Newsletter May-Aug 2005

On 25th July in Gurgaon, 4000 factory workers of Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India Ltd. protesting inhuman working conditions and demanding higher and regular wages were brutally beaten up by the Haryana police. The large rally marked more than a month of agitation for basic worker’s rights, including their right to unionise! Aghast, the nation saw video evidence of the brazen brutality of the police and the callous indifference of the bureaucracy which caused about 700 injured workers to be admitted to hospital, while countless others were also hurt, and about 63 went missing! The incident sparked major debates in Parliament and heated protests by political parties and affiliated trade unions. Among them was the protest by a solidarity committee called the Honda Mazdoor Ekjudta Committee. In a pamphlet distributed on 30 July, at a protest rally the Committee stated:

“We strongly condemn the brutal attack on the protesting Honda workers by the police and the impunity with which the administrative machinery has been allowed to function. We denounce the collaboration of the Indian state in the deprivation of workers’ rights. Through policies such as the creation of Special Economic Zones and administrative malfeasance of Labour Departments, the State has allowed companies, foreign and domestic, to ride roughshod over labour rights. This has not satisfied the thirst of the champions of India Inc. who are now yearning for the ‘rationalization of labour laws’.

Capitalist forces increasingly engage in illegal and unconstitutional labour malpractices like suppressing the right of the workers to form unions, right to strike, right to move courts without waiting for the reforms… While the state turns a blind eye to these malpractices, it brutally smothers all efforts at organizing the working class. The triggering factor of this state repression has been the formation of a trade union by the struggling Honda workers, which is an inalienable legal right of every worker. The use of state terror in this horrific incident is yet another example of state suppression of workers’ right to organise. We deplore the statement of the Japanese envoy Mr Yasukuni Enoki referring to the workers’ protest as ‘a disadvantage for India’s image as an FDI destination and also a negative image on Japanese management’. More irreprehensible is the timid response of the Indian government, which has sacrificed the interests of its citizens under the dictates of international capital.

We unequivocally condemn this state-sponsored terror against the rights of the working classes at the altar of foreign direct investments. The present tragedy is a trial for the political and civic institutions of our country to stand up and unflinchingly resist the corporatisation of the state with full vigour to repose the mandate entrusted to them. It is time for the working class and people at large to unite and assert in one voice that we will not surrender our right to form trade unions, collective bargaining and related rights. These rights, now recognized by the Constitution, have been secured after decades of struggle and immense sacrifice of workers. The violent repression and the tyranny of the state and the capital has never been able to subjugate the voices of the workers. We uphold the struggle of the Honda workers in Gurgaon and of the entire working class everywhere.

The Honda Mazdoor Ekjudta Committee strongly condemns the state-police repression on protesting workers of Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Pvt. Ltd and demands:

Weeks later, all that the Haryana police has done is ‘send the police officers responsible for the catastrophe on leave’, but a judicial enquiry is under way. Meanwhile, all the workers (except contractual labour) have been taken back to work by Honda, albeit with an undertaking to not raise issues for a whole year. But the incident raises serious questions about how, in a globalised economy, the state and the forces of capital openly collude to suppress worker’s rights. Clearly, the challenge to voice workers’ issues still remains.