Manesar has been much in the news, with worker violence being blamed for the disruptions in production. Not so, say the workers who claim it’s part of a management plan to scuttle their efforts to form a union.
BY SHIVAM VIJ
PHOTOGRAPHS ISHAN TANKHA
My name is… let that be. Maruti Suzuki is out to get me, not because I did anything but because they want to put virtually every worker in jail, even those who belonged to the third shift and were not even present when violence took place in the Manesar factory on 18 July. I was present there and will tell you what happened, but to understand it you will have to let me begin from the beginning.
I am 26 years old. I come from a village in Panipat. My father is a daily wage labourer. After finishing class 10 in a government school, I enrolled at the Panipat Industrial Training Institute (ITI). After two years of learning to handle machines at the ITI, I joined Maruti’s Gurgaon plant as an apprentice in 2006. The apprenticeship lasts a year. I was anxious before I first entered the plant, because I knew many from Panipat who have done that before, and they all used to say there’s so much work, and it’s such heavy work, you won’t be able to do it. I was determined to prove them wrong. I soon realised what they meant, the work pressure can’t be described, it has to be experienced.
First they took a day or two for the joining procedures after which I found myself getting training for another day or two in their Apprenticeship Wing. This was followed by some training for another day or two on the line, and then they left me to work, on my own. Apprenticeship means training, but there was no training. Apprentices are free labour for Maruti because even though we get a stipend, it is reimbursed to Maruti by the government. The Rs. 2,800 a month was its way of helping the ITI products get a job.
In the factory, we make cars. The parts come from various companies, hundreds of vendors make those parts for Maruti and we fit them to the frame of the car.
I was taken aback by the Maruti way. All of us, from apprentices to permanent workers, had to work eight hours, which did not include a 30-minute lunch break. We got two tea breaks on company time, seven minutes each, to manage tea, snacks and the toilet, all together. It takes a minute and a half just for the tea to arrive. You could either have tea or take a leak, but soon we learnt to do both together. Teacup in one hand, we’d run to the toilet. Before returning to work we also had to wash the tea cup before putting it back into our lockers.
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