London Solidarity Action For Gurgaon Viva Global Workers

GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 32 (November 2010)

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. 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 November 2010 issue you can find:

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

*** Workers in the Automobile Supply Chain: Reports and Interview -
Gurgaon is location of the world’s third biggest car plant and two major motorcycle factories. We document eleven workers’ reports from the automobile supply chain, given to Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar in autumn 2010. From a Honda workers report:
“Until May 2010 production target was 1,025 motorcycles per shift, since April 2010 it is 1,075. In May even the former target of 1,025 could not be achieved – given strikes at the one or the other part suppliers. Due to lack of parts workers have to sit idle for one or two hours, per shift we manage to assemble sometimes 600, sometimes 700 cycles. And given that the workers did not fulfil the fixed target, Honda management cut money from all workers’ May wages.”
We also publish a translation of a recent interview with a Rico union official. The Gurgaon Rico Auto dispute ruptured the global supply-chains and brought assembly lines of GM and Ford in the US to a halt. The original interview has been published in the first issue of Sangharshrat Mehnatkash.

*** Private Exploitation and Police Raids: Reports on Domestic Work in Delhi/Gurgaon -
We summarised two reports on situation of domestic workers in Delhi and Gurgaon. The ‘decadent’ character of the boom since 1991 increased the numbers of domestic workers: the lack of other job opportunities and the demand of the waged middle-classes pushed a lot of mainly migrant workers into the private urban spheres. The regime keeps pressure on the migrant work-force and their wages by threatening them with regular police raids. The last excuse of mass police operations was the ‘public safety’ during the Common Wealth Games.

*** Gurgaon Garment Factory Workers’ Reports -
After the Viva Global / Marks and Spencer dispute in August and September 2010: exploitation continues in Gurgaon’s and Manesar’s industrial areas. We document short reports from Gurgaon and photos from a Viva Global Workers solidarity action in London.

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

*** A lonesome, brave action of Gurgaon security guards at India Bull-
A short report about an invisible, unspectacular, but potentially widespread form of working class collective action.

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

*** Urbanising Disaster / News Rubble from Gurgaon -
Gurgaon/Delhi: slums growing – unsold homes piling up – SEZ turns into real estate – farmers sell land for nuclear plant – with the help of Haryana’s holy trinity of state/private property developers/village councils – the gated communities protest against ‘collapse of governance’ – brand-new highways turn into permanent jam or killing fields – 100 workers died for metro-train construction – police raids against migrant workers in the name of public safety… news rubble from the disaster-zone of urbanisation.

*** The Social Tsunami Impact / Snap-Shots against Capital-Class-Crisis -
This is an attempt to introduce a regular update on general tendencies of crisis development in India – motivated by Greek shock-waves, naked shorts and potential spillovers.

* The Macro Crisis September / October 2010 -
We start with a look at India’s position in the global ‘currency war’: increasing inflow of hot money, high inflation despite hikes in interest rates, appreciation of the Rupee, therefore growing trade deficit and state debts. The abstract puzzle of shifting mathematical factors is an expression of social struggle: who will bear the social tension necessary to keep up in the air a huge bubble of over-accumulated wealth, toxic credits, state bonds – high enough to be able to look out for the tiny spots of profitable investment around the globe? Who will have to sweat for these profits, whose wages will be eaten up by tense inflation, who will lose jobs due to swamped markets and bubbled up currencies, who will default and live in misery in the face of potential abundance?

* The Punjab Crisis -
In October 2010 the trickle-down effect of (international) debts lead to a de- facto announcement of default by the Punjab state government. The central state offered to waive half of Punjab’s state debts in return for a structural adjustment program: an adjustment which first of all forces the local state to tackle farmer’s debts more fiercely. In mid-October we hear about killed farmer’s union leaders who defied the repossession of indebted farmers’ land.

* The Food Crisis and Social Death of Peasantry -
Some news-items on increasing proletarianisation of farmers, on the neo-liberal hybrid illusions of the Second Green Revolution and it’s post-neo-liberal reality. Some news on the difficulty of the state to balance the commodity prices of agricultural products in times of peasantry crisis, global speculation of food prices and the looming danger of proletarian food-revolts. We see how the cocktail of hot money and increasing interest rates turns lethal in the form microfinanced rural suicide.

* The Generalisation of Class Struggle -
The ‘totality of capital’ seems blatant: global supply-chains and global (micro)finance bridging town and village, multi-national corporations combining locations of different sectors and stages of development. Seeing it detached from it’s mobile existence as the ‘living element’ of capital – meaning: seeing it through the lens of the institutional labour movement – the world of the working class is nothing but fragmented. Task of communist collectives today is to discover the social dimension and potential for generalisation within workers’ experience and struggle. At this point we can only superficially hint at some ‘clusters of proletarian reality’, which might become of major importance for the generalisation of future struggles beyond the rural/urban and national/international divides: news on the struggles against ‘destructive development’ in the mining and forest belts, struggles within the rural employment schemes and struggles in the multi-national industrial centres, like Chennai.

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** 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

*** Workers in the Automobile Supply Chain: Reports and Interview -

The Maruti Suzuki car plant in Gurgaon is said to be the third biggest car factory in the world. In September 2010 Maruti announced to open a third assembly plant in Gurgaon/Manesar district, which would raise capacities to 1.75 million per year. Maruti Suzuki recently became more intertwined with global automobile capital: Volkswagen bought 20 per cent of Suzuki. From an article: “VW is selling greater volumes in China so Suzuki can use components from China through VW; this will bring down costs. But whether Suzuki makes common use of VW in China of VW uses Suzuki to source components from India … there has been no discussion between the two partners on this as of now.”

We document short reports of workers in the automobile supply-chain, followed by an interview with a Rico union official. Rico Auto workers were locked-out in September / October 2010. For some background information see:
GWN 21
GWN 22

* Automobile Workers Reports

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter (HMSI) Worker
(Plot 1, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
The company hires ITI workers through contractors. After a year of employment the company enforces a break of 15 days, then some workers are hired as ‘re-joining’, other workers as ‘new joining’. Three months after re-joining you have to pass a test. Last year 490 workers went through the test. Only 26 workers hired through contractors were made company casual workers after this test. After two years of being casual the company might think of making workers permanent… In 2005 there were 1,700 permanents in 2010 there now are 1,800. This year there have been no tests – once the company has started production in the new plant in Bhiwari there might be new tests. There are two shifts. Until May 2010 production target was 1,025 motorcycles per shift, since April 2010 it is 1,075. In May even the former target of 1,025 could not be achieved – given strikes at the one or the other part suppliers. Due to lack of parts workers have to sit idle for one or two hours, per shift we manage to assemble sometimes 600, sometimes 700 cycles. And given that the workers did not fulfil the fixed target Honda management cut money from all workers’ the May wages. The workers hired through contractors are granted 29 days holiday per year, but at the same time they warned that whoever takes more than 15 days will not be ‘re-joined’. Well, they don’t even give you 15 days holiday. You cannot take holiday right away, you have to announce it two weeks in advance, fill in an ‘emergency form’, in the sense that your grandparents must have died. If you are ill or have to take sudden leave for other reasons they call it ‘unplanned’ holiday and threaten you with the sack. Nowadays there are 1,800 permanent and 6,500 workers hired through contractors in the production departments. The permanents mainly work as supervisors, as ‘relievers’ [for people absent from the lines] and as replacements for people on unplanned leave. The actual production work is mainly done by workers hired through contractors. In the motorcycle engine department there are 4 engineers, 12 permanent workers and 110 workers hired through contractors. The permanent workers get 18,000 Rs wage and 10,000 Rs incentive, whereas the workers hired through contractors get 7,500 Rs. By cutting ESI and PF the 7,500 Rs are turned into 6,250 Rs and this wage is paid for ‘achievement of full target’ – in May 2010 the company paid 5,900 Rs. The work-pace at the lines is unbearable for an 8-hours shift, nevertheless workers work up to 150 hours overtime per month. Hardship forces them. Overtime is paid 35 Rs per hour, while workers at Hero Honda in Dharuhera factory get 50 Rs. There are two sorts of workers also when it comes to overtime…

Omax Auto (Honda, Hero Honda, Suzuki) Worker
(Plot 5, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
In the factory work 70 permanents, 80 casuals and more than 1000 workers hired through seven different contractors, producing parts for two-wheelers. There are two shifts: 7 am till 5:30 pm and 5:30 pm till 7 am. Workers work on piece rate, the company kicks them out once daily production target is finished. Some 200 workers are kicked out at 2 am, others at 3:30 am. These workers have difficulties to reach home at night, living in the various surrounding villages. The permanent workers undertook some steps in order to form a union. All workers gave 300 Rs, on three different occasions, so 900 Rs in total. In the paint-shop – opened in August 2003 – the company used to employ workers directly. In September 2009 the paint-shop was handed over to a contractor. Some of the permanent workers were kicked out, some were transferred to the welding department, some were transformed into workers hired through contractors. In November 2009 the union got recognised, but the union flag was not hoist. Accusing him of theft the management kicked out the union president. In response the factory was kept close for two days in January – those workers who were inside stayed inside, those who were outside remained so. Demands were put forward: take back the union president; increase the wages of the permanents by 6,000 Rs, of the casuals by 4,000 Rs, of the workers hired through contractors by 3,000 Rs; make 40 workers permanent in the first, 20 in the second and 10 in the third year; provide buses for transport; improve the canteen… They took back the union president and started to increase the wages of the permanents, by August 2010 their wages were increased by 2,400 Rs. They did not make anyone permanent. There are no buses. Those workers hired through contractor working in the plant for more than 5 years got 200 Rs wage increase. The others got nothing. In total 300 workers got something out of it, 900 workers got nothing. Amongst us – who paid 900 Rs for the union formation and got nothing out of it – there is no one who would continue paying the union dues. In June, when people wanted holiday for weddings or other reasons, the company refused to grant days off to the workers hired through contractors. The union president said that he cannot do anything about it. About 70 to 80 workers handed in their notice and went back home to the village. The contractor did not pay the outstanding wages (18 days paid holiday and one month wage bonus). Now they give enforced breaks to all newly hired workers after six month of employment.

Munjal Showa (Hero Honda, Honda, TVS, Suzuki) Worker
(Plot 3, Sector 6, IMT Manesar)
There are around 40 to 50 permanent workers, around 500 casual workers and 1,500 workers hired through 15 to 20 different contractors. These workers manufacture shock-absorbers for Hero Honda, Honda, TVS and Suzuki (motorcycles and scooters) – on three 8-hours shifts. Bank holidays are not paid. The factory was closed from 24th of December till 1st of January – this period was not paid. The casuals and workers hired through contractor are not paid the statutory bonus. Per month people work 40 to 100 hours overtime. Most workers get 20 Rs per hour overtime, some get 30 Rs. The casuals are given an enforced break after six months of employment, they are not re-hired as casuals, but through contractors. If they have hired too many and there is not enough work people are sent back home – the newly hired contract workers are sent back on ten days per month on average. For two thousand workers there are only two drinking water devices – you have to stand upright at the lines all the time. Most workers drink warmish water from the tap. The toilets are dirty.

JV (Maruti Suzuki) Worker
(Plot 113, Sector 3, IMT JManesar)
On a single 12-hours shift 150 workers manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki. The wages of the helpers and machine operators is 4,214 Rs. The overtime payment for the helpers is less than single rate: 17.5 Rs per hour. There are only 14-15 permanent workers, the rest are all casuals. There are 20 power presses. Accidents keep on happening, people cut their hands and are sent to the ESI. If their injuries are minor, e.g. if only one finger is injured, they are taken back on. If the injuries are more severe, they are kicked out.

Krishna Maruti (Maruti Suzuki) Worker
The factory is on the premises of the Maruti Suzuki factory in IMT Manesar – at gate number 4. In the moulding division 250 workers manufacture plastic fibre parts for the inner lining of Maruti Suzuki cars. They work on two 12 hours shifts. The overtime is paid at single rate, around 20 Rs per hour. All workers are hired through two different contractors, only the 25 – 30 people of the middle-management are permanents. Whether helper or operator, all are given the ‘unskilled’ grade. Those operators who work there since two or three years get 200 to 300 Rs more per month. If you have full attendance you get 350 Rs extra, if you take a single day off they cut 350 Rs from your wages.

Track Components Worker
(Plot 21, Sector 7, IMT Manesar)
Only the staff (middle-management) is hired by the company directly, 700 workers are hired through three different contractors. There are two shifts, the day-shift is 10.5 hours the night-shift is between 11.5 and 13.5 hours. The overtime is paid less than single rate. From wages money for ESI and PF is deducted. Even after years of employment an ESI card is not given – they issued a blank card once, but they ceased to do even that. The statutory bonus for 2008 was paid in March 2010, and for people who have worked the whole year the bonus was only between 1,000 Rs and 3,500 Rs. There is always trouble with wages for paid holidays – they say: “Don’t ask, take what you are given”. The production increases. After they increased the work load of the newly hired workers in the welding department they now ask the old workers to also increase their load. If you ask for more money in return they say that you don’t have to come back the next day, that you can look for a different job. In the factory there are 42 power-presses. In order to increase production, the safety devices have been removed. With the safety guard in place you were able to churn out 2,000 pieces, after having removed it even 4,000 pieces. In order to keep production running the machines are not even switched off for the allotted time for maintenance. Due to the lack of safety, the lack of maintenance and the work pressure a lot of hands get cut. If you cut your hand they send you to an ESI… and then sack you. The factory manufactures silencers for cars and motorcycles. After end of shift it can take up to an hour to leave the factory – workers have to queue up and leave the plant very slowly.

Kalpana Forging (JCB, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra, Hero Honda) Worker
(Plot 35, Sector 6, Faridabad)
The factory runs every day, 24 hours. 400 workers manufacture parts on two 12-hours shifts. The operators work 150 to 225 hours overtime, paid at single rate. There are 200 helpers, for 30 days of 12-hours shifts they get 5,500 Rs. Only 100 to 125 workers get ESI or PF. One hand gets cut at the power presses every month. They don’t fill in the accident report. They send the injured workers to private treatment and then sack them. There is no ambulance. There is no canteen. They give you one tea and one biscuit for a 12-hour shift, if they make you work longer than 12 hours they give you 25 Rs for food. The drinking water is bad. The toilets are dirty. One of the managers swears a lot at the workers.

GL Autoparts (Hero Honda, Yamaha, Honda) Worker
(Plot 14 b, Industrial Area, Faridabad)
Out of 700 workers employed 600 are hired through five different contractors. These 600 workers are graded as helpers. The women workers get 2,700 to 3,000 Rs, the male workers get 3,000 to 3,500 Rs. No worker gets PF or ESI. There are two 12-hours shifts, but often they make you work longer. Overtime is paid at single rate. The wages of the workers hired through contractors are delayed.

Sanden Vikas (Maruti Suzuki, Tata, Mahindra, Hindustan Motors, Honda) Worker
(Plot 65, Sector 27 a, Faridabad)
Around 60 permanent and 400 workers hired through contractors are employed. They manufacture air conditioning systems for various automobile companies. Officially there are two shifts: from 6:30 am till 3 pm and from 3 pm till 11:30 pm. Actually the workers hired through contractor work from 6:30 am till 7 pm and from 3 pm till 6:30 am. These workers are forced to work 8 to 12 hours on Sundays, as well. They work 200 hours overtime per month, paid single rate. Leaving 12 of their work-mates alone and suspended, the rest of the permanent workers entered the factory in February 2010, after a strike. They entered with the promise of labour officers and representatives of the management, that everyone will get their job back and that there won’t be any sentiments of revenge. The management has actually taken eight workers back on, but an internal investigation has been started to decide about their future. Four workers have been sacked and remain outside.

Rajhans Industries (Honda, Maruti Suzuki, Orient Pankha) Worker
(NH-2, opposite Grain Warehouse)
In the two plants opposite the Grain Warehouse more than 400 workers are employed. In the machine shop two 12-hours shifts rotate, in the other departments there is only one 12-hours shift. There are more than 300 workers hired through contractors. The male and female helpers get 3,200 Rs, the press operators get 3,500 Rs. Overtime is paid at single rate. About 400 to 500 Rs is cut from wages for ESI and PF. If you leave before six months of employment they won’t fill your PF document. there are a lot of accidents at the power presses.

Hyundai Superon Worker
(255 Udyog Vihar Phase 4)
The middle-management of the showroom is hired directly, about 200 workers are hired through contractor. The wages are 3,500 to 4,000 Rs. In the second week of July the labour inspector came for a visit – he did not speak to the workers, he only met the officers and left again.
Tel: 0124-4654710

* Rico Auto Workers Interview

We translated an interview with an union official at Rico Auto Industries in Dharuhera – flaws in the translation are due to our own shortcomings. Parts of the interview refer to the Rico strike at the Gurgaon plant in 2009. We published more critical comments on the strike in previous issues. The union official mentions the need for workers’ unity several times. The bases for workers’ unity is undermined in the very same factory where he works: while permanent (unionized) workers are paid between 14,000 Rs and 24,000 Rs the ‘other half’ of the work force – hired through contractors – receive 4,125 Rs. The current wage agreement increases this division. Besides, the actual wage increase negotiated in the agreement is very likely to be below inflation rate. The basic wage is increased by around 5 per cent in the first year (basic wage plus bonus by around 12.5 per cent), by 3 per cent in the second (basic wage plus bonus by 8 per cent) and in the third year by 1.25 per cent (basic wage plus bonus by 3.1 per cent). When referring to the struggle at Rico Auto in Gurgaon we see the current difficulties of traditional union struggle: many of the ‘militant’ permanent workers became disillusioned and took the offer of Voluntary Retirement Schemes.

Without unity within the workers’ movement it will not be victorious -
Interview with official of the Rico Auto Workers Union (Dharuhera, Haryana)

From: Sangharshrat Mehnatkash Issue No.1 – September – October 2010
Contact: mehnatkash2010@gmail.com

Q: What factory do you work in and who is the boss?

The factory we work in called Rico Auto Industry Ltd. and the boss is Arvind Kapoor.

Q: How many plants does Rico run in India?

Currently Rico runs four plants. Out of the four factories three are in Haryana (Dharuhera, Gurgaon, Manesar). The fourth factory is in Ludhiana, in Punjab.Apart from these plants Rico runs factories in collaboration with other companies. In Manesar (FCC Rico and Jinfei Rico), Dharuhera (Magna Rico), and in Rajasthan (Kebros).

Q: What does the factory manufacture and what is it’s annual turnover?

We manufacture clutches, panels, hubs, gears, sheet drums, driver lenses and other parts for Hero Honda. Apart from that we produce rear grips for Honda and fuel/oil pumps for Maruti Suzuki. Last year’s turn-over of the Dharuhera plant was about 260 crore Rs.

Q: Including all categories of workers,. How many people are employed in the factory?

There are 335 permanent workers, 28 casuals and 300 to 325 workers hired through contractors.

Q: When was your union established? Did the initial establishment of the union involve struggle with the management?

Our union was set up in 1998. When we tried to form the union, the management was against this and management also refused a wage revision. For these demands we went on strike for one week. In course of this movement twelve workers got suspended for three months.

Q: Could you say something about the important movements fought on behalf of the union?

The first movement immediately after the formation of the union was about the wage agreement. As a result of this movement the management accepted a wage settlement of 1,330 Rs and the payment of incentive bonus. We were also successful in getting the 12 suspended workers back to work and in getting permanent contracts for 1106 casual workers. The second wage agreement (2001) brought 4 per cent annual increment plus payment of 1,850 Rs. The third agreement (2004) 5 per cent annual increment plus 2,150 Rs and the fourth (2007) 5 per cent plus 3,050 Rs. Today the minimum wage of a permanent worker is 14,000 Rs and the maximum 23,000 to 24,000 Rs. In addition, with each agreement some workers hired through contractors were made casuals and casual workers were made permanent. Currently the workers hired through contractors get 4,250 Rs per month.

Q: Does your union currently put forward any demands?

Yes. We currently demand a wage settlement. Our demand is that workers should get a minimum of 25,000 Rs.

Q: How did the extensive movement in the Rico Gurgaon plant start and around which demands?

We demanded union recognition and a wage revision. Dissatisfied with their situation the workers wanted to establish a union. The management said: “Form a workers’ committee.” But the workers applied for union recognition. The manaement reacted by locking-out workers and by suspending 16 of them. This triggered the movement.

Q: What is your opinion concerning this movement at Rico Gurgaon?

The movement started by the Rico Auto Employees Union at the Gurgaon plant encouraged workers in the whole region of Gurgaon. They went on strike for 46 days. Given the pressure of this movement, management and government had to bow in front of it – because the movement got support from workers in the whole region. The seven – eight unions present in the area fought shoulder by shoulder. On 20th of October 2009 around 100,000 workers of 70 to 80 different factories went on strike. But the AITUC leadership did not really give full backing to the workers. The AITUC leadership tried to claim all the merits of this movement for themselves, which lead other unions to withdraw. The management and government then realized that the strike lost in strength. They saw and took the opportunity to encircle, suppress and attack the workers. This is why the movement was not able to be completely successful.

Q: We have heard that nearly all those people who had important roles in this struggle have left the job. Why was this?

This is a wrong information. Out of the 116 suspended workers 9 went back in. After having sacked the main leaders the management came up with a Voluntary Retirement Scheme. Around 100 to 125 workers took the offer. Because once a union file is rejected you won’t get a second chance. Out of pain and hopelessness some people then took the VRS. Some of the leaders have taken money and they were greedy. The shortcomings of the workers advisors were also not neglectable.

Q: According to your opinion, to which extend is the AITUC leadership responsible for the contemporary defeat of the movement? How do you see the role of the workers in this movement?

The AITUC leadership slowed down the pace of the movement at a time when it needed to be more determined. The unity between the various unions, which emerged during the movement would have had to be fortified. The AITUC leadership disregarded this unity, it therefore broke. Inside the factory management managed to get production going, protected by the police. The management of Honda and Maruti also supported Rico management at that point. Given these facts it became difficult to keep the struggle, which happened outside of the factory, running. They were forced to come to an agreement without the 70 suspended workers.

Q: What do you think is the impact of the unsuccessful outcome of this struggle on the wider workers’ movement in Gurgaon? And will it be a long-term impact?

All in all, the struggle also had beneficial results for the workers. The struggle has spread quite a lot between different workers. Within these wider work-force the consciousness/awareness increased. In a lot of factories workers put forward the demand for union formation. In some cases unions have been established. But after the struggle, the agreement settled by the union leadership created an atmosphere of hopelessness among the workers. This gave a blow to the movement. Some workers left the job. But there has also been a damage of 200 to 250 crore Rs to the bosses.

Q: The end of the struggle at Maruti Suzuki has been similar. What impact does remain of this? What kind of difficulties does your and other unions have to face due to the outcome of the struggle?

After the defeat of the Maruti struggle in 1999 the situation became very bad. The rate of settlements [wage increments?] decreased. The period of governance in Haryana under Chautala’s BJP and Bhajan Lal’s HJC was also bad. Initiated by the Huda Congress government some agreements were settled. For whatever reasons.

Q: What kind of impact does the struggle at Honda [2005] still have?

After the struggle at Honda in 2005 the atmosphere changed. In order to appease the situation the Honda management was forced to come to a settlement. The consciousness within the unions increased after this struggle. The process towards unity was fostered. After the incident at Pashupati [several workers killed by police after strike in Dharuhera] in 1998 a Trade Union Council had been formed. An Action Committee had also been founded, but this initiative was not driven further. After the Honda struggle a general union committee was formed. This has increased the pressure on the government.

Q: What other struggles in India have encouraged the local workers’ movement?

The struggles in Nandigram in West Bengal have encouraged workers here. But the fact that Tata has left Singur has damaged the reputation of the left.

Q: Can you give us any insights concerning the unsteady or disorderly mentality of workers in Gurgaon when it comes to the issue of union formation or other struggles for their interest? Instead of seeing the necessity of a long-term struggle do they become entangled in erratic efforts?

It is not so much a question of disorder than of lack of knowledge. People say: “Form a union and everything will be alright.” But there is little readiness to see it through. The responsibility of a leadership is to tell workers about the importance of unions. This problem became visible during the recent dispute at Denso factory. There, workers earned 18,000 to 20,000 Rs per month all additional benefits. The AITUC leadership said: “Form a union”. The process for union recognition had just started when 20 people got suspended. At this point the AITUC withdrew their support. The strike was broken. All but 20 to 22 people went back inside the factory.

Q: What kind of wrong inclinations or tendencies do you see within the workers?

Workers fight once they are forced to do it. But once a settlement is reached they forget about union unity and the importance of the long-term struggle. While on the other side, management keeps up its readiness to suppress workers at all times. There is a tendency of workers to hand over / delegate matters to the comrades above them. When problems increase, the leaders are addressed. Therefore workers and lower ranks of leaders have a problem to understand and to have a long-term perspective of their movement. The management has educated and knowledgeable people. We don’t. When the struggle is on, we call all workers of this world our brothers. But once the struggle is over we try to withdraw from this. Some of the higher-rank comrades have always been corrupt. But some of the lower-rank leaders also fall prey to lowness. But there are also courageous and militant people among them.

Q: What kind of future do you see for the workers’ movement in Gurgaon?

The future will depend on how a leadership will emerge.

Q: It seems as if the trade union unity in Gurgaon is becoming weaker?

We all put forward the slogan “Workers of the world unite”, but whether small or big, none of the unions put this into effect. This is the main obstruction on the path towards unity. Like the bosses act in self-interest, so do trade unions become victims of their petty self-interests. They don’t undertake the necessary steps towards unity. The big trade unions compete in order to take over the small unionsand thereby set one group of workers against the others. This illness of the trade unions is the main reason for the divisions within the workers’ movement. As long as there is no unity within the workers’ movement, the conditions of workers will not improve.

Q: What do workers think about the industrial progress in the Gurgaon area?

Every worker in the region wants industrial progress. Because directly or indirectly they will find a job and income. But the bosses should also keep the workers’ interests in mind. Forced by exploitation workers had to embark on the path of resistance.

On 30th of August 2010 the workers’ union at Rico Auto Industries in Dharuhera signed an agreement with the management. Below you can find a summary of the agreement.

1. Both sides agree that the agreement will run for three years, starting from 1st of April 2010 to 31st of March 2013.
2. Both sides agree that in the period of the agreement the monthly wages and allowances of the permanent workers will increase by in total 5,100 Rs. The total increase will divided up into three annual stages, as follows:
From 1st of April 2010 to 31st of March 2011 the wage will be increased by 2,550 Rs, of which the basic wage will be increased by 1,020 Rs. [...]

*** Private Exploitation and Police Raids: Reports on Domestic Work -

We summarised two reports on situation of domestic workers in Delhi and Gurgaon. The ‘decadent’ character of the boom since 1991 increased the numbers of domestic workers: the lack of other job opportunities and the demand of the waged middle-classes pushed a lot of mainly migrant workers into the private urban spheres. The regime keeps pressure on the migrant work-force and their wages through regular police raids. The last excuse of mass police operations was the ‘public safety’ during the Common Wealth Games.

* In Defense of the Rights of Domestic Workers
Sindhu Menon, Vol. 8 Nos: 1-3, January-June 2010 http://www.labourfile.org/ArticleMore.aspx?Id=1091

In India, domestic work is a vast area of employment, but there is no precise sense of its exact size and extent. The estimated number of domestic workers in India is 90 million this is probably an underestimate because there has been no scientific study to document such workers in the country. “Around 50 lakh people in India keep more than two-three domestic workers as help,” says Harish Rawat, Minister of State for Labour and Employment. The rough estimate by the Task Force is that it has grown by 222 per cent since 2000.

Caste: A Big Barrier

Caste and language play an important role in the lives of domestic workers. Indian society is still far from being caste free; and although some changes have taken place in urban areas, most of the villages are still plagued by casteism and feudalism. Lower-caste families continue to work as bonded labour for upper-caste landlords. As domestic workers, they get only food and shelter. The entire family is supposedly ‘taken care of’ by the feudal joint families that employ them. The children too are not spared-at a very young age, they are taught to serve and not to question.

A Brahmin family still largely employs a Brahmin cook. A lower-caste woman is expected to clean the vessels, sweep and mop the floor, and wash clothes but when it comes to cooking, the upper-caste community still prefers to employ upper-caste cooks. Even in states that boast of high literacy, the majority of domestic workers are dalits or tribals and they are conveniently understood to ‘prefer’ certain jobs. However, ‘preference’ for a certain kind of work is not theirs to express. “Although women migrate in large numbers to work in Delhi as domestic maids, Muslims and lower castes are not preferred,” says Bharti Sunar from Hoogly distirct of West Bengal. “The dooms, chamars and muslims are the worst affected. If you are dark, you will not get a job. One has to hide one’s caste identity, most of the time, to get a job,” says Bharti.

“Women change their dressing styles too; they wear bangles, put bindis, even if they belong to the Muslim community, and select a Hindu name,” she says. Thus, Jameela and Sheriffa become Sita or Geeta; their burkhas give way to sarees and mangalsootras-just to get work. “We are not cheating anyone. We do this because it is a question of survival,” says Nadira, a maid from Beghampur.

Bharti is a dalit (Dass) and her husband Ramkumar Sunar from Nepal belongs to the goldsmith (kshatriya) community. They stay with their children in Sector 9, Rajapur village. “My wife is dark and so people categorise her as a lower caste. It is difficult for her to get work as a cook. I am fair, therefore, I get work as a cook,” says Ramkumar. “Complexion plays a crucial role in getting a job,” says Bharti. “Though dark, I manage to get work because of my surname; most of them know that Sunar is a kshatriya,” she adds.

The upper class has enough education to identify the caste of workers; but their education does not result in the understanding or realisation that the barrier of caste is something that needs to be done away with if we as a nation have to progress. Unfortunately, their ability to discriminate between castes is applied only to deny those seeking work on the basis of their caste, or to use them only for cleaning toilets.

Caste consciousness is not only with those who hire domestic maids; it also exists in the minds of the workers themselves. “I will never clean the toilet, it is not my work; it is the work of the jamedar,” says Asha Lamba, a Nepali. A majority of the women interviewed have similar opinions. “Achoot logon ka kaam hai bathroom safai karna, hum nahin karte (Cleaning the bathroom is the work of untouchables; we will never do it)” is what they clearly say.

Language: Another Barrier

“When I came to Delhi, I barely understood Hindi. Slowly, I learned the language and now can communicate in Hindi,” says Maya, a maid in south Delhi. Maya is a Nepali and during her initial years in Delhi, communication was very difficult. “Nepali and Hindi have some similarities, but my cousin, who went to a Marathi family, had a tough time,” says Asha Lamba. “There are obvious differences in our use of the language, which differentiates us from upper caste women domestic help,” says Bharti Sunar. “It is the issue of survival; so we try our best to adapt to the situation by trying to talk like the upper castes.”

There are three types of domestic workers in the city: the live-in maids, the live-outs and the part-timers.

The Live-ins

Live-in maids are full-timers, who stay either in the servant quarters or within the house of the employer. “The work we do never gets over,” says Basanti Toppo from Jharkhand. Basanti came to Delhi with her sister in 2002. “We have to be available 24 hours a day,” says Himani, another domestic maid from Jharkhand. “We have to get up early in the morning and start our work. Often, when we go to bed after finishing all the work, some member of the house will come home late. We will then have to open the door, warm up the food, serve them, wash the utensils, clean the table and only then go to bed,” says Himani.

There is no accurate data on the number of live-in maids. The highly exploitative conditions in which they work can be understood only when someone comes out to tell her/his story. Every employer guards his/her privacy. Questions on the status and conditions in which domestic workers live and work are not entertained.

“The live-ins work in highly exploited situations,” says Sunita, the coordinator of the National Domestic Workers Union. “Accessibility to those workers is nil because they seldom come out or interact with others,” she adds. The case of Sumari, a young girl from Jharkhand, is one such case of exploitation.

Sumari has been bedridden for the last one-and-a-half years. Her body, from hips downwards, is numb. Her legs are getting weaker day-by-day. Her condition is the outcome of a suicide attempt. Sumari, beaten up by her employers, decided to commit suicide by jumping from the terrace of the fourth floor of the house where she was working. The events leading to this are as follows:

Sumari worked as a live-in maid in a house in Janakpuri, West Delhi. She got the job through John Enterprises, a placement agency. Though the policy of the placement agency was to give workers only for 11 months, Sumari’s was an exception. She worked in the house for more than one-and-a-half years. The employers-both husband and wife-would scold her in abusive language and torture her unnecessarily; she continued working there doing all the household chores, till that fateful day, which changed her life drastically.

Another maid asked Sumari to her carry her bag to a nearby house where some construction work was happening. The construction labourers saw Sumari and asked her where she was from. Sumari’s employers saw her talking to the workers and abused her in front of the workers and other neighbours. They dragged her inside the house and beat her brutally, all the while alleging that she was an immoral character. They then asked Sumari to cook the food and clean the entire house in half an hour, failing which she was threatened that she would be beaten.

Shattered and totally humiliated, Sumari started crying and went up to the terrace. The lady of the house followed her shouting abuses. In utter panic, Sumari jumped from the terrace. She was taken to the hospital and was admitted for two weeks. Later, John Enterprises took her to their agency office; since then she has been lying on the floor without proper treatment. The catheter through which her urine passes has become old and infected. She cannot move or get up; everything has to be done lying down. Her mother was called to the placement agency and is staying with Sumari.

“A staff member of this agency was my cousin. It is only due to his intervention that the agency brought me here. When he argued that I should be given better treatment, he was thrown out of his job,” says Sumari. The placement agency wants to collect more money from the employer and so is compelling Sumari to make false charges. The employers, on the other hand, say that if Sumari keeps her mouth shut, she will be paid compensation. “What the arguments are between the agency and employer I do not know. I’ll be happy if I die because I have been lying on this floor on a chaddar for more than one-and-a-half years. I have bed sores. It is better that I die,” she wails. She doesn’t know what to do. No one is there to take care of her. Her mother, a villager, who does not know Hindi, is confused.

Sumari needs treatment. She needs good food; at least, she needs to be able to return to her village. But nothing is happening. There are innumerable others like Sumari-beaten, exploited, sexually abused, raped or killed. These women are simply trapped and are known to no one but their employers.

The Live-outs

Live-outs are those domestic help, who report at their employer’s house in the morning and return to their homes in the evening. In practice, however, nothing is defined. Live-outs, who work for one household, have to earn enough to pay their rent, electricity, water, food, fuel, transportation and other costs. “We are fortunate because the house we stay in is owned by my employer and so we have to pay only Rs 850 towards rent. Electricity and water are not charged.” says Julie Thigga, who stays in Jasola village near Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.

Julie came to Delhi nine years ago from Chirayya village in Jharkhand along with her husband Kaleb Thigga, who works in an export factory in Okhla. Julie’s first job was as a masseuse. She did it for the members of two to three households for a few months. Later, she managed to find a house in which to do household chores, and has been doing this work for the last eight years. Julie is paid Rs 1,800 per month for doing chores including dusting, cleaning, sweeping, mopping, cleaning utensils and washing clothes. Her work starts at around 9 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. She is given breakfast and lunch. “Except cooking, and cleaning the toilets, I do all the work,” says Julie.

Nirmala, from Jharkhand, has been in Delhi for the last 15 years. She came to Delhi with a friend. Within two months, she got a job in a house in Sarita Vihar and, till date, she has been working in the same house. She works for eight hours, cleaning the entire house. She is paid Rs 3,500 per month. In spite of the fact that the nature of work which Julie and Nirmala do and the time spent are somewhat similar, there is a huge difference in payment. There are, in fact, no general standards for fixing the wages of domestic workers.

The Part-timers

Part-timers are those who work for two to three hours at a time in different houses. They work like machines, running from one house to another. They are paid according to the tasks they undertake; for example, they earn Rs 300 for sweeping and mopping, washing utensils and washing clothes whereas they earn Rs 200 for dusting. These rates also are not fixed. “Apart from the household work, our employers make us do many other jobs-cutting the vegetables, looking after the baby and, at times, running errands,” says Ellamma, a domestic worker. The worst part is that in the end, nothing is recognised. The workers are only cursed, blamed and fed with leftovers.

Placement Agencies: Boon or Bane?

Domestic maids in metros are largely migrants. Unemployment, poverty, loss in crops, mortgaged land, siblings to be married, death, sickness, etc., are some of the reasons that force these workers to migrate to cities in search of jobs. Many young girls are enticed by the lure of city life and the idea of getting some quick money. They are brought in by relatives, neighbours or friends from the same religion, community or caste. Placement Agencies are a relatively new phenomenon.

There are no rules or restrictions for setting up a placement agency. A majority of the existing placement agencies are fraudulent by nature. An agency is like an octopus. It entangles the girls in its tentacles, with no escape from its clutches. One agency in particular, John Enterprises, gave a clear picture of the atrocities perpetuated in placement agencies. It is located in Raghubir Nagar, Rohini, West Delhi. The inmates of the agency allege that the owner, Mr. John, and his wife are in Jharkhand jail for committing crimes of molestation, rape and kidnapping. Reportedly, Mr. John’s second wife is running the office in Raghubir Nagar. None of the employers for whom the agency has procured domestic workers could be reached.

Sushanti, and her brother, Bathru, have come all the way from Orissa in search of their sister Mubika, who was brought to Delhi by John Enterprises with an assurance of a job. Mubika has been in Delhi for the last one-and-a-half years. Till date, neither her parents nor relatives have spoken to her nor have they received any letter or money from her. “We have tried to get in touch with her. When any of our relatives or neighhbours comes to Delhi, we request them to meet her. But the placement agency always refuses to allow them to meet her because she is working in a household as a full-timer,” says Bathru. “My brother has been here for the last one month and I came two weeks ago, but madam has not given us our sister’s address. We don’t need her money. What we would like to know is whether our sister is alive or not,” says Sushanti.

Placement agencies place workers on contract for 11 months. The employers make payments each month for the workers to the agency directly. After 11 months, when the girls wish to go back to their native place and ask for their money, the agency does not give it to them. It forces them to enter into another 11-month contract with another house in another area. The agencies make sure that the girl does not run away nor get close to the people who employ them. Sunita Sangre, from Jharkhand, finished her 11-month contract and pleaded for at least a ticket to travel back home. “This agency is very big and they recruit women in large numbers,” says Sunita. “The agency people never check how we are treated at our employers place. If the employer shifts house, we are taken along with them; in such cases even the placement agency will not know where we have been taken.” “Humare madat karne koyi kanoon nahin hai (There is no law to help us),” says Sangeeta, another domestic maid.

“At nights, the offices of many placement agencies turn into entertainment places for the police and local goons,” says an activist (who wanted to conceal his identity) in West Delhi. “When the police and the goons are there to support them, who will raise voice against the agencies?”

Child Labour

Despite the much-talked-about inclusion of domestic work in the schedule of hazardous employment in the schedule of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Abolition) Act 1985, child labourers are increasingly employed as domestic workers in cities. Very few organisations seriously take up the issue of child domestic workers. “Child domestic workers get the least priority, if we look at governmental interventions,” says Urmila, a child rights activist. Many of the children start working when they are six years of age. In most cases, the child will begin by assisting its mother in domestic work. By the age of ten, she will be expert enough to manage an entire household. These child workers are also not free from beatings and abuses.

“My day starts in the kitchen. I have to prepare breakfast and lunch before l0 a.m. The whole family takes packed lunch,” says Nandini, a 13-year-old, who works for an upper middle-class family. She has to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to start cooking. Besides cooking, she does sweeping, swabbing, cleaning the vessels and washing the clothes. From 10 o’clock onwards, she becomes the babysitter. “Madam will always have guests. They may come at any time. I will have to cook food for all of them. Madam will be busy entertaining them so I have to finish all the work without any help.” The likes of Nandini’s madam are quite common. Children are made to work day and night without any consideration. “After all this hard work, I am scolded and thrashed even for the most trivial reason,” says another twelve-year-old domestic worker. Cases of violation rarely get reported because the employers are usually influential.

Most employers have a disdainful attitude towards their maids. They miss no opportunity to rebuke this underprivileged lot. For the rich and the influential, the domestic workers are paid slaves. They call them ‘servants’ and make them do all the menial work. This ‘servant culture’ prevails in most households. Parents hardly have the time to see how much work piles up on the domestic help. Even the children of the household learn to take things for granted and hardly show respect to the person they consider doing the ‘dirty’ work.

Living Hell

“Getting a house to stay in Delhi is a nightmare,” says Parvati, a domestic maid in the Shivalik area of South Delhi. “Very often, we have to shift houses due to some flimsy reason cited by the landlords to increase the rent,” says Maya, a maid in Sarvodaya Enclave. Maya pays Rs 2,800 as rent and Parvati Rs 3,500. Added to this are the electricity and water charges. A majority of the domestic workers live in resettlement colonies, or jhuggis. The city beautification drive by demolishing jhuggis has rendered thousands homeless in Delhi.

Very often, these resettlement colonies do not have any toilets. “We use the open grounds,” says Nirmala, an inmate of Jasola village jhuggis. After shopping malls have come up near these open grounds, it has become difficult to find an isolated place,” she adds. “We are not allowed to use the toilets at our workplace,” says Bharti Sunar. “We have to either control ourselves or, if the situation worsens, to use the common lavatory or look for open grounds. The open grounds in front of the apartments we work in are always parks and gardens. So the only option left we have is to control our urge or go home,” adds Bharti. “This results in problems with urinary problems and the uterus gets affected,” says Namita, a health worker. “Our children are not allowed to play in the parks where we stay,” complains Bharti. “Those parks are only meant for the landlord’s family.”

The worst problem these workers face is that they have to purchase their groceries and vegetables from the shop that their landlords own. As tenants, they are supposed to buy rations from this shop only. “The landlord’s charges for each item are exorbitantly high and its quality is poor, but we have no other option. If we do not buy from him, we will be thrown out of the house. If we do buy things from elsewhere, we can bring it in only late in the night when we are sure that the landlord and his family are fast asleep,” says Ramkumar Sunar, Bharti’s husband.

“This phenomenon is spreading very fast,” says Rajendra Ravi, an activist of the National Domestic Workers Union. “It is quite visible in Aligaon and many other places. The family that owns the colony runs the shops too and make the inmates buy goods from these shops. And worse than the grocery shop is the money lending business of the landlord. When someone falls sick or faces any emergency, these domestic workers borrow money from the landlords. They pay 10 per cent interest monthly for the money borrowed. They pledge their things such as TVs, gold and gas cylinders. If the pledged goods are not taken back in a month’s time, they become the property of the landlords.

Counting Domestic Workers

In India, efforts to organise domestic workers have been taken up by all central trade unions. The AITUC has come up with an innovative concept. “We are asking all our middle class working women, especially from banks, LIC, GIC, etc., to make sure that at least the rights of domestic workers who work for them are protected,” says Amarjit Kaur, national secretary of AITUC. “We are asking them to take the initiative to make workers aware of the need for organising.”

Organising domestic workers is a herculean task because there are no proper statistics available. There are innumerable civil society organisations that are taking the lead in highlighting the issues of domestic workers. “The ministry has asked the National Labour Institute and the National Social Security Board to compile the statistics of domestic workers in the country. It is one of the priorities of the government,” says Harish Rawat. “There should be a legal provision for protecting the rights of domestic workers.”

In an effort to register the domestic workforce and protect them as well as the employers/employees, police stations are supposed to issue identity cards to domestic workers. Employers are expected to give photographs of their maids and have them registered with the police station of their locality. The workers interviewed express happiness over this process because they need not answer the embarrassing questions of the employers and resident societies. Sadly, this drive is yet to be implemented effectively.

Conclusion

“I tie my five-year-old daughter Seeta and four-year-old boy Rahul to the cot till I come back from work,” says Parvati, a domestic maid. She has been doing this since they were out of the cradle. Women’s movements and feminists in the country need to realise how these workers-who come to work at their places-the ones that make it possible for them to be outside the house and to work and live comfortably-live their lives and cope with their appalling circumstances. Ironically, this domestic workforce-exploited, abused and dehumanized-is the biggest contributor to women’s liberation and independence!

* Commonwealth Games 2010: Illegals not allowed

6 October 2010
“Sita, the servant, is gone. Delhi is shining, as is Gurgaon. Sita, like my uncle’s family, lives in Malibu Towne in Gurgaon, 212 acres of heaven where the upper-middle-class inhabitants of the tower apartments enjoy a life of “no load-shedding” – meaning the towers’ power is supplied by generators so that residents can avoid the cyclical power cuts the Indian government inflicts on its booming populace. No marble floors and 24-hour power and water for Sita, though. She and her husband, Mahesh, live in a makeshift jhuggi, or shanty town, right next to the towers, where a few sticks in the mud support the blue tarp that they and their three children call home. Sita is my uncle’s family’s primary servant and she cooks and cleans the dishes, toilets, floors and clothes. Mahesh cleans the cars. Their friend, Gautam, is the mali, or gardener.
Their jhuggi, just next to the Malibu towers, is built on a plot of land owned by a jat – a member of the land-owning caste in Haryana, the state of which Gurgaon is a part. They call him Pehelvan (meaning “wrestler”) and pay 600 rupees (£8.50) a month for the right to live there illegally. There are about 100 residents there. Pehelvan, like my family, also knows their other secret. “Sita” is really Mehrunissa, “Mahesh” is Muhammad and “Gautam” is Yassir Khan. They are all Bangladeshi refugees, Muslims using Hindu names to work in the predominantly non-Muslim households of Gurgaon. They are illegal immigrants and have no papers.
On the night of 15 September, Pehelvan confirmed to Sita and her family that the Gurgaon police were rounding up people like them and sending them home, because there was no room for illegals during the approaching Commonwealth Games. He told them that he had tried to bribe the cops with 15,000 rupees per family, which was the going rate, but the lines at the local thana, or police station, were too long – he was not the only jhuggi slumlord in booming Gurgaon with the same idea – and it might make better sense for them to leave till “the Games are over”.
Five nights later, Sita and her family arrived at my uncle’s house with two trunks of belongings, two bicycles and six buckets to store. In the early hours of 20 September they drove out of Gurgaon, leaving most of Malibu Towne without servants, car cleaners, gardeners and rubbish collectors. Pehelvan had helped them charter a bus for the inflated rate of 100,000 rupees, including his cut. The bus was headed to the porous border towns of the Indian state of West Bengal, next to Bangladesh, the impoverished country they fled eight years ago.
My extended family also left Malibu Towne, taking up temporary residence in the larger family house in one of Delhi’s other satellite townships, where the servants are aplenty and live in “servant quarters” on the property (so no prying police). They hope to return to Gurgaon in a month when “Sita”, “Mahesh” and “Gautam” come back.
Gurgaon, arguably the call-centre capital of a new and booming India, is home to many gated communities like Malibu Towne. There is Central Park, Unitech Nirvana Country, Beverly Park 1 and 2, Suncity, Georgian Residency, Emerald Hills, and Hamilton Court. The list is long and a new one seems to come up every week. Each supports its own micro-economy of illegal domestic workers.
The servant crisis has gone largely unreported, though. The residents of Malibu Towne are not used to cleaning their own homes, so dishes are piling up and floors are not being swept daily. Calls to various neighbours who were dependent on Sita and her friends reveal that many have taken to eating in Gurgaon’s air-conditioned shopping malls which boast vast food courts.
Sita’s workday would start at 5.30am and finish at 7pm. She took care of eight houses. There are an estimated 500 families in Malibu Towne. Many Sitas were therefore needed. Most of them have now decamped to the Bangladeshi border to wait till the games end. The central government has started the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), headed by Nandan Nilekani, the man who gave us the mother of all outsourcing companies, Infosys. More than 1 billion people are to be given UIDs, or unique identification numbers – a gargantuan and complicated exercise. It is not clear if Sita and her family will have access to UIDs or even want them. Being undocumented sometimes has its advantages.”

*** Gurgaon Factory Workers Reports -

For longer report on the Viva Global Workers dispute click HERE

Dheer International / GAP Worker
(299 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
We work from 9 or 9:30 am till 11 pm on a daily level. A lot of workers have to work from 9 am till 4 am on 15 days per month. On Sundays we work from 9 am till 4 pm. If they make you work the whole night, you get 40 Rs extra for food. There is no canteen. We work 140 to 225 hours overtime per month, these hours are paid less than single rate, about 16 Rs per month. If you object the fact that 1,000 Rs per month get embezzled they threaten you with sacking. They also kick workers. Amongst others we produce garments for GAP. There is a high work pressure, there is a defined target for every minute of work. If you don’t meet the target they swear at you, also hit you. There are around 4,000 workers in the production and finishing department, none of them gets ESI or PF. The helpers are hired through two contractors, the male helpers get 3,500 Rs, the female 3,200 Rs. The water is not suitable for drinking. When a client or buyer turns up they put up a sign ‘No Drinking water’, they remove it again once the client has left – then there is no other water to drink.

Bharat Export Overseas Worker
(493 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
Work starts at 9 am. In the production department workers are forced to work till 1 am – on four days per week. In the finishing department the workers always work till 1 am and two or three times per month they have to work full-nights. When they make you work till 6 am they give you 25 Rs extra for food. Overtime payment is at single rate. Out of the 350 workers no one gets PF or ESI – only the middle management gets the statutory social security. The helpers are paid 130 Rs for 8 hours, the skilled tailors get 180 Rs… On 16th of July the guys from the personnel gathered all workers of the finishing and production department and told them that buyers [clients] would visit the factory the following day. They told the workers to lie and say: the helpers get 162 Rs, the skilled workers 270 Rs, there is no overtime and everyone gets PF and ESI. The buyers arrived and went again – they did not ask the workers.

Libas Export Worker
(357 Udyog Vihar Phase 4)
I work in this factory, but I want to talk about my landlord. The landlord has property in Dundahera and Kapashera. He says that tenants have to buy flour, lentils, rice etc. in his shop, otherwise he would kick them out of their rooms.

Eastern Medikit Worker
(196 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The wages are delayed. The casual workers received their June wages on 20th of July. The permanent workers work on three 8-hours shifts while the casuals have to work on two 12-hour shifts. The overtime is paid less than single rate, about 15 Rs per hour. The overtime worked in may was paid delayed, on 11th of July.

Graffiti Export Worker
(377 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
On 10th of July the company closed the tailoring department. Out of 350 workers only 85 workers in the finishing department are left. Instead of 8 hours the helpers have to work 10 3/4 hours to get the minimum wage. The company makes workers work from 9 am till 2 am at night. The checkers get 7 hours overtime for these long shifts, while the helpers get only 5 hours – for the same long shift. Only few workers get ESI and PF. The wages are paid late. The water in the factory is bad.

EEL Worker
(402 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
Around 175 workers manufacture machnies for the cement industry. They work on two 12-hours shifts. Overtime is paid at single rate.

Rakheja Enterprises Worker
(74 Udyog Vihar Phase 4)
The helpers are paid 3,300 Rs, the general checker 4,000 Rs and the tailors get 4,500 Rs. Overtime is paid less than single rate, 16.66 Rs per hour. Out of 700 workers only three get ESI and PF. The toilets are dirty. The company runs another factory on plot 744 in Udyog Vihar Phase 5. There helpers get only 3,000 Rs.

Sargam Export Worker
(132 and 210 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The company pays the minimum wage. The managers swear a lot and take 500 Rs bribes from each unskilled worker each month. The main client is H&M.

Bhurji Supertech Worker
(272 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
The June wages have not been paid yet: 22nd of July 2010.

Premium Moulding Worker
(185 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The helpers get 3,500 Rs. Workers work 80 hours overtime per month. The overtime payment is only 6 Rs per hour.

S and R Export Worker
(298 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
Workers work from 9 am till 11 pm, and are made to stay till 2 am. They force you to work on Sundays, from 9 am till 6 pm – if you don’t go, they sack you. The overtime is paid less than single rate, around 17.5 Rs per hour. The company does not provide working shoes – the finishing department handles glass items. If you don’t bring your own safety shoes, they send you back home. They provide drinking water only during the official breaks, and sometimes you will even have to look for drinking water outside the factory. The toilets are very dirty.

Mona Designs Worker
(146 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
Around 500 workers work from 9 am till 8 pm, sometimes the whole night. The overtime is paid less than single rate, around 19 Rs per hour.

Kumar Printers (Ranbaxy, Teachers Whiskey, Gillet, Delphi, Champion Underwear) Worker
(Plot 24, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
We work on two 12-hours shifts. We often have to work from 8 am till 1 am. This causes major distress. We work 175 hours overtime per month, this is paid single rate, about 20 Rs per hour. Out of 12 hours only 3 hours are called overtime, one hour is cut from wages every day. They say it is for ‘meal and tea break’. In the factory they have installed cameras everywhere. We produce packing cartons for various companies. There are 70 permanent workers, 10 to 15 company casuals and 200 workers hired through contractors.

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

*** A lonesome, brave action of Gurgaon security guards at India Bulls -

India Bulls Worker
(448 Udyog Vihar Phase 5)
In the headquarter of the company 3,500 people are employed. India Bulls is a finance company engaged in the share market, the real estate business, electricity sector etc.. For cleaning work India Bulls employs 60 workers, for security 26 workers, for maintenance 15 workers – all hired through contractors. The security guards are hired through Swift Security, they work on 12-hours shifts, no weekly day off. Their monthly payment for 30 days, 12-hours per day is 6,200 Rs. When, on 7th of July 2010, security guards decided to withdraw from duty for half an hour… the management promised to increase the monthly wage by 1,000 Rs.

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

*** Urbanising Disaster / News Rubble from Gurgaon -

The rural hinterland is turned into social deserts, the cities turn semi-disfunctional. A collage of news items from September and October 2010.

…Urban Slums growing…
There has been a growth of 17.8 million in urban slum population of the country in the last decade, according to a government committee. The projected slum population in the country for the year 2011 would be 93.06 million from the 75.26 million estimated in 2001. Gurgaon population is to double by 2025. According to a state government spokesperson, Gurgaon-Manesar complex will accommodate nearly 40 lakh population (4 million) in the next 15 years.

…and unsold homes piling up…
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), around 250 million sq ft of residential inventory remains unsold across major markets in the country. Most of the upcoming projects are located in Navi Mumbai and Thane near Mumbai, or in Noida and Gurgaon near Delhi, where unsold home inventory levels are at all-time highs.

…SEZ jobs blown by real-estate bubble…
The great SEZ dream that Gurgaon has been harbouring for some time now is unlikely to become a reality any time soon. While top officials of Haryana Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) admitted that there is no fixed time frame for developing the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Gurgaon, they added that a substantial portion of the land that Reliance Industries (RIL) had acquired for the SEZ would be used for realty development. The Harayana SEZ was touted as the Indias largest one and was expected to generate 5 lakh jobs…

…with the help of Haryana’s holy-property-trinity: state / real-estate mafia / kulak-power…
On 3rd of October the High Court had quashed Haryana governments decision to acquire Nathupur village panchayats land and also instructed to refund over Rs 51 crore to DLF to take back the possession of the land. The order quashed the entire land deal between the Haryana government and the DLF which was inked on 2006. The state government had paid compensation to the Gram Panchayat and then sold off the land (19 acres) to the DLF. According to a senior official of the revenue department, gram panchayats involvement in such deals has become more obvious after private players started showing interest in village lands. With the land price in Gurgaon and adjoining areas hitting the roof, private real estate developers are trying to get village land at a low price by colluding with the panchayat head and other key members, he added.

…middle-class protest against collapse of governance…
“To register their protest against the “complete collapse of governance” in Gurgaon and press for the fulfilment of their demands, the representatives of different residents bodies launched a “civil disobedience movement” on the Gandhian pattern here yesterday. “Due to utter lack of the basic civic amenities and services in Gurgaon, we have decided to rename it as “Minimum City” instead of “Millennium City” to underline our point. “It has been decided to boycott the payment of all municipal and property taxes and maintenance charges to builders if the situation does not improve within three months.” Gurgaon is seeing the emergence of a new form of ghettoisation, something that the promoters of the gated colonies in the city or the state authorities approving such colonies had not visualised. Increasingly, a large number of nooks and corners are coming up in the city that are governed by a set of rules that appear to have been coined by individual groups of residents themselves and not by the original developers, the resident welfare associations or even the local civic bodies.

…farmers’ sell-out to sell land for nuclear power…
Fissures have appeared among Gorakhpur farmers agitating to save their land from acquisition for the nuclear power plant in the district. Rahul Gandhi had recently praised the land acquisition policy of the Hooda government and advocated adoption of the Haryana model by other states. Meanwhile, a group of Gorakhpur farmers at a separate meeting here today welcomed the government decision to set up the nuclear power plant in their village. The farmers said they had no objection to giving their land for the prestigious plant. All they wanted was suitable compensation so that they could purchase land elsewhere.

…while high-ways turn into killing snakes of fuming sheet-metal…
When the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway was opened to public two-and-a-half years ago, it was meant to fasten things up. The travel time between Delhi and Gurgaon during peak hours has shot up. According to DSC Ltd, the private concessionaire of the 28-km-long Expressway project, the traffic volume at the 32-lane toll plaza has touched almost 1.9 lakh passenger cars per day from approximately 1.3 lakh PCU at the time of opening of the Expressway. That’s a 46 per cent jump in traffic volume. According to the study done by the Centre for Transforming India (CTI), if all of Gurgaon’s intersections were to be included in the study, the total petrol loss due to jam would add up to Rs 2 crore a day. According to the study, a vehicle loses some 0.7 litres of fuel a day because of traffic jams and stoppage time. Once the traffic flows, it kills: “Three people died in separate accidents on the National Highway-8 stretch of Gurgaon in the past 48 hours.”

…and metro-train-construction into a field of tomb-stones and ash…
Over 100 workers have died during the construction of the metro railway in the Indian capital, Delhi, according to a submission by the metro authorities. The frequent accidents at metro sites have given rise to fears that safety standards are being compromised in the rush to build new lines, correspondents say. for recent photo-story on construction workers: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main47.asp?filename=hub091010We_Who.asp

…and low-wage subcontracted source of employment in slum-city…
In order to keep the stations clean the house keeping department of Delhi Metro hires workers through various contractors: A to Z, All Services, Prahari etc.. Since February this year the minimum wage for unskilled work in Delhi is 203 Rs for an 8-hours shift. The cleaners at Delhi Metro were paid 100 Rs – since May 2010 they get 120 Rs per day, much less than what they are entitled to. If you work 30 days per month you get 3,600 Rs. 9By;Faridabad Mazdoor Samchar)

…migrant workers in fear of the state to raid in the name of public urban safety…
Ramesh is the sole earning member of his family but he had to leave his job and go back to his hometown, Patna. He is among many migrant labourers who have left this satellite town of the Indian capital in the past 15 days due to the verification drive ahead of the Commonwealth Games. “I can fill the form and give it back to the police but the officials are threatening us. They talk rudely and say they will arrest me. I am leaving the town and will come back after the Games,” 24-year-old Ramesh told before leaving. Almost 50,000 migrant workers have left Gurgaon. “There are almost five lakh migrant workers in Gurgaon and more than 20 per cent have left the city due to the verification process,” IMT Industrial Association general secretary Manoj Tyagi said. The migrant workers belong mainly to Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Most of them do not have any identity proof such as ration card, driving licence or voter ID. “We came from Bihar to work here. We do not have any identity proof, which is causing problems for us,” said Rajeev, an industry worker. “We are afraid because of this drive. Some of my friends have left the city due to lack of any identity proof. But now my employer has given me an identity proof, so now I am feeling relaxed,” he added. “Not only the industries, the residents of the town are also facing the shortage of workers. I have to wash my car because my servant has also left due to the drive,” district public relations and grievances committee president Jagan Nath Mangla said. Following the police verification drive, residents say, there has been a drop in the frequency of weekly garbage collections. Consequently, vacant plots in every colony have turned into dumping grounds, After the verification, the number of maids, drivers and garbage collectors has reduced to a large extent.

*** The Social Tsunami Impact / Snap-Shots against Capital-Class-Crisis -

This is an attempt to introduce a regular update on general tendencies of crisis development in India – motivated by Greek shock-waves, naked shorts and potential spillovers.

* The Macro Crisis September / October 2010
We start with a look at India’s position in the global ‘currency war’: increasing inflow of hot money, high inflation despite hikes in interest rates, appreciation of the Rupee, therefore growing trade deficit and state debts. The abstract puzzle of shifting mathematical factors is an expression of social struggle: who will bear the social tension necessary to keep up in the air a huge bubble of over-accumulated wealth, toxic credits, state bonds – high enough to be able to look out for the tiny spots of profitable investment around the globe? Who will have to sweat for these profits, whose wages will be eaten up by tense inflation, who will lose jobs due to swamped markets and bubbled up currencies, who will default and live in misery in the face of potential abundance? We have to discover the breaking points, the points where the contradictive movements of capital culminate in confrontation with its antagonism: working class struggle.

* The Punjab Crisis
In October 2010 the trickle-down effect of (international) debts lead to a de- facto announcement of default by the Punjab state government. The central state offered to waive half of Punjab’s state debts in return for a structural adjustment program: an adjustment which first of all forces the local state to tackle farmer’s debts more fiercely. In mid-October we hear about killed farmer’s union leaders who defied the repossession of indebted farmers’ land.

* The Food Crisis and Social Death of Peasantry
Some news-items on increasing proletarianisation of farmers, on the neo-liberal illusions of the Second Green Revolution and its post-neo-liberal reality. Some news on the difficulty of the state to balance the commodity prices of agricultural products in times of peasantry crisis, global speculation of food prices and the looming danger of proletarian hunger revolts. We see how the cocktail of hot money and increasing interest rates turns lethal in form of suicides of rural microfinance.

* The Generalisation of Class Struggle
The ‘totality of capital’ seems blatant: global supply-chains and global (micro)finance bridging town and village, multi-national corporations combining locations of different sectors and stages of development. Seeing it detached from it’s mobile existence as the ‘living element’ of capital – meaning: seeing it through the lens of the institutional labour movement – the world of the working class is nothing but fragmented. Task of communist collectives today is to discover the social dimension and potential for generalisation within workers’ experience and struggle. At this point we can only superficially hint at some ‘clusters of proletarian reality’, which might become of major importance for the generalisation of future struggles beyond the rural/urban and national/international divides: news on the struggles against ‘destructive development’ in the mining and forest belts, struggles within the rural employment schemes and struggles in the multi-national industrial centres, like Chennai.

—————

* The Macro Crisis September / October 2010 -

Total GDP 2009: 1,367 Billion USD
Total Export 2009: 165 Billion USD
Trade Deficit 2010-11: 120 to 135 Billion USD
Total FDI 2009: 36.6 Billion USD
External Debts 2009-10: around 273 Billion USD
Foreign Exchange Reserves 2010: around 280 billion USD
Public debts of GDP 2009: 60 per cent
Fiscal Deficit: 5 per cent
Share in global merchandise trade in 2008: 1.5 per cent

India’ economy heating up in the Currency War

In October a Brazilian statesman made it official: a currency war is on, a global race to export the crisis through devaluation and ‘quantitative easing’ – e.g. Japan brought interest rates down to virtually zero in October and the US announced to continue the devaluation through government bond self-digestion. Hot money keeps streaming into the trenches of the emerging markets looking for temporary shelter. India is one of them. The short-term investment market heats up through inflow of foreign funds: a record $19.7 billion of Indian equities has been bought this year, one-third of the inflow happened since the start of September 2010! In early October the stock market index, Sensex, closed above the 20,000-mark for the first time since 2008. What seems like a boom-bonanza is enfolding it’s contradictive dynamics.

Stimulus policies and capital inflow keep inflation high

The combination of post-2008 stimulus policy and capital inflow fuels inflation and the central bank RBI has difficulty containing it. Even after the fifth hike of general interest rates this year the inflation still hovers around 10 per cent, food price inflation was 16 per cent in mid September. The government ‘petrol sector reform’ from August/September 2010, which free-floated national prices, leads to general hikes: The public sector oil companies have increased the price of petrol by 70 to 72 paise per litre. This follows an increase in September of 27 paise per litre. The price of petrol has already been increased by 1 Rs per litre in the space of three weeks. An attempt to centralise and raise funds to counter-balance the state deficit.

Higher interest rates foster appreciation of the Rupee

In mid September the RBI raised key short-term lending and borrowing rates by 0.25 and 0.50 percentage points, respectively, to about 6 per cent borrowing rates in total. The higher interest rates attract more foreign money flows. The hot money pushes the value of the Rupee upwards, in September the Rupee breached the 45 mark to the US-Dollars – between August 2009 and August 2010 the Rupee appreciated by 11.6 per cent in real terms. “According to Bloomberg data, the rupee gained 5.3 percent in September 2010 as global funds poured in over $23 billion in stocks and $10 billion in the debt market.” Upward pressure on the currency is expected to be continue in the wake of Coal India’s $3.5 billion initial public offering opening on 18th of October – a record sale of state property. As a result of the waves of inflow, the appreciation of the Rupee encourages imports and hampers exports: India’s garment exports – and garment industry is one of the ‘employment-generating’ export sectors – declined for the third successive month in July 2010, showing a 22.5 per cent annual drop.

Appreciation increases the growing trade deficit and external debts

Imports grow faster than exports. The trade deficit is widening to an annual record high of 135 billion USD. In October the commerce secretary said: “The deficit is still within manageable limits, but its absolute size is worrying,” adding that financing such huge deficits for a longer period could be a challenge. India’s current account deficit in the June quarter widened to $13.7 billion, in fact it tripled compared to the $4.5 billion of the same period in 2009. The lower interest rates abroad lead to an increase of external debts: between March 2009 and March 2010 external debts increased by 16.5 per cent to 261.5 billion USD.
External debts continued to increase: in the three months of April – June 2010 month external debt rose 4.1 percent or 10.8 billion USD to 273.1 billion USD due to a sharp increase in short-term trade credits, commercial borrowings and multilateral government borrowings. The short-term debt increased by 5.4 billion USD to 57.8 billion USD, accounting for 21.2 percent of the total external debt. Of the total public debt, external debt was 10.25 per cent [this last figure is dubious, given that total public debts would than amount to more about 2,700 billion USD]. Punjab becomes India’s California, brought to its knees by combination of rural and international debts.

Equity boom and debts a productive credit function?

In summary: the figures above demonstrate the increasing volatility of the financial situation and express some contradicting tendencies, e.g. the necessity to raise interest rates to curb inflation, which in turn stifles the economic ‘recovery’. Government advisors warned in October 2010 that any sudden change, e.g. a sudden rise in global oil-prices, could throw the monetary system out of balance. Apart from the general fragility of the financial framework the question remains, whether the capital inflow is absorbed in a productive sense and whether the increasing internal and external debts express a credit function: meaning that the borrowed money is used for capital investment.

Decline in Foreign Direct Investment

We can say that while general capital inflow increases, the share of FDI (investments in productive assets) shrinks. In October 2010 an UN study declared that India is now the 13th biggest global attractor of FDI – which says more about the miserable condition of other national markets than the ‘shining’ condition of the Indian one. Foreign direct investment in India fell by nearly a quarter in the first seven months of 2010 to $12.56 billion. In 2009, India attracted $36.6 billion in FDI funds, equivalent to 2.7 percent of its gross domestic product. In comparison, China attracted $95 billion, or 1.9 percent of GDP. In the calculation of the Indian state FDI is crucial for the development of necessary infrastructure projects. Power, for example, attracted only $1.44 billion in FDI in the most recent financial year — a pittance in the context of Indian state’s hopes for $350 billion to $400 billion of funding for power for the five years ‘great leap forward’, which is supposed to start in 2012.

Sluggish growth of capital goods production and investment

The question concerning the relation between debts and productive and profitable investments is a rather more difficult one. On the surface things look good: industrial growth for the first five months of this fiscal stood at 10.6 per cent in comparison to 5.9 per cent growth in the same period a year ago. Most of the industrial growth is due to growth of production of consumer goods, whereas in August 2010 the capital goods production – production for future production – actually shrank by 2.6 per compared to 2009. Similarly the growth of the ‘core sector’: The core sector, which includes crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel, grew by ‘only’ 3.7 per cent in August. The growth had slowed from 3.9 per cent recorded in July. Another hint concerning the ‘investment climate’ is given by a study on 2,700 mainly manufacturing companies, published in October 2010. According to the study fixed assets creation (CFA) of the analysed companies registered a decline of 6.5 per centin FY10.

GDP-boom, but no employment growth

The most recent National Sample Survey (NSS) of autumn 2010 indicates that the last five years of GDP boom was a jobless boom. The survey speaks of a total of 2.4 million jobs created between 2005 and 2008. The total number of (official!) wage workers increased from 457.9 million in 2004-2005 to 460.2 million in 2007-2008, a growth rate of just 0.17 per cent. This is much lower than the population growth and rural proletarianisation rate. In the rural sector employment shrank – only the state generated ‘public works’ (including NRGS) increased from 221 million person days in 2005-2005 to 939 million person days in 2007-2008. Even if these figures do not reflect the actual job creation – most of employment, also in modern urban industries, is ‘off the books’ – they demonstrate that the growth of permanent employment is minimal.

Juggling the crisis with state force: head-counts and market wars

Both industrial output and investment patterns still say little about actual potentials for future profits. And facing an increasing debt crisis, profits are needed. The Indian state has to push for a growth in ‘profit generating’ sectors. Most of these sectors are attached to external markets – markets have to be conquered or defended. India is re-arming heavily. After deals with the UK and Russia in August the Indian defence ministry announced that it is aiming to finalise a 5.8 billion USD defence agreement with the United States before November 2010. In August and September the ‘Kashmir’-conflict was used as a pretext to engage in intensified diplomatic quarrels with the Chinese government: 11,000 Chinese soldiers were deployed in Pakistan part of Kashmir after the flood, the Indian diplomacy speculates about Chinese efforts to secure access to the Indian Ocean ports. The ‘trade war’ is extended to Africa. In mid-October Indian business-papers wrote about a delegation visit of the Minister for Industry and Indian company managers: “With the help of the government, Indian industry is implementing a strategy to compete with China and European countries for capturing markets in growing African economies, particularly in East Africa. India, on its part, is trying to counter the commercial threat from China and European nations by offering lines of credit to African firms. “That will help source capital goods from India,” FICCI Secretary General Amit Mitra said.”

Profit generating sectors are not necessarily employment generating sectors, as the NSS indicates. A social crisis of rural demise and underemployment has to be managed cost effectively and by divide-and-rule. The 2011 census will be both – a drive towards social management of poverty by attaching ‘welfare’ to ‘computerised identification’ and in itself a re-enforcement of caste politics. It will be the first ‘caste-census’ in the almost 65 year history of ‘independent’ India.
“The campaign for a caste census has been spearheaded by three opposition parties, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Ultimately, the Indian government did institute a 27 percent quota for the Other Backward Castes. That it did so in the 1990s coincident with embrace of neoliberal policies, involving the dismantling of public and social services and massive tax cuts for the big business, is not accidental, nor incidental.” The state has to re-shift debts and individualise dangers of default. The current state debt crisis of Punjab is an example about the local and global class origins of the debt crisis.

* The Punjab Crisis –

In early October the central state offered to waive half of the state debts – 35,000 crore RS, about 7.8 billion USD – in return for a structural adjustment program. The Punjab government spends 8,000 crore annually for debt interests. First person squashed in the field of tension between central and state financial crisis and the attached political faction fights was the Punjab Finance Minister, who had to leave his job. Manpreet has often been accused of raising the highest debt in the form of external commercial borrowings, taking the total debt of the state from Rs 48,000 crore to Rs 71,000 crore within his three and a half period as finance minister..

The debt crisis in Punjab is fuelled from various locations in time and space: a hang-over of times of counter-insurgency against the social turmoil of the 1980s,
which saw the Punjab more or less permanently occupied by Indian army; the farmers’ debt crisis after the decline of their market position; the crisis of remittance from and migration to UK, US and Canada, given that a large share of proletarians from Punjab work abroad; the ‘industrial crisis’, particularly of the textile industry, an expression of which are the current massive powerloom workers’ unrests in Ludhiana, click HERE

Once we take Punjab’s position in the national-agricultural division of labour into account (grain basket) and have a closer look at the demanded ‘adjustments’ we can see that the ‘state debts’ are, most of all, an expression of the social crisis of capitalist farmers in India. Of all states, the highest number of indebted farmers is in Punjab. The average level of indebtedness per agriculturist is about Rs 42000. The volume of total indebtedness is Rs 25000 crores. From 1998 to 2009, 2116 farmers have committed suicide in this state. According to non-official sources the actual number is several times more than this.

In August 2010 state banks issued their official threats against indebted farmers in Maharashtra to dispossess their land – those farmers who were ‘beneficiaries’ of the 2008-09 debt waiver program and who were not able to pay back ‘their share’. In fact, as an article on 12th of October revealed, most of the farmers did not take part in the scheme: the offer of the state to rebate 25 per cent of the debt would have meant that farmers had to pay the remaining 75 per cent. Most farmers defaulted, unable to pay back.

“According to bankers’ collective estimates, farm loans in the range of 2,000 – 2,500 crore would have fallen overdue as farmers’ response to the debt relief scheme was below expectation even after the expiry of the deadline. “Programmes like debt waiver and debt relief have destroyed the repayment culture of borrowers, especially farmers. Even politicians make false promises to woo voters,” said a senior banker, on condition of anonymity.”

A similar position is now held against the ‘populist’ government of Punjab, which is accused of having pampered the local kulak farmers. “The terms are tough but the debt-ridden state seems to have run out of options. The Punjab political leadership has an opportunity to end the ruinous politics of populism and return to fiscal discipline and responsible governance. Punjab’s present economic situation is pathetic. The state is heading for a debt trap, which means taking more loan to pay the existing loan. Any further slip-up can lead to a loan default, non-payment of staff salaries and invite the President’s Rule for a financial breakdown. The stakes are high.”

Accordingly the demanded adjustments are a direct attack on ‘indebted farmers’, which would aggravate the social crisis considerably:
* Cut power subsidy from Rs 3,100 crore to 1,000 crore in five years
* Hike irrigation water charges
* Impose property tax
* Sell the state stakes in sick PSUs (meaning: sack thousands of workers in factually bankrupt companies)

In mid-October 2010 bad news reach from Punjab:
“As per initial reports, on 11.10.2010, the revenue officials went to auction the land of an indebted peasant, Bhola Singh to recover a loan outstanding against him. To protest against this, the peasants under the banner of BKU (Dakonda) held a peaceful Dharna at the auction venue and raised slogans. The peasant organizations have been successfully resisting such expropriation of peasant’s lands since almost a decade. In view of the protest by the BKU, none came forward to bid for the land and the auction failed. The revenue officials went back. Most of the peasants gathered on the spot also went away and only a few activists of the BKU remained there, to discuss the further course of action. In a pre-planned move, the revenue officials accompanied by arhtiyas, their hired armed goons, and a local Congress leader, came back and started the auction again. When the BKU activists protested, they attacked them firstly with brick bats etc., and thereafter fired upon them indiscriminately, killing Pritpal Singh Alisher on the spot and injuring several others. This bloody incident occurred in the presence of revenue and police officials. Recently the Director General of Punjab Police has dubbed 17 organizations of peasants and farm laborers, including BKU Dakonda, as “Naxalite Organizations”.” For whole report click HERE

One week later news of a more successful action against repossession from Sirsa, Haryana.
“Villagers force revenue officials to return
Angry residents of Shahpuria village here today forced a team of revenue officials, who had gone to the village with the police to evict a farmer, to make a retreat. The farmers, who were armed with lathis and other weapons, made it clear that they would not allow the officials to take possession of farmer Ram Chander Punia’s 5 acres of agriculture land. Activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha led by Krishan Swaroop Gorakhpuria and Prahlad Singh Bharukhera also came in support of Punia and announced that they would not allow the farmer to be divested of his land. The revenue officials maintained that they had come to the village to implement the court orders as Punia had lost his case with respect to that land to a Sirsa trader. Later, the revenue officials stalled their possession due to pressure of the villagers and left the village.”

* The Food Crisis and Social Death of Peasantry -

In the form of agrarian revolution (mechanisation, land concentration etc.) capitalist development increasingly detaches the issue of food production from the issue of peasantry / ‘farmers’ as a distinct social class. In India this process is still volatile, impacting on the fate of millions whose income partially depends on agriculture production. It is therefore strongly mediated and shaped by state policy. Production of food becomes commodity production, but the commodity ‘food’ keeps a distinct character in the reproduction of rural/urban class relations. The commodity price of agricultural produce determines the fate of the indebted or profit-making farmers. The commodity price of food is the main determinant of the wage level of workers. The state’s agrarian policy is manipulation of a pressure valve, steering between shockwaves of farmers’ mass social death and proletarian food riots. This price-balance-walk is increasingly influenced by global trade of agrarian products. The contradictions between productivity increase, over-production, speculation and ‘artificial scarcity’ aggravate. In the following we can provide only some hints, some recent news relating to the question of food price and re-structuring of the agrarian sector.

Increasing proletarianisation of small farmers

Some, though older, nevertheless interesting details about the general proletarianisation of ‘small farmers’.
“Commensurate with the National Sample Survey data on sources of income, Bhalla notes “an astonishing increase in the proportion of agricultural labor households recorded as possessing land (from 7-8% to 67%)” between the late 1970s and late 1980s. Clearly, as cultivation income declines and small plots can no longer support a family, many small and marginal peasants are taking to agricultural wage employment. In west UP between 59 and 70 per cent of income of landless households came from non-agricultural. Much of this employment is migrant. Those who still ‘work the land’ often do it in semi-proletarianised status. “Lerche (1999) in his study of villages in Jaunpur district of eastern UP, offers an interesting example of a type of production relation that is neither strictly sharecropping, nor strictly wage labor. Rather it appears to be a type of piece-rate system for agriculture couched in sharecropping terminology. The balance of investment, risk and control over labour process between the landowner and the tenant is substantially changed. Earlier, in these parts, a pair of oxen and a plough were normally expected to be provided by the tenant, but now the landowner provided all inputs including a tractor for ploughing. Now the landowner retains control over the major inputs and over production itself while the “sharecropper” only provides his and his family’s labor-power. In a variant of this system, the tiseri system, “the landowner supplied 2/3 of expenditure for fertilizer and seeds, and provided irrigation, while the sharecropper provided all labor as well as the remaining share of inputs, and received one-third of the harvest.” (p. 188) Thus one can clearly see degrees of dispossession or proletarianization at work here. The tiseri system became more prevalent in the 1990s as agricultural wages increased. According to Lerche it has been adopted by landowners as a strategy to handle labor conflict.”
from: http://sanhati.com/excerpted/2750/

The Second Green Revolution: hybrid micro-financed agro-chains

The neo-liberal market farmer stereo-typically looks like this: around 5 to 8 hectares of cash-crop, possibly as contract farmer, if not, then dependent on combination of state procurement and/or (sugar mill, cotton trading) agro- capital. Increasing input-costs enforce multiple debt-relations: state banks, micro-credits, moneylenders. The household depends on wage work of family members and employs foreign wage work seasonally. Various global trends impact on the farming business: drying up or fresh supply of credits; rising or falling input prices, largely influenced by global oil price; fluctuating output prices. The ‘Second Green Revolution’ is supposed to be more ‘flexible’ than the ‘First Green Revolution’ mirroring neo-liberal and globalised production. The heavy input of tractor machinery and chemical fertilizers is supposed to be liquefied by hybrid/GM-seeds and diversified cash-crops. Instead of central state procurement or sales to mill cooperatives the contractual relations are supposed to be franchised: contract farming within the food-processing supply chain, micro-financed flower and exotic fruit production for the global market. An expression of the ruling-class view on the ‘Second Green Revolution’ are the comments of the Indian ambassador for Argentina in September 2010, in an article on how Indian agriculture sector can learn from its South American counterpart. “Viswanathan referred to the Argentine group Los Grobos, which has brought the outsourcing model to agriculture. Los Grobos cultivates 270,000 hectares in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina, without owning a single plot of land. It uses “precision farming”, which employs software to determine the input distribution and monitors by satellite the location of the seeds and sprayer machines. At the same time, soil monitors give real-time information, helping the group head office to decide on the nutritional and other parameters.”

The state, the global institutions of finance and planning (WTO etc.), the agro-companies, the ‘small-producer’ NGO’s – and may be the farmers themselves – imagined the farming sector as a ‘network’ of small entrepreneurs, financially self-sufficient, but connected to a wider flexible production chain. Nodes of that chain are modern terminal markets, or in words of the Indian Ministry for Agriculture: “intelligent agrologistic networks combining consolidation centres, agroparks and rural transformation centres”. Every state is busy developing these terminals, for example in Sambalpur, Orissa: the construction will cost around 80 crore, storage for vegetables and fruits will be combined with auction halls and processing units. Around 1 million tons of fruit and vegetables are supposed to be dealt with per year. The terminal market will be connected to 20 ‘collection centres in the catchment area, in a radius of about up to 290 km. Ideally these terminals are linked up to the global agro-trade. What was displayed as a peaceful idyll of ‘shared location advantages’ during the boom time of globalisation might now turn into a ‘trade war’ over soil and produce. With food becoming more significant for financial speculation and bio-fuels for the energy regime, we now witness a kind of ‘Second Plantation Regime’. In September 2010 we could read in the Economic Times: “Indian companies are increasingly getting a foothold into South America, acquiring assets and land not just to get entry into its lucrative agricultural market but also to export commodities such as sugar, pulses and edible oils back to India. According to Latin American diplomats serving in New Delhi, Indian company Shree Renuka Sugars recently made it to the club of top five sugar producers in Brazil, South America’s largest country and world’s biggest sugarcane producer. India’s largest sugar refiner, Shree Renuka Sugars had first bought a sugar and ethanol producer Vale Do Ivai S.A. Acucar E Alcool in November 2009 for $240 million, including its 18,000 hectares of land and cane crushing capacity of 3.1 million tonnes annually. A few months later, in February, it invested another $329 million for a 51-percent stake in Equipav SA Acucar e Alcool, that owns two sugar mills with 10.5 million tonnes annual capacity, as well as, 115,000 hectares of cane growing land in south-eastern Brazil. “Frankly, there is also not much sensitivity about the issue of land in South America due to the low population, unlike, say, in Africa where it is often a political hot potato,” the diplomat added. “The cost of land generally in South America is half the cost of land, say in Punjab. The most fertile land is costing around $12000 a hectare , while fallow land can be bought for as little as a few hundred dollars a hectare.”

The crash of the neo-liberal farmer and the persistence of left ideology

The idyll of the ‘happy franchised farmer’ is the hellish reality of debts and mass suicide. We described the ‘success story’ of microfinance institutions in the last newsletter. Here a short news item on the dark side of the boom, the other side of the same bloody coin:

17 of the dead were not defaulters: SKS
Friday, Oct 15, 2010
Hyderabad: Following a spate of suicides by poor and rural people in Andhra Pradesh allegedly due to pressure from MFIs, SKS Microfinance today said that as many as 17 borrowers from their firm figured in the list but none of them were loan defaulters. “Even police have cleared that we are not involved in that,” Vikram Akula, Executive Chairman, SKS Microfinance, told reporters here. As per the data available the interest rate charged by the companies range from 26-60 per cent. Andhra Pradesh has been witnessing several suicides by rural people in the last 45 days following inability to repay loans taken from microfinance companies and the figure according to official sources, has touched 30. To a query, Akula said if a borrower dies, the remaining loan amount is waived and whatever has been paid till then, will be returned to the family. When asked about the ordinance, he said, “As an NBFC, SKS is under the purview of RBI and is regulated by it. The state government will have to take up with RBI and Finance ministry as far as interest rates are concerned.” The Andhra Pradesh Police arrested three people working with SKS Microfinance and Spandana on a complaint of harassment by a borrower, announced the media on 22nd of October 2010.

Only with the actual crash of neo-liberalism as an operating system at the end of 2008 the WTO, the UN and other representatives of the management of capital re-discovered the importance of the ‘subsistence farming’. The food riots in mid-2008, the credit crunch of the microfinance system, the general crash of agricultural commodity prices and the prospect of severe social unrest due to unemployment added a new bit of ideology to the ‘post-neoliberal farmer’: farming has to be green and sustainable. “It is not all for ‘fast profits’, we also have to see the human and ecological factors.” The former promoters of the Green Revolution are suddenly becoming priests of perma-culture. Behind the talk about subsistence and sustainability is a looming threat: in these times of recession, stay where you are, don’t claim a better life as (urban) wage workers, wait on your bits of soil and sustain yourself, wait until you or your labour is needed.

Given their antiquated ideological approach, most factions of the left are paralysed by these seemingly contradictive developments. To talk in the old categories of ‘the peasantry’ as an ‘allied class’ means to disregard the proletarian character of most of the rural population. The agrarian crisis is hence not seen as an intrinsic part of capitalist development: the agrarian revolution and the requirements of urbanisation; the double-character of proletarianisation, as: on one hand outcome of struggle against patriarchal exploitation and social claim for better life and on the other hand as violent process of up-rooting and dis-appropriation. The agrarian development is seen as a ‘wrong policy’ or an ‘external imperialist enforcement’. The following lines might serve as an example of this type of lefty view, where ‘agents of capitalist social process’ are turned into the ‘subject of the process’ itself:

“The Bharti-Walmart or the Tata Kisaan-Tesco joint ventures are only couple of such instances where American or British retailers have tried to tap in this untouched sector. German Metro Cash and Carry or American PepsiCo has already invested in agricultural production in India. They want to capture the huge domestic market in India as well as re-engineer Indian agricultural production to perfectly match the needs of the west. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta together control 40 percent of the seeds market and own 47 percent of the seeds. Bayer, Dow and a few more completely control the farm-chemicals market. Only 10 pesticide companies have 89 percent share of the market. Wal-Mart, Kroger, Carrefour and Tesco together control 40 percent of retail. And the unifications and mergers that these corporations frequently undergo are a product of the immense control that financial market exercises over them.”
(from: http://sanhati.com/excerpted/2698/)

Food processing and ‘retail supply-chains’ are not a mere ‘imperialist trick’ of multi-nationals to get ‘food in the door’ of an ‘untouched’ Indian agricultural sector. Currently only ten percent of food in India is ‘processed’. The capitalist process of urbanisation – a deepened (spacial) division between hinterland and town – enforces tinned-tomatoes and cold-storage halls. Longer distances between orchards and urban consumption and increased full-household wage work drives towards supply-chain-systems of ready-made food. Companies like Warl Mart obviously not only profit passively from these processes, they become active agents. They can present themselves as the more effective middle-men between capitalist farmer and urban consumer. They say that in countries with an ‘organised mass retail sector’ farmers get two thirds of the final market price for their products, while in India farmers get a third – the rest is siphoned off by a large sector of middle-men and traders. They don’t say that it took several decades of mass migration to the ‘new world’, decades of industrial ‘work-house-society’, mass starvation and World Wars in order to get rid off small traders and to reduce the share of farmers to 2 per cent of population in the ‘developed nations’.

Current food price inflation and speculation

Above we had a brief look at how food and agro-products are produced. In the following we give some examples about how they are circulated as a commodity. The price movements are impacted on from various levels: local and global markets, state intervention in both of them through procurement, storage or tariff-policies. The price movements reverberate back to the soil, shape the process of concentration and changes in crop patterns. In the last decades there has been a decline in food grain production. The annual per capita food grain availability (not purchase power) which was 177 Kgs in 1990 has gone down to 152 Kgs in 2005. We find ourselves in a complex situation: India was spared from global food riots in mid-2008; the Doha round conflict between US and other agro-export nations and China/India to ‘open local markets’ intensified; since 2009 pulses are increasingly imported to India; while due to increase in global prices after draught in Russia 2010 the Indian state thinks about rising the cap for wheat and rice export; while at the same time food inflation in India soared to 20 per cent during 2010 and left movements criticise the state for letting food grains rot in the procurement storages. Similar to the left view on ‘foreign engagement’ in the agricultural sector, the simple left interpretation of the contradictive state policy is: the state runs down the procurement system in order to open it for private companies. Others say: the rotting food is expression of kulak power and of the low wages of the working class who cannot afford to buy the storaged grains. We have no more sufficient answer to the wider question, below some snippets symbolising the various elements of the ‘food question’.

Food inflation continues to accelerate
“Food inflation rose marginally to 16.37 per cent for the week ended October 2″. These are the official figures. Comrades of the ‘Open the Storage’- campaign allege that “Food inflation has hovered around 18-20 per cent in the past two years. The retail price of coarse rice increased from 9 rupees per kilogramme to 17 rupees per kilogramme at Bhubaneswar in Orissa and from 12.50 rupees per kilogram to 22 rupees per kilogramme at Coimbatore in Tamilnadu. Similarly the retail price of Atta (Wheat flour) increased from 12 rupees per KG to 20 rupees per KG at Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and from 10 rupees per KG to 16 rupees per KG at Ludhiana in Punjab.”

Conflict between Farmers and Millers/Traders: Delay in Rice Procurement
Karnal, 3 October, 2010
Hundreds of farmers blocked vehicular traffic on the GT Road (Karnal, Haryana) for nearly three-and-a-half hours today to protest the delay in procurement of paddy by government agencies and rice millers. The farmers alleged that the procurement was to start from October 1 but not a single grain had been purchased and their produce was lying in open and rotting. Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) district general secretary Sham Singh warned that any further delay in purchase of paddy would make the farmers restive and the agitation could take a violent turn. The leaders said against Rs 40,000 incurred on rice cultivation on one hectare area, the net return was Rs 20,000. The Haryana Pradesh Rice Millers and Dealers Association had blamed the wrong and faulty rice procurement polices of the Centre and the state government pushing rice millers into crisis and cautioned that they would not purchase paddy from the growers in case their grievances and demands were not addressed.

Conflict between Millers/Traders and the State: Charges for storage
Chandigarh, 5 October, 2010
A five-hour-long meeting between agitating rice-millers and senior officers of the Haryana Food and Supplies Department here last night failed to break the stalemate over the purchase of paddy, which has been arriving in the mandis of the state in large quantities over the past five days. The millers have refused to purchase paddy on behalf of government agencies till their demands are accepted. Though the government agencies are committed to purchasing paddy at the minimum support price of Rs 1030 per quintal, they just don’t have any infrastructure to do so. In the past it was the millers who used to purchase paddy on behalf of the government, clean it, transport it and store it in their mills, though on paper all this work was done by the government agencies. The millers used to get milling charges at Rs 15 per quintal. Over the years, the system became so perfect that the agencies did not feel the need to develop infrastructure of their own. This year the space position in the warehouses of the FCI is worse than what it was last year. The millers fear that they would again be asked to shell out heavy holding charges this year.

West Asia curbs threaten Indian rice exports
23 September, 2010
India’s basmati rice exports to West Asia could be hit after Saudi Arabia and Iran took measures to curb imports. Rice shipments to Iran and Saudi Arabia comprise 60 per cent of the exports. While Iran has withdrawn import licences, Saudi Arabia has removed subsidy on rice imports. Private investors and government agencies from Saudi Arabia have been acquiring arable land in African countries for growing aromatic rice. India annually exports about $500 million worth of basmati and $102 million worth of non-basmati rice to Saudi Arabia. Rice exports increased by 44 per cent to 2.3 million tonne in 2009-10 from 1.8 million tonne in 2008-09, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) data said.

Wheat imports [!] rise by 27 pc in first quarter of 2010
27 September, 2010 (Economic Times)
New Delhi has contracted to import a whopping 2 lakh tonnes of wheat in the first half of the current fiscal, this is 27 per cent more than in the entire 2009-10. BUT shipments are unlikely to take place soon as prices are high, Roller Four Millers Federation of India said today. Wheat prices in the international market have firmed up sharply since last two months, on supply concerns due to drought and wildfire in Russia, one of the world’s biggest wheat producers.

Good time for wheat export [!]
28 September, 2010 (Economic Times)
The monthly report of the department of economic affairs, ministry of finance, that appeared in mid-September 2010, affirms that drought in Russia, floods in Pakistan and fears of looming dryness in South America are helping bulls of wheat. India can commence wheat exports at ‘competitive prices’ of $300 per metric tonne (mt) fob – against $100-160 per metric tonne fob realised in the earlier export programme of 2001-05 – and can effectively cover markets of the geographical arc between South Korea and Yemen. The niche period of wheat export is available till March-April 2011. A wild card in the export market is China, which has not historically been a significant. China surprised experts when it made some purchases of US corn earlier this year, but it is not clear if it will be a major buyer of the current crop.

Left campaign to open government food grain storage: state hoards food grains
30 September, 2010
“Almost 10,000 people across eight districts protested against rotting food grains in FCI and State godowns in West Bengal. With food stocks having reached a record level of 608.79 lakh metric tones, almost a third of the stocks are lying in the open under temporary cover. This year already 1.77 Crore MT has rotten and become unfit for human consumption alone. While on the one hand we have hunger, spiralling food prices and declining food availability, on the other hand, our so-called welfarist Government has aggravated the situation by becoming a hoarders of food grains. The stock holdings of cereals by the Government as of June 1st 2010, have reached a record level of 608.79 lakh metric tonnes (MTs). This is the second highest stock since 2002 and three times the amount required as a buffer reserve aiding and abetting speculative price rise in the open market. In just the State of Punjab, close to 1.36 lakhs MT of wheat, which was procured in 2008-09, is still lying in the open. This is the third monsoon that this stock is weathering and all available official reports suggest that up to a third of this grain i.e. close to 50,000 MTs is already unfit for human consumption.” from: http://sanhati.com/articles/2741/

* The Generalisation of Class Struggle –

The ‘totality of capital’ seems blatant: global supply-chains and global (micro)finance bridging town and village, multi-national corporations combining locations of different sectors and stages of development. Seeing it detached from it’s mobile existence as the ‘living element’ of capital, seeing it through the lens of the institutional labour movement, the world of the working class is nothing but fragmented.
Tasks of communist collectives today is to discover the social dimension and potential for generalisation in each individual workers’ experience and struggle. We need an organised debate about how the current crisis changes the composition of class through the re-structuring of global division of labour, rural and urban migration – and how each workers’ experience in circulation already contains essentials answers to the question: how to organise?
At this point we cannot come up with much more than this appeal. We can only superficially hint at some ‘clusters of proletarian reality’, which might become of major importance for the generalisation of future struggles beyond the rural/urban and national/international divides.

* The rural upheaval within and against ‘destructive industrial development’

The forest and mining areas have been thrown into state of emergency and areas of counter-insurgency. In this heated up atmosphere it is of utmost difficulty and importance to unravel the class dynamics in what is portrayed as a struggle between state vs. Maoist or multi-nationals vs. ‘communities’. The recent state’s offer of ‘fair share’ of mining profits to ‘local communities’ has to be seen not only as a material ‘buy off’, but as an attempt to contain social unrest in manageable categories of ‘community’ and ‘represented deals between different interests’. Two weeks after the state put a preliminary halt to the Vedanta mining project in Orissa in late August 2010, a halt for ‘civilised negotiations’, the company was attacked by proletarian anger in early September: “Thousands of workers ransacked the offices of a refinery run by British resource giant Vedanta. The violence at the refinery was due to Vedanta cancelling short-term staff contracts related to its expansion plans, the Economic Times reported. The refinery was forced to halt work when 2,000 protesting workers carrying sticks and sharp objects cut off the power supply.” Would the regime manage to mobilise this type of proletarian anger against the “rural poor’ resisting the industrial projects’? Examples of analytical efforts to put the local uprising in a wider picture, see Radicalnotes and Sanhati

Book Review ‘Out of this earth’ 10

Once the mining is established as a destructive act, the conflict does not stop, it continues on a different qualitative level: The strike of 13,000 contract workers against the central government-owned Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu entered its second month on October 21. The workers have shown great determination in prosecuting their strike in the face of the unions’ refusal to appeal to NLC’s 14,000 regular workers to join the strike and the attempts of both government and opposition parties to foist a settlement on them that would leave them as a permanent low-wage workforce. Whole article on WSWS

* The struggles within the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

Given the ample character of the NRGS it will not only be an essential element of household wage and labour for millions of rural proletarians, it also develops into a playground of political and social management. The potential of generalisation of proletarian struggles – which previously might have had individual local land-lords as their target – is opposed by a vast apparatus of NGO / state institutions to mediate and channel the arising conflicts. All these examples say little about the inter-relation between NRGS and the conditions of wage work in the urban industrial centres: does the (paper) existence of a rural welfare scheme actually work as a ‘fall-back-option’ for urban migrant workers? Will their urban experiences rise or lower the claims made within the NRGS and other rural jobs? Nor is there much knowledge about the impact of the NRGS on the rural labour market: does the existence of the NRGS encourage workers in other rural jobs to raise their claims, or does the NRGS serve as a general ‘grievance channel’?

Official wages of the NREGS fall behind the official minimum wage. In January 2009 the Central Government froze wages under this Act at Rs. 100 per day. Thus with time NREGA wages have fallen below minimum wages; and have also fallen in nominal terms with the unabated double digit food price inflation over the past year. The non-payment of wages within the NRGS is still blatant. In September 2010 following news came from Rajasthan: Farmers in the tribal Dahod district have decided to boycott the local elections over non-payment of wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). There are about 2,223 such farmers in Fatehpura Taluka of Dahod district, who have decided to abstain from voting. Nathu Pargi (56), a farmer who took up work as a labourer under NREGS, in 2008, said: “I did not receive a single paisa as payment, so why should I vote for anyone? The people who have taken the money will contest these elections again.” The grievances are taken up, in institutionalised form. Another example from Rajasthan, 3rd of October 2010:

A hundred Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) workers, who were paid a paltry Re.1 for a day’s work in Tonk district of Rajasthan, returned the amount to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The dharna, which marked the culmination of the “Mazdoor Haq Yatra” (March for the rights of workers) reached from five different destinations – Ajmer, Jodhpur, Kota, Rajsamand, and Udaipur – after 16 days journey. The dharna was to establish “dignity and justice” of those worked under the job scheme, said Shankar Singh of the MKSS. The MKSS failed to register a union of NRGS workers. When the Majdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti – formed by NREGA workers under the guidance of NAC member Aruna Roy – approached the registration office, they were told that NREGA workers don’t qualify as ‘workmen’ as defined in the Industrial Disputes Act and the Trade Union Act of 1962, because they are not engaged in a trade or industry. The trade union of NREGA workers in Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, for instance, was registered without any difficulty, primarily because it was a zonal level affair. The same goes for the GCKS or the Gram Kooli Karmikara Sanghatane, a union of NREGA workers from Karnataka. Initially, it was allowed to register at the zonal levels but was denied permission to set up a state-level union. However, after much coaxing it is set to register at the state level. Many trade unions, like the one formed by Anuradha Talwar in Bengal, have merely affiliated themselves to the existing New Trade Union Initiative instead of going for an independent registration as a trade union.

* The new generation of multi-national workers

The new generation of workers in industrial clusters like Gurgaon, Chennai or Vapi/ Bharuch are the leading subjects to express and combine the anger of rural misery – the background they are still in touch with – and power and aspirations as part of a global exploited class. We try to document voices of this generation in the newsletters. A particular effort has to be made to debate the differences and parallels of their experiences and those of their brothers and sisters in China – in particular after the wave of strikes at Honda suppliers in China in May and June 2010. Below some news from Chennai, another fast growing new industrial centre of India.

Chennai figures in a list of the world’s fastest-growing cities. Projected to reach a population of ten million by 2025 (presently about seven million), Chennai’s metropolitan area “is taking full advantage of India’s soaring industrial sector, particularly the booming automobile sector. Car markers such as Hyundai Motor India, German luxury car maker BMW and Ford Motor India besides Dell, Sony, Samsung and Nokia India have set up their plants on the city outskirts employing more than 23,000 people. Workers’ unrest grows with the urban. Employees of Hyundai Motor India went on a flash strike in June this year demanding that the management reinstate 67 employees dismissed earlier for demanding recognition of trade union. The latest in the series of strikes is in all three facilities of tyre major MRF at Arakkonam, Thiruvottiyur and in Puducherry. Union sources said the employees were pressing for recognition of union, wage revision and removal of surveillance cameras. “Employees were against installation of CCTVs in Tiruvottiyur plant since it invaded their privacy…”a Union member claimed. The Arakkonam plant produces about 45,000 truck tyres and 25,000 tubes while Pudicherry and Thiruvottiyur manufacture 13,500 and 6,500 truck tyres on a daily basis. In addition, about 13,000 contract workers of the public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation have also been on strike since September 19, pressing for various demands including raising of wages and issues relating to bonus. As a rather symbolic example of China/India parallels an article about the current strike at Foxconn in India. An example of the separation between ‘permanent workers’ unions and the majority of the temporary workforce.

Strike halts production at Foxconn India
September 24th, 2010 Chennai,
Foxconn India is one the major vendors for Nokia India. Production at Foxconn came to a halt on 24th of September halt with workers affiliated to Foxconn India Thozilalar Sangam (FITS) striking for higher wages and union recognition. The plant employs 1,800 permanent workers. Around 1,500 permanent workers participated, half of them are women workers. Around 6,000 contract workers and trainees were not allowed to work by the strikers. Around 1,000 strikers were arrested during the sit-in, but released later. 23 union reps got suspended.
On September 23, Foxconn India had informed the workers that it already entered in to a memorandum of understanding with the FITMS union, hence no negotiations with FITS and announced the imposition of eight days wage cut for workers who participated in the strike. On October 10, the police locked up 320 Foxconn India workers along with CITU state secretary Soundarajan in connection with the workers’ protest.
A good article on the strike on WSWS

*** 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 – based on Summer 2006 prices. Inflation levels have been high since then. Fort more recent prices see:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-928/

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.9/32”


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