A Glimpse Across the Border: Automobile Workers’ Report from Tata Motors Supplier in Uttarakhand

We translated and summarised an article about the conditions in the factory of a Tata Motors supplier based in the state of Uttarakhand. The article was published in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary journal Nagrik, issue 23, 1 – 15 December 2010. Tata Motors claims to represent the ‘new people’s car’-industry, with cheap cars like the Nano. ‘People’s Cars’ are built with workers’ blood. The state of Uttarakhand attracts investment by massive tax benefits. A fair share of factories has been re-located from other states towards this northern state. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal [Uttarakhand] has established seven industrial estates which, according to the SIDCUL website provide a “Peaceful and Secure Industrial Environment”. Read about the war behind the peace yourself…

The mutilating factory – Rojitasha Company

http://www.sidcul.com/sidculweb/home.aspx

http://www.tatamotors.com/nag

sptripathi@sidcul.com

Rojitasha is a supplier for Tata Motors. The factory is situated in Sidkul, Sector 11, an industrial area in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand. Metal chassis for Tata’s mini truck ‘Chota Hathi” are produced here. The factory used to produce in Poona and has been re-located to Pantnagar, an industrial area of the Sidkul. The factory employs 500 workers out of which 50 are permanent, the rest hired through contractor. The company established the factory as part of the Engineering Industry agreement, but nevertheless openly makes use of the contract system. Apart form this work-force there are about 150 staff employed at Rojitasha. Formal owners are S.D. Gange and R.D. Gange. Tushar Kumble is the plant manager and Pradeep Barik is the production manager. The company manufactures metal bodies for 750 mini trucks a day, using sheet metal and form-giving machinery.

Open violation of health and safety standards and measures

The workers in the area call the Rojitasha factory the ‘scrubby factory’. In the inner yard of the factory scrub and bushes grow, the imported sheet metal for the chassis is also kept in the undergrowth, next to all kinds of rubbish and dirt. In the factory the sheet metal is cut, bent and welded. The noise pollution is extreme. A lot of metal dust and gas from the welding is in the air. Despite the accidents and the dangers neither masks, nor helmets, nor safety glasses, nor ear plugs are handed out to the workers. The factory is therefore also known as the ‘mutilating factory’. The workers are afraid of permanent damage to eyes, lungs, … to their body.

The company runs on two 12-hours shifts, overtime is paid at single rate. The workers receive 247.50 Rs per 12-hours shift. The legal minimum wage for an 8-hours shift is 165 Rs, and it is a crime to force people work longer than these 8 hours. If required the workers are also made to stay 24 hours or 36 hours on stretch. The long working-hours tire the workers out, more accidents happen, more hands get cut, most accidents happen in the 11th and 12th hour of the shift. Everyday workers are hurt, three to four workers become permanently disabled each month. The management and contractors give private treatment to these workers, they try to emotionally blackmail the workers or promise them compensation and permanent employment in the company – in order to prevent the workers from taking legal steps against the company. When things have cooled down these workers are kicked out of the company. Because the workers hired through contractors are not on record they can hardly prove that they have been employed at Rojitasha.

We tell the story of the worker Vikas from Visalpur, who started working at Rojitasha on 27th of September 2010. The worker’s parents are ill, they are not able to do hard work. Vikas’s wife only sometimes finds work on other people’s fields in the villages. He is the oldest of six siblings, so when he was 20 years he left the village to look for a job in factories like Rojitasha. On 16th of November at 3 am in the Rojitasha factory the worker’s hand gets into the metal cutter. Five fingers of his left hand are severed. The contractor first sends him to the private Shubham Surgical Centre in Rudrapur, then to a private nursing home. The worker also goes to a hospital, but his fingers are lost. The contractor puts pressure on Vikas, so that the story cools down and Vikas will meet the same sad fate like the other workers. Rojitasha did not contribute neither to PF nor ESI, neither did the contractor. If Vikas had been registered with the ESI, as according to law, he would now get a pension. Vikas was not aware that the care and compensation after a work accident was not a merciful act of management towards the worker, but a right of the worker which as been fought for.

Apart from that there are only six toilets for 500 workers, out of which two toilets are not usable. According to law one toilet has to be provided for 20 workers. Workers say that they have never seen so dirty toilets before. There is only one tap with drinking water for 500 workers. The food in the canteen is very expensive, about 35 Rs per meal. Wages are paid late, instead of the 7th of the month they are paid between the 15th and the 22nd.

Every second month workers go on sudden strike because of delayed wages. Only if wages are paid or the management assures that wages will be paid soon, the workers would start working again. In October 2010 workers stopped work for four to five hours and only started again once wages were paid. In November, when the question of bonus payment came up, all workers stopped work and gathered at the gate. The supervisors, contractors and managers threatened and scared the workers, the workers then went inside to work. The manager threatened that if he would be made to pay for ESI, PF, company bus etc., he would close and shift the factory. During the night of the 23rd of November the management illegally removed a welding machine, shifted and kicked out 21 workers hired through contractor.