On this Republic Day, while armoured tanks muscle across Rajpath in New Delhi, little ossified museums of culture called tableaux charm the assembled pass-holding citizenry and the Prime Minister sits like a barely-sentient caricature of himself behind a bullet-proof screen, it may do well to think about the other republic that remains hidden within the bosom of Superpower India – the republic of unfree labour.
This is a world where the laws of the upside world are inverted – where the more you work, the less you are paid, the more your company profits, the poorer you end up and if you find yourself the victim of an injustice and god forbid complain about it, the police put your family in jail. It’s a great irony of our times that we believe the choice before us is between loving the Nation and loving the Corporation, not realising that most of the time its the same person wearing two grotesque masks. All those who believe that the world begins with their newspapers and television sets and ends at their white picket fences (and all those who don’t), please take a minute to go through the excellent documentation of the war that is raging for workers in this country, put together by the Gurgaon Workers’ Solidarity Group, the Faridabad Mazdoor Sangathan and several other exemplary organisations.
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 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 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:
In the February 2011 issue you can find:
1) Proletarian Experiences –
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
*** From Supply-Chains to Radical-Chains: Reports from Local Automobile Workers –
While workers in the global north are with their backs to the wall of crisis – see current dispute at FIAT Mirafiori – the automobile workers in the global south suffer for a pathetic ‘boom’. We document 17 short reports from automobile workers, employed up and down the Delhi supply-chain: from work-shops with a couple of machines and half a dozen (child) labourers to the first-tier suppliers and the assembly plants employing thousands. The wildcat strike at central assembly plant of Honda HMSI on 17th of December 2010 has demonstrated that ‘labour costs’ are not a mere figure in the overall calculation, but an angry soul in a heartless machinery. Any revolutionary effort has to aim at turning the supply-chain into the radical chains, which we will have to lose: re-composing working class from the assembling centres to the labour intensive peripheries.
*** The Empire’s New Clothes: Reports from Local Textile Workers –
Several reports from garment workers in Gurgaon, among others from Modelama, a main factory manufacturing for GAP. “We have started working yesterday, on 27th of November 2010 at 9 am. Some of the guys are still working now, 28th of November at 4 pm, they will go home at 8 pm – after a 35 hours shift. It is ‘urgent shipment’ time and the master said at about 1:30 am last night that ‘crores of Rupees could be lost’, if we don’t meet the deadline. The guys on piece rate work very fast, the company now asks the same output from the workers on monthly wages. There is a chain system (several workers work on one piece of garment in division of labour) even for the piece rate workers. Instead of full piece rate (payment for one piece which is the same for all workers), they have part rate (people are paid different rates, e.g. for sewing a collar, a sleeves etc.), which makes it more difficult for workers to link up for higher rates.”
*** Turning a Blind Tired Eye: Security Guards from Gurgaon –
There are tens of thousand security guards employed in Gurgaon. There is security technology and double-locked architecture, there is a system of supervision, but the system is fragile in it’s inner self. Those who are supposed to supervise and secure are too precarious to care. From a conversation: “We are watch men. Our job is – in case of fire – to watch the factory burn. It is not our job to douse the flames. Our job is to guard the ashes, once the factory has burnt down. If someone asks about the whereabouts of the company, we have to provide information: this is where the factory used to stand, it has gone to ashes. This is our job, nothing more. It is our job to guard the factory, not to save it. We don’t manage to save ourselves, how are we supposed to save the factory.”
*** Death of a Worker: Work Kills At Modelama Textile Factory –
On 16th of January, at about 3 am in the morning, a garment worker at Modelama company (supplier for GAP, Marks and Spencer etc.) was killed – he died of electrocution due to a faulty machine. Workers expressed anger and solidarity – the factory is against life and the living.
2) Collective Action –
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
*** After the Wildcat: Another Report by Honda HMSI Worker –
The short wildcat strike at Honda HMSI on 17th of December 2010 was a spark on a wider background: be it temporary workers at Hyundai in South Korea, Honda supplying workers in China or Mexico or Nokia workers in Chennai – the unrest of casualised workers at the southern global workbench increases. We first document a report by a Honda HMSI temporary assembly line worker who took part in the strike; we then have a short look at recent international conflicts which bear an systemic semblance to the Honda Gurgaon strike and conclude with some preliminary thoughts on ‘What could be done?’ on an immediate and local level.
*** Step Across the Border: Lakhani Workers in Faridabad and in Uttaranchal –
We translated reports from Lakhani workers in both Faridabad and Uttaranchal. Lakhani is a major company engaged in garments, plastic and rubber manufacturing – from sandals, shoes (AllStars, Puma, Adidas) to car parts. Lakhani has recently opened factories in the state of Uttaranchal, in addition to the long-time established and often conflict ridden factories in Faridabad. In some cases a division of labour and mutual dependency has been created between the two industrial centres. The reports from Uttranchal are translated from the Marxist-Leninist journal Nagrik.
3) About the Project –
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
*** Past Unrest / Present Tense: Faridabad/Delhi Textile Workers’ Struggle 1979 to 1997 –
For the ongoing quarry work of local working class history we added following material to the website:
/// Notes from a short conversation with a worker formerly employed at Gedore Tools about smuggling rice in Bihar in the late 1960s before coming to Faridabad and getting a factory job; he recalls the 1973 general walk-out and riot at Goodyear plant, the police-raids and proletarian retaliations during the Emergency;
/// An old text on the 1979 Delhi textile workers’ strike; the dispute became the necessary lock-out excuse for sacking 3,000 superfluous workers at East India Cotton, one of Faridabad biggest companies at the time;
/// A long report on the 1988 Delhi ‘unorganised’ workers strike, by Indrani Mazumdar;
/// Several articles from Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar covering the restructuring process at East India Cotton from 1989 to 1997
*** Delhi’s Calling: Take Part in Faridabad Mazdoor 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 Mazdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Mazdoor 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 Mazdoor Talmel see:
News from India’s Special Exploitation Zone –