The bright side of Economic Reforms: Sep 2001: My dad got his wish fulfilled. He got his car, his son had bought for him (in a way), by sending him the first remittance at his NRI account from Japan. My mother gets a watch she never expected to be that miniature. She could wear it as a ring and she went about telling her friends proudly that her son got it for her while working in Japan. Those Japanese chocolates that melted in the mouth and those smiles on those swollen mouths filled with chocolate....what else would express satisfaction and pride better in a middle class family.
The dirty side of Economic Reforms: 25th July 2005. Its 12:00 Midnight. I am attending a meeting called by students giving a farewell to a former JNUSU (JNU Students' Union) President, Com. Vijoo Krishnan. I hear murmurs by my side. One friend says that he has heard about serious worker unrest in Gurgaon and severe police reprisal in retaliation. Another says that nearly 500 odd workers were brutally lathi charged and there were graphic pictures being shown on TV. The organizers of the meeting, call an end to the meeting and all of us symbolically troop on to Ganga Dhaba (another of JNU's aithihaasik sthals), where we all order chai and biscuit and call a toast to Com. Vijoo's future. As we are doing so, the murmurs have been raised to a din where all "comrade" students have been outraged by the serious assault on workers. The organizers of the meeting regroup and tell us that they have planned a march to Haryana Bhavan to protest against the police oppression. I join in, partly because I am appalled by what I hear and partly because I feel this is the right time for me to show solidarity to the cause of workers as a student-intellectual.
I retire back to my hostel room, in the way, going to the TV room to check out what is the hullabaloo all about. I find horror on screen. Workers being beaten up black and blue as if they were ordinary criminals by policemen wielding lathis as if they were wreaking havoc on dogs. One worker is beaten simultaneously by nearly 5 constables mercilessly without a regard for the fact that this worker is unarmed, is wafer thin in structure and he is protesting innocence while being in excruciating pain. I ponder again. Whatever happened to the State, the annadaatha, who is supposed to care for its workers?
The next day, I wake up early (for a change). I gulp up whatever every newspaper that comes to my hostel offers: The Hindu, TOI, HT, Indian Express, and The Asian Age. All of these papers express angst at the police action as if by rote. Photos on the papers are graphic. My classmate (who was with me the whole time the previous day) and me pick up the papers and prepare for the pamphlet of the day protesting against Police Atrocities in Gurgaon. We cut off the photos and hand them over to the artist-friend of ours to complete the pamphlet. We then take the bus to Haryana Bhavan.
In the road adjoining Haryana Bhavan, we find representatives from Trade Unions, Leftist workers already in "attire" (flags, et al). We bide our time. One "leader" says that other "comrades" were not allowed by the Police to join this congregation and therefore "we" would have to block traffic in the adjoining road so that the police co-operates and lets the other representatives come over. The congregation rushes to the road and blocks traffic for a full 5 minutes, before the police relents and assures that no vehicle carrying representatives shall be blocked. The funny thing is that even while the traffic was stopped for a while, the people inconvenienced do not bark on their horns and are rather amused but at the same time watching the whole episode earnestly. Once "we" receive the assurance, the congregation then starts marching toward Haryana Bhavan. It encounters a barricade and overcomes the same. Before it encounters the second barricade, yet another congregation of a "friendly" trade union joins hands and together we stand before the second barricade. Here we face trouble, the police have mobilized water cannons on the marching brigade and soon most of the brigade is drenched with water and 2 of these are injured. All these for making a symbolic gesture against the action taken by the police against those workers in neighboring Gurgaon.
Two days later: Articles galore in The Hindu. Harish Khare condemns the behavior of the Haryana Police and alleges that the State acted in Cahoots with the Honda Management. He points out his accusing finger at the apathy of the State owing to its disposition toward the capitalist class in the so called Investment Haven in Gurgaon. P.Sainath is more scathing. He explains the dichotomy between the Mall and the Chawl and how the structural economic policies of the Indian State have created such a malodorous environment for most in a majority and piquant pleasure for others in a minority.
Yet, the other Bourgeois Media papers change tack. The Indian Express' lead headline is a statement from a West Bengal Left Minister who says what happened in Gurgaon would not happen in Bengal. The TOI alludes to a militant section in the workers' procession starting the entire episode of violence and counter violence. Reports are then published about how a Japanese minister says that FDI to India could be affected due to such labour related issues. The TOI then asks its readers whether Gurgaon's reputation as a investment location will be tarnished by the incidents.
Crocodile tears for the sufferings of the workers for a few days and then reverting to the management's story about the entire incident and putting the blame on the accursed leftists...that’s the take of the bourgeois media on La Affaire Gurgaon.
No mention of the fact that if such a labour dispute happened in Honda Company in Japan, a) the State would have enforced penalties on the Management, b) the Workers of the company would never have allowed such a dispute to occur first place!.
The Dirty side of the economic reforms is indeed revealed. To make life easier for management, labour laws are diluted by the State. Flouting of rules by management is condoned. Honda workers complain that female workers are not given closed toilet rooms in their work areas. Unionization of workers is prevented and arbitrary action is taken against those who demand labour law implementations. Employees are fired en masse. The media raises no noise over these serious problems faced by the workers. The focus is still on FDI and the Malls. Not the Chawls.
Which face should I see and interpret? The face of my parents who were proud of their son's so called achievements in a foreign country (where all he did was write a few bytes of code for some bloody program that was part of a huge set of 10000 programs) or the face of those workers beaten up by the police ostensibly to keep intact the Investment friendly face of Gurgaon? I am still deeply troubled. A crisis engulfs me.