Between 12 and 1 today, the Uttarakhand police lathi charged more than 300 workers who have been sitting on a protest in Dehradun for the last ten days. 11 workers who have been on hunger strike (six from April 6th and five who joined them on April 9th) have been forcibly hospitalised in Doon Hospital, where they are resisting attempts to forcefeed them. 326 workers have been arrested and detained in various jails in the city.
The workers have been on strike for more than three weeks now. They are employees of the Rockman and Satyam Auto plants in Haridwar, both major suppliers of Hero Motors. As in Manesar, Haryana last year, these workers are being paid extremely low wages for more than 12 hours of work a day; when they sought to form a union to demand respect for labour laws, the five leaders of the union were illegally sacked immediately and the others threatened with punishment. On March 19th the majority of permanent workers at Rockman came out on strike in protest at this illegal brutality, and on March 22nd they were joined by all the permanent workers at Satyam. Their main demands are:
1. That they be allowed to form a union as per law, which both companies are trying to suppress;
2. That the five workers who were illegally terminated be reinstated;
3. That all labour laws be complied with within the factory;
4. That their wages be made proportionate to the workload and that they should be paid overtime as required by law.
In the first week of April, in an attempt to suppress their protest, the Uttarakhand government declared section 144 in force in Haridwar. On April 4th the workers sough to come to teh capital, Dehradun, to take out a peaceful march. This too was thwarted by the police, whereupon the workers sat down on dharna at the Parade Ground in the city. On the 6th, six Rockman workers went on hunger strike, and they were joined by five Satyam workers on the 9th. They have been fasting ever since, weakening every day.
No response has come from the government. When a delegation sought to meet the Chief Minister, he told them that these workers are overpaid, that the strike and protest is a conspiracy, and that they would be “dealt with.” The meaning of those words has been demonstrated today.
Workers in other factories in Haridwar, including in Eveready ITC, VIP, and the public sector company Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., have declared their support for the strike. A protest and delegation from other factories in Haridwar is planned tomorrow.
For more details please contact Trepan Singh Chauhan, Uttarakhand Nav Nirman Mazdoor Sangh (09411143539), and/or Amit, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra (09568216305).