Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Journey From Modinagar To Manesar

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Human beings settled down from a life of nomads to become farmers but soon afterwards those who were entrusted arms to defend settlements from raiders, turned on their own and declared that all land belonged to them and therefore anybody who wants to till it must pay a share of crops to them, the share was to be decided by the “owners”. Life continued like this for thousands of years, exploitation of farmers being benign or blood-sucking depending on the ruler of the time. Of course some were engaged in directly serving the rulers themselves and some supported the farmers in the capacity of tool makers and clothiers etc. but since farmers themselves were left with hardly any surplus, they could pay the service providers hardly anything. The life was brutish and short. And if at all somebody accumulated some wealth, he would be looted. Just as there were cultivators and their service providers, their remained looters, always. In fact it is said that rulers themselves maintained gangs of looters, after skinning farmers more money needed to throw at concubines was looted from traders etc.
Then steam engine was invented and industrial revolution was born. Factories came up that gave human beings an alternative to working on land or serving the rulers. However within fifty years or so of the Industrial Revolution, Karl Marx came on the scene and proclaimed that factory owners instead of liberating the workers were actually exploiting them. Owners did nothing but lived in luxury off the labour of workers. Therefore factories should be collectively owned by the workers themselves. Whole countries were taken over by the workers. Soon however it was discovered that with job security and guaranteed attendance based wages, workers stopped working, if not fully, at least not to their full potential. And therefore these countries, the paradise of the workers, collapsed. However the idea itself never collapsed. All along movements were afoot in all counties of the world to secure to the workers their “rights” and “fair wages”. The labour movements, it turned out were even more successful in the democracies than in countries with dictatorship of the proletariat, as politicians could be counted upon to legislate ever more “rights” of the workers as factory owners were overwhelmingly outnumbered. Soon the factory owners discovered that it is far better to shut down the factory or move it to some business friendly State or country.
So now I come to Modinagar, the city in the title of this note. It was a bustling industrial town. Just 40 km from Delhi. Textile, rubber, Steel, Leather, Sugarcane-you name the industry and it was there. Then the trade union thugs, the guardians of workers, arrived there in sixties of last century. And soon there were massive strikes to secure the rights and fair wages. By late seventies, most, except may be sugar mill, mills of the Modinagar closed down. Modis tried all alternatives. They moved some factories out of Modinagar to new townships they tried to set up but securers of workers’ rights reached there also and soon secured the closure of factories instead. Now all the workers of those factories must be dead-starving, unemployed residents of a ghost industrial town. I wonder what their children are doing, with no Modis to exploit them.
There is nothing called a fair wage. A man can demand only the wage below which nobody else is ready to do the same job. If he wants something higher, he needs to acquire skill for which market is ready to pay more. Then there is nothing called Right to employment. No human being is obliged to hire another and pay him daily or monthly wages. If it were so, how do we single out those who are obliged to employ and those who are to be employed? If a man gains by employing another more than he spends on the employee, why he would terminate the employment? And if he does not gain more than he spends on the employee, why he would employ?
All so called workers’ rights are frauds. All labour laws are un-constitutional and anti- worker. They kill factories and that hurts the workers most.
A factory is the nectar of life. Besides paying monthly paychecks to those it directly employs, it creates a whole township of employment around itself. Traders in dresses for the workers, tea-stall owners, barbers, eateries, schools, theaters, even thieves. When factory closes down, all lose their employment.
Few months ago there was a headline in the pink pages of some newspapers I get at home-“Hyundai shifts i20 plant out of India due to labour problems in its existing plant.” I thought this was a calamity bigger than an earthquake and Parliament would sure discuss it, and 24 hour news channels had got their story of the day. But nothing, literally nothing I heard in the days to come. All political parties, including those exclusively dedicated to workers’ rights and Bharatiya Adjournment Party, all remained oblivious of this National tragedy. No screaming TV anchor discussed the story.
Would the trade union thugs, the messiah of the workers, ever know that they had killed not a factory but a whole township of employment by frightening i20 out of India? Would anybody ever call out them for this most anti-worker achievement of theirs? And this does not include all the factories that would cancel plan to come to India because of the fate of i20.
And now we reach Manesar. It was a dusty, sleepy, decaying third world township, about forty km from Delhi, on the opposite side of Modinagar. One day, and they must be cursing the day, Maruti, our premier car company decided to set up a plant there. Soon other groups followed and it started its transformation into a modern industrial town. But alas, soon, the vultures who feed on carcasses of closed factories, the trade union thugs, also arrived. And now has begun the cycles of strikes in Manesar. It starts in one plant, and soon spreads to other factories. And most likely Manesar will be our next Modinagar. An industrial town that died before it was fully grown. And workers would have all their rights, with no evil fat cat factory owner to exploit them.
I have no problem with a worker saying that he won’t take up the employment below a certain wage. That is his right. I do not even have any problem with the worker who says that he won’t come tomorrow if he doesn’t get a certain amount as wage. I do not even have problem if all the workers say that they won’t be coming tomorrow if they are not paid wages demanded by them. BUT, can they say that they would not allow anybody else to take up the job either? Is it not violence and outright extortion? Should state support violence by one private citizen (workers) against another private citizen (factory owners)? And that too for the crime of giving them the employment?
Maruti factory at Manesar did not exist since eternity. It is not that Maruti came and seized a factory set up by the workers and started exploiting them. Maruti factory came there just a few years ago. Before that all the workers currently in it must have been doing something for the living. There are only two conditions possible-either workers had a better life earlier and in that case they should go back to that life leaving Maruti alone, or Maruti has given them a better life. Then what they have to complain against? Somebody comes and sets up a factory by cutting through the maze of 54 government inspectors, you on your free will decide to work in it against a pre-disclosed monthly sum and instead of saying thank you, you claim he is exploiting you and you have right to extort more money under threat of violence (some Maruti supervisors have been beaten up also) and government must support you in your extortion of another private citizen?
But government actually does support. And entire industries in States like West Bengal have been killed like that, freeing the workers from exploitation and giving them death by starvation in return and the vultures called trade union thugs have moved on to other industrial belts, to feast on newer carcasses of dead factories they would create.
If we do not abolish all labour laws (anti-labour laws actually), our industrial development will die before maturing and we would continue to remain a third world kleptocracy.
And our people would continue to be forced to emigrate, to gulf to work as slave labour and to the US and the West Europe, away from families and their people. Just because we needed to secure worker rights and fair wages.
Just imagine –in simpler term- your maid comes to you and says, “If you do not pay me so and so wages from tomorrow, I am not coming. And as per so and so law, you cannot employ anybody else also. I have informed the government. I have informed the trade union thugs also, if you try to employ somebody else, they would come and beat you up. Government would support them. I am going to sit on a dharna in front of your home also. So see you tomorrow.” What would you do?
You would curse the day when you employed her. And you would not employ a maid ever again. (There is fortunately no law yet that says every household will have to employ one maid and pay her so and so wages.) And she would starve to death. But at least her rights and fair wages will have been secured.
Workers of the Manesar unite, you have nothing to lose except your employment and your children’s employment…….(and as a bonus, you would get to beat up the evil, blood sucking managers of Maruti.)

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