Maruti Mayhem- A Gory Reminder

Manesar mayhem and the murder of an innocent efficient general manager reminded me again of a gory day of my early professional career in Hindustan Motors. It was early 70s. The leftists were trying to grab political power in West Bengal with help of the labour unions. In the name of trade union, the leftists had innovated and pioneered many methods to terrorize and force the management to agree to whatever they wanted without following any norms of negotiation. Indian industry had by then learnt many new terms: ‘slow down’, ‘work to rule’, ‘tool down’, ‘gherao’ and many more. Bengal spearheaded the militancy in trade union organized process of protesting too. In one such incident, I would have been murdered but for my destiny. About 20,000 workmen had suddenly struck work and had started burning cars and office furniture. I was unaware of the seriousness of the development, but got shocked when found surrounded by thousands of them. One threw a huge flower vase on me. I escaped. Some came to my rescue also. I sustained only some injury.

Interestingly, neither the government’s law and order machinery nor the management provides any protection to the supervisors and managers in such cases of murderous monstrosity. The right of protest is democratic and so perhaps the right to murder for getting the demand. Nothing has changed. Nothing has happened to eliminate the possibility of such abrasion of democratic rights. Even today as in those days, the workers consider the senior supervisors and managers as the representatives of the management and so their enemies. The workers have all the right to abuse their seniors and even assault them. Many intellectuals take their side and reason it out as because of the inequity.

As reported, Maruti Suzuki workers who went on the rampage appear to have systematically and mercilessly “hunted” senior executives. At least 26 executives have sustained fractures, with several having multiple injuries, as the protesters used everything from rods to car parts. How can this situation be tolerated for better productivity in competitive world? It is more surprising in a successful Japanese company such as Maruti Suzuki.Where did Maruti Suzuki go wrong this time?
As a new phenomenon, the workers capture the plant and don’t go out of the premises. And in such a case, they can cause any damage to the plant and machinery. Even the judicial orders go unheeded sometimes. The police or industrial protection forces that are now put for the security of the plant from terrorist attack can’t interfere.

The militancy in trade union is against all norms of the right work culture for industrial growth and global competitiveness. Political affiliation of unions has made it worse.
Unfortunately, the country and it leaders have not taken any step to eliminate these occurrences. I remember one more similar incidence in which a close acquaintance of mine from Noida region got killed by the protesting workmen. At that time too, I was in USA.

As usual nothing will happen and no long term solution will be sought even after this gory incident at Manesar, even by Maruti Suzuki’s Japanese management. Only the family will suffer the agony. And some few people who hardly know the reality will write editorials and columns, discuss and debate on the issue for a day or two on TV news channels.

Unfortunately, persons such Ratan Tata, RC Bhargava or Anand Mahindra will not even express their opinions, as it will go against them.

Maruti Suzuki will get in peace with the labour union or may take a long term decision to go in different states to reduce the risks as others such as Tata Motors or even Hindustan Motors did. But the militancy will continue as the government and the politicians will dare not building a consensus to bring changes in labour disputes act or related reforms.

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