Friday, 20 July 2012

Manesar - the dark spot

It is somewhat surprising and disconcerting to find that so little importance is being accorded to Manesar incident of mob violence and hooliganism under the garb of trade unionism. What has happened needs to be condemned unequivocally as there is no place for such acts of wanton destruction and arson in a civilised society. And from the somewhat muted and confused reaction of the media, intelligentia,politicians,social commentators and chatterati at large, it is apparent that they had been caught unawares of the sudden flashpoint as the import of the incident slowly brings out the dimensions of the human tragedy and financial loss sustained as the result of an apparently preplanned act of arson and looting .

But to me as a bystander miles away from the scene of the carnage, without any first hand knowledge of the incidents or the buildup which led to the tragedy, it seems that there is much more hidden behind than what is visible , just to repeat the cliched analogy of the tip of an iceberg.

Trouble has been brewing over the past couple years or more at the Maruti Suzuki factories , particularly at Manesar. Once touted as the best example of Japanese work culture transplanted on the Indian resources and skills , Maruti Suzuki has reached a saturation point in terms of the positives associated with it, if only by the laws of diminishing returns . It is only natural that the negatives, the warts and pimples would start showing up sooner or later in any successful venture as behind every bright visage or facade the dirt and grime swept under the carpet bulges on and is ultimately thrown out , tearing the carefully laid out fabric covering the dark faults of the system.

But it is actually not clear to anyone from the reports received till now what actually triggered the incident. That it was not an act of spontaneous uprising of the oppressed workers against the repressive management goes without saying , even sitting far away from the scene , blindfolded. The early reports indicate that the mob was instigated to pursue the management functionaries and attack them which points out to the method in the madness. And if , I repeat again, if any so called trade union sympathiser wants to justify the deplorable act of the hot blooded labourers dancing on the strings held by some cold blooded strategist then it will be a pathetic attempt to cover the situation. The brutal and thuggish actions have tarnished trade union movement and the guilty should be punished without any mercy or justification for their heinous crime.

Now coming to the other dimension of the problem, the people who attacked were supposedly labourers belonging to the lower middle class strata of the society . And the people whom they attacked were not the rich or wealthy. They were from the middle class and mainly in the supervisory cadre. More fortunate than their attackers in terms of physical comfort and wealth because of their education and background . There is not much cultural gap between them and the purported class divide, which we would like to blame for evil is a tenuous logic, at best. This further strengthens the conspiracy theory .

But whatever may be reason, political intrigue, land deal,insurance claims,rival businesss strategy or a mixture of all these along with other unknown parameters, it is without doubt the callousness of the administration and a massive apathy toward the ground realities that have precipitated the situation to such a pass. Maintaining Law and order is a duty of the state and when it fails to do so it is not due to lack of resources but indecisive paralysis of the administrative machinery as has been starkly exhibited earlier, time and again, most shamefully in the case of demolition of Babri Masjid. A common thread of government inaction in the face of rising intolerance to the basic tenets of civil society and breakdown of law and order in the face of mob violence binds all such incidents.

Politicians are bound to use this incident to further their agenda of hate and divisive politics and garner votes . But they would be well advised to tread carefully because Maruti Suzuki has been a showpiece of Indian industry . The whole world is watching how we handle the matter and whether it is a precursor to many such cases of industrial unrests brewing in different pockets of the country as rising aspirations, increased inflation, income disparity and a shrinking job market is driving people to desperation. Manesar is a flashpoint but the real malaise is deep rooted. If not tackled firmly now it will erupt violently anywhere, anytime and anybody unfortunate to be caught up in the next round of such tragedy may be you or me.

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