GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 46 (January 2012)
Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi 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, China 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:
The Different Faces of Crisis – January 2012 Issue
*** I / We in Crisis – A Workers’ Life and Day
On its front-page, Faridabad Majdoor Samachar frequently publishes workers’ stories, relating both to their daily experiences and their life. This is less about ‘story-telling’ and ‘personal accounts’ as such, but about a collective process of discovering not only how the current system shapes our ‘private’ life according to its inner structure, but also how in seemingly ‘individual’ workers’ experiences lies a creative, productive and antagonistic wealth of the working class – the experiences of having worked in rural and urban areas, in various industries, in households and factories; of having gone through the systemic repressive institutions of family and school; of having found ways to survive and undermine the structural pressures. We translated the story of a 37 years old worker.
*** We are the Crisis – Struggles of Teacher Trainees
In most of the recent larger working class mobilisations teachers played a prominent role – from protests against austerity in Spain to the revolt against the regime in Egypt. There are various reasons for this prominent role. There is the obvious trend of proletarianisation of the profession ‘teacher’. The casualisation of ‘semi-skilled’ teaching staff (assistant teachers), the standardisation of work (teaching modules), the austerity measures in the public sector, have eroded the status and conditions of teachers. In many cases teachers become low paid social security guards who are supposed not only to take care of pre-unemployed youth, but also provide them with an illusion of a future. We document the recent struggle of BTC trainees (Basic Training Certificate: basic teaching in primary schools) in Dehradun. The BTC teachers are low paid teachers to teach mainly in poorer areas. They struggled against having to work unpaid for months on so-called ‘practical training’.
*** The Global Crisis Re-Surfaces in India
In autumn 2008 the capitalist strategists still talked about the potential for a ‘decoupling’ of the ’emerging markets’ (China, India, Brazil etc.) from the global crisis. It was clear from the start that the ‘decoupling’ was a myth, a wishful thinking. We summarised some basic figures showing the link: on the impact of the slump 2008, on the national and global bail-out in 2009, on the currency war and state of inflation in 2010, and finally on the Indo-Euro crisis in the second half of 2011.
*** Suggested Reading: Contributions to the Global Overthrow
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale.
An illustrated book by prole.info, which takes one seemingly simple thing – a house – and examines the social relations around it. From the construction site to the city, from gender roles to trade unions.
The Housing Monster
Blog for the exchange of experiences concerning organising at the workplace.
*** Delhi Calling: Get Involved in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 9,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Majdoor Talmel:
Faridabad Majdoor Talmel
On its front-page, Faridabad Majdoor Samachar frequently publishes workers’ stories, relating both to their daily experiences and their life. This is less about ‘story-telling’ and ‘personal accounts’ as such, but about a collective process of discovering not only how the current system shapes our ‘private’ life according to its inner structure, but also how in seemingly ‘individual’ workers’ experiences lies a creative and productive wealth of the working class – the experiences of having worked in rural and urban areas, in various industries, in households and factories; of having gone through the systemic repressive institutions of family and school; of having found ways to survive and undermine the structural pressures.
A 37 years old worker – FMS no.276 – June 2011
I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. There is no toilet, one has to go to the open space next to the rail-tracks. You have to be careful, I have seen two people being killed by trains – one of them was a relative of mine. After having washed, I prepare food together with my mate. In the morning we make vegetables and roti. The water comes from a private borewell, this is why we have to pay 150 Rs for water per month. We have finished preparing the food by 7:30 am. Washing, eating and then at 8:15 you have to leave for the factory.
Some things come up in the mind again and again. When Indira Gandhi died there was holiday at school. I was eight, nine years old then. I saw how, at the station, three wagons of a train were set on fire. After having dragged Sikhs out of the wagons, one after the other, the police beat them up. The crowd kept standing at a distance. They brought one Sikh and tied him up in a sack. When the policemen asked for petrol from people in the nearby shanties, I kept on standing to see what they would do. The policemen sprinkled the sack with petrol and set fire to it. I ran away in fear. There was a curfew for three days. When I think about it now, it seems strange to me – how was this possible?
The shift starts at 8:30am . At the moment I work in the New Industrial Area in Faridabad, in a company called Sisaudia Engineering. I work here in the Honda department, I operate an industrial drill, even though I have ITI (Industrial Training Institute) training in refridgeration and air-conditioning. Currently the minimum wage for unskilled workers is 4,503 Rs per month, but in this factory I earn 3,500 Rs.
I finished my ITI training in 2000. Our village is in East Uttar Pradesh and the ITI is about 20 kilometres away from our place – I cycled back and forth every day. I received 700 Rs student allowance per year. I also worked on the fields. My father was employed as a permanent worker at Gedore-Jhalani Tools factory in Faridabad, but for several years they had hardly been paid any wages. I arrived in Delhi to do my apprenticeship. The widowed mother-in-law had a house in Trilokpuri, but there were expenses for three young brother-in-laws and two sister-in-laws. Instead of doing an apprenticeship I started working as a security guard in Nanj Supermarket in Greater Kailash (South Delhi). I was working for Gajraj Securities, but hired through a contractor from NOIDA, who paid 3,800 Rs. I worked there for three and a half months, then the job was finished – a manager had embezzled three to four crore Rs. After looking for work for ten days I found a job at Kapeel Export factory in NOIDA Sector 11, they paid 1,200 Rs. I learned how to print and embroider clothes with machines. After having worked for some time the piece-rate wages went up to 4 to 6,000 Rs. I worked there for two years. Then my father fell ill and I returned to the village.
When we arrive at the factory we have to carry the raw material, which is stored outside the factory, to the machines. In 8 hours you have to drill 1800 pieces. I don’t have a particular fear of accidents. While working, you think about all kind of things.
After I had finished my eighth class in Faridabad I went back to the village. My grandfather had become old. I started to plough the fields with the bullocks and did other work. I finished the tenth class in a school three miles away. I enrolled in the Intercollege in Pratapgarh and lived in the student hostel there. They paid 50 Rs per month student allowance. I went back to the village only at weekends – I worked on the fields there, and when there was too much work, I took days off at the college. My mother went to Faridabad in order to have an eye surgery, around this time I failed my eleventh class. Because of mental pressure I also failed once in the twelfth class – my wife died after a miscarriage. We had lived together for many days, we were married when I was in the ninth class. I finished the twelfth class in a private college. When my neighbour – who taught in a neighbouring village – opened a school in our village, I joined him. When we had enrolled 250 children, each of us four teachers would earn around 500 Rs. I stopped teaching when I had to both study for ITI and do the work on the fields.
At 12:30 there is a lunch break. There are 400 workers in the factory, but there is no canteen. There is no place to sit and eat. I go to our shanty and eat there. And at 1 o’clock you have to be back at the drill.
In 1993, after having finished my tenth class I was trying hard to find a job. I filled in many application forms. I went to Bophal, Buvaneshvar, Jodhpur in order to apply for jobs as a gangman for the railways. Then on the bases of the ITI I went to Mumbai, Ilahabad, Lakhnow, Kolkata in order to get a job as an assistant driver. In 1998, I went to an interview for a job at the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation department. A lot of job seeking people came at the same day. Seeing this, the administrators said that the interviews were cancelled and that we would receive further information by letter. People started throwing stones. The place was closed down, people left. This letter never arrived. After having finished the ITI I put my name down on the list of the employment office in Pratapgarh. They never sent anything. I renewed the enrolment in 2003 and 2006. Again nothing. In 2006, they told me not to put my name down again in future. I got furious. In the meantime I had seen governments changing from Congress, BJP, SP, BSP…
At 2:30 the contractor provides tea. The wages are low, but there is no particular atmosphere of complaining here. I know some of the people who work here from before, acquaintances, friends…
In 2009 the village council leader himself issued a job card under the MNREGA (Rural Employment Scheme). In 2010 during the monsoon the village leader said: “Your money has arrived for the 25 days of work that you have done. Open an account and you can get the money.” I did not even work under this scheme… figure that out. I then met a lot of other people who had not worked, but in whose name money was drawn for MNREGA. The village leader called the bank manager to his home and asked him to open accounts. When it? was to get the money from the bank the village leader said I should go to the bank and that the contractor (who was supposed to have undertaken the work under MNREGA) has already taken the pass book there. I went to the bank, I withdrew 2,500 Rs from the account, out of which 1,700 Rs was taken by the contractor… the village leader is illiterate and he once received a reward from the prime minister.
No one stops working at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The overtime is only paid at single rate, but nevertheless, no one could make ends meet if they did not work 12 hours a day. Some workers work 200 hours overtime per month.
I married again in 1997. We had children. My father did not receive his outstanding wages from his company. Even in the village they sell packaged goods nowadays (everything becomes more expensive). The bullocks have been sold and 1.5 bigha are now ploughed by tractor. The school fees are 800 Rs per month. My wife works as a domestic nurse, but she does not get a fixed salary, nor a honorarium, she works piece-rate: for a childbirth 600 Rs, a vaccination 50 Rs, a sterilisation 150 Rs. But she also has to pay, e.g. 200 Rs for the room for a monthly meeting – it is difficult to earn enough to cover expenses. We wanted to form a Dr. Ambedkar Self-Aid Group, but there is no space, where would you keep the goats? What will you give the buffalos to eat? There is no hay. The chicken spread their dirt everywhere. I thought about starting sewing, but I didn’t know how to. I tried to learn, but was not too successful. I thought again about an apprenticeship, after the CTI I could then complete my ITI master. I arrived again in Faridabad, to do an apprenticeship in refridgeration and air-conditioning at Whirlpool company, but they said that they wouldn’t take anyone who comes from a different state. So I then started to work as a casual worker at Whirlpool. At the cabinet line there were three permanent workers, six casuals and two workers hired through contractors – their wages were 20,000 Rs, 4,200 Rs and 3,500 to 4,000 Rs respectively. Because there was too much work to be done back home on the field I left this job in August 2010 and went back to the village.
We finish working at 8 or 9 o’clock and buy vegetables on the way back to the shanty. Between my mate and myself, whoever comes home first starts to prepare dinner. We make dal, rice and roti – all in all this takes about two hours. We go to sleep around 11 o’clock or midnight. I cannot sleep… I really can’t stand the noise around, the trains which pass nearby really disturb you. You never get a good night’s sleep. The head becomes heavy.
In most of the recent larger working class mobilisations teachers played a prominent role – from protests against austerity in Spain to the revolt against the regime in Egypt. There are various reasons for this prominent role. There is the obvious trend of proletarianisation of the profession ‘teacher’. The casualisation of ‘semi-skilled’ teaching staff (assistant teachers), the standardisation of work (teaching modules), the austerity measures in the public sector, have eroded the status and conditions of teachers. In many cases teachers become low paid social security guards who are supposed not only to take care of pre-unemployed youth, but also provide them with an illusion of a future. In this sense the demand for teachers increased. The fact that teachers are often at the forefront of current public protests has two main reasons, both reflecting the arbitrary position of teaching work. Firstly, the cohesion amongst teachers is less constituted through the work process, therefore the greater need for a ‘formal’ organisation, which tends to be more visible. Secondly, in many cases teachers still appeal to their social status as ‘providers of education’, which gives them the credibility to protest, not only in their own interest, but a wider interest. As we can see, both reasons have an arbitrary element regarding to the possible generalisation of teachers’ struggles as ‘struggles of workers’. These arbitrary tendencies will surface first of all in conflicts within the ‘education sector’, once the divisions between various grades of ‘teaching staff’ (assistant, casuals, trainees etc.) impose themselves as essential problems for a ‘common’ struggle. We document the recent struggle of BTC trainees (Basic Training Certificate: basic teaching in primary schools) in Dehradun. The BTC teachers are low paid teachers to teach mainly in poorer areas. They struggled against having to work unpaid for months on so-called ‘practical training’.
Struggles of BTC Trainees in Dehradun
On 22nd of November 2011, demanding direct recruitment in the state government service during their third semester of the Basic Training Certificate (BTC), hundreds of teachers undergoing training in different districts of the state, protested in front of the civil secretariat in Dehradun. The protesters burnt their clothes to register their protest against the alleged step-motherly attitude of the administration. When they tried to get to the administration building, they were attacked by the police. Twelve trainees, including one female trainee, were injured and 200 were arrested. After two days they were released without charges. The ‘crime’ they had committed was to resist being sent to work (under the name of ‘practical training’) to remote areas of the state without permanent contract and without wage.
These trainees had not passed yet the exam of the third semester – so for the government they were officially unskilled. The government cajoled them by saying that if they would accept to work in formerly closed schools in remote areas they might get a permanent contract even if their training had not been completed. They were reassured that they would be called back for exams after three months. BTC trainees said that the last batch of trainees had not been called back from ‘practical training’ for one and a half years! In addition, the government did not want to pay them a single Paisa for these one and a half years of work. The BTC trainees started their movement in order to get an answer to their question about their future – after having paid from their own pockets to go to remote areas and still not knowing how things will turn out. The government wants to profit from these trainees by re-opening schools in remote areas during the time of elections – but they don’t want to give them a permanent status.
After the attack on 22nd of November the order to start ‘practical training’ was revoked and postponed to the 15th of December. On 28th of November a meeting was supposed to take place. The trainees who were released from jail confirmed their resolution to demand an answer and called for a protest sit-in at the education directorate in Nanurkheda. The issue is that in the 13 districts of the state around 1267 trainees of education and training institutes are kept in a cloud of uncertainty. According to a government order they can be sent to ‘practical training’ in other districts even before completing their training. Their fellow trainees of other institutes are paid 6,000 Rs honorarium for the last six months of similar ‘practical training’, those BTC trainees on correspondence courses got 7,500 Rs – the BTC trainees find themselves in the dilemma that the competition for permanent jobs increases – should they demand from the government to tell them for which position they will be hired and for which wage?
The true stance of the state government revealed itself when an office bearer of the BTC trainee union came to Dehradun to meet the Minister for Education – and the Minister refused to meet the representative. Instead the education secretary told the trainee union officer that they have to follow the government orders. In the first week of November the BTC trainees returned to Dehradun in form of a movement – to wake the government who had refused any talks. Trainees from 13 different BTC institutes assembled on the Parade Maidan in Dehradun. A workers’ representative said that on 21st of November the ministry called and promised that if the trainees would stop their protest assembly they could meet the central minister. So they went back to Nanurkheda and encircled the education secretariat instead. The central minister phoned the next day and said that the exams for the third semester will take place soon, but he did not agree to the main demand. The education secretary repeated this – the dissatisfied trainees intensified the protest in front of the secretariat. On the same day in the evening the patience of the trainees found an end, they started to tear down the police barricades around the secretariat. The police answered with a baton charge and arrested 199 trainees, 80 of them women. After verbal support of all opposition parties the trainees were released after two days. The released trainees reassembled on Parade Maidan and said that they keep up the protest till 28th of November, the date of the promised meeting with government representatives. They say that if the meeting won’t take place they will encircle the residence of the central minister. The education ministry sent out a letter to all district education officers saying that BTC trainees are not supposed to be sent to remote districts, but to schools were there are either too many pupils or to few teachers.
The state minister for education informed that there are 2,720 vacant posts in primary schools – at the same time the minister tells the trainees that they will hire the 3367 BTC trainees once they have finished their exams plus 2,200 trainees on special BTC courses, a total of 5,000 posts – these are empty promises. Out of 882 trainees on special BTC courses around 60 per cent work as teaching staff in RSS (Hindu Nationalists) run Shishu Mandirs – the government is under pressure to give jobs to these trainees once they have finished their courses. The opposition parties officially support the agitation, trying to convert the teachers to foot-soldiers of their respective parties.
On 18th of December 2011 members of Uttarakhand BTC Trainee Shiksha Mitra Federation staged another protest at Parade Ground and later took out a rally to the residence of the Education Minster in Dehradun. The demands include appointment of BTC Trainees to the posts of assistant teacher after their completion of BTC training and allowance of `10,000 Rs to Shiksha Mitra during training.
In autumn 2008 the capitalist strategists still talked about the potential for a ‘decoupling’ of the ’emerging markets’ (China, India, Brazil etc.) from the global crisis. It was clear from the start that the ‘decoupling’ was a myth, a wishful thinking.
The Impact of the Slump 2008
The impact was immediate. The main stock-market index (Sensex) fell by more than 50 percent during the year 2008, from 20,800 in January 2008 to under 10,000 in mid-October. The mass-sales of shares and securities held by foreign investors and the subsequent massive US Dollars outflow resulted in the largest fall of the foreign exchange reserves in eight years. While in July 2008 the reserves stood still at 300 billion US Dollars, by November 2008 they had plunged down to 258 billion. The withdrawal of capital from the Rupee caused a massive devaluation of the currency. Early 2008 the Rupee stood at 39.25 US Dollars, by end of November 2008 it had depreciated to 50.5 US Dollars. In October 2008 for the first time in more than a decade the manufacturing output of the Indian industry declined.
The National and Global Bail-Out 2009
In 2009, the state in India induced money into the markets, which postponed the impact of the crisis and shifted its focus to the question of state debts. “We had to inject Rs 80,000 crores as stimulus package to overcome the crisis, which helped arrest further deterioration of the Indian economy,” finance minister Mukherjee said in April 2010. These policies, like in the rest of the world, increased state debts. India’s public debt was at 78 per cent of GDP in 2008/09 and increased to 82 per cent in 2010. Despite the global stimulus packages, foreign direct investment inflows into India dipped 5.16 per cent to USD 25.89 billion in 2009-10. India’s exports declined 4.7 per cent to USD 176.5 billion in 2009-10. Export forms a fair chunk of the GDP (1988: 6 per cent / 2008: around 20 per cent). The fiscal deficit increased by 25 per cent in 2009 to 2010.
The Currency War and Inflation in 2010
The low interest rate policies in the Global North – meaning: the attempt by the states to provide cheap money as investment incentive to corporations – sent off a wave of ‘hot money’ to the emerging markets, where investors hoped to be able to find a profitable short-term investment. This caused inflation rates to rise dramatically. Indian inflation hit double digits in May 2010, the highest in any G20 nation. The Indian reserve bank had to raise interest rates again and again in order to curb inflation, which forced a lot of companies to lend money on the international markets, increasing the (corporate) foreign debts – between March 2009 and March 2010 external debts increased by 16.5 per cent to 261.5 billion USD. The ‘fluctuating’ character of investments revealed itself when the state debt crisis in Greece sent shocks through the global markets in May 2010 – 20 billion USD short-term invested capital was extracted from ‘Indian’ markets within a couple of months.
The Indo-Euro Crisis in 2011
The Euro-crisis – the running out of the stimulating impact of state credits induced in 2009 and the hitting home of state debts – reached India in the last quarter of 2011 and fortified the general trend towards a further downturn. Between August and December 2011 the Indian Sensex (main stock market) lost 18 per cent. In November 2011 alone, 600 million USD ‘foreign short-term investment’ was withdrawn from the Indian securities market. The ‘hot money’ of 2010 cooled down – in summer 2011, when the Euro crisis threatened to trigger a second global slump worse than the one in late 2008, the ‘hot money’ streamed back from the ‘insecure’ emerging markets to the USD markets. This caused massive depreciations of local currencies. Between July and December 2011, the price of the Indian Rupee fell by more than 16 percent, to a rate Rs 53.80 to the USD – a record low.
The persistent fall of the rupee has also added to the burden on the trade deficit, which in October 2011 widened to a 17-year high of $19.6bn. The total trade deficit for 2011/12 is expected to widen sharply to between $155 billion and $160 billion from $104.4 billion a year ago. As a consequence of the weak Rupee the petrol prices are supposed to rise by 1 Rs per litre from January 2012 – around 80 per cent of the petrol in India has to be imported. In 2010 the government changed the legal framework for oil price regulations, an act to make ‘the people’ pay for the state’s ‘corporate stimulation’ – since then petrol prices have been hiked several times. Higher petrol prices will keep inflation up. India’s headline inflation has been above 9 per cent during 2011 despite 13 rate increases since March 2010 that have lifted the repo rate to a three-year high of 8.5 per cent from 4.75 per cent. The high interest rates choke investments.
The government lowered the GDP growth forecast for 2011 to below 7 per cent, compared to 8.5 per cent in 2010. In October 2011 industrial output fell for the first time in more than two years. Capital goods production, considered a barometer of investment sentiment in the country, fell 25.5 per cent. In 2011 car sales in India posted the steepest fall in nearly 11 years.
Consequently the state has trouble meeting its crisis budget. Net tax revenues have grown just 7.3 per cent in the first seven months of 2011-12, while state expenditure has jumped by about 10 per cent during the same period. Some economists are now projecting that the fiscal deficit by the end of the financial year could be as high as 5.7 per cent of GDP. The state had calculated to re-finance its debts by selling state assets, but the economic slump foiled the plan: only one public sector undertaking (PSU) hit the capital market in 2011 raising only Rs 1,145 crore, the plan had aimed at several ‘privatisations’ which were supposed to raise Rs 40,000 crore.
Is a re-make of the 1991 foreign debt default possible? The Indian (state) banks have 314 billion USD of foreign currency reserves. Outstanding foreign debts, which will have to be repaid within a year, stand at about half of this amount. The recent deal with Japan of a 15 billion USD currency swap can be seen as a sign that liquidity problems are severe. With the value of the Rupee declining, it will become costlier to repay the debts.
The figures above confirm that there is no ‘decoupling’, but rather a very immediate relation between the ‘continental markets’. Austerity measures or monetary policies in the north almost immediately impact the situation in the ’emerging markets’. It also shows that despite a seemingly huge ‘internal market’ – 800 million people living in India’s semi-rural areas – this ‘internal market’ has little weight once it comes to the question of capitalist boom or demise. The regime in India will have to follow its counterparts in the north and push through with ‘unpopular’ decisions.
The back-and-forth concerning the question whether foreign direct investment should be allowed in retail sector (allowing Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour etc. to open supermarkets directly) can be seen as a symbol of the dilemma the regime is facing: economically the regime is in dire need for further capital inflows, socially it does not want a head-on confrontation with a social strata (medium and small traders) which quantitatively and qualitatively might prove to be the last stable ‘popular’ barrier between the regime and the rural and urban proletarian poor.
The ‘political expression’ of this strata, in the form of the anti-corruption movement Hazare’s, although ‘annoying’, manages to channel wider ‘popular discontent’ and re-focus it on the political-parliamentary arena. They thereby provide an invaluable service of social counter-insurgency for the ruling class, which weights as heavy as the pressure from the ‘economic’ figures above. Economic and social figures, which, let’s be honest, resemble scarily the figurations of recently toppled regimes in northern Africa (food price developments, foreign debts, graduate unemployment, historical parallels of IMF enforced adjustments etc.). The decision to post-pone the opening of the retail market has to be seen as a state of economic-political paralysis of the regime, facing the social abyss. Let’s help the regime with a little push.