By Deepali Jain:
‘I lead India’ is an initiative by one of the leading national daily newspapers, The Times of India, presented by Maruti Suzuki and it aims at going beyond ‘armchair criticism’ to give way to real-time change. It is a wake-up call for all the motivated and deft youth, allowing them to be a part of the Youth Brigade spreading across 27 cities and identifying pragmatic solutions to some critical problems on areas such as women’s safety and traffic management. The concept does sound impeccable, meticulously providing a channel for the energy and enthusiasm of youth — veering it towards a stronger nation.
The involvement of Maruti Suzuki in this programme, however, has raised the eyebrows of certain people, mockingly calling it “I mislead India” initiative. Maruti Suzuki, although a revered automobile manufacturing company, cannot be called a very labour friendly enterprise when considering its Manesar plant located in Haryana. In June 2011, a 13-day strike demanding the recognition of the erstwhile Maruti Suzuki Employees’ Union was witnessed, which was followed by another standoff between the management and the workers in August which lasted for 33 days. In October 2011, the company again saw its workers going on a 14-day strike that ended after the signing of a tripartite agreement between the management, workers and Haryana government. But the worst-ever violent conflagration happened in July 2012 when a scuffle between a supervisor and a labourer took a furious course. In the same year, the MSWU — Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union also protested against the exploitation and repression of the workers, claiming that hundreds of workers had been arrested and dismissed without any appropriate reason.
Quite predictably, now when Maruti Suzuki is set to present a TOI initiative that targets to disentangle the troublesome knots present at the grassroot level in India, people have been compelled to ponder over this bizarre partnership. How can a company which has incessantly failed in keeping pace with the rudimentary requirements of its own labour successfully improve the conditions of people across 27 distinct cities? How can a company which could not win the hearts of a handful of workers contemplate gathering support of millions of Indians? How can a company which could not pacify its indignant employees work towards steering the ‘negativity and pessimism’ of the youth for a greater cause?
As the wise say “do not judge a book by its cover”, we should not assess something so hastily. Though this enterprise does not boast of the cleanest background, it still does not give us the right to criticize its endeavour towards a brighter India without first analyzing the outcome. The Youth Brigade will commence its tasks in August and work for 3 months on the allotted projects. Until then, we should hope for the best consequences. I am positive that even if this Brigade is unable to meet the pre-set bars, it will do no harm to the society irrespective of its sponsors or presenters. Partnership with a “cleaner” enterprise may have earned this campaign more credibility but let us not underestimate the youth of this nation who have the potential to overcome insurmountable odds. Our faith in them will surely augment their efforts.