Industrial Workers Fight for Rights in Special ‘Japanese & ‘South Korean Zones’ in India
J S Majumdar
ON the very first day of the two-day countrywide general strike by workers on January 8-9, police in the Congress-ruled Rajasthan lathi-charged, used teargas and fired on the peaceful assembly of the workers in front of Japanese company Daikin Airconditioning Private Limited in the so-called ‘Japanese Zone’ in the Neemrana industrial area in Alwar district. Several workers were injured in the police action. The police also filed false cases against several workers and arrested them, 18 of them are still in jail.
Neemrana has two special areas named as ‘Japanese Zone’ and ‘South Korean Zone’ exclusively for the multinational companies from these countries. To demarcate these areas, the state government has put up ‘Japanese Zone’ and ‘South Korean Zone’ signboards. These areas act like the “occupied territories” by these foreign corporates with the help of the state police. The civil administration barely exists there. It is the police which control these areas. There are no labour officials or labour office at Neemrana. Labour official sits 72 kilometers away in the district headquarter at Alwar town.
In case of the present labour dispute at Daikin, where 426 permanent and 425 contract workers have not been allowed to resume duties on January 10 after the nationwide general strike on January 8-9, the police arrested the union leaders and brought them to the police station to hold discussion with the management there to settle the issues by accepting all victimisations, except 370 permanent workers, without following the rules of natural justice. The union’s stand is ‘status quo ante’ position as on January 7. For joining countrywide workers general strike, 851 workers in Daikin have been kept out of employment till this day. This is an example of industrial relation in ‘Japanese Zone’ in Neemrana.
Be it the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government or the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan, both ensured that normal trade unions rights are curbed, no assembly of the workers take place. Even, the investigating team, led by CITU general secretary Tapan Sen; E Kareem, MP (Rajya Sabha); Shankar Datta, MP (Lok Sabha); and others, were prevented by police barricade in front of Daikin on February 5 on the plea of ‘law and order’. The team of state leaders of CITU, AITUC and HMS, accompanying them, was not even allowed to enter in ‘Japanese Zone’.
In Neemrana, hundreds of workers including the entire leadership have summarily been dismissed by the managements of these multinational companies when they tried to form unions or protested against any unjust action of the managements. These multinational companies maintain musclemen as their security force. They keep the workers terrorised and often beat them. On January 8, these musclemen of Daikin, in association with police, also assaulted the workers on the road outside the company premises. CITU and the union have been demanding that FIRs be filed against these criminals for their act outside company premises.
It is reported that Japan’s ambassador telephoned the chief minister in favour of the Japanese company Daikin, breaking diplomatic protocol and interfering in India’s domestic matters.
Demanding a judicial inquiry into police action against the Daikin workers, reinstatement of all its victimised workers and withdrawal of false cases against them, CITU state delegations, along with CPI(M) and Kisan movement leader Amra Ram, met the district collector, district police chief, the state labour minister and the chief minister. But there was no positive response from them. On the contrary, police atrocities against the workers continued and more arrests were made.
In this situation, the CITU Rajasthan state committee decided to launch agitation in pursuance of the above demands of the union and also for restoration of workers’ rights and civil liberties in ‘Japanese Zone’ and ‘South Korean Zone’ and removal of the signboard signifying the illegal occupation of Indian territory by foreign corporates.
On February 5, a CITU protest rally in front of the SDM office in Neemrana was joined by 1,500 workers, mostly young workers from the entire Neemrana industrial area. The spirited protest rally and workers’ mass meeting were addressed by Tapan Sen, E Kareem, Shankar Datta, and national and state leaders of AITUC, state leaders of HMS, CITU and others. The rally was also joined by CITU and unions leaders from adjoining industrial areas of Haryana.
On February 17, a 700-strong workers procession and rally was held in Neemrana specifically on contract workers’ demands like minimum wage at par with NCT-Delhi, equal pay for equal work as per Supreme Court judgment, regularisation of their jobs, etc. Police, as usual, did not allow the procession to enter into the ‘Japanese Zone’ and threatened resorting to lathi-charge in case any attempt was made to enter. The rally was addressed by CITU state leaders and others.
In continuation, hundreds of workers staged demonstration in front of the district administration, 72 kilometers away in Alwar town, on February 20. A continuous sit-in agitation and relay fast have been continuing since February 21.
In this background, the CITU Rajasthan state committee decided to stage demonstration in front of the chief minister’s office in Jaipur demanding his immediate intervention to resolve the workers and CITU demands. CITU national leaders will also participate. On that day, there will be simultaneous demonstrations in all district headquarters and submission of memoranda addressed to the chief minister.
The CITU gave call of countrywide solidarity with Daikin’s fighting workers and called upon the state committees and national federations to send demand letters to the chief minister of Rajasthan.