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Alok's Posts / Startup

The Maruti Factory Violence – A Local or National issue?


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 –


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.





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  1. 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.

  2. 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 ! 

  3. 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. 

  4. Hey Alok, 

    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.

  5. 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..

  6. rahul… that was an awesome comment! very well articulated and bang on!

  7. 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. 

    Thanks again!

  8. 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. 

  9. 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 –

    Ministry of Manpwer – Trade Unions – 

    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?

  10. An alternate viewpoint .. from the workers level ..

  11. Nothing, nothing, nothing can be justified for burning a man to death.

    Next you will start to support Hitler…

  12. Thank god that Apple isn’t operating out of India, they would have hung Steve Jobs because of the Perfectionist he was..

  13. I like the DemoCrazy acronym.. 🙂

  14. I totally condemn what happened at Maruti plant. But on the whole the management that sits in the corporate office is also equally responsible for what has happened at the plant. It is very easy to employ contract workers and squeeze out the profits for the company. Labour is cheap in India. People lives are cheaper. The management could have dealt in a better way with them. The laws being passed these days are tilted towards the industrialist. What with the poverty limit being set at 40 Rs per day and also the minimum wager being dead against the times we live in. 

    It is very easy to put in our view points across, but it takes a lot of effort to look at others view points.

    Also, I do not support Hitler and would not like to also. But then governments/people should also stop justifying Hiroshima and Nagasaki .. 

  15. This even reminds me of the Bollywood flick “Shootout at Lokhandwala”, in which the Goons kill the owner of a Construction company for delayed payment of the “Hafta”, to set an example for other Owners to pay in time..

    Likewise, if this act of the Maruti Suzuki workers is not condemned, the workers of other factories in the area would become no less than these Goons, and would start threatening their respective Managements..

  16. The sad part was that Awanish was aware of the risks that he was running. He had already resigned from the job but the management insisted that he stay back.

    There have been several such incidents in the past and each time the government makes some noises and just forgets. The Delhi NCR region has seen some of the highest case of worker “agitations”

    It was funny to see that the state govt was more concerned about stating that Maruti would not shift its offices outside the state. The Maruti management has announced a lockout but is someone chasing the guys who killed Awanish. There are reports that this was a planned action – History says that such actions are always planned – whether there was an explicit planning to kill someone or not – one does not know. But the fact is that Awanish was beaten very badly he had multiple fractures – his colleagues also were beaten badly but they could escape – perhaps because their legs were not broken.

    The Govt and Maruti needs to be pressurised to bring the perpetrators to justice.

    As part of an HR forum – we did pay our respect to Awanish and there are some other activities planned – but more needs to be done and more action / noise needs to be created by the General public too…..

  17. Yes, that’s also my cry – fix my India…

  18. Hi ,

    Completely agree we are over democratized, talk too much do too little .

    I am one of those educated ignorant fools who until he came to China thought he read it all in the papers ( that he used to  read page to page everyday ) and knew everything about China and how workers and people are treated here . I know there are still people who are so sure about their views despite having never lived and been to China but to all of you guys

    : Worker  wont be shot dead if this was in China and neither will they let it scale up so big.

    This country manufacturers for some of the top most brands of the world and with millions of them working in factories :

    Too naive to assume they are all working on gun point and that is how this country is controlled and managed like that for decades now.

    It is not guns , it is not sweets either , it is a system  very well managed but extremely tough to replicate outside this country for cultural reasons . But the Chinese know how to manufacture efficiently and keep costs down.

    Labor is cheaper in India than China but we have an extremely unruly crowd and very tough to manage purely because of cultural reasons .

    Very sad to hear that our ppl are behaving like  in human brutes and there is no law to punish them equally hard to avoid repetition .

    India needs big changes

  19. We always had this huge class difference in India which is cultural , the root cause of all this is that difference and not just the money . When a rickshaw driver or a pandu is acting funny to get more money we always think he is a leech needs more money and so acts like this ,but the underlying fact is he is feeling marginalized he doesnt get respect for his work so he acts funny to show I am smarter than u too , u want , then do this my way .? 

    So much of this has got to do with culture , and it is only after living in China I realised this missing element in the society why people are not fighting back why they dont protest at every given oppurtunity or just to show they are something .

    Because culturally they put a system in place of equality , In many many work institutions and society in china the bosses and worker can dine together on same table ( You mentioned u attempting this early in India by attending his wedding but 1 person doesnt change , his view doesnt change because u did it, he might assume that this is just tactics )

    if the whole society starts respecting people for whatever work they do , we will have a compeltely different India .

    The solution to much of our problems is class difference , money alone doesnt satisfy human needs .

    There is so so much we have to learn from our Asian neighbor about management and rules of society ( I dont mean to say whatever they do is 100% correct )  Chinese call Indians the old teacher ,lot of ancient wisdom in china was from India ,but today it is time for us to become humble and say u guys got it right , can we come and learn from u but the highly egoistic Indians will take a long time to do this 🙂

    I am enlightened , u may call me a fool , brush away my views or start looking at ways to understand and learn from them

  20. Nikhil, you got it spot on when you say the issue is marginalization and respect.  Real or imagined.  I don’t agree that China is a role model for us though.  China’s success has been achieved through a carrot and stick method which, while it looks good on paper now, will eventually implode. You can only stifle the human spirit so much.  

    Even though we look like shit now, in the long run we are the ones who will come out ahead.

    What you see in Manesar is a conflict of values.  And a confusion of values.  Once the confusion is cleared up, the conflict will get resolved…it has nothing to do with the laws or any cultural defect on our part, it has everything to do with the heart….

    When I hear of news like this all I can tell myself is – patience, patience, patience…

  21. China is not a role model,but there is much to learn from them surely ,no one will agree with me I am 100% sure about it , the only ones who agree with me are the businessmen who have lived here long , it is not your or anybody’s fault , if I was told before I came to China that there is something insanely great about the way Chinese manage China I would have scoffed at him ,maybe even told him he is the biggest fool I have met .But thats the beauty of life , it can amaze u in ways u never can imagine .I cant convince u or anyone that China has something very right that led to this success .Also , I commonly see in India that Indians falsely believe India is on right track . What u said I must have said more than 100 times in my life before I came to China . India has it in place we will eventually be no 1 🙂

    If it was practically feasible I would go back and say sorry to all of who I said that , I realize there r some deep rooted problems in India and unless a mighty leader emerges and makes sweeping changes in the system things wont change .

  22. I wasn’t referring to the “success” that China has achieved.  Empirically yes, the Chinese have worked wonders.  They’ve taken western concepts of success applied it with brute efficiency. My problem is with the brute part.  It never lasts.  Something will give way.  

    In India you can’t win with brute efficiency.  You can only win when everyone in your value chain is well and truly content.   

  23. Dear Alok,

    I have worked with Awanish Kumar Dev in my last Organization and I have no hesitation in saying that’s in my two decades  Career I have not seen such an excellent HR person who really knew his work . Continuous training & development  of  worker’s was his major concern. He use to always say Pramod they are our assets and its our job to continuously impart them the desired skill to make them productive& to improve their earnings. If such a person is killed by workers then I think the culprits don’t deserve any leniency .With his death we have lost a really good person& I still cant believe that workers can killed person like him. May His soul rest in peace.


  24. Feel all the more sad after reading your comments , so sad a good person is killed by a bunch of brutes

  25. I don’t condone violence of any kind and without an iota of doubt I agree that nothing can be a reason to kill a person. But maybe the death was accidental. Yes there was violence in the factory and many got fractures, but maybe the death was unintentional.
    And if we assume so, then the point of focus shift to why so much violence.
    Main reasons were salary and rest-duration etc.
    Maruti suzuki had a net income of Rs. 2288 crores last year(source: wikipedia)
    Current employee cost- 1000*18000=1.8crore
    Total=3.4 crore*12=40.8 crores
    Now if maruti increases it’s workforce to 4000( to reduce the work pressure) and pays everyone say 25k (despite being contract labour) it will incur 120 crore
    An addition of 80 crores which being deductible for taxation will put an extra burden of around 56 crores.
    Which is roughly 2.5% of its net profit.
    If Maruti is earning well then why doesn’t it invest in it’s human resource.

    Some people(especially) those who have lived in gurgaon have a perception that people here are agressive. Yes I agree, they may sound agressive but crime has never been a major problem in Haryana if compared to other Indian states. There has been no history of organised crimes or big gangs in Gurgaon.

    We are fixated on this single death which could be just a freak accident ( I do not want to cause any disrespect to Ashwani Kumar Dev, my brother used to work with him, he was a nice, soft spoken person), Nobody is saying anything or paying homage to Woodland’s DGM who was murdered because he sacked few people.
    around 4000 people die every year in Mumbai just on railway tracks, around 10 deats everyday and nobody cares about these government sponsored killings.

  26. Wow Ravi – what an argument. Accidental death for sure. Maybe he also fell and had multiple fractures on both legs. 

    Quoting of statistics removes pain of death and justifies it in some manner. And it was great to know that deaths on Mumbai tracks are sponsored by the Govt.

  27. Ravi Yadav, we have become a very cruel and cold society ,

    if it was accidental , it means they didnt intend to kill him , any evidence that they tried to rescue him from the accident or they left him to die ?

    Even breaking his legs and fractures are way to extreme steps or you will justify that too ?

    the way our society is going and the things we now consider right in India : God bless our country

  28. First point of my reply was that I don’t condone this violence nor I am justifying the barbaric action of workers, also I added “maybe”. I am not concluding anything or patronizing leg-breaking and head-smashing as a means to put your point forward.
    Yes we have become very cruel, cold and depraved society, even in death we look for some sensation.

    Vipul Aggarwal, if 20000 people die on tracks in 5 years and still nothing improves I think the blame for death goes on the railway minister and railway secretaries.
    When Union carbide accident occured, in the final verdict Keshub Mahindra went to jail, just because he was the director, not even MD. Similarly if deaths on such a huge scale are happening due to Indian Railways, then it’s directors, who in this case are railway minister and his secretaries should be responsible. And in a way by refusing to do something constructive government is sponsoring these deaths.

  29. Devgad, 

    The discussion here is not about Sonu Gujjar .. 

  30. Oh ho Pranesh, I understand that! I didn’t expect I had to explain. The point was on your reference to the workers viewpoint, which cannot be taken at face value. Now when the union leader runs away taking cash from the company and leaving his fellow workers in lurch, you understand that there is more than what meets the eye regarding worker issues!

  31. Thanks Alok….this matter needs a lot of introspection into why such event happened and how to avoid it.

    In the past under RC Bhargava ex-MD of Maruti, such a thing never happened.

    Hope such thing never ever happens

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