By Abhishek Jha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Around 30-40 protesters at Bikaner House, where the offices of the Prinicpal Resident Commissioner of Rajsthan are located, were detained at the Parliament Street Police station in the afternoon of September 23. The protesters, including workers, students, and activists, were demanding the withdrawal of cases registered against the workers of HMSI’s (Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. Ltd.) Tapukara plant in Alwar district, their reinstatement at the factory, and the registration of their union. Before the protest, D.L. Sachdeva, National Secretary of the CPI affiliated AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress), submitted a memorandum to Dr. Savita Anand, Principal Resident Commissioner, Rajasthan, listing similar demands.
The protest was part of a renewed struggle by the workers of HMSI, which has started since the leaders of their proposed union were released on bail. More than 70 workers were arrested following a strike at the Tapukara factory on February 16, which had started after the alleged assault of an ill worker who refused to work overtime on successive days.Over 3000 workers, a majority of which were employed on a contractual basis, were also terminated or suspended from the factory and replaced with new workers following this incident. Five workers from the factory, including President of their proposed union Naresh Mehta, have been on a hunger-strike at Jantar Mantar since September 19. Students and activists have also been on a simultaneous relay hunger-strike in solidarity with the Honda workers. The workers made a representation to the union labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya on September 22.
Meanwhile, at the Tapukara factory, instructions have been issued to “all associates” to desist from criticising the company on social media. A letter signed by Pradip Kumar Jain, Division Head- General Affairs, and copied to the HMSI-2F Workers’ Union (BMS), a copy of which YKA has seen, notifies all associates that “if objectionable criticism, direct or indirect photos, videos, or information is uploaded on social media sites, then the associate will be subjected to disciplinary proceedings with immediate effect”. It appears from the notice that the rule is a part of the standing orders of the company. Vijendra Kumar, a worker, was suspended on September 23 for engaging with posts related to the hunger-strike on Facebook, a terminated worker told YKA. The suspension letter of the worker, a copy of which YKA has seen, says that the worker is being suspended because there are allegations like “inciting associates, making wrong allegations against the company’s managers, defaming the management, spoiling the amicable environment of the company through social media” against him. Calls made to the Tapukara factory remained unanswered. An email to HMSI has been sent for more information and the article will be updated when a response is received.
The union affiliated to the BMS, which is a central trade union affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was registered around May 2016, the terminated workers say, at the behest of the management. The registration process for the other union, which workers say was the reason for suspensions and terminations of around 800 workers between September 2015 to February 2016, started in August 2015 and has not yet taken place. The Additional Labour Commissioner (Industrial Relations) of Rajasthan, however, told YKA recently that he thinks that the factory is working fine because a union recognised by the management has been registered and a tripartite settlement has been reached.
Note: The article has been updated to include the particulars of the suspension letter offered to a worker on September 23. The name of the worker is Vijendra Kumar. A previous version of the article incorrectly stated the name as Vijender Singh. The error is regretted.