(IMT: Industrial Model Town)
Gurgaon Workers News – Newsletter 5 (July 2007)
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 first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door thousands of rural-migrant workers uprooted by the agrarian crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; at the outskirts of Gurgaon India’s biggest Special Economic Zone is in the making. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to get to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even to contribute to this project, please have a look at:
In the July issue you can find:
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
*** “Escorts: The big carve-up”, Local Automobile Industry, Part Three -
A short glimpse at the history of Faridabad’s formerly biggest industrial company Escorts and some current reports of permanent and casual workers employed in the tractor division, published in Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar (FMS).
*** “126-hour-weeks for Maruti Suzuki, Toyota, General Motors, …”, Local Automobile Industry, Part Four -
The situation of truck drivers at Anand Nishikawa Ltd., a rubber sealing supplier for the automobile industry in India. One of the Anand Nishikawa Ltd. factories is situated in Gurgaon, Udyog Vihar Phase One.
*** “Whose security is it anyway?, Part Two” -
Longer report of a retired skilled factory worker now employed by Haryana Industrial Security Service as a security guard. Published in FMS no.227, May 2007.
*** “Masters and Servants, a short note on rich men’s deaths” -
On the 19th of May a servant in Gurgaon killed his master and the master’s wife and child.
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
*** “If you cut the power, we block the roads” -
Women in Old Gurgaon and Faridabad take power into their own hands and protest against water and electricity cuts. A short look at the protest and the electricity policies in Haryana.
*** “Riot and Looting at construction site of Reliance thermal power plant after a road death” -
Short note on a riot which did not take place in Gurgaon, but Yamunanagar, both in Haryana, after a man was killed in a road accident.
3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region and on certain company policies
*** “The human fence post, the buried and the real estate boom, Another glimpse at urban development in Gurgaon, Part Two” -
DLF, one of the biggest private developers in India safe guards barren land against slum dwellers, the pavement-mafia in Gurgaon Udyog Vihar is part of the game and there are more deadly accidents in the rat-race of urbanisation.
*** “Not yet special enough: Special Economic Zones, Part Three” -
Some general thoughts on ‘Why SEZs?’, some news up-dates and a report from a free journalist attending a resistance meeting of farmers against the SEZ.
*** “Corporate Watch” -
This month with news items on: Amtek, Bank of America, Continental, Emaar-MGF, Lumax, Nisshin Steel, Sauer Danfoss
4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
*** “Drifting Social Whirlpool Chakkarpur” -
Some words about a 45 min stroll through convoluting/transforming Chakkarpur, a village in Gurgaon. The pictures and discriptions of the walk can be found on the web-site.
*** 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
In the 1980s the Escorts Group belonged to the ten biggest manufacturing companies in India, an industrial giant active in various product segments, such as tractors and agricultural machines, motorcycles, cranes, earth moving machines, parts for the railways. Like Maruti Suzuki or Hero Honda, Escort collaborated with various international companies, such as JCB, Claas, Yamaha, Ford Motors. Till the mid-90s about 24,000 permanent workers worked directly for Escorts Group, the main company in Faridabad at the time, which had various plants in the area. Hundreds of smaller factories and work-shops still depend on Escorts as their main ‘client’. From the late 1980s onwards permanent workers were attacked by various management schemes to increase the work load and productivity, often in collaboration with the union leader-ship. This underlying battle went on during the early 1990s; management used various strategies, such as shutting down certain plants for one or two weeks, putting pressure on older workers to accept early retirement etc.. This process got aggravated by various market slumps, which management used as a pretext to threaten workers with job cuts. From 1996 onwards the re-structuring process made great leaps forward: JCB, Yamaha and Claas split off from Escorts, the telecom division was sold. From then on Escorts focussed on the agro-machinery sector, of 24,000 former permanent workers now only 6,000 are left. This is not only due to the carve up of the former Escorts Group, but also because permanents were increasingly replaced by casual workers or workers hired through contractors. Till 1992 the number of casual workers in production was less than two per cent, today it varies from 10 percent to 50 percent, as per demand, and whereas there used to be no workers hired through contractors in the immediate production, now their numbers increase significantly.
Below you can find translations of the most recent reports from Escorts workers published in Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar no.206, 214, 219, 220 and 224 during the time from August 2005 to February 2007. For the next issue of the Gurgaon Workers News we want to summarise the Escorts workers’ reports from the early 1980s till now.
FMS no. 206, August 2005
(An Escorts Worker) “The events in Gurgaon (1) made the management stop yet another planned attack on the permanent workers that was already in motion. The attack came along with a campaign to expose the union leaders (2) and the company used this or that pretext in order to transfer or dismiss workers and leaders. After the events in Gurgaon, in fear of losing his position, the chief minister asked the governmental administrations to rein in the Escorts management (in their offensive against the workers). Even today the capacity of 5,000 permanent workers to create a commotion can put temporary breaks on the management’s activities.
After the re-structuring and re-engineering (3) the Escorts management had settled a three years agreement in 1999 which was in line with their requirements. The retrenchment of permanent workers on a mass scale was inherent to this agreement which contained a massive increase of the work-load, multi-skilling and so on. There was to be a leap in production, the agreement fixed a daily target of 260 tractors. But first our workers’ resistance and then the market bridled the plans of the management.
The demand of tractors on the market declined and forced the company to lower production below the fixed target. If we would have had to produce the fixed 260 tractors many of us would have collapsed under the work-load. Nevertheless, in this period those people who retired were not replaced by freshly hired workers and through VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) the management reduced the number of permanent workers by 30 percent.
Recently the demand for tractors increased again and with the new investment of 7,700,000,000 Rs the reduction of a big chunk of the permanent work-force was put back high on the companies` agenda. Refering to the last agreement and the reduction of labour costs which the agreement contained, now in July 2005 – six years after the agreement – the management declared half of the permanent workers in the third plant as superflous. There was bound to be opposition against the decision of making half of the work-force sit idle and making the other half do the whole work. After four days of push and pull the management settled an agreement saying that instead of half of the work-force only a quarter was superflous. In the third plant the company has started to make 25 percent of the workers stay idle. In the near future there does not seem to be a need of production numbers higher than the target fixed in the 1999. This is why the company feels no necessity for a long-term agreement (4). Against the demonstrations and slogan shouting inside the plant which are taking place at the moment the company takes no other action than cutting half or one hour from wages. This is due to the special situation at the moment (Gurgaon unrest). But there is the danger that, under this pretext or another, future agreements will cut further permanent jobs.
(1) The worker refers to the trouble at Honda (HMSI) plant in Manesar, Gurgaon. In July 2005 after a month of lock out police attacked a demonstration of workers and injured hundreds of them severely. The attack was a major news item all over India and had its repercussions in the various industrial areas. One year after the attack LM Sagar Workers mentioned the Honda incidents as an example of possible consequences of resistance against the closure of the LM Sagar plant (see text on textile industries in newsletter no.4). Even after one year in a different area of Delhi and in a different sector the repression still had its impact.
(2) The company published documents which questioned the integrity of the union leaders.
(3) The worker refers to the major re-structuring process in the mid-90s, when Escorts Group was broken up in various single companies.
(4) Normally these long-term agreements fix a continous production increase and make this increase conditional for a wage increase (for the permanent workers).
FMS no.214, April 2006
(An Escorts Worker) In the paint shop of the Farmtrack plant there is always a danger of getting hurt or injured. On the conveyor belt parts move at head-height and can easily hurt your eyes, during the last four months this happened to two people. Rims can fall off the belt and on your feet. While putting up the mud guard you can get injured. Sheet metal is such that it can cut your hands. The company does not hand out safety gloves and when you ask them they say that they ‘ran out of gloves, so keep on working’. Currently out of the 130 casual workers employed in the paint shop only 2 to 4 have been given masks, the rest of us all eat paint. The air conditioning is bad – meaning that the paint is not fully extracted. In the paint shop there are 125 workers employed through four different contractors. On 14th of March 2006, due to intake of too much paint, one worker vomited and fainted. Breathing in the paint shop causes problems, you get dizzy, the company does not give you any Gur (raw sugar molasses). The permanents get a fixed amount of money in substitute for Gur. If you get injured the manager will tell you that if you continue to work so sloppily then you should stay at home. Out of the 130 casual workers only 5 to 7 have an ESI card, but even those receive no medication. The local ESI office says that the company should provide a written document saying that you are still employed there, but the company will not give you such a document. They tell you that they have filled in the no.72 form and that they will not give any more documents. The rest of the workers go to the ESI office again and again in order to take the 72 form – bribes are the cause for making you go again and again. When you go to the time office of the company they will sign the document but will not give you the slip which shows that you are a temporary employee, the ESI office in return will tell you that they will not issue you an ESI card without the slip. Amongst the 130 casual workers there is not a single one who has an ESI card, neither a temporary nor permanent card. In the Farmtrack paint shop there are 60 permanent workers employed, although on the C-shift there are only casuals. During C-shift there is no time for taking your meals. The conveyor belt runs continously for six hours. The C-shift starts working at 1 am till 7:30 am, during this time there is not even a doctor in the dispensary. The shift does not change every week (according to the law night-shift has to change to day shift after one week), but every fortnight.
On the other shifts during meal time there is a huge crowd in the Farmtrack canteen. This causes most inconvenience for the casual workers, sometimes there are no vegetables left, sometimes curd is not available anymore, sometimes the roti is out, so you have to stick to rice. Many have to queue for half an hour in order to get their food and they will cut your wage if you are too late at work. Some casuals do not receive any food at all. And it seems that the raw rotis are dedicated to the casual workers, as well – when we told this to the Escorts union leaders and the management they said that there are so many people here, so the food will be of this quality only. Every six months the Escorts management interrupts the employment of the casuals for seven to eight days and then re-hires them under a different name (see Glossary). This causes a huge problem if you want to withdraw money from the Provident Fund (see Glossary). In January 2004 the PF office has started a bad attack on workers, as well. If 1,850 Rupees are reduced from the worker´s wage and 1850 Rs are contributed by the company then 3,700 Rs should show up in the worker´s future fund account, but all which is in the account is 2,600 Rs…
FMS no.219, September 2006
(An Escorts Worker) During a general assembly on 18th of August the union leaders spoke about the M.O.U (memorandum of understanding). The agreement is still in a drafting phase, therefore some things are not clear yet. The new three-year agreement should have been settled already on 1st of February 2002, but it is only now that it is on the agenda. There is hunger amongst the workers, but only crumbs are dished out. While the union leaders spoke in the general assembly the expectation amongst workers was “at least now something will be in it for us”. The estimation was that there will be an increase of 5,500 Rs (per month over three years) and the leaders assured that this increase would be back-dated to January 2006. This is why people were upset by the actual increase of only 4,500 Rs and by the fact that this increase was only dated back to August 2006. While hearing the announced outcome things seemed overall alright, but now, in practice we find the outcome very problematic. There is opposition against it, but this cannot express itself openly, people are scared deep inside.
People are afraid about the fact that previously no leader showed much activity when it came to implement the agreement (and the productivity increase attached to it), whereas now the leaders are going to individual workers demanding to increase production. This time they use force and opression therefore there is good reason to be scared. The management said that September wages (they have not been paid yet) and the wage increment will only be paid under the condition of an increased production. The company put together a complete new shift. Those machines on which the new production target could not be achieved with were put into a second shift. They did this in order to show that the new target can be sucessfully met. The company had difficulties to enforce a smooth running in the railway division, so the union leaders and the big bosses together called the workers for a meeting in a park within the factory premises. This was an effort to enforce the new target. A joint industrial tour of union leaders and management to Mumbai – Pune or Bangalore – Chennai, which took place before the agreement, resulted in increased fear amongst the workers.
Outcome of the agreement:
40 percent of the increase will be added to the basic wage;
the family of a skilled worker would receive 400,000 Rs instead of 200,000 Rs in case of death;
the DA would be increased from 2.10 Rs to 2.40 Rs (2.50 Rs for the third year);
the service award is increased by 1,000 Rs and when people retire they will be paid 40,000 Rs;
all increments included would raise the annual wage by 50 percent;
the offer for the VRS (see Glossary) is increased by 250,000 Rs.
Just a few words about the issue that the son, given that he fulfils the professional requirements, would get a job at Escorts once the father agrees on early retirement (three years before the official retirement age): If the older workers agrees on VRS without claiming the 400,000 Rs then the sons will be employed only as trainees. But instead of the 15,000 Rs monthly wage of his father the young worker will get a monthly honorarium of 5,000 Rs in the first, 6,000 Rs in the second and 7,000 Rs in the third year. And in order to get hired as a trainee you have to pay a bribe of 400,000 Rs to the company and even after having milked another 400,000 Rs the company will not guarantee you a permanent employment.
The 70 + 70 = 140 or 60+60 = 120 tractors (the numbers refer to two shifts in two separate plants) which were set as a daily target in the last agreement have not been produced, because the company was not able to sell them. Not to speak about 260, already producing 100 tractors daily was hard to achieve. Now the agreement fixed 90+90 and 80+80, in total 340 tractors daily, has increased fears. It seems that this agreement refers to a single shift. Currently there are not enough permanent workers employed in order to fill two complete shifts – there are permanents to fill one and a half shifts. Therefore there is no issue of superflous permanent workers at the moment, but this situation would change drastically under the conditions that there was only a single shift. On the 21st of August, after the M.O.U., a one-shift system started in the third plant and 400 casual workers got sacked. The remaining 200 will be kicked out, as well. They say that all casuals of all plants will be dismissed. The permanents will have to do the whole work. But this does not seem to be the last word. After having called for a general shift in the CHD (crank shaft) plant the company started to set 25 to 30 permanent workers idle. In the railway division all casual workers have been kicked out on 4th of September and there is talk that 63 permanents will become superflous… The leaders say that no jobs will be cut, that there is no surplus of work-force, that no one will be transfered to other sites. But fear is growing after a boss who had a leading role in the large-scale down-sizing at Goodyear Tyre (another bigger factory in Faridabad) has arrived at Escorts. The scenario certainly seems to be that there will be a reduction to one shift and a production target of 100+90 tractors, resulting in a reduction of permanent workers; all this based on a mini-agreement and given that there is an increase of demand for tractors on the market. Some people seem to be thinking that due to the increased package many workers will take the VRS offer. The talks that canteen workers will be offered jobs in the production department (which would be an improvement in terms of wages etc. for them), seems to be a plot in order to make them quit their jobs. Because the condition is that they first resign and that they will be then taken on as trainees (low wages) and only after successful completion of the trainee phase they will be hired as new permenents (meaning that they would lose the benefits of company seniority). As an ‘alternative’ the company only offers to take VRS.
FMS no.220, October 2006
(An Escorts Casual Worker) Plot 3, sector 13, plant II (Farmtrack). Casual workers are employed for six months. Each month the job check list is extended by another month. For eight hours the wage is 144 Rupies plus 7 Rupies for food. If you take holidays, money is cut from your wage. You have to work at two machines. Money is cut for ESI, but no card is given. The money for the fund (PF) is deduced, as well, but you are fired before completing six months of employment. But if you cannot complete the required 180 working-days, you will get only half the amount of the fund (half the amount is paid in by the worker, half by the employer). Apart from first aid the company does not provide any medical service in case a casual worker gets injured. The company bus always has vacant seats for about eight people, but the casuals cannot use it for transport. The company provides no shoes and if you do not wear shoes they will not take you for the job. The duty card is put up at 8:05 am by the time office (some kind of punch-in system), those workers who arrive after that time are not taken in for work. Sometimes the people in the time office do not put up the card, so the worker has to talk to the people from the personel office. They reply that the card must be there and that this is the way it happens: if you want to work, do work. If you do not want to work, we will throw you out in a minute. The wage is paid on the 10th, there is no overtime.
The situation in the canteen of the Farmtrack is chaotic. Sometimes spoons are missing, sometimes they run out of salad before your turn comes. The roti is only half done. Some people bully their way into the queue. In the queue you stand pressed against each other, you stand on each others feet, people do not take care, you start to sweat, people push and shove. The guys who dish out the food also take the money, therefore it usually takes a long time before you get your food. During the lunch break you also have to manage to drink, but you have to go and get it from the tap yourself. At the canteen door there is so much pushing and shoving going on (the door is also rather small), that once it opens people trample over each other while running inside. Only four days ago someone broke his hand in this situation. And if a casual would speak out against all this then he will be kicked out. As well, if something is wrong with the parts you work on or with the machine then the casuals are kicked out.
The permanents receive two items of hand-lotion and four pieces of soap for washing – the casuals only one lotion and two pieces of soap. The managers also abuse the casual workers. Now, for 80 tractors instead of 60 produced in eight hours at Farmtrack, the permanents´ monthly wage is increased by 4,500 Rs per month over three years while the casuals will not get a single Paisa more. The prices in the canteen have been increased – for two Rupies you used to get a tea and two Pakoras while now you pay 1 and a half Rupies for a tea and three for a Pakora.
FMS no.224, February 2007
(Escorts Workers) In the Farmtrack plant in sector 13 the assembly line runs two shifts and the heat treatment and paint shop run three shifts. In the paint shop there are 35 permanent workers, most of them on the A-shift, the rest on the B-shift. On the C-shift there are only casual workers and workers hired through contractors. In the paint shop there are 35 casual workers and 190 workers hired through four different contractors. So in the paint shop there are about 13 to 14% permanents, 13 to 14% casuals and 72 to 74% workers hired through contractors. Workers hired through one of the contractors preparing the paint also have the cleaning to do, this means four times per shift wiping, first with thinner, after that with water. These worker get 90 Rupies for an eight hours shift, they are given an ESI card and a PF slip with a Gurgaon number. The paint shop workers of the big contractor Jain Global are facing great difficulties. The 40 workers who do the spray paint work get 180 Rupies, half of the workers who put parts on and take them off the paint shop line get 164 Rupies, the others 125 Rupies, the 12 workers in CD (where material is automatically dipped in the primer) on C-shift get 96 Rupies. Whereas Escorts company pays the contractor 256 Rupies for each painter for an eight hours shift. The overtime payment is at single rate.
Jain Global took a photo of each worker, but the ESI card has only been given to half of the workers and in PF there seems to be a scam. The manager of the contractor company manager says that the PF would be deposited in Gujarat state. Five months ago a painter was sacked for a minor mistake, but the form for the withdrawl of the PF money was not being filled by the contractor company. The Jain Global manager says that there was no time to fill in the form, he already has said this 4-5 times. When night-shift workers in the paint-shop stop the conveyor belt at 7:30 am, the contractor companies’ manager told to run it till 8 am. When the workers refused to do so the manager grabbed two, three workers by the throat. Saying that they would not work in these conditions five workers quit the job. This happened two months ago and these five workers did not get their PF fund withdrawl form filled in by Jain Globals – the boss says that wages having been paid, that is more than what you deserve, so he will not fill in the form.
And at Escorts Farmtrack the contractor cuts 80 to 90 Rupies monthly from each single worker in the name of Haryana welfare fund. At GE Motors the company deducts only 1 Rupee for this Haryana welfare fund. Apart from giving the contractor 256 Rupies per painter per day the Escorts management hires painters as casual workers also. Half of these casual workers get 164 Rupies per day, the other half 125 Rupies. The permanent workers in the paint shop get 600 Rupies per day. For doing the same work in the paint shop workers receive 96, 125, 164, 180, 600 Rupies per day. In the other departments of Escorts Farmtrack the helpers amongst the casual workers get 105 Rupies and the fitters, diesel mechanics, machinists and other skilled workers get 125 Rupies, some get 145 Rupies. In all departments the permanent workers get around 600 Rupies. In the canteen the casual workers and those who are hired through contractors are facing big difficulties. There are three queues during the A- and B-shift and in each queue more than 100 people wait. The lunch break is half and hour – and it takes half an hour merely to get your meal.
In a traffic jam in a truck of India Tyres Ltd. on the NH8 highway. We are close to Hero Honda street-crossing, past the Delphi plant on the right. The truck driver has just left the new Maruti Suzuki car plant in IMT Manesar, he delivered rims, and is now on his way back to the Maruti plant in Gurgaon. All goods he transports are for Maruti, he drives 150 to 200 km per day, back and forth between the plants. It is 1 pm, it is hot. The truck in front of us transports finished Maruti cars, the truck next to us belongs to India Trim Ltd., the one ahead to Mark Exhaust Ltd., all suppliers of Maruti. A lorry of India Fuel Ltd. squeezes its way through. The drivers start shouting at each other, trapped in a slow moving metal snake, which is feeding on itself. Which is getting bigger and slower and ever more demanding, pulling frayed nerve strings of tired drivers, grinding spine-discs of women breaking rocks in the sun for the third lane, sipping fuel, poisoning the lungs of the guys who sell water to the men trapped in the jam…
At a chai stall in Gurgaon Udyog Vihar Phase One, about 3 pm. A tired truck driver, working for Anand Nishikawa Ltd. is waiting for his truck to be unloaded. Anand Nishiwari is a supplier of rubber sealings for Maruti, Toyota, Volvo, … The company has factories in Rudrapur in Uttar Pradesh, Lalru in Punjab, and in Gurgaon in Haryana, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, Plot no. 119. The factory in Gurgaon runs three shifts, on all days of the week. About 400 people are employed. They make rubber linings, fittings, seals. The casting happens in Punjab, the further treatment in Gurgaon. The rubber itself comes from Japan. Four trucks drive constantly between Lalru and Gurgaon…
In 2005 an industrial dispute took place in Lalru, but we only know about it from the internet:
“Employees protest against retrenchment
Lalru, February 24, 2005
In protest against the retrenchment of some employees, five members of Anand Nishikawa Workers Union, Lalru, began an indefinite fast outside the premises of Anand Nishikawa, an industrial unit, located along the Kalka-Ambala highway, here today.
Mr Vinod Chugh, president of the union, alleged that the management closed the main gate of the unit on February 3 and restricted entry of the six employees without any reason”. (The Tribune)
The truck driver is tired, because he has left Lalru in Punjab at 5 in the morning. One way takes up to five-six hours. He has a companion, but he has all the driving to do. When he reaches Gurgaon he has to wait for the unloading of the truck and then he has to drive back with some empty metal frames. He tries to sleep during the break, but the truck is small, there is not much space. He arrives back in Punjab, where he lives, at 11 at night. He does the journey every day. He gets 5,000 Rs per month. When you mock him that his wife is probably not very happy about him being on the road all the time he answers that the they have three children who are nearly grown up now…
*** “Whose security is it anyway, Part Two” -
(From FMS no.227, May 2007)
A Guard from Haryana Industrial Security Service: The company HISS has its office in Housing Board Market, Sector 7. The 2,500 guards who are employed by HISS work in about 500 different factories in Faridabad. This contractor company also supplies the factories with about 1,000 cleaners, helpers and skilled workers.
Usually a guard has to work 12 hours a day, all days of the month. There is no day off on the 26th of January, neither on the 15th of August, not for Holi or Divali (festivals in India) – if you have to take a day off during the whole of the year due to illness or any other reason then the day will be cut from your wage. If the other guard does not show up at work then you have to work 36 hours on stretch. Out of the 36 hours, 12 hours are told to be over-time, but they are also paid at single rate. HISS does not give any money for food during these 36 hours. During the 36 hours the guard has to get food from the daba (food vendor) twice, which is more expensive for him.
During a 12-hours shift you feel tiredness and your body starts to ache and stiffens. During 36-hours at work you become dead-like. When you have to work day-shift there is no time for entertainment. If you are on night-shift you have to cut down from your five hours sleep in order to get some leisure time, but this will give you a hard time during the night. When the time comes for making your rounds at the factory you will be all shakey and staggering, as if drunk on sleepiness. Your mind and soul becomes despirited.
The fact that there is no weekly day off means a lot more difficulties for those guards who live here without family. Apart from the daily duties of getting water, fetching vegetables, making food, they also have to bear the headache of getting the weekly ration, of washing the clothes. No guards finds time for short visits or for meeting friends. Because they have to work each and every day, their mind and soul is at boiling point.
In order to be able to get hired you need a ration card (as proof of ID/residency: see glossary) and together with the certificate you also need someone who guarantees for you. For the work in the factory also youth are hired, but as security guards they are less often employed. The reason for that is that they like to show off, they like fun and nasty talks and therefore they tend to be less willing to work daily 12-hours shifts. Right at the factory gate people over 40 are refused to be given jobs. When you are over forty years old they prefer to see you as a guard. When you have crossed the 40, when you have been battered and broken, then you are made appropriate for a job as a guard. Often security guards are workers over 40 who have retired or who have been out of job for other reasons.
To open and close the gate, to check and count the arriving and leaving goods, to search the workers after the end of shift, to take care that no unknown person can enter the factory, to greet the bosses, to make the rounds during the night this is our watchman work. But we have to mark the attendance of the workers, to enter the invoice into the register, to see if the delivery is according to the invoice or not – in most of the factories we have to do this work which is normally done by the time office, as well. During the day a lot of vehicles with goods arrive and leave, a lot of bosses arrive and leave…
HISS gives the guards between 2,200 and 4,300 Rs for a 12-hours day and a 30 days month. Most guards get between 3,000 and 3,500 Rs. All get ESI and PF. The wage has to be collected from the office in sector 7 on the 14th of the month between 9 in the morning and 12 at night. They do not give a pay slip – a piece of paper is given, which shows the name and the amount of money and which has to be handed to the cashier. You have to sign in a register. For ESI 55 Rs are cut, for PF 294 Rs, that is: in the documents an eight-hour shift, a weekly day off and the minimum wage fixed by the Haryana government is shown.
A poor person feels everything which is going on around them. How can you survive on the little money that you get, this worry is always there. On the red card (ration card for those with an ‘officially low’ income) you get 35 kilo of wheat for 74 Rs in the governmental fair price ration shop. Last year they did not even give out sugar, because the depots guys sold sack for sack on the market, because there the rates for sugar were high. Out of 1,300 litres of kerosene only 100 litres are distributed. The depot guy weights the municipal councillor with coins, he boasts that he gives bundles of money to the officers (see glossary) and he opens the shop only during one day of the month…
The daughter studies, the son is married – he works in a clothes shop. For the low rent we live in a house without electricity. The building is on low level – during rainy season the sewage water enters the house. The wooden ceiling beam is bending, the roof leaks and during monsoon the roof threatens to collapse… I have worked 22 years as a skilled permanent worker in a factory.
After three cases of masters being killed by their servants within two weeks in the Delhi area, the public media staged a spoof debate on the matter, asking “What is going wrong with the house maids?”…
Gurgaon, 23rd of May
“The local police claimed that servant Lallan, 19 years old, had murdered Vinod Chahal, his wife Saroj and their son Chaitanya on May 19 as he was ill-treated by the family. When Lallan was sure that all of them had died, he broke various almirahs and took ornaments and utensils made of gold and silver. He then drove a two-wheeler to Sikanderpur village and left the vehicle there. He reached Delhi railway station and took the train to his village in Bihar, informed the SSP. However, Virender Kumar, cousin of Saroj Chahal, alleged that there must be more facts behind these murders. The servant Lallan alone could not murder three persons, as claimed by the local police. He questioned that the police had stated on May 19 that no valuables including cash and jewellery had been stolen from the house, and now the police mentioned that they had recovered around 40 items from Lallan’s possession”.
2) Collective Action
In daily life water or power cuts are seen and treated as a natural event, they are out of our reach, like the weather. And normally we talk about them in the same small-talk style, like the weather. “Ah, it is hot today”. – “Yes, and the water ran out early, as well”. The degree of our dependence on the weathermen varies. Some of us have neither a water nor an electricity connection, in Gurgaon most of us are connected, but we might share a tap, anxious not to be the last in the queue. Some more fortunate people can afford devices to save resources while they are provided – they have batteries and inverters, water pumps and tanks. Most businesses, shopping malls and factories make their own weather, e.g. Metropolitan Mall burns an average of 1,600 gallons of diesel a day to run its generators during power cuts. Maruti Suzuki has a company-owned power plant, which also generates power for its suppliers. The re-direction of water meant for the irrigation of the DLF golf-course and the various country clubs would probably solve the problem of water-shortage for private households. The disparity between this distribution of power, in both meanings of the word, is often seen as quasi natural. But sometimes people challenge the social reality behind the ‘natural’ conditions…
Shakti Nagar, is not the poorest area of Old Gurgaon. It is not yet middle class, people probably do not have batteries and inverters at home. According to an India Tribune article women blocked roads in the area, protesting against severe power and water cuts.
Gurgaon, 17th of May
“At least 200 irate females of Saraswati Enclave were at their vocal best. They also took matters into their hands when they walloped four two-wheeler riders as they tried to cross their path at the Sector 10 crossing near Kadipur where they had enforced the blockade. The women literally chased the riders and dragged them down from their vehicles, all the while raining blows on them. Expletives against the officials of the two departments for their alleged apathy were used. The women blocked the road for more than three hours. Significantly, the protest was an all-woman affair. They alleged there had been erratic supply of water and power for the past two months. The officials at two departments also did not behave in a proper manner when the residents visited their offices with their grievances, they further alleged. The situation was more or less similar at the Pataudi-Khandsa road where women from Shakti Nagar and Lakshmi Garden squatted for several hours, blocking the road in the process. They indulged in abuses against the government and the district administration for failing in their primary duties towards the citizens. Policemen who had gone to remove the blockade also came in for admonitions. They were served with homilies and reminders from the agitationists that they, too, had wives and kids at homes who needed water and electricity”.
Two days later. The men in the streets don’t talk much about the incident, but they confirm that the protest was about the fact that there is no water during the day. They add that the road-blockades were also about the waste water fouling the street, the health risk. They say that the protest happened because people started to gather, which attracted more people, till finally the road was blocked. There was no organisation behind the protest. There was no trouble from the police, but the authorities have not reacted yet.
The following news item demonstrates that the electricity condition is similarly bad in other working-class areas and that women take similar measures in order to protest:
Faridabad, 6th of June
“About 500 residents, mostly women and youth, of Atali village laid siege to the Ballabgarh-Mohna road this morning in protest against disruption of power and water supply to the village. While the traffic remained disrupted for more than four hours, several vehicles of the administration, including that of the SDM, Ballabgarh, were damaged after the crowd turned violent and started pelting stones (after a policeman slapped a youth). The blockade was lifted later after intervention by the village elders. The villagers had been demanding immediate replacement of a power transformer that had been lying damaged for long and action against the officials of the department concerned. The villagers decided to block the traffic on the road to get the attention of the authorities concerned, claimed a villager”.
Rohtak, 8th of June
“Irked over the acute shortage of irrigation as well as potable water and erratic power supply, hundreds of villagers of Kheri Meham village in Rohtak district blocked vehicular traffic on the Meham-Lakhanmajra road today morning. Villagers had started assembling at the village in the early hours in a pre-planned manner. Following this, they parked some tractor-trailers in the middle of the road, blocking vehicular traffic. The angry villagers also staged a demonstration and alleged that the farmers of the area were not getting canal water for the past four days. “Moreover, the supply of potable water as well as electricity is also highly erratic,” they maintained. The blockade continued for several hours and long queues of vehicles were seen on both sides”.
Faridabad, 8th of June
“Residents of Chandhut village of Palwal subdivision blocked traffic on the Palwal-Aligarh road today in protest against the short supply of power and water. The blockade was marked by violence as the mob pelted stones on officials trying to clear the road. A mild cane charge was resorted to by the police to disperse the people. At least 20 persons were booked by the police under various sections for indulging in violence. This is the second such incident in the district in the past three days”.
Haryana government wants to privatise most parts of the electrical power supply, partly in the name of ‘environmentally friendly’ power generation. It attracts a lot of start-up companies like Suzlon Energy Ltd, Enercon India Ltd, Bermaco Energy Ltd, Techpro Systems, companies which are into bio-mass and wind-generated energy production in the Gurgaon area. A National Centre for Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cell Technology is being set up at the Solar Energy Centre Campus at Gurgaon. All these projects come along with much less ‘green’ and potentially hazardous new technology centres and companies investing into nano-technologies and bio-technologies. The ‘green-energy’ sector is of interest mainly as a future sector of profitable investments, rather than for current energy supply. Gurgaon gets a fair share of it’s energy from power plants like the coal-fueled thermal power station in Faridabad, which was supposed to be taken off the net already five years ago. Genco (Haryana Power Generation Corporation Limited) still runs it, despite the environmental harm and dangerous conditions for the workers. Who has ever seen the plant will lose some illusions concerning the ‘eco-friendlyness’ of the Haryana government (whoever has not seen it yet, have a look at the photo section).
We document this short note on a riot, although it did not happen in Gurgaon, but in Yamunanagar, another town in Haryana. We document it, because it could well have been Gurgaon. It could well have been any other place in this region where poverty and social stress only needs a trigger in order to explode. Sometimes it might be an explosion of anger or demands, targetting or appropriating what is hated or desired, sometimes it will be an implosion, self-destructive and scape-goating other proletarians.
Yamunanagar, 24th of May
“The trouble started when the news of the doctor’s death spread in the area [he alledgedly was run over by a truck of the power plant construction site], said police sources. Soon a crowd gathered and a large number of villagers went towards the power plant, being set up by the Reliance Energy Limited (REL). The crowd set on fire several vehicles, including two trucks and property of the plant. The mob dispersed before the police reached the spot. The mob also set on fire several sheds on the campus of the thermal plant and ransacked its canteen. The cash box of the canteen containing a large amount of money was also missing. Workers and labourers in the plant ran for cover as the crowd had also started pelting stones”.
3) According to Plan
The private developer DLF is one of the biggest real estate companies in India, employing about 1 million building workers and one of the main participants in Gurgaon’s real estate market. DLF is planning on feeding the real-estate bubble by siphoning more money from the stock market. According to Economic Times from the 8th of May 2007 DLF is about to raise as much as Rs 10,500 crore (about 2 billion USD), which would be India’s biggest domestic share sale. The article shows that most of the land which DLF owns is situated in Gurgaon, and that therefore the company is very dependent on local developments:
‘Property analysts opine that the total land bank of 10,225 acres is highly skewed in favour of Gurgaon (49%), and to some extent Kolkata (23%). Both cities together account for 72% of the company’s total land bank in the country. “This is a big concentration in one city considering Gurgaon is a satellite town and it took DLF almost 30 years to develop a 3,000 acre township–DLF city. As a result, with 49% of the total land bank in Gurgaon, DLF becomes susceptible to any adverse development in Gurgaon like change in land-use regulations, zoning laws, taxes, natural calamity and any social or political development that depresses real estate sentiment in Gurgaon,” says Sidhartha Gupta, a business analyst’.
DLF has to protect its land, even if it is barren and unused. Because the land is not land, but a future asset. The asset has to be protected, but it cannot be put neither into an account nor a safe. It has to be protected against “any social development that depresses real estate sentiment in Gurgaon”. DLF cannot allow that people, who have nowhere else to live, settle down on its no-mens-land. DLF turns humans into human fence post in order to guard the future asset. On Vishwakarma Road in Gurgaon (see pictures on web-site) a foot-ball field sized plot of land is surrounded by 24 security guards, 24 during the day and 24 during the night. The security guards stand in the heat, separate, one every 50 to 80 meters, 12 hours on stretch. A colonly of slum dwellers has been evicted some months ago, since then they protect an empty piece of dry earth owned by DLF, worth future millions. The security guards get 3,250 Rs per month, for a 80-hour week. The wage is hardly high enough in order to afford anything else but a slum hut, probably somewhere else on illegal grounds…
When the land price starts to rise or capital to concentrate, the impact of it seeps into every social relationship. Another example from Gurgaon Udyog Vihar, Phase One, close to the Delphi plant. This time the land in question is two square meters on a pavement. Two young guys make tea using a gas-cooker, they sell the tea to workers, but only few workers pass by, it is a small side-street. At a good corner a chai-valla, a tea-maker, might sell 200, 300 or more cups of tea a day, that is a daily turn over of 600, 900 or more Rs per day. A ‘good business’. A worker from Nepal drinks tea in the shade, he is looking for work in a textile factory. A tractor with five guys on top stops, one of the young tea guys runs away. The other one tries to escape with the tea-pot, but two men from the tractor stop him, slap him and leave with the pot. The young guy tries to hide his tears. He has not paid his dues to the local pavement mafia, so they come to get it. Next time it might not be the mafia, but the cops, which boils down to the same. They ask for free tea, money, cigarettes in return for the temporary right to squat on the pavement…
Others are less fortunate, for them urban development does not mean to be degraded or humiliated, but to die. Two accidents in Gurgaon area which made it to become newspaper notes in May 2007.
Four labourers die in wall collapse
Gurgaon, 17th of May
Four labourers died when a wall of a building under construction collapsed in the complex of Industrial Model Township (IMT), Manesar. The four of them were migratory labourers and their native places were being ascertained by the police. The police have registered a case against the contractor.
3 Metro labourers killed in water tank collapse, two hurt
New Delhi, 6th of May
Three labourers working for the Delhi Metro died while two others were injured when a recently renovated water tank collapsed on them at a DMRC labour camp in Mayur Vihar this afternoon. “The labour camp was constructed by contractor Navyuga constructions to house the labourers working at various sites,” the police added.
When we look at the current conditions in the industrial areas of Faridabad and Gurgaon the question would come up: why do they need the set-up of a SEZ?
Because of the wages?
The wages in the area are already low, particularly in the smaller factories. The wages in the SEZ will very likely be higher than the average industrial wage in the area. This can be derived from experiences in the Export Process Zones in Bangladesh, the SEZs in China or Maquiladoras in Latin America, or from the wage level in bigger ‘international’ companies like Samsung, Honda etc. in Gurgaon.
So as to prevent unionisation?
People often focus on the union question: the SEZ will restrict the legal possibilities of unionising. The reality looks different from on paper: mainly in the bigger (foreign) companies the unions have been successful to organise workers (Honda, Sona, Delphi, G4S etc.). The SEZ will not only attract companies, but also the union efforts to get their foot in the door. Given that there will be a public focus on formal legal workers’ rights, it will be likely that the union will find an easier entry in to SEZ companies than for example in the smaller ‘local’ factories. There bosses often (have to and are able to) use ‘illegal’ measures to keep the unions out. If bigger companies or industrial conglomerations can manage to keep the unions out, they choose to do that, often with brute force. If they can not and they are confronted with continous workers’ turmoil, at least they can ‘afford’ to accept the union recognition as a kind of investment in a formalised relationship between employer and employee. Smaller ‘individual’ companies often do not have the capital clout for that kind of investment. Interestingly enough, the enormous uprising of textile workers in Bangladesh in May and June 2006 took place mainly in the EPZs (Export Zones), where wages are higher, but no union is officially recognised.
The export orientation?
A SEZ would not be necessary for export production, given that most of the textile production in Okhla or Gurgaon is for export already.
The SEZ would give some incentives for companies by lowering taxation. Big companies often get these concessions anyway, e.g. Maruti for its supplier park set-up in the late 90s. In areas like IMT Manesar, which is not registered as a SEZ, companies have to pay less taxes already. A lot of smaller companies find ‘illegal’ or ‘informal’ ways to pay less taxes (by not showing workers on the pay-roll, by fiddling with the balance sheets). The SEZ would formalise a practice which is already happening.
May be we have to focus on the actual material composition of capital and the industrial lay-out. The SEZ will bundle and concentrate a lot of capital from different sources: real estate and financial capital from the stock-markets (see article on DLF in this issue) and the international (Singapore, UAE etc.) financial markets and industrial capital, sometimes combining small scale companies. This over-liquid capital comes together with a planned industrial lay-out: a public-privately organised land aquisition, a plan for infrastructure and for the industrial composition. If we compare the changes which have already happened in the industrial lay-out ranging from areas like Faridabad-Mujesar to Gurgaon Udyog Vihar Phase One to IMT Manesar we can see a trend: in Faridabad people live close to the factories, there are informal settlements and a quite mixed industrial structure, metal factories next to textile work-shops next to small shops etc.. In Udyog Vihar Phase One there is no space for workers’ housing, but there are still some make-shift corner chai-stalls, some little meeting points at food-stalls and so on. In IMT Manesar this is also gone, no housing, hardly any chai-stalls, most of the factories have canteens (for some impressions of the different industrial lay-outs see pics on web-site). Workers have no reason and no space to hang out informally. They often depend on transport organised by the company, which is regularly used as a weapon against them. The SEZ will very likely be a further step ahead: workers will need permission to enter, there will be a special police station for the SEZ, the general surveillance will be further intensified. Probably the hiring process will be more centralised and controlled, there are indication of this, e.g. at Honda HMSI the contractors hire people centrally from their office inside the factory. This might be extended to bigger groups of companies within the SEZ. It will be a challenge to question and undermine these material trends rather than merely criticising the surface of legality.
A short up-date from the SEZ news-ticker
Farmers Road Blockade
Farmers from villages in and around Gurgaon today took to streets and blocked traffic on the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway 8 here. They were protesting against the acquisition of their land at prices below market rates by the government for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Traffic on the busy highway was blocked for hours as the farmers protested in a large number. The village body of Manesar in Haryana’s Gurgaon district Monday alleged that the protest by villagers against Reliance Industries’ special economic zone (SEZ) project there was led by ‘outsiders’ and anti-social elements. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda today assured members of the Manesar panchayat of Gurgaon district that neither their houses falling within the acquired land would be demolished nor would the land alongside their houses be acquired for the Special Economic Zone coming up in the area.
(13th of May 2007)
Just as an additional note: the highway definitely becomes an attraction point for all kind of protests, on 1st of June it was blocked by Gujjar folks, angry about the caste politics in Rajasthan, on the 2nd of June it was blocked in protest against the police not investigating a murder case.
The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has come out in support of farmers booked under various criminal charges for blocking the national highway at Manesar last Sunday and disrupting peace. The farmers have been opposing eviction from the areas that have been notified for acquisition for the IMT expansion project. The police has named 17 farmers, including the sarpanch of Gadholi village. They are among the 250 persons alleged to be behind Sunday’s agitation. Significantly, the notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act for the acquisition of land of farmers in more than a dozen villages was initiated in 2004 when the INLD was in power. President of the Haryana unit of the INLD Ashok Arora has said his party would submit a memorandum to the state governor against the land and SEZs issue. Later talking to the mediapersons, Arora alleged recently the government had allotted a piece of land to Jindal family for Rs 4 crore even though its market value is around Rs 500 crore. He alleged that some of the influential leaders of the ruling party had earned a huge amount in SEZ proposals.
(16th of May 2007)
More Political Show-Fights
Congress MP Kuldeep Bishnoi demanded the dismissal of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government in Haryana for flouting the new norms set by the centre on SEZs. Bishnoi said the Reliance-HSIDC SEZ deal had become null and void under the new norms on SEZ in the country which have capped the size of the SEZs to no more than 12,500 acres. The deal with the Reliance was for a mega SEZ of the size of 25,000 acres. Bishnoi said the new rules also laid down that the state government should refrain from acquiring land for any SEZ. It was illegal on the part of the Hooda government to hand over the 1700 acres of land in Garhi Harasru, Gurgaon, to the Reliance, he said.
(31st of May 2007)
A recent commerce ministry estimate suggests that eight out of every 10 units coming up in various single and multi-product SEZs are being set up by small or medium-sized firms. Of the 1,100-odd units already functional in about 30 SEZs, 850 are small firms. It is expected that another 73 notified SEZs will get functional by the year-end, being home to another 2,000 small and mid-size units. According to sources in the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation, most companies setting up units in Orient Craft’s 200-acre textile SEZ in Gurgaon are about Rs 50-crore garment companies.
(22nd of May 2007)
Changes in Tax Policies
State governments are contemplating levying stamp duty on non-processing areas in the special economic zones (SEZ). This would also mean that anybody leasing out space in a shopping complex situated in a zone will have to pay stamp duty when he registers the lease. In most states, the stamp duty rate varies between 8% and 12% of the registration cost. The proposal to levy stamp duty comes close on the heels of states deciding to levy value-added tax on supply of goods to non-processing area in SEZ. Non-processing areas of SEZs house social infrastructure such as houses, schools, hospitals, malls and parks. SEZ developers have to leave 50% of the total land as non-processing area.
(22nd of May 2007)
A May Day disruption
In the following we present parts of a report written by Aseem Shrivastava, who attended a meeting of angry farmers in the SEZ area. Aseem is an independent writer. He can be reached at: aseem62 – at – yahoo.com
“We were visiting Badli, a village of some 11,000 people, in the district of Jhajjar, Haryana, about 30 kms west of New Delhi’s International Airport. We were there to begin our research on the impact of the 25,000-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ) planned in the area by Reliance Industries. Like in so many other parts of India where resistance to corporate plans is building up, farmers in the area have organized themselves into a Kisan Jagrukta Samiti (Farmers Awareness Committee) to battle Reliance.
The meeting was being held in the covered area which occupied half the courtyard. At least a few hundred farmers from about 20 villages were present. The meeting began and the pradhan (president) of a neighboring village began proceedings with a five-minute denunciation of the SEZ policy of the government. In particular, he expressed regret and anger that the government was acting as the bichaula (land broker) for a private corporation, tempting farmers here, scaring them elsewhere, to sell their land for industrial development.
Barely had the pradhan finished his speech when a group of about 20 young men from the area, dressed very differently from their elders (in colorful shirts and trousers), suddenly appeared next to us and began telling us that most farmers were happily willing to part with their lands, that the men who had organized the meeting had already sold theirs and were now wanting Reliance to pay a higher compensation. As the next speaker on the podium began to make his speech they started heckling from the side, ultimately succeeding in shouting him down. They tried to provoke a fist-fight. Fortunately, they did not get the desired response.
When we inquired into the identities of the thugs, it turned out that they were boys from the local area, many of them from Badli itself. Reliance had turned young and restless villagers into commission agents. It seems they had been given some petty sum of money and liquor the previous night to disrupt the meeting of the elders. Who had paid them off? Local agents of Reliance, it turned out. They had also been promised “jobs” with the company once the SEZ came up. No interviews, no consideration of merit, skill or qualifications. It seemed that promises, backed with some small change, was enough to buy out the restless youth, eager for urban excitement.
Many of the farmers who have sold their land are regretful, especially since land values are rising sharply in the area and they feel that they got a raw deal. “What are Rs.15 or 20 lakhs an acre when in nearby Gurgaon the price has shot up to Rs. 2 crores an acre?”, Mani Ram, a local peasant asked. Reliance wishes to take over 22 villages in Jhajjar and 18 in Gurgaon.
“Reliance agents are getting false affidavits made from farmers, saying that they need money for their children’s education, that their land is barren: banjar zameen. It’s interesting what they call banjar zameen: last year it produced 15-20 quintals of wheat! You can check the records at the revenue office”, Azad Singh of Badli told us.
“And what will happen to those who do not own any land and work for daily wages on your fields?”, I asked Azad Singh. “Who can say? They are the most disposable of all”, he replied. There is an attempt by the farmers to draw the landless classes (30% of the population of the villages according to them) into their struggle. However, there did not seem to be enough of an effort to involve them. For instance, all the men present for the May Day meeting were farmers with land, some with a lot, some with little. There is a heroic attempt in the Samiti poster to accommodate the interests of the Scheduled Castes: it makes the demand that Reliance should give each of their families a plot of land in the SEZ! The Samiti poster also makes the demand that Reliance be leased the land by farmers rather than taking full possession of it.
A Haryana Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti has been set up. One of its goals is khumbha ukkhado (pull out the electricity poles that Reliance has already begun putting in close to the KMP Expressway that is coming up close by). “Nandigram ki fasal taiyyar hai” (the crop of Nandigram is ready), Mahavir Singh told us”.
4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
Some words about a 45 min walk through convoluting/transforming Chakkarpur, a village in Gurgaon. The pictures of the walk can be found on the web-site.
Chakkarpur is a village situated on the way from Old Gurgaon to Delhi. Fifteen years ago it was still a medium-sized farming village like many others in Gurgaon area. The closeness to Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road in the North became the first urban boundary and access point of Chakkarpur. In the 1980s the car manufacturer Maruti built a housing complex for its employees, which started to encircle Chakkarpur from the west. The arrival of best-paid industrial workers and staff members must have already had an impact on Chakkarpurs social life. In the 1990s the private developer DLF started the construction of DLF City Phase One in the East of Chakkarpur. Posh villas and appartment-houses now encircled Chakkarpur from the east. DLF also set-up a golf course, which turned the street at the eastern fringe of Chakkarpur into double-lane Golf Course Road. Then the shopping-malls at Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road in the north were erected, Chakkarpur now being hidden behind towers of commodity worship. Tens of thousands of middle-class Delhites arriving at the weekends for pilgrimage. The bus stand changed its name from Chakkarpur to Sahara Mall. Behind Sahara Malls there are 600 empty appartments of the Sahara Grace Housing Estate. According to a security guard they are supposed to be sold for up to 6 crore Rs each. The security guard who secures the empty appartment bloc would have to save about 2,000 to 2,500 years of his wage in order to be able to by one. The old Chakkarpur population changed. With the rising land prices a lot of them turned from land-owning small farmers into landless millionaires, more or less overnight. They built spacious family houses with stables in the backyard, for the two-three cows which help remind them of what their life used to be. Next to the stables quickly constructed rows of single rooms, which are rented to the large numbers of newly arriving inhabitants. In those single rooms families from Orissa or Uttaranchal move in, the men looking for work in the nearby factories or offices. Chakkarpur has many migrants, now. In the nicer houses young men share flats which are empty at night, while their inhabitants are at work in call centres. But with the money, also a so far unknown poverty arrived. On the empty plot of lands between the new-rich farmers houses are many smaller settlements of plastic-tarpaulin slums. Landlords make up to 800 Rs rent per month from each hut. Mostly workers from West-Bengal live there. They work as ricksha-drivers in front of the shopping-malls, as security guards or as cleaners in call centres, as house maids for the rich. Inside Chakkarpur there is not much commodity production going on, some handycraft workers have set-up small businesses for the surrounding middle-class estates. They repair electrical appliances, they manufacture electrical stablizers on smallest scale, they mend or change clothes, they re-cycle waste. 3,000 to 4,000 or more people might live in Chakkarpur today. Within less than a decade the population of Chakkarpur must have quadrupled, while it has been physically enclosed by two main roads, a shopping-mall front and middle-class housing colonies. The old farming community has dissolved, hundreds of micro-communities have arrived, they are all connected by Gurgaons ruthless economic growth. The social composition of Chakkarpur has transformed from farming into a mixture of landlordism and service (less industrial) proletariat. What happened to this small village, happened in similar ways to dozens of other villages in the Gurgaon area. Chakkarpur shows that the glorification of “India, the land of contrasts” is mainly enthno-romantic bullshit. The truth is much more profane: the mystified ‘contrasts’ are just an expression of the fact that our own social productive forces have turned into an avalanche of re-locating industrial capital, international financial streams and waves of migration which transformed the life-style, source of income and local community within less than a generation. The old forms of living was not even given the time to disappear completely. If you want to see photographs of a 45 min walk through Chakkarpur, have a look at the wacky multi-media section of the web-site (Photos of Gurgaon).
(1) A clumsy pun in Hindi: chakkar = rounds, round journey, dizzyness, trouble, confusion
Updated version of the Glossary: things that you always wanted to know, but could never be bothered to google. Now even in alphabetical order.
Lakh (see Crore)
Wages and Prices
Workers hired through contractors
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 on party lines, it was the central trade union organisation in India. Since then it has been affiliated with the Communist Party of India.
Business Process Outsourcing: for example of call centre work, market research, sales.
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.
Workers hired by the company for a limited period of time.
Workers hired for a specific performance, paid for the performance.
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.
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.
1 US-Dollar = 43 Rs (March 2007)
1 Euro = 57 Rs (March 2007)
Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation
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.
Official minimum wage in Haryana in March 2007 is about 2500 Rs per month for an unskilled worker, based on an 8 hour day and 4 days off per month.
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.
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 which 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.
Superintendent of Police, Head of the District Police.
In India staff includes managers, supervisors, security personnel and white-collar workers.
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:
– 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
– 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
– Bus ticket to nearest bigger bus stop in South Delhi: 14 Rs
– Daily Newspaper: 3 Rs
– One hour internet in a cafe: 20 Rs
– Bottle (0,7l) of beer at Haryana Wine and Beer shop: 50 to 70 Rs
– Cigarettes (10), cheapest local brand: 25 Rs
– Cinema (new) ticket Saturday night: 160 Rs
– single entry for swimming pool: 100 Rs
– Starbucks Coffee (Latte Medium) in Shopping Mall: 59 Rs
– 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
– 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
– Minimum dowry poor workers have to pay
for the marriage of their daughter: 30,000 Rs (80,000 Rs more likely)
– One month mobile phone flat rate: 1,500 Rs
– Compaq Laptop: 50,000 Rs
– Flight Delhi to London: 28,000 Rs
– cheapest Hero Honda motor-bike (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.