Violence at Maruti's Manesar plant flared over a disagreement between workers and the management.
New Delhi: A court in Gurgaon in Haryana has convicted 31 workers for the violence at the Maurti Suzuki factory in Manesar in 2012 in which a manager was set on fire in a conference room. A mob tore through the plant in Haryana owned by India's largest car manufacturer, smashing property and setting parts of the factory on fire. Human Resources Manager Awanish Kumar Dev was burned to death. Nearly 150 workers were arrested, of whom 117 were found not guilty today of charges including criminal conspiracy and murder.
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The trial lasted four years. 100 management personnel and nine police officers were injured during the clashes; most of them were hospitalized.
The Manesar factory, which manufactured 550,000 cars a year, was shut for a month. It accounts for around a third of Maruti's total output. Work resumed only after adequate security was made available.
The riot began over a disciplinary issue with an employee. Company officials said workers began to attack senior management during discussions, while the workers' union said its representatives were attacked first.
The violence lasted several hours. 1,200 policemen were called in to secure the factory located 25 miles south of Delhi.
"Armed with iron rods and door beams of cars, the mob spread out in groups in the factory area and targeted supervisors, managers and executives... rendering many of their victims bleeding and unconscious," Maruti said in a statement.
The police combed through CCTV footage and interviewed witnesses to identify people responsible for the violence. The Haryana government formed a special investigation team to handle the inquiry.
The union accused Maruti of "anti-worker and anti-union activities." In a statement, it said, "The gates were closed by the security on behest of the management and the bouncers brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms."
In 2011, Maruti lost over $500 million worth of production last year due to weeks of labour unrest at the same plant, slashing its sales and market share.
The violence was seen as damaging for India's appeal to investors. The automobile sector had been a bright spot on India's troubled path to industrialization, with many global carmakers setting up shop in the country to serve the fast-growing domestic market and establish a low-cost export base.
Experts pointed out that labour laws were compelling companies like Maruti to rely heavily on contract laborers, who are easy to fire and get far less in salary and benefits than permanent workers. Maruti said at the time that it had been cutting back on the number of contract workers it hired and was prioritizing permanent jobs for them. The Economic Times had reported that half the workers at Manesar were on contract, earning Rs 6,000 a month - one third of what permanent employees were paid.