The entire route that I usually take to office had been converted into a beeline of cops over the past two days. Gurgaon perhaps witnessed one of its bloodiest scenes of violence and that too in the full gaze of national television- which for want of better and more sensational news- was running a hysterical live commentary of the unfortunate incidents that had rocked this city-cum-town-cum-village.
In what seemed like a shocking take from the Ben Kingsley starrer- ‘Gandhi, policemen of independent, sovereign, socialist, secular republic of India resorted to a shameless act, which bore similarity to their colonial predecessors. I am no communist, in fact have been proud to be a communist baiter for long, as I find the geriatric bunch as one of hypocrites ridden with self contradictions that they try to fight off and justify with their high sounding ideologies. But then the shocking scenes on TV of a group of thousands of unarmed workers of a multinational company being beaten to pulp in the broad daylight by the very ‘custodians’ of the law, could rattle even a rightist like me!
The issue brings into sharp focus the age-old problem of labor reforms and also how little our political parties (especially the Left) and the trade unions have done for this segment of society whose cause they claim to espouse. Going without food and a salary was bad enough for these retrenched workers, but having the living daylights beaten out of them was medieval. Shouldn’t it run a chill down the spine of every concerned citizen that the very administration and the very government which was voted to power a few months ago, begging at the doorsteps of similar individuals, could get so high headed in such a short span? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!
It was similar scenes that I had witnessed many years back as a summer trainee for two months in one of India’s hitherto finest electrical companies. NGEF- New government electric factory- on the busy Old Madras Road of Bangalore was one of the pioneers of electrical machinery in the country…the motors and transformers from NGEF would make their way all over the country- both governmental clients as well as industrial and consumer. But with Liberalization and the entry of Japanese companies who could manufacture the same faster and at cheaper costs, NGEF was fighting a losing battle; it was dying part by part and there was absolutely no support that either the Central or Karnataka government gave to sustain its cash cow. All they could do was retrench a couple of workers, then cut down the scale of operations, then hold back the salaries of many workers, cost-cutting methods of scrapping the lunch that was served at a subsidized basis to the employees, a partial lock out, a declaration of BIFR status and finally! The flood gates opened…there was a massive protest by the workers who had kept quiet for long…it was mayhem on the sprawling NGEF campus on the day which was incidentally my last day there…amidst stone throwing and lathi charge and tear gas and a huge police security I somehow found myself out of the place. But then the issue I heard got from bad to worse…the government decided to sell NGEF off, but sadly there were no buyers…I really shudder to even think about what the current situation there is, except that there is a huge ‘CLOSED’ board that hangs outside the premises!
Faulty policies like these where we barter our own assets at the altar of liberalization, where we show more empathy to the white man who has set the shop than our own dark skinned fellow countrymen who are slogging there day in and out and then react in the way that the Haryana police did with the Honda workers is what keeps alive a defunct ideology like communism in India…the rabble rousers at least appear to sympathize with their cause which makes the workers rally around them…else, with the “god that failed” post Glasnost and Perestroika and one that has radically changed in China wouldn’t have the temerity to hold on to its 1920’s ideology in Bengal and Kerala. Its so easy for them to get away with speeches on Democracy and human rights despite their own precedents in Stalin’s USSR and their opposition to the freedom movement or Indian retaliation of the Chinese aggression in 1962. well, India is truly a tragic comedy of errors!
Just hours after our TV crews went beserk running behind every soul and mongrel that roamed around Gurgaon, Mumbai happened—the floods that torrential rains brought about and the fire at Bombay High and presto! They conveniently forgot good old Gurgaon and its sad workers! Political parties made the right noises for one day, stalled Parliament, screamed their lungs off till they were gasping for breath, called for a Gurgaon bandh, made life hell for commoners like me—but at the end of it no one really cares…neither the governments of the day, nor the opposition, nor the media and of course the ever passive Indian milieu. Nothing concerns us till it happens in our backyard and affects us directly. As a nation, we’ve simply lost the sense of nationalism and responsibility.
Unless a strong public opinion build up against such behavior by the administration that goes against the wishes and interests of our own countrymen (is there any country in the world where the rulers jeopardize the interests of their own people?), unless we ‘educated’ Indians give up our apathy and indifference and a fatalistic attitude of ‘nothing-can-change-this-wretched-country’ the pathetic condition of the workers would continue. many of them have had multiple injuries in sensitive parts of their bodies and with zero medical aid things would only get worse; probes and commissions would be ordered, more mud slinging, more media wars, more empowerment of the leftists and of course the ubiquitous short public memory that India can so proudly flaunt!
I am sure none of us have learnt anything from the Black Monday at Gurgaon!