(New Series No. 310, April 2014)
Ebullitions all around, unshackling factories. Taking away the occupation of factories by the management. Making factories unfettered spaces for collective gathering. Creating environments that invite the self, others, the entire world to be seen anew. Ceaseless conversation, deep sleep, thinking, exchange of ideas. Sudden immersion of many in relays of songs. Inventing new relationships and whirling in the currents of possibilities that get opened up in collective living.
This is the general condition of today.
May 2010: Plot 7, Sec 3, IMT Manesar, Napino Auto & Electronics Factory. Eight hundred workers (100 women and 700 men) stopped work and sat on the shop floor. As night approached, the men stayed and the women returned home, returning the next morning to join in again with the men. This continued for four days.
Mar-Apr 2014: Plot 7, Sec 3, IMT Manesar, Napino Auto & Electronics Factory. On 24 March, workers of A, B and general shift stopped work and stayed on the shop floor. The same day, in the factory in Plot 31, Sec 8 of the same company, workers from three shifts also stopped work and stayed on the shop floor. And workers in the factory of this same company at 753-754 Udyog Vihar, Phase 5, Gurgaon, also stopped work and stayed on the shop floor. In all three factories, the women workers didn’t leave the shop floor at night. This is an expression of a radical transformation of the relations between women and men. In February 2014, in Baxter Pharma’s factory, 110 women and 140 men stopped work and stayed on the shop floor, refusing to buckle under the pressure of the management, labour department and police.
Starting from 24 March, 2014, in all the three Napino Auto and Electronics factories, men and women workers stopped work and stayed on the shop floor round the clock, and continued to do so on 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 March and 1 and 2 April. The misanthropic company stopped the canteens of all three factories. Workers of the C shift of all three factories, who were outside the factories, brought food. Workers of many other factories remained in constant touch with the workers inside these three factories, carrying on discussions with them, circulating word in other factories about what was going on, and helping out with food.
Similar happenings have occurred in the recent past in Maruti Suzuki Manesar, Suzuki Powertrain, Suzuki Motrocycle, Satyam Auto, Bajaj Motor, Endurance, Hailax, Lumex, Dighania, Hero Honda, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter, Harsurya Healthcare, Ametip Machine Tools.
Today we can say with full confidence that an unsettling courses through seven billion people. It is inspired by the desire for an assertion of the overflow of the surplus of life. It is an expression of creative, boundless astonishment.
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Emergence of factory rebels. Attack on factories by congregations of workers. Frightened management. Industrial areas turn into war zones. Rising numbers of workers as political prisoners. Courts that keep refusing bail. A mounting rebuttal in shop floors of the unsavoury behaviour of managers and supervisors. The dismantling of the managerial game of concessions. Irrelevance of middlemen. An acceleration of linkages and exchanges between workers.
This is the general condition of today.
Friday, 28 March, 2014, 10.30 AM. Orient Craft Factory, Sec 18, Gurgaon. A tailor dies of electric shock from a machine in the factory. The company calls the police and declares heart attack as the cause of death. 1200 women and men workers of the factory rebel – first inside the factory, then out on the streets. Workers from other factories join them. 2:30 PM onwards, 3 ACPs, 1 DCP and police from half a dozen police stations from Sector 18 and from Gurgaon West Zone, Udyog Vihar, set up a barricade against the assembling workers. By 4 PM, stone pelting, lathi-charge, tear gas, firing starts. 1 ASP and and 10 policemen are injured, and 40 vehicles damaged. Many workers and hawkers injured. Police registers case against thousands of workers. By now, many workers have been arrested, and countless others are being chased. According to the workers, a woman worker had similarly died of a sudden burst of current in a machine, on 26 March.
Two years ago, workers of the same company from the factory located in Sec 37, Gurgaon, had pitched battle with the management and police. Recently, workers in Ghaziabad (Gragiano), in Faridabad (Lakhani Shoes), in IMT Manesar (Maruti Suzuki), in Noida, in Okhla Industrial Area, in the Prithla-Baghola area of Palwal (Shivani Locks, Bio Medical, Haryana Wire, Mahindra, Vamani Overseas, SKH, Auto Ignition) have clashed with and battled managers, factory buildings and police. These clashes are against and bring into view the dominant social relations that govern life today, and which managers, buildings and police are expressions of.
Today we can say with full confidence that an unsettling courses through seven billion people. And relatedly, a crisis-laden astonishment: What happens to the colossal wealth that is being produced? Where does it go? How is it that such a tiny sliver from it reaches daily life?