out. All workers had to stay outside the factory. On 14th of October the permanent workers were allowed inside. Some casuals and workers hired through contractors started a sit-in protest in front of the factory. Negotiations between workers’ representatives, management and the labour commission took place. Workers agreed to lift the sit-in protest, management made promises to accept future negotiations with the workers’ representatives. The management started a selection process: some of the casuals and workers hired through contractors were let inside, others had to stay outside. In the end 1,200 workers remained outside the factory and Hero Honda hired 700 to 800 new workers. About 60 workers were suspended. Their protests and demonstrations continued. In July 2009 about 600 out of the original 1,200 workers still come to Sunday meetings, the other workers went back to their villages or found other jobs. The workers hope that once the union is registered and the pending demand notice is back on the negotiation table they will get back their jobs.

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

*** The Gurgaon Model and a Murder-

Documentation of an older text on the legal adjustments which were undertaken in order to convert Gurgaon farm-land into real estate assets throughout the 1990s. The text forms part of a longer article by Amita Singh, published in 2004: “Deliberate Democracy and Electoral Fallacy: The Logic of Coexistence / A Comparative Study of Two Globalizing Cities in India”. The text is difficult to digest, due to many legal quotes, but we find it worth documenting. It gives an idea of the collaboration between village and rural hierarchy, the local political class and (multi-national) real estate developers.

A Murder…

The sudden money inflow into the farmers’ communities and the de-composition of village structures lead to a classical ‘wild west’-mentality: increasing drug abuse amongst the young landlord generation, increasing brutalisation. On 26th of May 2009 the former farmers’ village Chakkarpur became a crime scene of such violence. After trying to extort money from a Bengali small shop owner two local ‘farmers’ sons’ killed the family father with two gun shots. The problem is systemic, as Gurgaon’s rich re-arm. The number of firearms licenses has tripled in the past two years. According to some estimates, up to 40 percent of households in Gurgaon have at least one firearm, it’s about five times the gun-owning rates of India’s biggest cities. Officially the gun possession is justified by rising crime rates, often the Bangla speaking proletarians are portrayed as criminals. The Chakkarpur murder questions this and the following article shows that law itself is relative and relatively adjustable to the rule of profit…

… the Gurgaon Model

To understand the shrinking deliberative power of panchayats (village councils elected by the registered village population) in Gurgaon, it is important to assess their status since the beginning of global marketization in the early 1990s. In the 1991 census, Gurgaon had 688 inhabited villages, which increased to 700 in the 2001 census because of the explosive increase of 44.64% in its population; but the number of so called “uninhabited villages” mentioned in the Director of Census Operations records fell from 42 in 1991 to 26 in 2001. This is reflected in the creation of a new town in Gurgaon district: the number of towns increased from 11 to 12 during this period. These so-called uninhabited villages were the grazing grounds of cattle- and sheep-rearing rural inhabitants, who gained little out of a global spread of business process outsourcing companies. Gurgaon being a district with a dominant rural population, the workforce largely arrived from cities outside Gurgaon. The massive housing and construction boom that followed took place on the land acquired from villages.

The 2001 census of Gurgaon shows rural and urban populations as 1,288,365 and 369,304 respectively, as compared to 913,386 and 135,884 in the 1991 census. The maximum increase of population has occurred in central Gurgaon town, where the urban population in 2001 shows a substantial rise to 249,403 of the total of 369,304. This part of Gurgaon, which forms the industrial region, is contiguous to Delhi and therefore is the hub of the multinational corporations’ expansion (Director of Census Operations 2004:36, 40, 51).

The District Town and Country Planner (TCP) claims that the controlled areas that fall at the rural-urban fringes are real centers of planning for further industrialization. In Gurgaon alone it comprises something like one third of the total land in the district, out of which only 9.5% of the areas are urban, thereby leaving more than 90% of the state’s area free from any of the controls of Acts enforced by the Government. There has been a substantial amount of infrastructure mismanagement, since the Municipal Committee and the panchayats are not obliged to function within this area and the TCP cannot undertake work without an officially declared plan for that area. They may more reasonably be termed as the “areas of diluted governance.” The land purchased within the controlled areas needs a change of land use (CLU) Certificate from the District TCP, which the land purchased outside the controlled areas does not require. Since the industrial townships have not been able to develop plots, these industries have started buying plots directly from the farmers and managing to obtain CLU certificates from the Directorate of Town and Country Planning. This process was guided by a colonial legal system defined under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. In 1995, on 9 February, the government constituted a committee comprising the following officers as a process to decentralize the power hereby concentrated in the Divisional Commissioner’s office:
• Divisional Commissioner as the Chair,
• Deputy Commissioner as the Member Secretary,
• Representative of the Concerned Member Department, and
• District Revenue Officer as the concerned Member.
This also restricted the District Commissioner’s discretion to determine the market price of land, not on the basis of 5 years’ sale average but only on the basis of 1 year’s sale average. Section 5A of this New Land Acquisition Act of 1995 also enabled the landowner to refer to the court under Sec. 18 of the Act. At the peak of this globalizing exercise in Gurgaon, another amendment was undertaken on 8 September 2003. Into Section 22 of the Punjab Scheduled Roads and Controlled Areas Restriction of Unregulated Development Act 1963, after clause (a), an amendment (aa) clause was added to increase the “abadi deh areas” (inhabited areas around the village) and reduce the controlled areas where numerous restrictions on construction activities apply. The explanation for the amendment given in the statement of objects and reasons by the TCP Minister of Haryana was the need to exempt construction activity in abadi deh areas.

Parallel to liberalizing the process of laws related to ceilings on agricultural land acquisition and disposal of surplus area 6 has also been a systemic restraining of the decision-making autonomy of local bodies. The 73rd Panchayat (Amendment) Act 1992 had given a constitutional status to panchayats and the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act 1994 had adopted this provision for better administration of rural areas. With the globalization of the market, certain amendments were made to the state act that raise questions about the democratic imperative of these local bodies. Three provisions may be mentioned here. First, the Act of 1994 says that “If the whole of the sabha area is included in a municipality or a cantonment, the Gram Panchayat shall cease to exist and the assets and liabilities of it shall vest in the municipality or cantonment as the case may be” (Part II, 7 [4]). Taking their cue from this, the developers constructed urban areas on village lands and thus were given the benefit of not having any taxation regime like that of cities. But the price for this anomaly is extremely high, as these villages are at the verge of extermination by real estate developers in business here, such as DLF City, Unitech City, Ansal City, or Ardee City. These areas, exempted from the restrictions imposed by the 1963 Act mentioned above, have not been included in the Municipal Council of Gurgaon for fear of losing a vote bank, since their inclusion into a municipality would mean their subjection to a taxation system on property and land transfer deeds. But besides this tax exemption, these residents of multinational corporation-led urban areas also become entitled to vote in panchayat elections without being physically residents of the villages, historically or emotionally. This is a total turnaround on the very idea of panchayats as a system of selfgoverning institutions for village communities, as recognized by the Constitution of India (Article 243 G). The urban voters almost outnumber the rural communities living in these village areas, who have lost their land and occupations, as well as access to their community governance systems. Second is the series of amendments to the 1994 Act that have systematically weakened the checks and balances system embedded in the Act. Part II Art 8 (2b) of the Act, which provided for six to 20 panches (representatives) from wards in a panchayat area in the manner prescribed so that the despotism of the sarpanch (headman) could be restrained, has been omitted (vide Haryana Act No. 10 of 1999). This has abolished the power of the panches to call a special meeting with notice to the sarpanch and has also led to the Haryana Act No. 14 of 2003, in which the obligation upon the panchayats for having a circle supervisor from among the existing gram sachivs (village secretaries at the local body) to supervise the work of gram vikas sahayaks (village development volunteers) was substituted. The third concern is that such measures becoming common in India also raises questions of constitutional propriety. In a case pending in Haryana High Court against a major colonizer in this area, DLF Ltd., and a few other minor developers, it has been recognized that a clear violation of Articles 243X and 243W exists, read with Schedule 12, in which the developer was to undertake the responsibility of maintenance under agreement between DLF and the District TCP. The contesting Resident Welfare Association of urban settlers charges it as the “Biggest Land Scam in the Country.” People’s awakening has led to the demise of the regime of former Chief Minister of the state, Om Prakash Chautala, and his sons in the last Assembly elections of 2004, who were instrumental in importing an uncontested rule of colonizers and land mafias in the district of Gurgaon (Amar Ujala 2003).

*** Water Wars -

In this society you can see water-level social hierarchies: the degree of access and consumption becomes a measurement of your status. Not surprisingly industrial production gulps the biggest share, leaving a fair bit for golf course irrigation and the upper-middle-class water-coolers. The report below given by a textile worker illustrates the industrial wastage clearly. The little rest trickles down to the proletarian households and is privatised on the way, becoming a means of sustaining power-relations. They make the proletariat pay for their water consumption. Recent industry figures from India indicate that sales of bottled water grew from 189 million USD in 2003 to 599 million USD in 2008 – a growth rate of 216 percent. For a recent study on commercialisation of water see:

http://www.polarisinstitute.org/a_new_battlefront_against_water_privatization_in_the_global_south

Autopin Jhuggi (Faridabad) is an alley of brick-huts squeezed in between factory walls and an open sewage canal. The settlement is formally illegal, but exists for about twenty years. The inhabitants are industrial workers and their families, about a hundred people live in the alley. For two decades there was no public water supply for this settlement. Nowadays the families obtain their water through various sources. A chronology of water.

a) It started with an illegal connection, a tap fitted into the main public water pipe-lines. A plumber employed by the public water cooperation would fit such a tap for a bribe. The workers would pay for the maintenance of the tap, a little amount every now and again, but the water itself is free. The problem is that water in these public pipelines gets mixed. Sometimes the water is so bad, that you cannot even use it for washing, sometimes it is suitable for washing, only sometimes – may be every two or three days – it is potable. There used to be long queues in front of these taps, arguements and sometimes fights. Mainly women queue up for taking water, sometimes men after coming home from work, at 3 or 4 am in the morning. The water place is a social place, sometimes for joking, sometimes for expressing the tensions within the settlement. The uncertainty of whether and when drinking water will arrive forced the workers to look for different sources.

b) An illegal borewell pump was installed, but two or three years ago, this pump would only supply yellowish water. The borewell was not deep enough and the groundwater in Faridabad industrial area is contaminated. The handpump is useless today.

c) Four or five years ago a worker in the slum alley dug a deeper illegal borewell. He sells the water for 150 Rs a month to other inhabitants – they can take as much water as they like and it is even delivered to their homes, but the water is not drinkable. About 15 to 20 families pay for this water. The worker has to pay bribes to the authorities. The borewell was installed when there was no borewell from the public water cooperation.

d) One year ago the public water cooperation installed a borewell not far from the settlement. There is water in the morning and evening. The queues in front of this borewell are not long, because it does not supply drinking water either.

e) If there is no drinking water supply from the illegal tap into the mains people have to source their water from more far away places. They put big cans and bottles on their cycles and go 1.5 or 2 kilometres to different water stations. Queues their can be long, people used to wait as early as 3 or 4 am for water.

d) These long queues got diffused – and, with the queues, the possible discontent and tension – by supply with drinking water from private and illegal tankers. The informal working class settlements of Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad highly depend on these tankers. An individual might own 20 to 30 of these tankers – often local people, ex-farmers, who found a new business line. The tankers are put behind tractors and driven around. People have to pay 2 or 3 or 4 Rs for a 30 litres can. The prices went up. People call these “companies” a water mafia, because they often source public water and then sell it. The supply is officially illegal, but a lot of companies and political parties and local politicians are engaged in it. For example the politician Ram Singh Netaji, who used to be a Congress member, who now is a candidate for the BSP. His slogan is “Free Water”, and he supplies it as part of his election campaign and for his local reputation. Other tankers have “Sonia Gandhi” written on them. Others are sponsored by companies or temples: it is a way to show populist engagement.

e) The most recent development is packaged water. It is packaged either in large 25 litre bottles or in little plastic 200 ml pouches for 1 Rs. Even in the slum settlement people buy this packaged water more often. The 1 Rs pouches are popular, because they are chilled. The big bottles are a way to avoid the long queues – so mainly workers with a higher income and/or no family members buy them. Still a minority.

So we can say that the sources of water got more diffused and somehow more hierarchical and commercial – but the market forces provide. The tankers have diffused the long queues, but made people dependent either on commercial groups or the populism of the local oligarchy. The public water cooperation can wash their hands of it: they are out of the fire-line. With the upper-middle class sourcing their drinking water increasingly from packaged water, the quality of the supply water deteriorated drastically. Now workers are split along income lines: some can effort bottled water, some can effort the 150 Rs for nearby water, others have to put up with lower qualities or spend more working-time in getting hold of water…

In Gurgaon we can see similar developments. The massive unofficial population growth is presented as the main reason for water shortage. There was a newspaper report in May 2009 that many areas of Gurgaon experience an acute lack of drinking water – tanks are used to supply people, but they have to pay for the water. Water supply is one of the main points of tension between landlords and proletarian tenants. For example, in our back-yard the ex-peasant landlord uses his power to decide when to open the roof-tank for water In order to interfere in the relations between his tenants. Every morning the same struggle: he checks who takes water first and who takes how much water from the single tap. He particularly shouts at the women: “Let the men have their bath first, they have to go to work. Don’t wash up the dishes now, let others take their water first” – extending his patriarchal role to his back-yard – including the occasional grope at one of the women. So the young men are first in the line. Then the social hierarchy decides who of the women can clean the dishes and wash the clothes first and for how long. For the pandit family the fact that they take longer time and more water to wash and clean seems a rather helpless half-psychotic ritual to sustain their status in the very modest environment of a back-yard compound. There is tension and discussion amongst the tenants every single day, only rarely extending to the question of whether the German shepherd dog or the buffalo or the car of the landlord deserves more water than their family – not mentioning whether the largest amount of water is to be sacrificed for industrial production. Those who work in the industry know where human and natural resources are wasted…

Globe Tex Worker
(FMS no.251, May 2009)
In the factory on Plot 2, 13/3 Mathura Road textiles are dyed around the clock, on two 12-hours shifts. In the company documents the night-shift doesn’t show and the day-shift is shown as eight hours. We work 30 days per month, but the papers show a weekly day off. In the factory 65 workers are employed, but only eight have ESI cards or get PF. For the 12-hours day / 30 days working month we get 2500 to 3200 Rs – on the papers of the eight ‘official’ workers the minimum wage for operator guards is noted down. Besides the official papers they fabricate all kinds of unofficial documents. If you leave the job they don’t pay the outstanding wages of the last 15 – 20 working days. You have to deal with dangerous chemicals and liquids, but there are no safety measures, no gloves, no safety glasses. You get eye and skin problems.
In DLF Industrial Area there are 40 dyeing mills. Because of the pollution and falling water levels the residents welfare association of Sector 30 and 31 has filed a case at the court in Chandigarh in order to remove these factories from the area. In order to draw out the legal process and to keep the factories running the managing director of Color Fab collects 12,000 Rs per month from each of the 40 dyeing companies. The factories need a lot of water. They pretend to source all water requirements from the public supply, they also set-up big tanks, but most of the water is actually drawn from the ground-water through illegal bore-wells. The government officials know about this common practice. When the officials from the municipality, the labour department or the chief police arrive at the factories, they leave with 5 to 6000 Rs in hand.

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** Workers’ Film Documentary about Proletarian Life and Struggles in Gurgaon: Help needed! -

A workers’ film documentary on life and struggles in Gurgaon and wider NCR area is in the making comprising many interviews with workers from different generations and sectors. Given that we either have mothers whose tongues did not make use of Hindi or English language or that we do not have regular access to computers we want to ask you for help with translating the Hindi-spoken words into English subtitles. We started with the rough work, but need help with the subtleties. If you want to give us a hand, please contact us!

*** 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.9/19”


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