ON the first day of the countrywide workers’ general strike on 8-9 January 2019, workers from Daikin and other companies held a rally inside the ‘Japanese Zone’ at Neemrana Industrial Area, Rajasthan. The management perpetrated a shameful attack on the workers with the help of goondas and the police, injuring dozens of workers.
An enquiry team comprising Rahul Chaudhury and Shankar Dutt Tiwari from the AICCTU Rajasthan State Council, Delhi HC advocate Hemant, advocate Surya Prakash, Shweta and Abhishek (AICCTU-Delhi) met the families and neighbours of four of the 14 workers arrested by the police as well as some union activists. Three of these families are from Himachal Pradesh and one from Odisha. The arrested worker from each family was the only earning member. With the exception of one, all the families have young children. The police had entered their homes at midnight on 8 January and forcibly taken the workers away. The neighbours and family members said that persons from the Daikin management/contractors were also present with the police during the midnight raid.
The report of the team revealed how the Japanese Zone has become a zone of oppression of workers through corporate loot and Government machinery. For many years now, incidents of oppression by employers, especially foreign employers, have been on the rise in Manesar, Bawal, Neemrana and neighbouring industrial areas. The government-corporate nexus is constantly repressing union activities. Daikin workers were subjected to a brutal lathi charge by the Rajasthan police and Daikin management ‘bouncers’ when they were holding a peaceful rally in support of the general strike.
The union at Daikin has been registered after a long and hard fight by the workers. The owners and the government are constantly afraid that union activities will increase in the Japanese Zone. After the BJP came to power in many States and Modi came to power at the Centre, the 2 States which first amended the Labour Laws were Rajasthan and Haryana. The attempt to crush the right to unionise through repressive policies is still prevalent in Rajasthan despite the change of government.
The following facts came to light when the AICCTU team spoke to the family members, other workers, and union activists:
- This entire incident has been perpetrated by the police at the behest of Daikin in order to terrorise the workers and break their union activities. It has been a long-standing practice to put up union flags at the factory gate; police interference in this matter is a deliberate attempt to deteriorate the law and order situation.
- The Company should recognise the registered union and hold positive talks with it, instead of getting their goons/bouncers to attack the workers. If the Daikin management wants to maintain peace, why are they attacking workers? Why are they not allowing the union flag to be put up?
- Targeting union leaders especially shows a vendetta on the part of the management. Apart from lathis, canes, and tear gas, the workers have also been bombarded by sections of the IPC—147, 148, 149, 332, 353, 307, 427, 336, and Section 3 PDPP (Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act). 17 named persons as well as 600-700 unnamed workers have been slapped with 307 (attempt to murder) and other sections in the FIR No. 21 registered at Neemrana Police Thana.
- The registering of 600-700 unnamed accused persons in the FIR opens up the road for escalation of repression in the future.
- Workers often have to spend years in jail under false cases, due to delay in the judicial process and its surrender to the police/administration/
- From 2013 till today, the management has tried to intimidate workers during struggles with the threat of lay-offs and transfers, which the workers have always opposed. This lathi charge and slapping of false cases has been done to take revenge on the workers.
- Not only are labour laws being flouted in the name of encouraging investment and industry, human rights are also being ruthlessly crushed. The active role of the company management and the state machinery can be seen clearly in this.
Keeping the above facts in view, AICCTU made the following demands: stop suppression of workers’ rights inside companies in the industrial area; release all arrested workers immediately; strict action against the goons and police who attacked the workers at the behest of the company; central and state governments should take immediate and strict measures to facilitate the right to unionise by workers; Daikin management must give recognition to the union; all workers who have been removed must be reinstated without delay; talks must be initiated soon on regularisation and other demands of the workers.
The present Congress government should learn from the recent electoral defeat of the BJP and immediately put an end to repression and oppression of workers.