Devender Dhankar (39) had been working at the Maruti company for around seven years as a permanent worker when he was dismissed in the wake of the violence at the company’s Manesar plant on July 18, 2012. He claimed that he was at the company’s dispensary when the violence broke out. For that reason, and since he had not been well, and his name did not appear on the Special Investigation Team’s list of accused workers. However, he was sacked along with 546 permanent workers by the company, citing “loss of confidence”.
A resident of Rohtak’s Bakheta village, Mr. Dhankar owns less than an acre of agricultural land. He works as contract farmer and rears cattle to make ends meet. “I tried to find a job for the first few years after the incident but was turned away every time because of my past as a sacked Maruti worker, despite there being no charges against me. I then gave up. Anyway, we are a small family with limited expenses and can manage with what we are earning,” said Mr. Dhankar. He, however, expressed regret over not being able to provide better education for his only child because of his poor financial condition.
Mr. Dhankar, who took part in a two-day hunger strike outside mini-secretariat here on October 11-12, along with fellow sacked Maruti workers, in support of their demand for reinstatement, is determined to get his job back some day. “I want to get my job back with the Maruti, even if it is only for a day,” he reiterated.
Spearheading the sacked workers’ legal battle for reinstatement, Jitender Kumar, who was also among those dismissed from the job in the aftermath of the violence, said that around 150 workers joined the agitation and support poured in from workers’ and trade unions in the Gurugram-Manesar-Bawal auto belt.
“The matter has been lingering in the labour court for six years now and the end is not in the sight. It is a very long and tedious process. So, we decided to get united again and hold an agitation to press for reinstatement. Of the 546 permanent workers sacked by the company in 2012, 426 were terminated citing ‘loss of confidence’ without any internal probe and were not on the SIT’s list of accused persons. We moved court in 2016 saying that it was illegal,” said Mr. Kumar, a resident of Rewari.
He said the case of one of the workers, Ram Niwas, was slated for final arguments on November 21 at Gurugram Labour Court and the decision could decide the fate of the rest of the cases running separately. “Of the 546 workers, only 340 chose to pursue the matter legally. All these cases are being heard separately. So, the decision in the case of Ram Niwas could decide the fate of the remaining cases with similar grounds and circumstances,” said Mr. Kumar.
Khusiram, another worker leading the two-day protest, said the response to the hunger-strike was encouraging and a similar protest for a longer period might be held soon. “We held the hunger-strike without much preparation but still 150 sacked workers turned up for it. Many more wanted to come but could not join in for various reasons. They all suggested to launch a longer agitation to take the matter to the logical end,” he said.
In a memorandum to Haryana Chief Minister at the end of the two-day hunger-strike, the terminated workers have sought the intervention of the Indian government into the matter to ensure their reinstatement.
Of the 148 workers arrested in connection with the violence at the plant, the trial court at Gurugram in 2017 had convicted 31 workers and acquitted 117.