Indian Labour in the age of Neoliberalism : condition & struggle(Part 2) – Anjani Kumar

continued from Part 1

Maruti Suzuki Movement

“When the Japanese and the European companies started coming to India then they were welcomed by all because they were known for upholding the worker’s rights. They used to provide ample time for tea breaks, lunch breaks and for refreshment. But now they are adopting the China model and providing as little as 5-7 minutes for tea breaks” (Indian Express, 13th February 2012, New Delhi).

“In a dictatorial environment such as the Maruti’s, the workers have to assemble one car in every 50 seconds. The exploiting work environment prevailing here, is the same as depicted by Charlie Chaplin in his famous movie Modern Times. Here, the workers work tirelessly for 8 hours and get two toilet breaks of 7-1/2 minutes and one lunch break of 30 minute. Both, canteen and the toilet are 500 meters away from the plant”  (‘A Just Deal’, Prafulla Bidvai, Frontline, 11-24 August 2012).

The ongoing struggle at Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar should be seen in the context of working condition prevailing in India. As per a report of Yearly Industrial Survey, real wage in the auto sector was decreased by 18.90% during the period of 2000-01 to 20008-10, whereas total cost addition per worker was increased from 2.90 lakh to 7.90 lakh during the same period. However, the share of wages in the total cost addition was reduced from 27.40% to 15.40%. Timing is an essential part of this total additional cost as high-end technology, time management, extension of work hours and wage control are the techniques through which profit is usually increased by the management.

To increase production in auto industries Fredrick Tailor brought in ‘scientific management’ technique and Ford applied this technique in car production industry. While the Marshal plan was being implemented, controlling trade unions was a major part of this ‘scientific management’.

In the context of this marshal plan, US supported British Trade Union Congress wrote in its editorial ‘Trade Union and Productivity’: ‘Where the management has progressive thinking and where they use rational justification while applying the scientific management technique to increase productivity, there the union should work together with the management’. In this context, Anthony Karev wrote in this book ‘Labour under the Marshal Plan’ (page 152): ‘It was required for the management to talk to the workers. The trade unions should be encouraged to keep up the pressure to start scientific management techniques. And they should work on this front without considering the consequences’. 

Tailorism, Fordism and ‘scientific management’ came to India on the interests of imperialist capital while the majority trade unions here in our country need not be trained for that. These unions receive good training from their respective parties on the politics of preventing ‘anarchism’ among the workers in the name of ‘upholding national interest’. As after 1980, the imperialist capital was coming in with its ‘good, fast and cheap’ production slogans, collaboration between the leaders of the unions and ruling class was necessary for such kind of ‘development’. So it was a necessity for the ‘anarchist’ workers to maintain a good conduct while orders of not to form a union was implicit in this. Along with this, the management also claimed to be the ‘sole guardian’ of the workers. The reason for this ‘responsibility’ was to project the problems of capital vis-a-vis labour as a ‘family matter’ and then to claim these issues to be resolved as personal matter or internal issue of a company in a bid to subvert the chances of forming a union or dismantle any chances of building up solidarity among the workers. This was also a method to make the (mal) practices of creating pressure on workers as bearable. In this new ‘development’ model such industrial culture, planning and socio-economic system became an important tool for workers’ suppression.

The July 18, ’12 incident (where a HR manager was killed and 36 others were injured) was neither the highest point of suppression nor the end of the workers’ struggle. This was an outcome of the deceit, suppression and exploitation of workers done by the management, government, police and administration in last one year.Usage of caste abusive language by a supervisor on one of the co-worker became the flash point of the accumulated anger. Workers of two shifts decided to protest unitedly against the abuse while the authority took a militant attitude against workers’ decision and brought in bouncers who carried out a brutal attack on the workers. Consequence took its own way and turned ‘violent’ whereas the media started portraying this incident as an ‘accident’ and ‘conspiracy by outsiders’. The industrialists, the state as well central government started worrying because the environment for ‘investment’ was deteriorating. The government started winding up about ‘Maoists’ conspiracy’ in this and assigned an investigation committee.

The Manesar plant has 1000 regular and 2000 contract worker. 145 workers were immediately arrested and put behind bars and another 65 were charged with non-bailable allegations. This planned conspiracy of attacking the workers by bouncers and the subsequent suppression by the police and administration in collaboration with the management is an ongoing effort of the authorities to make the lives of the workers even more difficult. But the workers’ struggle is still alive against all the odds and is aspiring to make a grand avatar.

Maruti workers primarily started raising their demands such as salary revision, recognition of union, regularization of contract workers. But instead giving any response, the management dismissed the agitating workers. Protesting this, the workers occupied the plant in the month of June. The work remained shut down for two months between June’11 to October’11. In the first 20 days of agitation, the workers kept the plant under their control. During thistime, the Haryana state government declared the workers’ protest as illegal and then the management used bouncers. The village heads of 51 nearby villages called for a ‘Maha Panchayat’ (grand jury) to denounce this protest. However workers from 15 other factories joined in solidarity and warned the industrialists by putting down their tool.

Although the management recognized workers’ representatives during negotiation, problems of recognizing the union, making the workers regular who were working for a long time as contractual labour and problems of abusive behavior in the workplace were not addressed. Among the negotiation decisions, the third point of negotiation was, “three days’ salary will be deducted in accordance with Salary Payment Act 1936 and the company’s permanent policy of daily attendance as a fine for the strike. It is also decided that for the time being only one day’s salary will be deducted as fine for the each absent days. If the workers do not behave properly or do not follow company rules and regulation then the rest two days’ salary will also be deducted as fine.” (Negotiation was done according to Industrial Act 1947 in presence of Labour Commissioner).

Right after the negotiation, a notice of ‘Condition of good conduct bond’ was put on the factory gate announcing a lockout. After around four months, labour minister Mallikarjun Khadge said to the parliament ‘the good conduct bond is an unacceptable system’ whereas the state government and the labour department had declared the bond as legal and a right of the company. The management dismissed 1200 workers and was trying to build reasons for dismissing many others. In return for this 32 days lockout, the management decided to take back the workers on condition of 64 days of unpaid work. The Economist declared this as ‘Troubled Gurgaon’ whereas Haryana government assured the industrialists that it would take ‘necessary and tough steps to make the falling situation better and favorable for investment’.

On 30th January 2012, the workers’ union (Maruti Suzuki Workers Union) was formed and registered. The management put a condition that the workers should not contact outside unions but the workers decided to refute management’s order. Furthermore, MSWU demanded to end contractual labour system whereas the management declined to discuss about contractual and trainee workers. In between this, the workers were accused of doing disrespectful behavior to the management and a so called progressive pro-worker magazine wrote ‘A militant union is very dangerous for the capitalists. To make more and more profit without any hindrance it is necessary that the union should be under the complete control of the management. The union should work in accordance with the management wishes. One single worker is very helpless in front of the management but when that worker unites with other workers of the factory then the situation changes’. (Nagarik, Issue 1-15 August 2012).

Tension between the workers and the management was taking the shape as per the words of Maruti Suzuki Private Ltd. Chairman R. C. Bhargav, a ‘class struggle’. The workers also formed unofficial workers’ committees to keep control over the union. The management wasn’t ready to either change their attitude towards the workers or accept their demands. The management then tried to infiltrate into the union. Bhargav said: “Had the workers been given training properly from time to time, then there would been changes in their attitude towards the company, work and management….We understand their (The Japanese’) arguments and that is why we want to change the old working culture completely. So that, we can build up good relations between the workers, management and the union for mutual benefits.”

When the workers put up resistance to authority’s planned onslaught on them, that they were pressurized not only by the management or the government but also by the village heads of the nearby villages of Gurgaon, Manesar, Dharuheda situated under the Integrated Industrial Area. “On 23rd July, the local leaders of all the big  political parties got associated with the Khap Panchayats which had decided to force the workers’ union to start the work at the Maruti Suzuki plant at any cost” (Anand Teltumbde, EPW, 25 August 2012). “Anil Kumar, Joint Police Commissioner of Gurgaon told that ‘panchayat officials met us and showed their solidarity with the company. They told that they will help with the administration to nab the culprits”. (Indian Express, Manesar, 21st July 2012, Delhi).

On November 7th and 8th, the workers staged hunger strike protesting against government repression. Workers’ unions from Delhi and other states and many student organizations also participated in the struggle and took out a rally in Gurgaon in solidarity. Consequently, CITU’s Gurgaon unit openly voiced their opinion against the ‘outside organization’s’ interference in the struggle. They stated that ‘it is our problem’. It is a historical tactics to divide the workers’ struggle by ‘outside interference’. However, the workers’ have continued with their united protest against repressive policies of the government and have strengthened the struggle further.

Meanwhile, after the 57-day dharna and 8-day hunger strike in Kaithal, Haryana on 18-19th May this year, the protesting workers, their family members and movement sympathizers were brutally lathicharged and 111 of them were taken into custody when the protestors were demanding release of their fellow workers who have been denied bail for more than a year now. On 25th July 2013, there was a joint rally of all Trade Unions in Gurgaon-Manesar in front of Mini Secretariat, Gurgaon where the first demand pertains to the release of arrested workers and reinstatement of terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar besides demands of other workers facing exploitation and repression in their factories.

This is an achievement of the ongoing struggle as the unity of the villages to unitedly protest against a city’s struggle is exemplary and this will work as guidance for the workers’ struggle in India in future.

Tirupur Model

In the textile hub of Tirupur situated near Coimbatore in Tamilnadu, factory owners and management officials have invented a new method of exploitation. They have allured locals from nearby villages and towns which were reeling under inflation and poverty by annoucing a special scheme named ‘Sumangali Policy’, to offer them a way to pay Dowry, an age old repressive custom to provide money from the bride’s side to the groom side in marriage.

According to this scheme, persons opting the scheme have to work in the factories under management supervision and they can’t leave the job until the management says so. Generally girl workers have to work for 5 – 7 years and they have stay in the company hostels situated inside the factory premises. They do not have any permission to go anywhere other than the factory and the hostel and even they are not allowed to meet anyone from outside. They may be allowed to go home for once or twice in a year or some selected number of guardians may come to meet them.

Known as ‘The Dollar City’ or ‘The Neatwear Capital’, Tirupur recorded 1050 number of suicide deaths in 2009 – 2010. In 2010, the city exported garments worth 1200 crore (12 billion). However workers’ life here is similar of a bonded labour while there is no provision of daily wages or work hours. Girls of age 14-25 years work here generally for 3 years and get around Rs 30000 – Rs 50000 after that which they use for dowry. According to The Economic Times (11 October, 2012), ‘the average monthly income stands at Rs 900 – Rs 3500’. Usually the girls who work here come from Dalit (backward caste) families and as per the local custom, they don’t have any right to unionize. The factory owners always keep these girls under constant threat of dismissing them from work or of complaining against them to their guardians while the workers are being compelled to work for 16-18 hours.

Situation becomes more repressive when owners, guards, management, agents etc. exploit the female workers sexually and physically whereas a very less number of incidents get reported. As the management use its own vehicles to ferry the girls, it becomes very difficult for outside intervention or to get any information. Many times the workers are immediately dismissed from work for protesting against the exploitation and if it’s before completion of the bond period, the dismissed worker does not get any money. Moreover, Indian government provides subsidies to the company to maintain such brutal slave system.

Coal Mines of Meghalaya: the rat holes 

From the high technology mines to open cast mines, it is always the worker’s life which is at stake in our country’s coal industry while it has taken the most brutal form of exploitation in the coal mines of Meghalaya.

The Indian Express on 4th November’12 described the situation of a coal mine in Meghalaya saying ‘The coal mines and stone mines which were operational for the last 40 years were finally brought under Meghalaya Mines Policy Act’10 in the year 2012. The Meghalaya government was fined Rs. 50,000 by the court for this delay. Moreover, the court again fined another amount of Rs5 lakh for not regulating the mindless mining activity in the state’. However these amounts were like pebbles in front of the ocean of Lakhs of Crores of rupees profit. It is not at all difficult to guess work conditions in such industries where no government policy was in place until 2010.

Coal and stone mines are the biggest industry in Meghalaya. There are around one lakh such mines in the Jaintaa Hills spread across Meghalaya where according to Impulse Asia report, around 43% – 50% workers are children below 14 years of age while majority are from 12 – 18 age group. Report says the youngest worker of these mines ever was a 5-years-old.  Mine workers coming from West Bengal, Bangladesh, Assam, Nagaland and Nepal have a greater percentage of children and like in many other mines, a number of children have died in the Ladrimbai mine because of ‘punishment’ given to them or due to accidents. Their skeletons were found later.
The mine owners who sell per ton coal at Rs. 2500 – Rs. 7500 in the open markets, usually hire contractors to do the mining activity. Around 70,000 child workers work in these mines for 12 hours on average. Moreover, the number of women workers in domestic work in the cities is increasing rapidly while these women are actually victims of ‘human trafficking’.

Housing Development Sector

The increasing market of outsourcing is a result of the changes after 1990s economic liberalization. The job in such kind of sector was to solve problems of and for the foreign countries, especially American and European countries. These outsourcing jobs have different categories of work and the young workers work in the lowest category in 12 hour shifts.

There is another sector which is booming in the cities, i.e. Housing Development Sector.  A number of workers work in very risky conditions in this sector while the job here is also of contractual in nature and has different segments where the workers work in the lowest category. The migrant workers who come from outside regions feel insecure and face constant threat to their lives while working in such risky environments. In an incident in 2010 in Gurgaon, a construction labour was injured while working. The workers sensed the contractors’ intension that instead of taking the labour to the hospital they might ‘leave her to die’ and might try to ‘hide the dead body’.  As soon the workers got wind about contractors’ intention, they burst in anger and set the offices of the contractors’ and police vehicles on fire.

As mostly the workers work in periodical and unorganized sector, it is very difficult to form any union here such which eventually exposes ‘strikingly shining’ face of monopolistic capitalism.
The emerging most repressive situation is the increasing concentration of contractual workers in the factories and their everyday ordeal. There was an increase of 33% in the number of contractual workers i the organized sectors from 1993-94 to 2009-2010. However this is a government estimate, actually most of the workers are only being registered as regular labour in papers. Contractors in Uttrakhand’s Rudrapur district have put up big advertisement boards of their companies regarding job opportunities. The workers join those companies but they never work as an employee of those company. Instead they work in another big company where these contractors work as only labour suppliers.  The workers are primarily being informed that they are working for the contractor’s company where they have to sign their job agreements whereas actually the contractors get rid of their responsibility as soon as the workers are delivered to a big MNC.

A major part of the workers takes up this contractual works due to the difficulties they face to continue their traditional works especially due to stagnation in agricultural sector. As there always been a major difference between regular and contract workers, the contractors fully exploit this difference to divide the workers further in a bid to break their unity. Moreover, a major section of the contractual workers doesn’t even recognize themselves as labours because for majority of them this sector is a secondary source of income as most of them try to accumulate money either to invest in agricultural work in the season time or to pay their debts to the moneylenders. Money lenders also have a significant role in providing cheap labour to the big capitals.

There is a huge migration of labours from villages to big cities where there is no security of live and livelihood of these migrant workers while there no one to reign over the contractors. Workers’ right is always in a position to be sacrificed in the name of nation’s ‘development’ while protest against government’s policy is always tagged as ‘anti-national’, anti-development or even as seditious. But in this kind of ‘development’, businesses such as real estate, investment banking, export oriented business have a big say while black market and corruption play a big role. So, their basis of profit are- cheap labour (skilled and unskilled), Farmers who have got land, landless peasants who have only got traditional skills, lower-middle and middle class who keep their cent by cent savings in banks and other such financial institutions.

Pattern of Development

The emphasis on skilled work and the development model based on it is reason for this bipolar world where the working class is at one side and the capitalists on the other. The first step in this model is to open the market to global business. The size and expansion of global market is out of any country’s control as the purpose of open market economy is to control the global business through export oriented business policies.

The MNCs compete with each other by slashing production costs to stay afloat in the competitive market and to gain the maximum benefit out of it. This means that to rein in on high salaries at one hand while use of high end technology and curtail of labour cost in other hand.

This is a significant character of the monopolistic capitalism which brings down the level of competition in the global businesses market to virtually zero where one country gains benefit through huge export (center of capital) and another one (periphery of capital) losses through huge import or by losing control over its resources. ‘Here, we should not forget that once a country makes foray into the competitive global market, it has to take the pressure of foreign direct investments. And because of this losses its self reliance and becomes more and more dependent on foreign markets’ (Essays in the Reconstruction of Political Economy, Amit Bhaduri, Page 30).

In the center of this market, technology and capital oriented businesses model is based on America and its European allies which control the global market. And to sustain this control, parallel finance markets were expanded. But to adhere to its ‘policies’ actually means deduction in social spending and rapid increase of inequality.

The liberalization process in India started back in 197. The first important policy implementation by the Indira Gandhi government was the Industrialization Policy in 1980 which was a new version of the industrialization policy proposed back in 1956. Continuing with the liberalization process started during the economic crisis in 1974-75, the Indira Gandhi government gave permission to a number of industries to increase their production by 25% (Excerpts from Lok Sabha debate, 23rd July 1980, 367-382).

The government took a liberal approach to import industrial machine parts and specially industrial technology. It also needs to be noted that within a year foreign collaboration doubled (India’s Globalisation: Evaluating the Economic Consequences, Baldev Raj Nair, East West Center Washington, Page 12) whereas in the Industrialization Policy proposed in 1956, usage of foreign technology was restricted to public sector only.

Social Structure of Industries

During this period a lot of big industries were established and foreign investors had gained a monopoly over the technology. The management appointments were done as per the government’s and foreign investor’s consents while it was necessary for the trade unions and workers’ representatives to participate in such management system.

The empire of the corporate organizations inhibited in some selected satellite areas where facilities for cheap workers and raw materials were available. People from the local community were either not appointed or they were made to work only as a contractual / temporary worker. Some PSU’s (Public Sector Undertaking) took the responsibility to help the local farmers and to develop the rural economy although its impact was very limited.

In the tribal dominated areas such responsibilities were ignored altogether and a majority of locals were displaced in the name of development. This tradition was followed later, especially after 1995 when new ways were introduced to accelerate the exploitation. Massive loot of land done through this model of development was the biggest land grab, after Columbus while it refused to take minimum responsibility of the labours.
Whatever facilities the workers and employees staying inside the factory complex used to get, were not made available for the locals and contract workers. Activities of the unions were also limited to the factory; be it the public sector power stations in UP’s Mirzapur or Sonbhadra districts or the fertilizer factories in Alahabad, local people were kept ousted from the employment pool. This was also one of the reasons, why after the Gorakhpur fertilizer was shut down and the workers and employees left, the place transformed into a deserted crematorium.

Bhilai Steel Plant 

It is obvious that these contractors used to hire people from a same community while they also tried to avoid appointing local people. Outside of the four walls of the factory, the workers were settled on lines of ethnic and regional division. The contract workers were deprived from the facilities of the allowance, salary, medical, PF etc. that the regular workers used to get.

When Bhilai Steel plant was built up, some new big subsidiary companies emerged along with. Other industrialists were given facilities to set up their businesses there. Currently 200 factories are present in the area whereas none of these factory owners are from Chhatishgarh. ‘Besides this, there is a 40 km thin strip between Durg and Raipur district where some more factories and housing colonies are situated’ (‘Working and Seeking in Bhilai’, Jonathan Peri, Research Duration: 1993-98, Worlds of Indian Industrial Labour, Jonathan Peri, Jen Breman, Kiran Kapadia, Page 111).

By mid-seventies the growth of industries was such that it was mainly developing into a closed system. This industrial structure was not only controlling the placement of workers but also the population migration from excessively stagnant agriculture sector. Placement of workers in cities and small factories situated in nearby areas of these industries was divided in a planned manner and during times of crisis, this division was eventually being converted to social, ethnic and religious turmoil. ‘I can see the danger in Bhilai Steel plant from a trend… The plant is in constant pressure to remove the regular workers and replace them with contract workers. The contract workers are ‘sons-of-the-land’ whereas those who would employ them are outsiders. So it is confirmed that the loacl sentiment will rise due to increasing exploitation’ (above article, page 139).

Martyred leader Shankar Guha Niyogi,founder
member of Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha &
Chattisgarh Mine Sramik Sangh had been
spearheading workers’ struggle in the region
before being assassinated by corporate goons.

In the 1990s, when the workers were leaving the factory premises by taking voluntary retirements, communal and social tensions were prevalent outside the factory premise. There were only a few places where the workers were holding up to their struggle. One of such struggle was the one in Dalli Rajhara which was led by Shankar Guha Niyogi.

Both of the above situation emerged due to adoption of the industrial policy proposed in 1956. The Indian government intentionally adopted this policy to uproot labour work force from the agricultural sector to the factories in a bid to gain control on cheap workforce whereas this migration was done in a controlled manner so that the workers in the cities cannot organize themselves and merely transformed into semi peasant, semi-contractual worker which would eventually create enough options in the hand of ruling class. Whereas another complication made its path through when the ‘newly uplifted’ permanent workers were made to belief that they are being treated as ‘elites’ while the contractual were kept deprived of the facilities that the permanent workers used to get (whatever less that may be). It also tends to create new middle class strata among the workers and these ‘elite workers’ were the one controlling the unions as well as often making negotiations with the authority.

Expansion of Small Units

Big companies were given passage in the decade of 1960 to 1970. In the year 1977, foreign companies were granted the status of being an Indian company by selling 40% of their share in the Indian market. Companies investing up to 1 crore (10 million) were exempted from registering themselves. The number of small scale companies increased from 180 to 500. Except for a few big cities, registration of new industrial units was stopped during this time ‘to keep the regional balance’. In the 1980s, investment in the small scale industries were restricted to 20 Lacs and in the subsidiaries, up to 25 Lacs. In this decade, the emphasis was  given on improving the expertise in technology, increasing productivity and decreasing the production cost. In this time of industrial stagnation both PSUs but and big private sector companies were laying off workers. They were pushed into the subsidiary units which used to manufacture the goods needed in the big factories.

Application of new technologies in agriculture and expansion of small scale industries to reduce the excessive burden on the agriculture were a way to neutralize the growing anger amongst the Indian masses and to suppress people’s struggle. ‘A lot of commodity production industries in the developed countries create large scale job opportunities for the job seekers. But the critics of the industrial policies of third world countries argues correctly that capital centric industrial practices robs them from even this opportunity as well’ (Industrialization and Development in the Third World, Rajesh Chandra, Page 80). In this age of agro-centric industries and mass subsidiaries of the big companies, the emphasis was being given on foreign investments and export oriented industries. Labour was not only unorganized but a huge number of them was also outside of the ‘skilled’ category. In the global market cost of labour in India was one-seventh with that of the American.

By the 7th five-year plan, demand for capital investment, technological expertise, increased production and lowering production cost and pressure on exports increased so much that it started destroying the Manufacturing industries. With the increase of small scale industries workers gathered in slums which eventually increased the slum population drastically. These workers became victim of the new industrial policies. They did not have the facilities of basic amenities such as housing, drinking water, electricity, medicine etc. In this entire period, rights for minimum wage, provident fund, dearness allowance, life security, union formation were almost nonexistent. Most the workers were hired on contractual basis. From the 1977-78 to 1993-94 the economy growth was 5% whereas the population growth was 2.2%. The organized corporate sector grew by hardly 0.1%. In spite of having argument in the government’s official debates to reduce states participation, the public sector grew at a constant rate of 2.2%. In the unorganized sector the growth was 2.6%. This difference between the growth of economy and employment generation shows us that this development is providing less job opportunities. Approximately half of the work force in the organized sector was terminated in the above mentioned time frame (1977-94). During this period the small scale industries were affected by the loan repayments and stagnation in the domestic markets (The Workforce and Its Social Structure: Indian Working Class, Barbara Haris White, Page 18).

In spite of the green revolution, growth in the agriculture sector was also stagnant. The manufacturing industry was being destroyed by the pressure of capital investments and export oriented policies. Due to this a major part of the Indian population was living in unbearable situations. Emphasis on the Engineering and Communication industrial policies and the economic ‘reforms’ forced the employment conditions into an explosive situation. This polices were neither going to help revive the agricultural industry nor going to advance India’s industrialization. These polices were becoming a tool to present India as a shopping grounds of cheap labour for the global market.

The liberalized polices adopted in the 1980s should be seen in the context of the global economic and oil crisis in the previous decade and also to create a space for the American and European companies in the agriculture and construction industries. The India economy was replicating the imperialistic model of ‘development’ at one hand and was brutally repressing the political crisis arousing out of such imperialistic development at another hand. For the imperialistic countries, not only the automobile industry but also export of automobile machinery in the global market also became an important issue. In the third world countries such phenomenon is also said in the local language as ‘import of old technology’. However, in the industrial policies such phenomenon is said as giving necessary emphasis on the ‘Engineering and Communication Revolution’. In exchange of the help provided by the International Monetary Fund in the 1980, the Indian government had the responsibility to do the mandatory reforms. This was applied in the 6th Five-Year plan. In this period dominant political parties claimed to provide ‘car for everyone’ and Communication Revolution. And Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. was an example of such claim.

For the Japanese, the most attractive feature of the recently adapted liberalized policies was the exemption of custom duties in all kinds of import, like import of machinery, tools and control gears, communication equipment etc. Along with this, exemption of  export duty was also provided for the raw material (which was necessary to start a factory and to expand an existing unit) (Prospect for Self Reliance and Indigenisation in Automobile Industry, Case of Maruti Suzuki project, T Hamagushi, EPW, August 1985). Between March 1982 and 1985, there were 38 business collaborations between India and Japan in automobile sector. Technology, Design and Economic interests were primary in these collaborations. A series of such collaboration with countries like Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Korea etc. and establishing several factories and subsidiaries followed in Gurgaon, Noida, Okhla and Faridabad regions.

In this mode of production the companies were arranging the production through the chain of small units. ‘Specially in the auto sector we have seen these phenomenon through the three level structure of sub-contractors. In case of Maruti Suzuki, the number one company in the automobile sector, we have found 38 sub-contractors in the first level, 30 in the second and 12 in the third level. All the sub-contractors in the first level and a number of sub-contractors in the second level have their own vendors who provide jobs to those who work at personal level or at domestic level. It would be better so say that the first level units are of big and medium size. Second level units are of medium and small size. And third level units are of small size or of domestic or individualistic nature who have a few means of production’ (Worker Voices in an Auto Production Chain: 1, A J C Bose and Surendra Pratap, 18 August 2012, Page 48).
There was a rapid change in the infrastructure as an aftermath of technological collaboration and capital investment. A number of big highways were being built to develop infrastructure. To increase the consumption of automobile and oil, the imperialist nations tried all means ranging from pressure tactics, coercing, military coups and even war to force the third world countries. This ‘slavery’ was accepted in India through ‘parliamentary ways’. The demand and consumption for oil and gas increased rapidly. Up to October 2012, the cost of oil import was 147.8 Crore dollar and non oil imports cost 294.2 Crore dollar (SourceL Business Line, 12 November 2012). To create industries related to oil and imported technologies, lands were acquired and new industries were built, national highways were built and computer software & hardware and satellite industries were expanded rapidly. The ASSOCHAM (Associate Chamber of Commerce) said in its statement on 18th October 2012 that there is a loss of 30,000 crore rupees every year due to the bad conditions of roads. Road transport minister said in August 2010 that out of the proposed 441 national highways, work in going slowly in 299 cases. For the 174 long highway between Nagpur and Betul alone Rs. 2500 crore was sanctioned. The flood of such corruption ridden proposals created a huge market for the auto industry and oil. This happened in the same way that the satellite industry created market as well as black market for communication and outsourcing. From 2G spectrum scam to mobile and Internet scam, all are the result of this ‘communication revolution’.

It’s worth noting that it is in this time period that the acts such as MISA, TADA and POTA were came into place. These acts were used primarily against Tribal, Dalit, people having Marxist and Radical ideological views and against labour movements. Unconstitutional methods such as ‘encounters’ were legalized during this time. Police and the security forces used these methods heavily to suppress people’s struggles and nationalist movements. 

A big change for the Indian economy in 1980 was the emergence of Real Estate business. Other than Residence, Retail, Hotel and other services and SEZ’s, land was in high demand in the new pattern of development which caused the land prices go sky high. Development in this sector was five six times more than the development in the industrial sector. Increase in the rate of profit and expansion of black market was much more than the industries.

Agricultural development was nothing compared to this. The rate of farmer suicides was alarming. Whereas the atrocities and violence against women and Dalits increased with such a high rate that the Mayawati government in UP declined to register any cases under SC/ST Act. The pressure on agriculture sector was ever increasing whereas the income kept on decreasing. Pressure on the agricultural sector by the urban development pattern was such that it gave scope for the feudal organizations to strengthen further. The increase in the incidents of feudal atrocities after 1980s was a result of the India’s skewed economic system which was neither able to solve the problems of agriculture and the labour problems associated with it nor was it able compensate the problems of unemployment in the cities through uneven development. Unemployment in India is not only serving as ‘reserved army of workers’ but it is also entangled in the social conflicts of caste, feudal relations and debt among the peasants who migrated to the cities from villages.

The liberalization policies in industrial and financial sector forced the big cottage industries to die a slow death. Especially the destruction of textile and jute industries caused a deep impact on India’s social, economic and political outlook. The liberalized policies drafted with the help of World Bank and International Monetary Fund to reduce or completely eliminate subsidies and the structural changes encouraged not only the international banks but also domestic private banks as well to spread their network from the cities to villages. These banks also created a network of loan distribution and loan extraction through the system of regular, contractual and sub-contractual modes of production. An interest up to 25% is extracted from the farmers by providing them loan through the (in)famous Micro Debit.

In the name of investing foreign capital and providing techniques, the interest collection system actually strengthened the traditional usury system. The families living under debt burden are forced to work in the divisive labour system in the industries in cities or in the farms in villages. This complicates the lives and working conditions of the working class even more. To benefit from the growing land prices, these financial institutions made the selling and buying of land in the cities, easier. Today home loan constitutes 50% of the total share of personal loans. By these methods, the financial institutions are grabbing a big chunk of the middle class’ savings. On the other hand a major portion of the urban population is not only being deprived from the necessary need for land but they are also being forced to live in ghettos.

continued in Part 3

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