The Lesson Titilagarh Teaches: Proprietors of Industries are Not the Owners of the Workers

 

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Titilagarh is a piece of peaceful highland. Its inhabitants were accustomed to the exploitation by the princes from generation to generation. They are accustomed to post-independence exploitation by political mafia and their allies, the traders. Yet a factory manager stationed there has succumbed to burn injuries received under circumstances of industrial unrest. He is A.K.Ray, Deputy General manager of Powmex Steel ltd. Tortured workers allegedly torched his vehicle at the main gate of the factory.

For last many months Powmex was under avoidable unrest as the management was not heeding to workers’ demand for fair wages. Their union leaders were subjected to ruthless oppression, suspension and termination, simply because their demands for a pay package for the workers with proper standing orders were anathema to the motive of the employer.

Powmex is a private industry and moneyed persons may be proprietors of private industries when an elected government serves capitalism. But sadly, industrial proprietors pride in themselves as proprietors of the workers that serve their industries and hence they never tolerate any demand for better service condition of the workers. And the exploitive State collaborates with them by providing protection to industries to the extent of pressing the police against the workers and in pampering a judiciary that, as in Bajaj Automobile case, punishes the workers to protect the employer’s interest. Labor law machinery serves the industries than the workers.

In such an environment, if Titilagarh takes a drastic turn, who to blame?

No body knows who set the manager’s vehicle to fire. But the right-wingers have started vomiting that the miscreants must be the dismissed / suspended workers.

We certainly feel sad over the untimely death of the factory’s DGM. But, to us, it is an instance of how workers’ wrath may manifest if exploitation goes on unabated.

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  1. Most of the managers in private factories are also human beings despite career ambitions. But they are forced to be anti-labour due to greed in official and political levels. Labour department does not bother if worker dies or is injured. In fact, if death or injury to labour raises the issue of any compensation, that opens up gates of benefit to labour department officers more than to the labour. Then there is political lobby in favour of Labour contractors. That was reason of Paradeep massacre in 1980, the Inquiry report on which is not available. No industry is engaging workers directly. Workers are engaged only through contractor who gets 60-70% of amount given for labour. Unskilled worker is getting about Rs.2000/- per month and skilled abut 3000. Double of that amount goes to labour contractor who has become foundation of our political set up in the whole country. Study of this aspect in this incident will be a great service to the country.

  2. Of course it is a sad incident happened in a peaceful place like Titilagarh. But at the same time it reveals that oppressed mass can do anything to show their desolation in any manner. Concern government department as well as governing body of industries should keep it in attention to stop this type of occurrence. Mutual understanding and obeying the labor welfare rules can help very much.

  3. To burn alive an executive is not the remedy to any problem. A delegation of workers could meet the CM of a state after the factory was locked out, weren’t they capable of doing that before burning alive the executive? Or else they wanted to prepare the govt. to listen to their demands? Whomsoever committed this ‘murder’ is not going to accomplish his target by burning alive an executive as he was also an employee.

    The incident shows that the mental set up of the local residents was not tolerable towards the executive. One may apprehend that there might be some other reasons behind the killing of the executive. Factory strikes are not new in the history of any company; but in how many areas the people see such kind of savage activities?

    The one who died was also a responsible person who was to look after the factory affairs. On the other hand, how can a company lockout it’s profitable unit for one single executive being burnt alive when it is ready to deploy a workforce of 114 people from it’s factory premises; as one particular DGM is not generating the revenues of the company’s interest.

    Other aspect of importance is the tenure of the executive in that company or in that town because in such cases the most pertinent matter is the mutual coordination between the two i.e. the executive and the local residents.

    Burning alive cannot be given the status of professional rivalry in this case or may be the agitated ones never knew a better language?

    Titilagarh is a tehsil, it has got it’s local MP, MLA and has got a complete administrative cum judiciary set up too. When the local administration knew that there was going on a protest in the town itself then why didn’t the local administration deploy a protection force at the company main gate?

    When such kind of protests are not new in the history of powmex steels limited, why the local administration kept mum over this issue?

    This is the normal accepted behaviour from the factory union that it must give a prior notice to the local police station about the strike in front of the company main gate for the accomplishment of it’s demands. Then why the local police didn’t look upon this serious matter inspite of being aware of the fact that in the heat of agitation any thing can happen? And even if the company management didn’t call upon the security force, this is not by itself a point that the management didn’t expect such kind of behaviour from workers.

    Definitely some internal personnel was involved or may be Mr. Rai was the culprit or else there was a level of dissatisfaction spread across the ones who were working inside the administrative building.

    Whatever be the matter, this is quite sure that each and every single ear in the locality must have heard the screams of the burning DGM; but none did do any thing for his rescue. This is the point to be ‘observed’.

    A fake encounter with one victim shot down, poor mercy over his family duly supported by innocence of the residents!

    What a great “peaceful” state Orissa has become!

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