The last week has been tumultuous for me. I lost a friend in Awanish to a mindless workplace brutality. The profession lost a person who stood at his post and gave up his life doing his duty. Yet, the professional body concerned, went on to talk about a hand book on IR, research, it made a case study out of the Maruti riot. The Industry bodies did not do themselves any good. The Padma Awardees who lead them, issued statements like politicians do after a terrorist attack. At least the politicians, reassure the citizens that the future will be secure. But CII and FICCI did not even do that. I wrote to at least 30 Industry leaders, only four responded. They are Visionaries! Have we heard one concrete suggestion of promised action from anyone?
Let us start where we have to. Awanish's killing is a brutal murder. So too is any killing of a Unionised worker. So too are the grievous injuries to scores of employees - Managers and Workers at Maruti. This in my mind is an open-and-shut case for the police and the prosecution, if Maruti were to help them and police do not want a cover-up. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses including the police. I am sure there is CCTV evidence. We all will be watching Maruti's, perseverance in bringing the killers of Awanish and the attackers of many others to Justice. I do not expect anything other than this from Mr. Bhargava, an exemplar of values. I guess NHRDN will act at least as a watch dog.
Second is the justification that the violence at work place is due to social divide. Yes, the land and natural resource related social strife is widening and causing untold distress to many. But to equate that with what happened in Maruti or Pricol is insane. A seven-minute tea break and abusive supervisors have been there for 100 years and no mob violence has erupted out of this.
True, where the work force is indulging in restrictive work practices, one should put the foot down, demand workplace discipline and productivity. If executives deny the workers dignity and respect and also equitable wage for similar jobs done, it is equally condemnable. Employing disproportionate workforce on contract, especially when it is core to the business and when the seasonality or peak-load test does not apply is one such questionable means. The same applies to the denial or abdication of ownership to ensure the social security benefits and leaving it to contractors who have no scruples. We also cannot justify the 100 time wage multiple between the lowest paid and the CEO. Having said all this, none of this will justify crime and violence at work place.
In conclusion, the industry leaders, central trade unions and the labour department officials should sit together and hammer out a new charter for a work place which is just, fair, equitable and violence -free. This will illegitimise and isolate the violent fringe.
Let all our leaders listen to K'naan's song, which coke made popular during FIFA 2010 and act.
"Give me freedom; Give me fire; Give me reason; Take me higher;
When I get Older; I will be stronger; they'll call me freedom; just like the waving flag."
Story first published:
July 30, 2012 22:05 IST