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.

"If a worker’s task is to add a brake and pedal, then that’s what you do all day, with 8-10 bolts in every car, car after car, 40 seconds per car. The result is a bit like a dance move, the same move, non-stop for eight hours. The Manesar plant, I am sure, is the world’s fastest car production facility. The conveyor belt doesn’t really stop, we move with it [quoteclose]

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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62 Comments

Vijayendra Acharya, 4 years ago

This first-person account is an eye-opener on the state of the workers in our automotive industry how the shop floor and the production line was being managed at Maruti’s Mannesar plant. Truly heart-rending . . . wonder for whom are the labour laws in this country were ever framed?

    Saurabh Jain, 4 years ago

    its all cooked up story . reading first part i was about to believe this worker but reading last part which was bunch of lies i feel you can not trust this worker

      RAJESH CHANDER GUPTA, 4 years ago

      What human rights commission is doing???What labour department is doing ??? If this is the condition in organised sector what about unorgainised sector. These MNCS what work at golbal standards and pay as bounded labourers. Sad to work for these MNCS

      Raj Das, 4 years ago

      Were you there?

      And to everyone who’s asking the workers to quit if they don’t like the job – don’t you all see how important this strike is? If once the demands of the workers are met, then that will set a precedent for other companies too. Every call centre employee, every banking institution, every over exploited copy writer in an ad agency, .. will have a say in how a company gets to treat them. Do not alienate yourselves from this movement – support it. It effects everyone who works for a living.

      Surabh jain's Dad, 4 years ago

      @Saurabh Jain:- Agreed a few things might have been exaggerated by the worker in the last part of the story but dont you think the Media also exaggerate the story of Maruti Workers being at fault all the time. They dont have the power or the money like Suzuki to pay up the media to show their end of pain and sorrow but these things do happen in the Automobile plants. Specially Maruti Suzuki. Try to open your eyes rather than blindly following Media reports.

      Kautuk, 4 years ago

      This account is true, I have worked there and i know the pain behind this narration of life and work inside. when you start counting every second you spend at work, it means something is terribly wrong….and worth introspection

      ridhi, 4 years ago

      i dont think its an lie, you cant cook that much of agony

gaurav kumar, 4 years ago

Suzuki people are big bastards…running MNCs on poor workers blood…why the hell anybody is not listening

Priyam Mukherjee, 4 years ago

And to top it all, is not Maruti…the name Maruti gets people to buy it (thinking Indian brand and Japanese technology). Do you know the partnership stakes they are into..Until recently, 18.28% of the company was owned by the Indian government, and 54.2% by Suzuki of Japan. The BJP-led government held an initial public offering of 25% of the company in June 2003. As of 10 May 2007, the government of India sold its complete share to Indian financial institutions and no longer has any stake in Maruti Udyog….so the profits do not remain in India, they go to Japan…and they are indirectly using Indian resources at low cost, selling cars to indians and to people of Nepal and taking the margin out of India…and our rascals (politicians) and bribe taking bureaucrats are busy into scams squandering public money…….

mini, 4 years ago

I wish this article is circulated and widely read. I have read all the maintream reports about Maruti and as usual they covered it from the Law and order angle and “bringing culprits (workers) to book”. What a tragic situation.

lawyerjourno, 4 years ago

The entire narration to me seems a propaganda by Union Leaders and workers. If they are not happy with the working conditions they can simply leave the job, there are millions others who are willing to work. Trade unions have for decades abusing the system and doing unacceptable bargaining. The kind of situation this worker is facing is true about every industry. If you are afraid to work hard stay in home. When some company is competing globally it has to maintain the workforce that has less complains and works hard.

    Old Fart, 4 years ago

    Lawyerjourno: You can only say that because you aren’t doing the manual hard work! If you were you would be glad for the union or standing up against such torture.

Reader, 4 years ago

If this all is true, Maruti is going against the labour law of India. The company and not only some units shall be shut-down. I however, think, this rampant violation of Indian Labour Law is only a cooked up story.

sidvee, 4 years ago

Thanks for telling the story. The first-person narrative gives this a novelistic touch and informs us of the daily struggles these men have to endure.

I studied mechanical engineering ten years ago. I interned in two such companies in 2001 and 2002. The conditions of the workers were not too different from what is described here. Many of my classmates (who worked in such companies) will no doubt agree.

In fact many of the workers used to vent their frustrations out by shouting at us junior engineers. It felt like jealousy then but I guess we were too young to understand the real reason for the angst.

And yes – most of them used to work all day without lunch, without toilet breaks and without coffee or tea. And often in scorching heat in a foundry setting.

So while this may seem like worker propaganda to some, I completely understand and emphathize with their situation.

Thanks again.

    Vistasp Hodiwala, 4 years ago

    We ought to shame these bastards from every social media platform, expose their hypocrisy and show them up for what they are – cold, heartless defenders of the bottom-line. It’s time to boycott their cars for good; for that’s the only language they will ever understand. This is supposed to be the No. 1 car manufacturer of the country and this is our state. We haven’t even woken up to its evil in all these years. What does it take for an ordinary man to snap in such circumstances?

Dr Kusuma Kumari, 4 years ago

Oh how sad! Never knew the maruthi management was so cold blooded and cruel!!

Shashank, 4 years ago

Across the world, the automotive industry works this way. I visited toyota plant in canada and they have the same model. Its the nature of the industry. If you didn’t like it, do something else. And for God’s sake, don’t play the “victim” card. A man died..don’t know if you all killed him or management..but dont politicize his death.

sandeep, 4 years ago

I am having hard time to control my rage against this … sounds like Nazi camp right in the middle of our country…

    ADVOCATE Mahadeva Rao., 4 years ago

    I seriously think there should be balance achieved on both sides. If the narration made is true then it is violation of basic fundamental rights. By tuning work condition both parties can be happy.

Ashutosh Upadhyay, 4 years ago

This is exactly like the ‘Holocaust’ only worse and prolonged. The least human thing to do here is to financially punish these japanese bastards.

Noname, 4 years ago

The working culture described here is absolutely true but blaming the management for the incidence of Violence is greatly exaggerated. Both are at fault. So everyone has different stories.

Bemoan, 4 years ago

All said and done, this does not give any rights to workers like you to kill that HR manager. The story may be eye watering but your actions are pityful and sad.

Also no one forced you to work. If the conditions are bad just quit and stay at home instead of killing someboey

    HJain, 4 years ago

    Let us believe for a moment that one of the enraged worker set the fire deliberately and it was not a short circuit. Also, let us believe again that in the fight that ensued between the workers, bouncers and any management people present in the office, one of the enraged worker hit on Avanish’s leg and so, he could not escape the fire.

    So, is it a cold-blooded murder?

    Are the workers present in the factory at that moment the real murderers or is the inhumane management practices of Maruti all these years responsible for such an incident?

    Had a worker died in such fire, would Maruti ever make it so visible to public? It’s so sad that in our country life of a rich educated person has exponentially more value than a poor labourer.

    Is there an account of how many workers (or their family member) have died in all these years of protests, directly or indirectly (due to loss of job/ psychological pressure etc.)? Do their life has a lesser value?

    For all those who say “if you don’t like it, quit the job”, how many times have they dared to quit your job when they didn’t like it? Job is a necessity in our country of billion; to physically feed your family; to socially survive in the society; to psychologically maintain one’s self-esteem.

    If you don’t believe it, leave your home with ‘Zero’ money and try to survive for three months. If you could do it, then, just extrapolate your struggle to rest of your life. That’s how insecure poor people are in our society. So, think before you comment. Do not insult and abuse a middle or lower class person’s life.

    You are enraged at Mr. Avanish Kapoor’s death and empathize with his family only because you belong to his psuedo-society / strata /education level. And this makes you insecure because you could connect to his lifestyle. Do you feel the same when a blue-collar/ contractual / unemployed person in our society dies? NO, because he’s not part of your pseudo-society and you can’t connect to the pain that his/her loved-ones might face.

aniket, 4 years ago

DO MNC comes to india only to exploit indian labour and sale the products at high price. Cars priced at Rs. Six Seven Lacs Rupee being made by thousands of contract labor and apprentices earning a hundred rupee per day..

Anta Bomar, 4 years ago

Such practises are prevelant in other industries as well. Take the case of ICICI Bank

venkat, 4 years ago

1) I empathize with the worker in this story.
2) One of the comments says “If they are not happy with the working conditions they can simply leave the job” – this is not always so easy. I have seen this practically.

While I was reading this story I was reminded of the above mentioned bank, and I was surprised to see the comments on the bank already there.

One of the commonalities I see is “day starts with humiliation”. This happens in this bank. But it depends on the manager. Not all managers may be like that.
one manager gives good performance rating to a beautiful girl! Another manager gives good rating to an employee who does
the chores in his house! The HRs are “managed”. Now whom will the sincere hardworking employee complain?
All this happening in a private organization. These problems are real in our world.

A. J. C. Bose, 4 years ago

This is the truth, a truth the discovery of which started when I started doing fieldwork in Delhi NCR during 1999-2004, and later on by GurgaonWorkersNews during 2005-2012. I request Fountain Ink to venture in to the supply chain and get such first hand worker accounts and eventually bring out a volume not only in English but also in regional languages so that the nation knows the truth.

A. J. C. Bose, 4 years ago

As a teacher in DElhi University, I feel that the creative talent of students must be drawn towards social realism. Fountain Ink should figure out a way of attracting young people to write about demystifying accounts and blatant absurdities of modern masala life celbrated by the media in general otherwise.

NAR, 4 years ago

This has happened in TVS Suzuki when I was working there, I see this has Suzuki culture. But if you are hard working and competent, you could always switch companies .
I also think that as some rightly reported in thir reply above, the later part seems like a novel.

Shashank (shashankasu) | Pearltrees, 4 years ago

[…] THE MARUTI WAY How many detectable alien civilizations are out there in our galaxy? In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake developed an equation to estimate the number. Now data journalist David McCandless, who gave the talk “ The beauty of data visualization ” at TEDGlobal 2010, has created a information graphic for the BBC calculating the Drake Equation — with a twist. It’s interactive, and you can be as optimistic or skeptical as you like as you set the value of each variable in the equation. Any tinkering leads to highly different conclusions. […]

SAMBHA, 4 years ago

This first hand account of what goes on in the automotive plants is not entirely new. Anybody who has read the novel “Wheels” by Arthur Hailey would know that.

SAMBHA, 4 years ago

The only problem is the novel was about happening in the 1970s. It is quite shocking to see the same practices in this day and age.

A short circuit burning down the building, a death of one of the management – seems more than a mere coincidence while the labour was at unrest.

I must say I have deep empathy with the labour force, and at the same time, the above happenings do make me feel very bad for the MSIL management as well.

For the sake of humanity, I do hope that MSIL and lobour forces come to terms with what has happened, and make peace.
Neither the company, nor the workers will be benefited with this.

As far as the point of profits going to Japan is concerned, currently no automotive majors apart from Mahindra and TATA get profits coming in to India.

Let’s not forget that all the influx of foreign brands into manufacturing in India does create jobs and help the economy of India.

Priyanka, 4 years ago

Somewhere in the article you questioned why Maruti gave you a job when you weren’t good enough. Well, why did you accept their offer if its THAT bad????
I am sorry but this doesn’t sound like an article written by a 10th pass ITI trained person. Just looks like a propaganda to promote Trade Unionism.
I know a few people in Maruti and never heard even one of them talk so bad about it. Its a free country and you are not bonded labour. QUIT if you don’t like it.

    Reader, 4 years ago

    Something isn’t so right about this article. The details of the what happened between 6:00 to 7:15 (The peak of the violence) is conveniently missing. What was this worker doing then? How did the short circuit happen? Where exactly was he standing when he saw Avanaish Kumar coming out of stairs ? If the workers outnumbered the boucers and beated them, who beat the rest of the managers (100+ broken bones)?

suresh, 4 years ago

this is all cookedup storey well narrated story by an expert leaders in labour unions. I ve been with 4 ~ 5 companies in the industry and the scenario is same everywhere due to intense competition in the industry. they are also being paid for the efforts. That is why the company like maruti is able to survive for 30 yrs now. Experts outside wants to influence workers in such big companies and get the advantage out of it. thats it. Otherwise all issues can be resolved between management and wrokers themselves. there is no need of any expertise advice who is sitting outside.

Zaphod, 4 years ago

This has all the markings of a cooked up story. I dont believe one bit of it.

Shyam, 4 years ago

The second half of the story, the one which deals with the violence in the Manesar plant, is obviously cooked up. Mr Avanish Kumar died because his legs were broken, because of which he could not escape the fire. The writer does not say who broke his leg. And the writer says, “meanwhile a short circuit started a fire”. What a coincidence! Why cant he say that the workers started the fire because they wanted to damage the CCTV recorders?

Shivam Vij, 4 years ago

Some comments on my article here say it’s a cooked up story. I agree it’s a one-sided story, it’s a worker’s testimonial. I agree a fair, independent and unbiased criminal investigation must establish the truth and I do not know what the truth is. But my question for these people who are so sure it’s a cooked up story is this: why do you trust whatever Maruti says to be the truth and whatever the workers say to be false? Were you there when the violence took place? Iamnot even talking about your lack of outrage about the workers’ account of work conditions at the Maruti factory.

Vistasp Hodiwala, 4 years ago

I have never understood one thing. Why is it so important to be ‘objective’ all the time? Especially when blatant dishonesty and ‘screaming facts’ stare in our face. Objectivity is not a bad virtue to possess, but, when it becomes an excuse to obfuscate a very grim reality and is used as a potent weapon of cowardice to cloud people’s judgments, it ends up doing a grave disservice to the very cause it’s supposed to serve. While every story can have two sides, we must understand that the second side can sometimes be a totally loony one. The Flat-earth believers are still around by the way.

delhi, 4 years ago

japanese themselves are very hardworking guys(fact known all over the world)…and we indian s cry when even a 5 minute increase in working timings is made…so the article shows…goondaism of some people who fight to mgmt for increase in timings…..and comparing it with other companies salaries….

Aniruddha Khosla, 4 years ago

I won’t say that the article is an eye opener. It merely tells us one side of the story. I do not reject it, but at the same time, I cannot believe it completely. The death of Avanish Kumar is described as mysterious. A short-circuit caused a fire is where the article lost me. There should be more to it. The death of the HR Head is regrettable, as is the suspension of all the factory workers.
Only a fair enquiry into the matter would reveal whether this actually is The Maruti Way, and if it is, well, a lot of people would have already lost a lot more than what they were fighting for.

“L.A.M.E.” in the News; These Articles Get Lean Wrong — Lean Blog, 4 years ago

[…] this report about the Indian plants: If a worker’s task is to add a brake and pedal, then that’s what you […]

Jaideep, 4 years ago

This is the work done by all workers in all car manufacturing units. Having had exposure, and having visited many automotive units, i think this account is over dramatized for the sake of publicity.. Women in the Volkswagen plant at Wulfsberg, Germany are part of the same routine. Europe, being much more stringent with human rights, would have shut the plants down if there was a voilation.

And they have the same timeframes btw, 20 seconds-40 seconds per car, depending on the job assigned. There is no reason to over dramatize the work atmosphere in a production unit.

15000 for an ITI is a good salary. And the 8000 incentive is to increase the cash the worker gets in hand. Ignorance is one of our biggest enemies, and dont let that be exploited through an article of this sort.
@lawyerjourno: you are right, these people arent slave laborers. They can quit whenever they feel like. Now why dont they? jobs are available in plenty for ITIs.

Jaideep's Dad, 4 years ago

I disagree with my dear son, Jaideep. The conditions are inhuman in Maruti plant Gurgaon, and that’s why the management always wanted to suppress the union. For long, they played with puppet union till the day workers understood that united they can win. It’s easy to say, ITIT workers have good job market. But think of the worker who is also a family man. Without a month’s salary, what will happen to his wife and children? They are not rch enough to have a fortune stashed away in bank. And what if, just by sheer bad luck, a guy who has quit is unemployed for months ? Maruti management knows this little truth and exploits the workers.

Suraj, 4 years ago

what propaganda bs! heavily made up sob stories!

Vinita, 4 years ago

For all those who believe this narrative is made up, I defy you to go work for ONE day in the same conditions. I bet you will come running out from there, weeping and traumatized.

Shyam, 4 years ago

Mr Shivam Vij Sir, you should have written at the end of your story that it is one-sided and a worker’s testimonial, instead of waiting for your readers to pick holes in the story. And you have asked the readers who do not agree, why do they believe Maruti’s version instead of your version. The answer is, your version goes against common sense. When the HR manager was assaulted and his leg was broken, your worker says he does not know how he died. We do not believe Maruti’s version, but then we can see there is a hole in your story also.

ADVOCATE Mahadeva Rao., 4 years ago

If the narration is true then it is a serious violation of fundamental rights. By fine tuning the situation both the parties can be happy without union.

Vistasp Hodiwala, 4 years ago

It does not take rocket science to back check on the facts here and if the powers that be have the will (and that includes the biased labour commissioner) they should be checking on each of these atrocities. We have good labour laws which possibly need to be implemented in letter and spirit. But if that itself is missing, one does not know how to negotiate this evil. This story has not left my headspace almost a week after I finished reading it. It’s a very powerful piece and one that needs to be circulated very widely. Corporates have gotten away with blue murder far too easily far too many times.

Dovin, 4 years ago

WHat a nice cover up of a cold blooded murder!! SHivam Vij should go and defend child rapists next. An uneduated young man gets a permanent job at 22 with 15,000 Rs salary instead of breaking his back in the village paddy field and still ending up committing suicide when rains fail ? How horrible Maruti is!! This is the classic socialist way of killing the golden goose by the lazy and incompetent. Kill off all businesses and Shvam Vij and is ilk will have plenty of labour to clean his toilet and wash his clothes for pittance.

    Rahul Singh, 4 years ago

    It is true that workers are exploited by industries but it can never be justified by Murder of any employee. If people of Honda are getting 32000 salary why not try and move to Honda ? Why Honda Hired ex workers of Maruti ? Because they were better ? Or lucky?

    Secondly, most of the work in Plants is done by the Automated machines, workers presence is merely for supervision of the same and has been descripted as if they were working like anything to produce Cars. Just see the video on Youtube what the worker does and how highly it has been described.

    Third, there has been comparison of salaries by so called socialist/communists. A worker cannot get salary of a manager. This is not Stone age, that work amount is defined by how many times you hammer. It is based on your level of intelligence and skills you have. Ask a villager who will die to get job in Maruti, there are many emails spams circulating regarding fake jobs in Maruti Plants.. Working as labour is prestigious job for those who don’t have it.

    Fourth, all labours can’t be on regular, to maintain a completion and better performance there are contract labours and often rewarded to be a permanent one.

    Fifth, labourers who worked in 90’s have climbed the ladder of success, but only who deserved it not just because it has to be given to everyone.
    Sixth, justifying that Maruti makes lots of profit and we should hence get more salary is wrong. Do they cut your salary when they go in loss (Hypothetical situation), they may fire but will not reduce your salary. There was a similar argument that CEO must get low salary couple of years back. Society will never make progress if this is the case. Efficiency and talent decide your fate. It can be understood only when you keep aside the communist thinking.

    Also, there were news of Naxalites provoking the incident. There is no light on this ? Why ?

Chintu, 4 years ago

This is a time where people are more aware of working conditions. Foxconn, one of the biggest manufacturers of the computer industry which makes most of the computers, laptops and smartphones of the world, has had similar struggles. But if you read what are being considered unfair and compare it with what you read here, Foxconn has much more humane conditions. Media reports apart, What is happening here in Maruti Manesar is hte same which happens in every other Company in india. Especially with Training period, Internship period, I ve seen people work 20 hours during their internship just with the hope that at the end of the mandatory period, they would be made permanent. This attitude is what drives management to take advantage of these people who are simple people ready to work hard. But when they are not treated with dignity nor paid better, this is what happens. Think about it. Every where in India this happens. The employees at Maruti Manesar raised their voice. Everybody needs to hear them scream…

mkbuddy, 4 years ago

It is true that MNCs and big companies like to exploit indian labour. It is also very true that what happened at maruti should not have happened. Its not MNCs that are at fault, its our government and its faulty policies whichare at fault.

Shiny Das, 4 years ago

I am sure there will be other versions of this, especially the part that deals with the death of Mr.Kumar. The working conditions come as no surprise; from banks to other companies, it is perhaps the same story every where and we all know it; have known it for quite a while, as we go to malls, watch movies, lead our daily lives. In fact perhaps when we re caught in a jam due to one of these “strikes” we curse the same workers. Right now our morality has been awakened because this is a first person narration and it has been compellingly written. I was moved and outraged but right now I feel helpless and guilty. Helpless as I wonder what I can do except ‘reading’ such news, and guilty because I know I will move on to reading something else in a few minutes. Humanity is in danger.

Shyam, 4 years ago

I have my doubts whether this is a first person narration, although it has been compellingly written. The second part of the story is obviously made up, so the authenticity of the first part also becomes doubtful.

UbornTodream, 4 years ago

All most 1000+ channels are there today, if this is true one or the other would have telecast-ed it.
Some part may be true and some may be cooked but ultimately one should introspect and support the cause.

Arnab, 4 years ago

The worker will be the last person to damage his place of work, as it will affect him most! The Maruti fiasco is clearly the managements fault!

rrrworker will worker will be the last one to inflict damage to the p

raaz, 4 years ago

maruti suzuki ko band karo vaha aadmi ki koi value nhi h… i fuck suzuki plant

Vernon Gonsalves, 2 years ago

The struggle will
continue..

The reader is not interested in the story | Scroll CMS, 2 years ago

[…] life story. I wrote it as a first person account, in his own words. It was 6,500 words, titled “The Maruti Way”. While the magazine’s circulation was miniscule, the story went viral on the internet. Two […]

The reader is not interested in the story | Dilli Dur Ast, 2 years ago

[…] life story. I wrote it as a first person account, in his own words. It was 6,500 words, titled “The Maruti Way”. While the magazine’s circulation was miniscule, the story went viral on the internet. Two […]

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