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Reports on Workers rights in Gurgaon and Gorakhpur: Precarious situation of migrants and police repression

15 May 2011

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From: The Times of India

Gurgaon’s 8 lakh migrant workers live and work like animals

May 7, 2011, 04.43am IST

For most of the 8 lakh migrant workers that live in Gurgaon, discrimination on the basis of place of birth is common. It was evident in the days leading up to the CWG, when nearly 1.5 lakh migrant workers were forced to leave the city by the police department.

Article 15, Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of India says, There is prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

Nevertheless, discrimination was evident in the tone of the Food and Civil Supplies officer when 20 women went to apply for new ration cards recently. They were asked questions like, Where are you from? The women gave the name of the basti they had come from. No, not that. Where are really from? This line of questioning and the implicit derision was obvious.

It is this kind of treatment from their own administration that keeps workers and their whole families invisible. They do not have birth certificates, ration cards, residence proofs or voter IDs. They make up more than 30 per cent of Gurgaons population and have contributed to the large-scale boom in the economy here sometimes by working in the factories and construction sites here or by working in the homes of people occupying the high-rises but their own identity hangs on a thread and the persistent question, Where are you from?

Let us take ration cards as an example. Applying for a new ration card is fraught with problems.

First you must make a whole host of proclamations about your own sincerity and honesty. Then you must get a gazetted officer or local councillor to stamp and ratify these statements. But the real question is, who is going to do this? Who is going to stand guarantor to the statements of a migrant? Jyoti, from a basti in Old Gurgaon, ran from pillar to post for a week before a councillor agreed to sign her letter.

But the struggle does not end there. Some migrant workers like Anita have ration cards but these are APL (above poverty line) cards. This card does not guarantee her food grain. Do we really get grain on this card?, she asked in disbelief. Nearly 25% of all migrant workers are women. For them, ration cards and food security, especially in the face of sky-rocketing prices, are the highest priority. Yet, in the last one year, the Government of Haryana has not made grain available for APL card holders. When it was made available in the months of February and March, women in the bastis of Gurgaon rushed to pick up their grain quotas. But in April, there was again no allotment from the Government.

This speaks volumes of the attitude of the administration that is refusing to acknowledge the presence and needs of the many migrants who come here, live on very unstable incomes and have absolutely no work security.

Residence proof is even more difficult to acquire. Most migrant workers take up a room in blocks of rooms that have sprung up all over Gurgaon. Here, they either share a room with other workers or live with their families. The house owner usually owns the whole block of rooms and refuses to give any rent receipts or rent agreements. Not only this, they also do not permit any of the neighbours to vouch for the fact that the person is indeed living there. In a recent case, Omprakash, a migrant worker from UP, was faced with eviction because he dared to buy groceries from any other shop except the one owned by the house owner. Such is the domination that the migrants are forced to not only rely on insecure housing arrangements but they are also coerced into buying products higher than MRP from the shops of the house owner. All this, because residence proof is a must if one wants to get a voter id, open a bank account and for a host of other services. Thus, the spiral of invisibility and exploitation continues. But Omprakash says he will fight this exploitation. He has refused to buy from the houseowners shop. The next step is a voters ID. After all, he says, Yeh jitna bhi humko pardesi mane, hai to hamara desh hi.

The writer works with We, the People, a citizen rights network.

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Gurgaon Workers News May 2011 issue

Harsoria Healthcare Workers in Gurgaon attacked by Police

For protest emails to company: info at
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Around 640 workers working in Harsoria Healthcare, Plot 110-111, Phase IV, Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon have been on strike since 9th April 2011 pressing their demands for the re-instatement of 7 workers of the executive body of their Union. The company is a reputed brand in the disposable medical devices industry with an annual output of $300m and a distribution network across 40 countries, which says that it "prides itself on the quality of its workforce".

Its "workforce" meanwhile, daily exploited under extractive factory conditions and insecure employment, had formed an union three months back to take up their demands, which included demand to give permanent status to contract and casual workers, an increase of wage while the company paid less or equal to the minimum wage for unskilled workers in Haryana, for ESI-PF benefits, improvement of the horrible working conditions and against the stringent surveillance inside the factory. Apart from direct within-the-factory exploitation, the company also had forced workers to join and pay a monthly ’hafta’ to an insurance company, Max, which when faced with pressure from the workers, ran away with the hard-earned money of the workers, almost amounting to Rs. 12-12,500 per worker, for workers who earn a meager Rs.4-4500 per month.

When faced with stiff struggle from the workers for their demands - workers remaining inside the factory for 5 days, refusing to work - managemnet started cutting off the water, electricity and food supplies. 9 more workers were thrown out, making the number of suspended workers 16. ’Bouncers’ on the payroll of the company threatened and beat up the workers demonstrating outside and Haryana Police also arrived only to help the goons of the management enforce ’order’.

For the last 17days, 300 workers in the day and 300 at night sat on demonstration to press their legitimate demands. Today, in the evening of 25th April 2011, a huge consignment of police came in full battle-gear and mercilessly attacked the workers, critically wounding six, and injuring many workers and dispersing the strikers, and facilitating the owners to truck-off the finished products from inside the factory.

This is not an isolated one-off incident but a normal feature of how production is organized in the shining model of capitalist development, Gurgaon.

Workers’ Struggle Continues in Gorakhpur

Relay Hunger Strike against lockout in two factories and dismissal of 18 workers continues at the Town Hall

Administration and owners under pressure but adamant, workers also ready for a long drawn fight

The administration and owners had to relent in face of the massive public pressure and resolute stuggle of the workers after the 3 May firing and brutal police repression of workers in Gorakhpur, and the workers achieved a partial victory. All the 18 workers of Ankur Udyog who were dismissed after they went to participate in the May Day rally in Delhi have been taken back and the factory started from May 11. But the owners are adamant on the demand to end the illegal lock-out in two factories of VN Dyers Ltd. in Bargadwa area and reinstatement of the 18 dismissed workers from these two mills. Even the administration has made no attempt to call the owners for talks. Clearly, they want to break the movement by tiring out the workers. But the workers are also ready to fight it out. Due to the feeling of solidarity developed over two years among the workers of Bargadwa, workers from different factories are participating in the relay hunger strike.

The ’workers satyagraha’ launched on 9 May was postponed after some of the demands were met, but the relay hunger strike is continuing since then. The demands include arrest of the accused of the firing, action against the guilty officials, judicial inquiry into the firing and repression, compensation to the workers and ending the lockout in VN Dyers and revocation of all dismissed workers. On two occasions the police arrested 5 and 12 workers sitting on hunger strike but released them after the workers protested.

Meanwhile, various democratic organisations and trade unions of Gorakhpur are preparing for a joint demonstration in support of the workers’ movement. Workers of several factories of the the GIDA industrial area have also announced their support to the movement. Preparations have been made to file a petition in the Allahabad High Court and Gorakhpur court to demand an inquiry.

In the meantime, condemnation of the repression of workers of Gorakhpur and support for their movement continues from all over the country.

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Colonial style brutal repression of workers in Gorakhpur, para-military forces and police assault and arrest workers going for peaceful ’Mazdoor Satyagrah’

Brutal repression of workers in Gorakhpur, para-military forces and police assault and arrest workers going for peaceful ’Mazdoor Satyagrah’

No trace of women workers, a labour leader and a girl student
taken into custody

Over 200 workers begin fast in protest at the town hall amid heavy presence of police and PAC

Skirmishes with police continue throughout the day, police and PAC take positions all over the city

Severe condemnation from jurists, civil rights activists, political parties, writers

Mazdoor Satyagrahi teams will reach Gorakhpur from Delhi, Punjab and
other places

Gorakhpur, 9 May – A new black chapter was added in the history of brutal repression of workers in Uttar Pradesh as the police action unleashed by the district administration to crush the peaceful ’Mazdoor Satyagrah’ beginning from today to demand justice for the 3 May incident on firing on workers resembled action by the colonial police.

As soon as the workers assembled in the FCI ground near the Bargadwa industrial area to proceed towards the divisional commissioner’s office for the Mazdoor Satyagrah announced four days prior, they were charged with canes and water cannons by the police and PAC and their leader Prashant was arrested. Despite repeated attacks the workers kept on trying to reach the collectorate peacefully but throughout the day the police resorted to beatings and chased wherever they saw 10-12 workers together. Even workers going by public transport were stopped and beaten or threatened.

Still, more than 200 workers managed to reach the district collectorate which was already turned into a police camp. After dispersing the workers by lathicharging them, around 100 workers along with 30 women workers and a girl student accompanying them were taken into custody which are still untraced.

Sangeeta, the wife of Pappu Jaiswal who was critically injured in the May 3 firing had also reached the collectorate for the Satyagrah and lost consciousness during the police action. When there was no help from the administration, the workers somehow took her to the hospital.

Wherever the police see even a small group of workers they are stopped. Despite this 200 workers assembled at the Gandhi statue near Town Hall and have started a hunger strike as part of the Mazdoor Satyagrah. A heavy contingent of police and PAC are surrounding them and are threatening to arrest. New teams of workers are trying to reach there and skirmishes with the police are continuing in several parts of the city.

This incident has attracted widespread condemnation from every corner of the country and eminent jurists, journalists, intellectuals, civil right activists etc. have demanded that the repression be immediately stopped, the incident be duly probed and immediate action be taken against the culprits alongwith fulfilling the constitutional demands of the workers.

It should be remembered that on May 3 hired goons of the factory owners of Ankur Udyog Ltd. in Gorakhpur had fired upon the workers injuring 19 workers and a girl student. The workers were protesting against the termination of services of 18 workers for participating in the May Day rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Even after a week after the incident the police and administration have taken no action against the culprits of the firing incident, instead they are proactively and continuously targeting the workers and their leaders. The workers had announced to launch a worker’s Satyagraha from today due to which the factory owner-police-administration-politician nexus had gone into a frenzy and a series of statements had been issued warning the workers of dire consequences and threatning to arrest their leaders under NSA.

Soon after the news of this incident spread intellectuals, activists, journalists, social and cultural activists have condemened this incident and demanded action against the culprits. Several worker’s unions from Punjab and Delhi have announced their intention to join and support the Satyagraha launched by the workers of Gorakhpur till their legal demands are fulfilled.

Meanwhile, jurists, human rights activists, journalists, social activits from the country and abroad have signed a petition to the Chief Minister of U.P. Ms. Mayawati in support of the demands of the workers and have urged her to order a judicial enquiry into the incident. Eminent personalities who have signed this petition include among others poet Manglesh Dabral, Dr. Binayak Sen of PUCL, documentary filmmaker Anand Patvardhan, Ram Puniyani, Justice Rajender Sachhar, social activist Medha Patkar, Illina Sen, Vandana Mishra, Chitranjan of PUCL (U.P.), Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad.

In the meantime, 81 year old veteran social activist and a leader of U.P. teacher’s movement and president of Anurag Trust, Kamla Pandey has said that she would herself demonstrate against the repression of the workers in Mayawati’s regime and sit on fast unto death unless justice is done to the workers. She has challenged the Mayawati Govt. to arrest her. She said in a statement that she has spent more years in social struggles since the freedom movement and teacher’s movement than the age of Mayawati and she won’t hesitate in joining the struggle once again if the situation demands.

Citizens Front in support of Gorakhpur Worker’s Movement

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Press Release

We strongly condemn the murderous attack on workers who attended the May Day rally in Delhi by factory owners in Gorakhpur

New Delhi, 3 May - We strongly condemn the murderous attackon workers who attended the May Day rally in Delhi to hand over their charterof demands to the government by factory owners in Gorakhpur and demandimmediate intervention by the Uttar Pradesh and central govt. to punish theguilty.

Around 2000 factory workers had come toDelhi to take part in the May Day rally. When hundreds of workers of AnkurUdyog Ltd. returned to their work this morning they were stopped by a notoriouscriminal Pradeep Singh and his goons hired by the factory owners who first beatthe workers and then started firing in which at least 20 workers were seriouslyinjured. The condition of one worker is critical who has a bullet lodged in hisspine and has been sent to the medical college. 18 workers are admitted to thedistrict hospital.

This well-planned attack had the fullcomplicity of the civil administration and police who are working shamelesslyon the behest of the local BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. The police escorted theattackers outside the factory premises and let them escape.

This incident is one more example of thedespotic and anti-worker attitude of the Uttar Pradesh govt. The conveningcommittee of the Workers Charter Movement warns that if immediate action is nottaken against the mill owners and criminals who have spilt the blood of workersand the officials who are defending them, this issue will be raised amongworkers throughout the country and workers from different parts of India willgo to Gorakhpur to start a militant protest.

There will be a massive protest againstthis attack on 5 May, Thursday at the Uttar Pradesh Bhavan at 11 AM.

— for, Convening Committee

Workers’ Charter Movement - 2011

[Related News report:
- 17 workers suffer pellet wounds in clash at mill (Indian Express - May 3, 2011)‎]