I'm shocked, just shocked to come to terms with this news clip. It has been extensively doing the rounds and each time I see it, I'm deeply saddened:
'A manager at top car maker Maruti burned to death in India's worst industrial violence in recent memory because he was unable to flee after rioters broke his legs, police said Friday.
The grim account emerged as output at Japanese-owned Maruti Suzuki's Manesar plant near New Delhi remained halted following Wednesday's riot in which nearly 100 executives were hurt when workers chased them with bars and torched offices.
The body of the plant's human resources manager, Awanish Kumar Dev, found charred beyond recognition in a burned-out conference room, was identified by a tooth implant, police said as they issued fresh details about the violence.
"He had no chance of escape, his attackers broke his legs so he was trapped inside," deputy police commissioner Maheshwar Dayal told AFP.'
News and Image courtesy - nydailynews.com
The manager's legs were broken and he was burnt to death???
Is this for real?
First of all, our deepest condolences to the family of Awanish Kumar Dev. He died a martyr while serving his country and his Company. May he rest in peace.
The question I ask is - is this kind of 'insanity' something Local or National?
- Factories in Mumbai
I worked in my father's factory for 12 years. This factory was located in the heart of the Mills area in Central-South Mumbai near Parel:
The factory was established in 1967 or so and has seen its complete share of trade unions, Datta Samant interference, Shiv Sena's militant trade leaders, etc.
At peak, the business operated with 400 workers working 24 hours across 3 shifts in 5 floors measuring about 6000 sq. feet each.
In my 12 years of working on the shop floor, I would never IMAGINE that I could be KILLED in my own factory ... burnt to death.
- There was always a, "you are the 'seth' (owner), we are the workers" mentality.
Once I went to a worker's wedding reception. He was someone I used to work with very closely on the shop floor. My father did not stop me from going to the reception but just said, "Alok, keep your distance."
The next month the same worker led a major 'go slow' movement in my exports packing department that led to my orders being considerably delayed. The goods had to be air-shipped - resulting in the loss of many lacs of rupees.
I kept my distance from this person.
- People get influenced.
I had gone to Italy to train on a very expensive CAD/CAM socks knitting machine that my father and I identified as a logical expansion to our business.
After training on it, I returned and soon began operating it closely with a worker who was a bright young man and intuitively 'tuned' into electronics even though he had not studied much.
Over the next 8 months, we produced a brand new range of products that took the market by storm!
This worker and I became the 'factory heroes'. We had everything going for us.
One day, after another exhilarating day of product innovations, R&D and trials, the shift ended at 3:30 pm and the worker exited the factory. I stepped out at 3:40 pm to cross over to the other building to my Dad's office.
What shocked me was to see the same worker along with about 20 other workers shouting the meanest and most demeaning slogans about the factory, the business and my dad!
I was shell shocked. I could not reconcile the fact that this was the same person... I mean, how could anyone go from love to hate in 5 minutes?
Having said this, the real shocker was still to come.
The next day, the same worker worked with me exactly like we had worked together the day before!!! In complete harmony and with the same warmth and spirit of utmost dedication!
And sure enough, post 3:45 pm, he was outside with the usual gang shouting slogans!
This good-bad attitude business continued for about 2 months, until the movement died out.
My personal belief is that he was heavily influenced by the old, disgruntled worker gang that marched and screamed slogans each year during Diwali (Hindu new year) for bonus negotiations, etc.
This lesson taught me that people do get influenced, sometimes beyond their own comprehension!
- Getting 'cabin locked'
Once I remember, while I was with my Dad in his cabin, workers seized the opportunity and gheraoed (surrounded) the cabin to block us from coming out till we agreed to some ridiculous bonus amount!
We chilled, kept chatting and reading magazines inside.
That also sent a message that these guys 'don't care'.
A couple of hours later, I felt like going to the Toilet.
My dad asked me, "What will you do if they stop you?"
Without hesitating I said, "If they stop me, I will piss there in front of them!"
I pushed the door open gently and began to walk towards the bathroom. No one said anything. I came back and then a few minutes later my Dad went to the bathroom. There was no problem.
An hour later, we just went home. Without being stopped.
This episode taught me that workers take you to the limit of tolerance, but they have a breaking point too.
Having said all this, the Maruti incident is way Out of Control.
I wonder if this is a local (Manesar) or national issue?
- I was going to post that this could not have happened in Mumbai or in Maharashtra.
But I remembered how hooligans in Thane destroyed a World Class Hospital of Raymond India that was built to serve workers and the poor, just because someone of their community died of a heart attack there!
This CAN happen in Maharashtra.
- Narendra Modi of Gujarat is gunning to move the Maruti Factory to his state.
But can anyone forget the Godhra and the Gujarat riots? Anything can happen in Gujarat too.
I believe this is a National Problem and these are the symptoms:
- Most of the 'labor' is uneducated, young and highly influenced by their illiterate elders and irrational trade leaders.
In China, workers could never do this because they would be shot dead.
In India, the deadly cocktail of unemployment, illiteracy, availability of low paying temporary factory jobs and no formal training make such incidents happen all the time.
- The Government's role
In Mumbai, I can assure you that the Police would have arrived at the scene of such a major incident aka the Maruti factory and hopefully prevented from Awanish from dying.
What was the Police of Haryana doing? Were they farming their fields? Or were they busy getting drunk? Are you telling me that such a massive criminal act that manifested itself for many hours, remained unnoticed?
I have carefully observed the Police Force in Delhi and in the areas around Gurgaon. I have heard how they speak to poor people, to women and got a vibe of the power they exert on the weak.
To me, THEY resemble full blown Criminals in Khakhi uniforms.
So, how can we expect Criminals to stop Criminals?
- What works in Japan or Germany DOES NOT work in India.
I got a hint that the Japanese Directors running Maruti were expecting Japanese styled efficiency (?) and work discipline from Indian workers.
Well, India is NOT Japan. We are our own country.
When I was training in Italy to make socks, I was taken for a factory visit.
When we walked into the production floor, I saw long rows of machines but no human operators. The machines were all humming.
I was stunned!
In my father's factory, one worker operated 4 machines. Here I counted at least 50 machines running. Where were the workers?
Suddenly, a machine on my right stopped and the statutory red light lit up. And lo and behold, from the far end of the room, a petite girl ON ROLLER SKATES came right up to the machine, fixed the twisted yarn, banged the Green Start button and then smiled at me...!
I asked her how many machines she operated.
"40" she said. "Both these rows of 20 machines are mine."
I asked her her salary. "US$ 1000", she told me before gliding away to another machine.
My head was spinning. I did the math quickly. In my dad's factory, each worker got Rs. 4000 (this is 1994). 10 workers were required to operate 40 machines. That means a salary of Rs. 40,000.
This girl costed 1000$ = Rs. 40,000 (I visited in 1997) and this was Italy!! This meant there was NO labor arbitrage between India and the 'expensive' west!
She was 10x more efficient than my father's workers and did not shout anti-management slogans.
She was the real worker.
Now, could I have come back and forced my factory workers to wear roller skates?
They would have broken my feet had I insisted!
To summarize, India is not an easy country to achieve anything. Even living here is a challenge. There is 'no quiet life'. We have too many people, too many agendas and too many vested interests. I think we are 'over democratized'. We think too much. We do little. We don't value life as much as we should. We burn our brides and daughters. We don't let people live they way they want. We have 1000+ Gods. We just have too many ideas, beliefs and views...
We are India. We are free. We are the world's greatest Democracy. We are young. We are super intelligent.
We will learn.
I bow to the family of Awanish Kumar Dev and beg for forgiveness on behalf of those who killed him. I salute Awanish who achieved immortality, doing what we seldom to - his duty and his best.
If you are reading this, please close your eyes for a minute and pray for Awanish and his family.
Help us God. God, please help India.
thank you for writing this one.
these kind of blog posts make me feel very very honoured and touched to be the first person to read what you've written.
Hi Alok, Thank you for writing this... I seriously feel honored to have read this and I feel everyone should start feeling and thinking like you do... I am going to spread the message :) Love you for everything you do !
I love what you's written here. Thoughts of a lot of people I believe coming out humbly.
Only thing, i don't believe we are over democratized. I think that our democracy has loose ends. The cops think they are the power. In Haryana and NCR as a whole, the police would never hear anyone or work in anyone's interest unless their interests are fed too. They don't know how to talk to people, they don't know how to do their duties.
Remember the METTALICA Rock show that was supposed to happen or the Guy who used the gun as he didn't want to pay 28 Rs. to the toll guy? It is also about they communities mentality in the area, the URGE TO PROVE SUPERIORITY over the others.
"If you don't do this for us, we will burn you down" once said, you have to do it, otherwise your colleagues will call you a sissy and will taunt you till death. So the only option is to actually burn the place up to prove that you can no just talk the talk but do the do.
This is because the lethargic police and authorities let them do this once, because the political party giants didn't want to upset the community vote bank, they did it again and again and thus made it a way of life.
What needs to change is how the democracy works and doesn't become demoCRAZY.
rahul... that was an awesome comment! very well articulated and bang on!
I like the DemoCrazy acronym.. :)
It was really good to read your post. Second question that comes to my mind is, Is this the case with only factory workers? I have worked in top IT companies and I have seen mentality of the elite class. They are the same. They would do company hopping or get new job offer with 30% raise. I have seen freshers doing the same. Somehow I feel the work culture is not that great in India as compared to other countries. I hope that I am able to put my point across.
Incidents like these send a chill down one's spine.. Workers feel they are fighting some kind of Anarchy.. As if they are still living in the British-ruled India.. Deaths are increasingly becoming only Stats in History.. Human Life has become invaluable in modern times..
May God impart Courage to the family of Awanish Kumar Dev..
I donno how you manage to put so many thoughts in words..this one shows so many facets of India which usually comes to ones mind like a flash movie, but never stays.... so that we can quickly forget it and move forward. You have penned down those images/thoughts/reality/truth from which we try to escape ... I am really grateful to have come across a person like you Alok ji. Its an honor to sway with your thoughts. You are so free in your own ways that it appears to be contagious and moreover inspiring.
This incident I read as a news only to forget it as soon as possible. You have made me sit and listen and think.
In my own agency I have been trying hard to manage my small bunch of employees. I am just trying to make sure what they really want and dream of, so that I can play a significant role in that.
While we may gloat about democracy and youthful India etc. etc, these incidents make me hang my head in shame. We still seem to be living in the barbaric age and with majority of the youth and otherwise still living with a regressive mindset (apologies to the enlightened ones here, but I am talking about majority of the population, and those who constitute the higher percentage of youthful India), and this seems more and more evident in Gurgaon and Delhi/NCR region.
As far as the system goes, as I tend to interact with the bureaucracy and other systems in place, it is fairly evident that the checks and balances and the systems have been put in place with the mindset of impeding anybody who wants to make a legal and decent living, and flourish and give others a chance to do so. the system is aimed at making sure they get the cheque and improve their bank balance it seems. I think at some level majority of the workforce today does not understand the concept of integrity, honesty, and loyalty - a fact clearly evident in this recent incident.
I have been thinking about this exact topic due to two reasons, one is the Maruti Fiasco and the other one is Western Railway Motormen just getting out of trains and walking off during peak hours a couple of days ago in Mumbai. I agree that the day of Unions and the hooliganism may have passed but with the way things are, I strongly feel the need for a progressive solution.
On a personal front, whenever someone mentions Singapore as an ideal model to follow, I wince, Singapore is as big as a decently sized Indian City and has a population of around 5 million.
But the truth is they also come from a long line of worker unrest and trade union troubles.
Here is what they have done to solve these problems:
A Guide to Tripartite Mediation - http://www.mom.gov.sg/Documents/employment-practices/Tripartite%20m...
Ministry of Manpwer - Trade Unions - http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/trade-unions/Pages/defau...
As per my understanding, The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) engages both sides and comes to a decision which is binding on both parties.
What do you'll think? Is this possible in a free, secular, democratic republic such as ours?
An alternate viewpoint .. from the workers level ..