Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anger Developing in the Gurgaon Workers against inhuman treatment by Industries and Contractors

 A Look at the Conditions
In the last days of March two major workers mass unrest were experienced by Gurgaon in four days. Gurgaon is sharply developing as an industrial hub and we can see many multi-floor buildings, Shopping Malls, Metro Train and long Highways, luxury office complexes of multinational companies and few people are enjoying this progress with a comfortable life. With this development it is becoming one of the Indian Metro cities, which are now trying to stand in the rows of New York and London. This all development is promoted as the "face of India", and many other faces (which are not less than hell!) are made hidden behind it. So, now we return to the Industrial development and unrest among workers in Gurgaon. On 19 and 23 March 2012, two major incidents took place in the Industrial and construction sectors of Gurgaon.
One incident took place on 19 March, 2012 in a transport Industry called Orient Craft in Sector 37 Gurgaon, where a contractor attacked workers with a scissors and injured them. The tension arose when contractor tried to abuse workers for not doing overtime on Sunday. After it, all workers start protesting against the management to take action against the contractor. But, management called the police force to control the workers. In place of complaining against contractor management was protecting him, which fuel the anger among workers and more than three thousand workers in a self-sustaining manner start throwing stones at the company premises and burned jeep of police. After this incident around 20 workers were arrested in multiple charges of "breaking the law", and contractor was also arrested. But contractor was released soon after the arrest with the help of Orient Craft management and joined the company just next day. But, all arrested worker are still not released. (It is normal functioning of "law and order"!)
Second incident took place, after three days of Orient Craft incident, on 23rd March, 2012 in Sector 58 Gurgaon, where a 25 year old worker Bakul Hassan (From Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh) died after falling from 7th floor of under construction multi floor building of Ireo Grand Arch Luxury Project. Contract of this project is given to construction companies L&T Ltd. and Alufit Ltd, and construction of this particular building was managed by Alufit Ltd. where 3500 contract workers are hired for construction. Workers complaint that management can save the life of their co-worker, but management did not arrange any vehicle to hospital. They also informed that none of the safety measures are provided by the contractor and this type of accidents also happened due to tiredness of worker during long hours of inhuman working condition. Workers told that that management was trying to hide the accident. Information of incident reached to worker only when they see that management was taking the body out of construction premises with the help of police. When workers tried to get information about the incident and demanded the registration a FIR against the contractor, the security guards clashed with them. After use of force by security guards and police force angry workers burned the police jeep and come on the street to protest. After this incident large police force deployed at the construction site. All workers who were living in the slum rooms near the site were brutally beaten and tortured by police force. On the same day 23 workers were arrested and FIR was logged against other 200 workers. According to a police official many innocent workers were also tortured and arrested. After this brutal oppression all workers left the slum. Only after this self-sustained anger of workers on the construction site this incident of the death of a worker and working conditions of other construction workers in Gurgaon were come into light. And reality comes in the front of a section of population that is living a comfortable life in these buildings where lives of many workers are buried. Otherwise many other deaths during construction and inhuman treatment of the workers kept hidden from the eyes of other sections of the society. It has proved with another death of a worker in a under construction building in Badasahpur, Gurgaon, just next day on 24th March, and this incident was completely hided.
In both of these incidents, many workers were arrested. And, now these arrested workers will be kept in the custody and then they will keep fighting to prove their innocence in the front of Law and Labor Court. One question arises here is that what was the reason behind these two incidents? Were these incidents just an instantaneous reaction of the anger of workers, who came on the streets, or some other reasons were responsible for the incident? Before going further, first we see the condition of lakhs of workers in this area. Around 10,000 industries are present in the Gurgaon area, and most of them have no trade unions of the workers. Most of these companies have permanent work that run for whole year, but the workers are still hired through contractors. The same condition also persists in the construction sector, except workers here are frequently transferred from one site to another after completion of the projects. Price of the life of these workers is not more than a machine that is used in industries for production of profit. All workers are living their life in the conditions, which are not better than hell. There are many lounges where 500 to 600 workers live and five to six people share a room of 10 X 10 feet. Most of these workers are youths who belong to Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Odissa, Madhya Pradesh etc. and migrated here in the search of work because neither they own any land nor they have any property. They are Hindus as well as Muslims. After talking to the workers of few companies in the different areas of the Gurgaon, some surprising facts of open exploitation are exposed. According to the workers their contractor never give salaries on time, it mostly don't pay over-time with double rate, no holidays and leaves are allowed for the workers, if a worker left the work then no remaining salary is paid to him, mostly workers are forced to work in the double shifts for 12 to 19 hours seven days in a week with single rate over time, many industries sometimes lock the factory premises and don't allow any worker to leave while all work is not completed, workers are also not allowed any leave even in the case of sickness (A horrible condition of indirect forced labor! Who are producing luxury for others on the cost of their lives!). Most of these workers are working on the salaries of around 3,000 to 5,000 per month for 9 hours daily shift with 7 days a week. When they work in double shift for 16 to 19 hours a day without any leave they are paid around 6000 to 9000 rupees for one month. In this type work conditions after working for few years when these workers reach at the age of 35 to 45, all their health is sucked for the profit of industries and they are left on the street for survival. (It is great capitalist democratic system!!)
In this Industrial area of Gurgaon most of the industries have no trade unions. So, industry managements and contractors do open exploitation of workers to earn more profit. It is now exposed before all. And condition of lakhs of the unorganized workers in Gurgaon is worsening every day. All these slavery like conditions of workers and facts are not hidden from anyone, but still Prime Minister says that labor laws are resisting the "development" of the nation (I think we should define the term "nation" more clearly!), so more liberalization is required in the laws for attracting more investment. In India there are many nation level trade unions who claim that they are the representatives of workers. But, all these trade unions are only limited to few white-collared private and government workers, and keep doing some symbolic rituals among these workers for hiding their betrayal. Recently a one day symbolic national strike was organized by these trade unions, which was another chapter of the same subject.
Now, if we return to the last two incidents of workers unrest in factory workers and construction workers in Gurgaon, we can clearly understand the reason behind it. Most of the workers in this industrial area are unorganized and have no trade unions. In the absence of organized unity and any other option, these workers cannot lead any self-sustained protest for their extensive demands, and individually their demands are neither heard by labor department and administrative officials nor by industrial management and contractors. This self-sustaining anger of workers that was blasted on the street is actually the result of accumulated anger of workers, which was developing below the surface against daily exploitation. But, these types of self-sustained protest only end with the arrest of few workers or forcibly oppressed by company hired goons.
If we look at the industrial development of Indian after liberalization and privatization reform of 1990, there is a sharp increase in the number of migrant contractual workers in the Industrial and Construction works. With these new policies all labor laws were made flexible and open permission for the exploitation of workers was given to contractors to attract the investors. According to the government data of year 2004 there are total 45.9 crore workers in India, and 43.3 crore are unorganized workers who have no rights to negotiate about their rights to the industry managements or contractors because they have no trade unions. After 8 years, now in 2012 this figure of unorganized workers will have been raised to much higher numbers. Condition of all these unorganized workers is not more than a forced laborer, who are enslaved by the whole capitalist system, because they have to work at any cost to earn livelihood in order to stay alive.
All people, daily from morning to the evening, use a lot of goods which are produced by these workers, but many of these people never become aware of the conditions of workers who produce these goods.  Few people who are living on the labor of these worker, and who know it, they simply "enjoy" their misery and selfishness and try to present a lot of foolish logic for hiding it from themselves.

*. Construction worker falls to death, sparks violence-  (IBN Live, 23rd March)

*. Gurgaon not alien to labour unrest - (Hindustan Times, 23 Mar 2012)

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