Manesar Plant – what happened that day and what the world thinks

Much has been said about the Manesar incident that day – in news, publications, blogs, videos & what not. People have succeeded in sketching a picture of a large group of people being crushed by a corporate juggernaut. And, that too without walking past the factory for a moment, or knowing what’s the work culture in that factory, without putting them in the shoes of the officers.

I can tolerate anything but stupidity and misinformation.

One of my friend had posted on facebook –

“Historical fact: People stopped being people in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first, workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, however, the adaptation has been passed down: we’ve all inherited it to some degree, so that we plug right into joy-sticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds.”
-Jeffery Eugenides, Middlesex

And there was a comment to it,

Pretty much explains the root cause of Manesar plant!

This my friend, stands largely incorrect.

I believe you’ve inferred this from reading largely news articles and public comments and you’ve not put any effort in actually asking people who were witnesses to this.

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
– Malcolm X

Manesar plant is just like any other factory

Manesar plant is just like any other factory and operates on same norms and standards. In a capitalist system and a for-profit company like Maruti-Suzuki, everyone works for profit. They’ve to strive for it else their shares will plummet like a stone in water. If you see only from the employee’s perspective, you will always picturize ‘David vs Goliath’, but we must see from the Management’s perspective too.

Just like any other plants:

1. Costs of Living has grown up in past years around Gurgaon – Despite that employees manage to live with it, because they have company bus facility so that they can travel from long distances.
2. Working conditions are tedious in nature – taking a tea break is a big deal as they just get 15 minutes. Thus, a swarm of employees storming into cafeteria at a particular time is not unusual.
3. Working on Manufacturing Belt is tedious – Yes it is and it happens everywhere.
4. Locals vs Non-locals – workers are mostly locals while officers and skilled labor is mostly hired from other parts of the country. The crowd mostly comprises of workers along with ITI trainees (students) and Diploma holding supervisors (semi-official positions who are not allowed to be part of labor unions).
5. Workers did not get a hike since years – did you check if the management considered if they really deserved it but ignored it, or was it just their demand? A company can not always fulfill all demands. Similarly, employee’s expectations are endless.

The work pressure, working conditions and risks are similar to any other plant and so do the safety norms, policies and everything else.

So, what was the issue that wrecked havoc?

Let me explain it in a Swiss Cheese model

Manesar is in Gurgaon

Now, I have nothing in personal with people of Gurgaon nor it is my personal view. This was one of my friend’s and this is how he puts it –

They’re rude. I don’t know if they’re naturally like that, but they talk very very harsh. And, they can be easily provoked. Mostly they’re from Haryana, Jath Gujjar type origins, famously. People from that area are like that.

Age gap, Language, Communication and Misunderstandings

The average of workers is more than the average age of Supervisors. Old people receiving orders from young men is not unusual. But if you combine with the attitude of certain individuals especially like Manesar plant workers, it makes sense that small differences can lead to big problems. Defying workers abusing young officials leading to arguments – had become the everyday situation in Manesar. This situation was not handled well – probably because nobody wanted to to mess with angry locals.

Anti-social intents

When there is a large mass of hard-workers unhappy about something they become gullible. They start trusting rumors without verifying. They start reacting. And anti-socials – They always look for opportunities where they can vent their anger and take full advantage of these tense situations.

And as the famous quote says
My explanation is going to be vague mostly because I have less memory of it. I had discussed this with my friend 2-3 years ago and I do not remember every detail of it.

What happened that day

A small miscommunication led to argument between an officer(my friend’s friend) and few workers – “Tujhe toh mai dekh lunga” was how it ended where the former was warned by the latter. The situation escalated quickly and and by lunch hours everything had come to a halt.

The senior management took notice of this serious issue and they called for a open-house-session-like meeting during the after hours – meeting venue was decided. The angry mob was notified and was asked to disperse.

Now, all that the officers could wish was – pray. And hope everything to go normal in the meeting and they succeed to assure the workers that their demands taken care of. They were not planning to fix anything immediately but they wanted to try to calm these mad men until they could figure out what is to be done.

Probably the workers demanded ‘termination of the officer’, but it later turned into – ‘Hand us over that officer and we’ll decide what to do with him’. I do not remember what exactly it was.

The meeting Venue
I do not remember the time, but the meeting started late in the evening. Now, the officers count was briefly under 20 (as far as I remember). They were largely outnumbered by workers. There was security forces but they were outnumbered by the workers too. Plus, incidents like these do not give time to you to prepare.

Again, you can not negotiate with a mass of so many people especially they contain people who have loud voices, loud enough to lure the masses into aggression. The anti-socials in the group were not in a mood to listen nor discuss anything because all they wanted was some action – a great show to end the day. A gun is no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of madmen. All these people came prepared for the show, they had sticks, rods and metal bars. They were desperately waiting for the meeting when they can gherao the officers in the confinement of the meeting hall.

Security cameras? Well, they were taken care of too. They were either destroyed or disconnected just in time.

When the meeting started, probably the second line was (from an angry worker) – “koi discussion nahi hoga, faisla hoga abhi yahi pe”. Rods came out and what we know as the ‘Manesar’s disputed story’ was written that night.

I shiver at the very thought what would be going on in the minds of these officers getting beaten by an angry mass of people who were out of their minds. Imagine the terror of the a person who had thought – that every thing would go normal and they will go to their safer confinements of homes peacefully and they’ll calmly spend the time with their family, but now his life is at stake. It is as if a lonely person is getting attacked by angry canines eating apart his flesh.

Police was informed immediately and a large battalion of police arrived in time. They entered the venue and started Lathi charging and they quickly extracted the officials out of the room. They immediately took the head counts of officers – 16 ( I remember it vaguely ). One less than the total count – one junior officer said. ‘Quick, extract the other hostage’, said the police officer. That extra person was found bleeding, lying motionless on the floor – deeply wounded but silent.

I can not describe it anymore. Sorry! I can’t imagine it anymore.

The upcoming days were days of hide-and-seek. The suspects fled the scene and went underground. The officer who was in the argument that day, probably survived but was immediately asked to go underground by the management in view of his security. A lot of families were shattered that day.

Later came the announcement from Maruti Udyog about increments, economic housing facilities and better perks – which rather made the condition even worse for those ITI trainees (students) who were not to be rewarded, whose salaries barely had enabled for them to pay rents in Gurgaon earlier, now left them with even miserable situation. Because with Maruti’s announcement of increments, the house rents rose.

Who won? Did it really bring any difference? Was the violence necessary? Can they compensate the losses that were made that day? Can the satisfaction on the face of the masses bring back life to that man?

Was this even worth it?

Ask yourself.

Probably you’re right when you agreed with the statement – people did not remain people after the factories came into existence. Yeah, you’re right. They became animals – who can kill.

I’m not trying to prove what happened that day, nor I am willing to reverse someone’s opinion. I’m just expressing my inability to tolerate stupidity, misinformation and opinionatedness.

It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.
Giordano Bruno


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