People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 08, 2013



Jan Sunwai of Maruti-Suzuki Workers’ Grievances

Gross Violation of Human Rights



ON August 30, 2013 when family members of the terminated and jailed workers of Maruti-Suzuki Manesar plant one by one narrated their agonies at the Jan Sunwai held at Jantar-Mantar, New Delhi, it was shocking for the hundreds of people present there. Sunil, a worker of Maruti-Suzuki is in jail; his father expired on July 2, 2013. Jail authorities were informed and his family members kept the dead body for the whole day waiting for him to come for cremation. Police brought him at 8.30 in the night and then brought him back to jail by not allowing him to be there with his family members even for 30 minutes. Finally the cremation was done next day morning in Sunil’s absence, as the prevailing custom does not provide to cremate the dead in the night.  His interim bail was applied which was rejected. Sunil and his family members are in a state of shock as they are unable to understand this inhuman treatment.


Imaan Khan is in jail. Even his name was not there in the charge sheet. But well after six months of the July 18, 2012 incident, he was picked up by the police on January 24, 2013 when he was addressing a press conference in Gurgaon on the issue of the arrested Maruti workers and later was charged for murder and put in jail. At the Jan Sunwai, his wife Vakeela narrated how tough life has been for her and their seven year old son without Imaan, the only breadwinner of her family. “It has been seven months since he was arrested. We are almost on the brink of starvation. I had to see my son dropping out of school because I did not have the money to pay his fees. We shifted back to the village to survive on a very meager amount”, said distressed Vakeela. Another Maruti–Suzuki worker Prem Pal is in jail. In his absence, his daughter has expired and after a few days his mother also expired. Even in such a difficult situation, his interim bail was rejected. Sunil, Vakeela and Prem Pal are not the only ones suffering. Families of the 147 Maruti workers who are in jail since last more than a year are suffering as they are passing through a difficult situation.

While the members of the jury were taking notes of the sufferings and grievances shared by the victim workers’ family members many of whom were not even able to complete their testimonies as their voice chocked, slogans demanding justice for them raised by the public reverberated the place of Jan Sunwai.

Maruti-Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) is the largest car maker in our country. As per its market share and annual reports, the MSIL’s production and sales have increased manifolds and as a result, profits of the company are soaring in India. But the management of the MSIL-Manesar Plant which began operations in 2006 refuse to be sensitive to the grievances of the workers and to the inhuman working conditions in the plant. Even a basic trade union right of forming and joining a union of their own choice is being denied. Such a situation had given rise to workers unrest on several occasions. Following the registration of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) on March 1, 2012, when the union submitted its charter of demands, the MSIL refused to negotiate on core issues of terms and conditions of work and pay revision.


On 18 July 2012, the unfortunate incident of violence and arson occurred and repression was let loose on workers soon after, which continues till date. 546 permanent workers and over 1800 contract workers at MSIL Manesar Plant were summarily dismissed without any proper inquiry, without any proper show cause notice and without giving them any opportunity to defend themselves. Since then, 147 workers are languishing in Central jail, Gurgaon for more than a year. There are arrest warrants issued against another 65. The jailed workers are being denied minimum timely health care and even parole at such crucial times like death of parents or relatives, their wives deliveries and marriages of their brothers and sisters. The workers have not been allowed to raise their voice unitedly in any form. Whosoever raises a voice is being arrested under the charges of murder and put in the jail.


Even the people who support their cause or raise a voice in their solidarity are not spared.  On May 19, 2013 when families of these workers and various other sections of society were staging a demonstration against police action on activists sitting on a dharna, they were brutally lathicharged and 11 persons were arrested and falsely charged for attempt to murder under section 307 IPC. The workers have been continuously demanding an independent and high level judicial inquiry into that incident but the government has not accepted that till now. During this period, these workers have repeatedly represented their case before various state and central authorities but there has been no response.


At the Jan Sunwai, MSIL workers and their family members narrated their agonies and difficult circumstances they are passing through. They said that the repression let loose on workers and their families after the July 18, 2012 incident is a clear and gross violation of basic human rights, democratic rights and trade union rights. Around 2500 workers including 546 permanent workers were summarily dismissed without giving any opportunity to defend themselves. As many as 213 workers charged with murder under section 302 and 148 workers are in jail for more than a year. Many of them who are in jail were not even present in the plant on July 18, 2012. In the last more than one year, workers have repeatedly represented their case before various state and central authorities but there has been no response till date. Whenever workers, their family members, sympathisers jointly protested, their peaceful demonstrations have been brutally lathicharged.


In the Jan Sunwai, the affected workers and their family members said that most of the terminated and jailed MSIL workers belong to poor families. A large number of them were the only ones in their families who got an employment. Their families were dependent on them. Since the lone bread earners of their families are in jail for more than a year, they are on the brink of starvation. Children are forced to drop-out of school. In some cases old parents of some of the workers have expired during this period. Some have lost their mental balance. But the Haryana government is treating them as its enemies. It is providing an advocate to the MSIL management to whom more than Rs 2.75 crores has already been given for his services in the interest of MSIL.


Narrating their woes at the public hearing the workers and family members said that the July 18, 2012 incident was pre planned by the MSIL, whose intention was to fire the permanent workers and then engage more contract workers for the sole motive of profit  maximisation. After this incident, it was announced by the chairman of MSIL, RC Bhargava that in future there will be no recruitment on contract basis and there will only be permanent recruitment. But what is happening in practice in the MSIL today is something which should be noted. At present there are 70 percent contract workers in MSIL Manesar and only 30 per cent workers are permanent. Contract workers are employed only for 6 months and they are paid much less (Rs 8500) in comparison to permanent workers (Rs 25000-30000). While the number of workers has decreased, the work load has increased. And in this way, the MSIL is earning bumper profits. According to the MSIL statement released on July 25, 2013 though there has been a fall of 10 percent in sales, its first quarter profit in current financial year has increased by a whopping 49 percent and its net profit has gone up to Rs 621.6 Crores.   


Professor Prabhat Patnaik, Dr DR Chaudhry, former chairman HPSC, Supreme Court Senior Advocates, Dr Kirti Singh, Colin Gonsalves and RS Hooda were in the jury of the Jan Sunwai. At the end of this public hearing, the jury presented its report and also went to meet the central labour minister along with the victims.


The public hearing was also addressed by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat, CPI leader Gurudas Das Gupta, TDP leader N Nageshwar Rao, AILU leader Somdutt Dutt Sharma, CITU secretary K Hemlata, AIDWA vice president Jagmati Sangwan, AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah, AITUC leader DL Sachdeva and AIUTUC leader Rajender Singh. Union leaders of Gurgaon Maruti Powertrain, Munjal Showa, Nappino India etc also addressed the programme and expressed their solidarity with the jailed and terminated MSIL Worker and their families.


A delegation led by Basudeb Acharya (MP) met the chairperson of NHRC Justice K G Balakrishnan and submitted a memorandum to him with the following demands:


1.                 Grant bail to the 147 workers of the MSIL Manesar, who are in jail since July 2012

2.                 Order an impartial and high level judicial inquiry to investigate the July 18, 2012 incident.

3.                 Reinstate all workers, terminated after the July 18 incident.

4.       Provide rehabilitation measures – medical facilities, subsidised ration for the affected families of workers and stipend for children’s education.

5.                 Ensure workers right of forming and joining a trade union of their own choice and stop police intervention.

6.                 Constitute an impartial and high level judicial inquiry into the Kaithal incident. False cases be withdrawn and the suspension of Kaithal Municipal Councilor Prem Chand Saini be revoked.  


The NHRC Chairperson assured the delegation that the Commission would take necessary action in this case.