Thursday, September 30, 2010


(New Series No. 267, September 2010)
A worker’s account of the Viva Global dispute, Marks & Spencer supplier. 413, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon.

“Often there’s no water in the toilets because the pipe is bust. During the summer, drinking water is warm from the overhead tank. Workers on the 3rd floor must go to the 1st or 4th floor for drinking water since there’s none on our floor. It’s too hot on the shopfloor and workers faint. The annual wage increment is too low. Overtime is paid at single rates while we’re told to sign that we’ve received double. To overcome the problems faced by these regular workers, tailors took the initiative to start a union. Slowly 250 workers hired by the contractors were thrown out. Among these thrown-out workers there were 150 women (threadcutters and sequin/ bead sewers, repair workers) earning Rs.3,000 per month (significantly below the minimum wage). Since April the company has closed overtime and management started getting work done outside the factory. They began discriminating against permanent tailors by giving less work and then making allegations that they weren’t working. 20th August, some workers went with the union to the labour office and one representative from management came, carrying merely a letter. On Monday August 23rd, 14 workers were stopped at the gate and prevented from going into duty and told that they were suspended. Instead of the usual 3 guards, there were 7, as well as 8 others to bully the workers. 120 workers stood in the rain and arguing that these 14 should be let in, there arose a scuffle between the workers and guards. Then others arrived with hockeysticks from the company’s side. Male and female workers were beaten with hockeysticks and so forced away from the factory gates. They also took one worker away.

Workers went to the union office, then the union called the labour officer to the factory. But nothing happened. Since August 2rd, 120 workers have been sitting at the factory gate in a protest, with only 50 working inside. The union president and a tailor sat on a hunger strike to get the kidnapped worker released, which he was the next day, dropped beaten and injured, 500 yards from factory gate.
On 27th August, the police arrested three persons in relation to this case.

The factory makes goods from M&S. The buyer came from Bangalore. She made enquiries and called the union and management representatives for a meeting in a hotel. Then she left for Bangalore after saying that there would be a meeting on 28th August between management and union to reach an agreement. But until now (12 p.m., August 28th), management had not shown its face”.

Students comment on the protest
“2nd September labour commissioner himself came to the factory (from Chandigarh). He stayed for 2 hours with management. After coming out, he told the (non-suspended) workers to return to work, saying that an agreement would be reached. Then the workers roughly spoke to him and the union leader spoke in his favour. There was some discussion among the workers that they should negotiate for 6 of the suspended workers to stay out and for the rest to go in.”


(New Series No. 266, August 2010)

India Bulls worker- 448, 49, 50, 51 Udyog Vihar Ph V.
3,500 workers. Share market, electricity, real estate, finance company.
60 – cleaning
26 – security (‘Swift Securities’)
15 – maintenance, all hired thru contractors.

Security guards: 2x12 hour shift, no weekly off. Rs.6,200 for 30 days at 12 hours per day. July 7th, 8 a.m, all guards left their duty posts and by 8.30 a.m., management had offered Rs. 1,000 extra to all per month.

Bharat Export Overseas (garments)- 493, Udyog Vihar Ph III.
Production Dept: Work starts 9 a.m., finished at 8.30 p.m. daily required. 4 days per week, until 1 a.m.

Finish Dept- 1 a.m. daily is shift close and few times per month, work whole night (to 6 a.m.). For all these days they get Rs.25/ day for food. All overtime at single rates.

350 workers, none have ESI/ PF (only small ‘staff’).
Helpers on Rs.130 and tailors Rs.180, for 8 hrs.

16th July, production workers were collected in the basement and finishers on 1st floor and were told that buyers are coming next day (17th) and if they are asked, they must say that helpers get Rs.162/8 hrs and tailors Rs.270/ 8 hrs, there’s no overtime, and all workers have social security benefits…

Buyers came, saw, went and didn’t talk to the workers.

Toilets are filthy.

Hyundai Supron showroom- 255 Udyog Vihar Ph IV.
All workers (not staff) thru contractor, Rs.3,500-4,000.

2nd week July, labour inspector came, met officers and went away.

Libas Exports- 357 Udyog Vihar Ph IV.

Landlords: in Kapa Sera and other villages, landlords say that to stay in their house, worker tenants must purchase from their shops at higher rates.

Eastern Medikit- 196 Udyog Vihar Ph I.
Casual workers given June wages on 20th July. Permanent workers work in 3 shifts of 8hours, while casual workers have two 12 hr shifts. Overtime payment is less than single (Rs.15/ hr). May overtime was not paid until July 11th.

Graffiti Exports- 377 Udyog Vihar Ph II.
On July 10th, company closed all stitching work. 350 workers were total, now only 85 in finish dept remain. Helpers are paid minimum wage of Rs. 4,214 against 10.75 hrs instead of 8 hours. Shift is 9:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., and frequently to 2 a.m. This overtime gives helpers only 5 hours overtime (while checkers get 7 hours).

Few workers have ESI & PF.

Buyers include ‘White & Company’, ‘Nimi Mazi’, and ‘Noa Noa’. Wages paid only the 15th of every month. Drinking water is poor.

EEL- 402 Udyog Vihar Ph III.
8 a.m.-8 p.m., 11 a.m.-10:15 p.m. are two main shifts. 175 workers make machinery for cement plants. Overtime paid at single rates. Another factory at 509 UV Ph II(50workers the same 12 hr shift).

Rakheja Enterprise- 74 Udyog Vihar, Ph I.
Helpers’ wage: Rs.3,500
General checker: Rs.4,000
Tailors: Rs.4,500

Overtime less than single rate at Rs.16.66 per hour.

700 workers make garments for ‘Jack Jack’, only 3 of these have ESI & PF.
Second factory at 744 UV Ph 5, where helpers’ wages are Rs.3,000.
Dirty toilets.

Sarthi Security- Hanuman Mandir, Dunda Hera village, Udyog Vihar.
Guards work in two 12 hr shifts and no weekly off. After 30 days, paid Rs.5500.

Sargam Exports- 152-153, 210, Udyog Vphar Ph 1, 224 Ph IV UV & 540 Ph V, UV.
Payment of wages is according to minimum wage. Overtime at greater 100 hours per month all paid double.

Management is very abusive, and they take bribes of Rs.500 per month from helpers (arguing where else do you get such a good deal). Buyer is H&M.

Bhurji Supertec- 272, Udyog Vihar Ph II.
June wages not paid until 22nd July.

Premium Molding- 185, Udyog Vihar Ph I.
Making steering equipment for Maruti.

Helpers’ wage Rs. 3,500, 80 hours overtime per month, paid at 6 rupees per hour.

S&R- 298, Udyog Vihar Ph II.
9 a.m.-11 a.m. standard shift and if don’t work Sundays to 6 p.m., get thrown out.
Overtime paid less than single at Rs.17.5 per hour.

Can only drink water only at lunch and must go out of factory since none inside. Toilets are very dirty.


(New Series No. 264, June 2010)

Palam Export A-205 Okhla Ph 1:

9:30 a.m.-1 a.m. production workers, 9:30 a.m.-5 a.m. finishing workers. Production workers stay back 15 days per month until 1 a.m. and stay till 5 a.m. for 3-4 days per month.

Finishing – 100 workers. 9:30am – 5 a.m. daily. After closing at 5 a.m., they start again at 5 a.m. Male workers sleep in the factory while women go back to their rooms. 50 women workers with these hours for 30 days in a month, become like corpses. One young worker (20, male) did this shift and then failed to come to duty since April because the doctor diagnosed heart trouble. Workers have been making complaints to labour office.

On May 14th, 11 p.m., the labour office raided the factory and found 400 workers working. The officials stayed until midnight and threatened the management. After the raid, the management released everyone at 6 p.m., after which the old schedule returned.

A new manager has been brought in since May 26th and asks, ‘how can a worker work 90 days in a month?’. He has ordered that those workers who are being called for night shift must have their names pinned up by 4 p.m.

Those directly hired workers are paid correct wages. Those hired through contractors are either paid peice-rate (tailors) or are paid Rs.130 – Rs.150/ 8 hrs (helpers). This is true even for those working for 8 to 9 years. There is no Provident Fund or ESI for 150 workers hired by contractors and overtime is paid.

Wages are paid late. April wages were paid on 15th-25th May. But the tailors hired through contractors are paid on the 7th itself because if they’re not, they strike. [Unlike permanent workers, the tailors can easily leave.) Permanent workers get Rs.40for 1 a.m. shift, while contract workers get Rs. 25. For 5 a.m. shift, permanent workers are paid Rs. 97; contract workers ae pad Rs. 57. But here at least, there is 4 p.m. tea, 8 p.m. tea and samosa, 11 p.m. tea, and 5 a.m. tea.

About Baithaks:
Workers of Denso factory making auto parts in Guong Dhong province, China. In early July instead of beginning work at start of shift, the workers just roamed around the factory and continued for 8 hours. The management asked the workers to start work but no workers did. The next day, they continued with the same. The union repeatedly requested the workers to start work but they did not. No sloganeering, no speeches, no violence. Workers did not present anyone as their leader or representative. Workers did not use PC or mobile phone to put up their demand, to ensure the company/ government could not single out anyone. Workers wrote on bits of paper and pinned up their demands. The management, desperate, asked the union to hold elections so that there would be someone with whom they could negotiate. The silent and peaceful workers did not elect anyone. The company finally increased wages and the workers resumed their work.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


(New Series No. 263, May 2010)

Circle of Animal Lovers (NGO) Worker
(E-67, DDA Flats, Saket)

I work in the NGO. There are 30 of us employed here – doctors, drivers, cooks, helpers and office staff. The doctors get over 20,000 Rs per month for 8 hour days, the office staff gets 6,000 to 8,000 Rs. The drivers get 6,500 Rs for 12-hour duties. The cook and the helpers get between 3,000 and 5,500 Rs per month for 14-hours shifts. None of the workers get ESI or PF. The NGO is engaged in a sterilisation scheme for street dogs – which is part of the street-dog eradication program run by the Delhi government. Although officially the government has assigned the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) for this task, but actually the big shots have decided to let cheap NGO workers complete the work. The MCD pays 445 Rs for the sterilisation of a dog, and besides provides other favours to the NGO management: the NGO gets water and electricity free. The vans are called ambulance and are in a bad condition – but because of the NGO name the police do intervene. The madam running the NGO swears at the workers and even lifts her sandal to threaten the helpers. The 15 workers who stay in the office take some of the restaurant food that was originally meant for the dogs, some of the donations meant for the dogs get messed with, too. The whole process of catching a dog, sterilising it and letting it free is very painful – several dogs die and are buried in the scrub-lands at night. But they are entered as completed sterilisations in the register. The two doctors have to perform 30 to 40 dog operations per day… a doctor let some younger helpers do the work. This increases pain for the animal and the likelihood of death.

Shahi Export, Plot 15a, Sector 28, Faridabad
…after days of overtime many workers collapse. On May 24th, 53 workers are brought to the nearby hospital. They have to be treated with oxygen. 41 workers remain in the hospital. Most of the collapsed workers are women…

NTL Electronics, Plot F-28, Sector 6, Noida
…after days of overtime six female workers collapse and fall unconscious…

Palam Export, Plot A-205, Okhla Industrial Area Phase I
…after having worked 19.5 hours a day for several month a 22 years old worker suffers a heart attack and 50 female workers collapse at work…

Sargam Export,-Plot 153, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon
…during night-shift two workers collapse and fall unconscious…

Enexco Technology-157 Nourangpur, Gurgaon.
There is money for ESI and PF cut from the 175 casual workers’ wages, but only 15 got an ESI card, and the card is temporary. If people leave the job PF is not paid – the PF form not given. After several years of employment a casual worker said: “Actually we are hired through a labour supplier, through a contractor”. In the factory there are another 125 workers hired through contractor and 40 permanent workers.

Orient Craft Worker- Plot 15, Sector 5, IMT Manesar.
The 26 thread-cutting workers get 3,000 Rs per month, no ESI no PF. Official shift-times are from 9 a.m. till 6 pm, but they make you work till 2 a.m. Only if clients/buyers come to the plant workers are let go at 6 p.m. We work 60 to 70 hours overtime per month, but the pay-slip only shows 12 to 15 hours. Overtime is paid double rate, but on Sundays they are paid less than single rate. Some supervisors swear a lot at workers.

JNS Instruments Worker, -Plot 3, Sector 3, IMT Manesar.
There are 15 buses who bring and return people to and from work. They work from 8:30 am till 5:30 pm, those 200 who work till 8 p.m. are returned in smaller cars. The male workers work on two 12-hours shifts. The workers hired through contractors get less than single rate for overtime: 14 Rs per hours.

Kailash Ribbon Worker-403, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon.
The helpers among the 400 casual workers get 2,700 to 3,300 Rs, the skilled tailors get 3,500 to 3,900 Rs – neither ESI nor PF.

Eltex India Worker-887 Udyog Vihar Phase V.
The workers employed in the plant work 200 to 250 hours overtime per month. Sometimes they make you work from 9 a.m. till next day 9 am and then force you to work another whole shift. The overtime is paid single, and 500 to 800 Rs per month are embezzled. The helpers hired through contractors get 2,800 Rs, neither ESI nor PF. The wages are always delayed, we haven’t received our March 2010 wages yet (24th of April 2010).

Sargam Export Worker -153 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
There are an abundance of little irregularities going on in this factory: there is always some overtime left unpaid; people who had worked January and February 2010 and left the job since then were not paid the 300 Rs DA; those who leave now are not paid the statutory bonus.

Dheer International Worker -299 Udyog Vihar Phase II.
People work 250 to 300 hours overtime per month. The payment is at single rate and 50 to 60 hours get embezzled per month. Wages are paid delayed.

Cosmy Worker -864 Udyog Vihar Phase V.
The helpers working in this factory get 3,000 Rs. The skilled tailors get 140 to 150 Rs per day. Wages are delayed. If you leave the job you have major trouble to get your outstanding wages. Workers who go to the local ESI office in Dundahera have to face a lot of trouble.

Mac Export Worker- 143 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
The 400 workers employed in the factory get neither ESI nor PF. The helpers get 3,500 Rs. When being hired the tailors are promised 175 Rs for an 8-hour day, actually they are paid 150 to 160 Rs. The normal shift runs from 9 am till 9 pm, but they make you work longer, till 1:30 am. Overtime is paid at single rate, every month 300 to 400 Rs get embezzled. Lack of drinking water is a major problem in the factory. The toilets are very dirty. The big boss swears a lot.

Asian Handycraft Worker- 310 Udyog Vihar Phase II.
The helpers are paid 3,300 Rs to 3,500 Rs, the skilled workers get 4,000 to 4,500 Rs.

Kis Export Worker -871 Udyog Vihar Phase V.
In the factory 450 workers are employed through two different contractors, they get neither PF nor ESI. The tailor helpers get 3,914 Rs and the tailors get 156 Rs per day. The 300 Rs DA statutory from January 2010 has not been added to the monthly wages. The thread cutting and bead-stitching women workers are paid 3,600 Rs. The daily working-times are from 9 am till 10 pm – 18 to 20 days per month they make you work till 1 am. About 100 women workers are send home at 9 pm, but a third contractor supplies 20 female workers who work from 9 pm till 1 am. There is no monthly day off. The male workers work 160 to 200 hours overtime per month, about 200Rs get embezzled. There is a lot of swearing on the shop-floor, there is a lack of drinking water.

Security Guard
The office of the company Swift Security is situated at Nihal Bhavan in Dundahera. The company employs 6,000 security guards, on 2×12-hours shifts. There is no weekly day off. If you work 30 days per month, 12 hours per day they pay you 4,000 Rs to 5,000 Rs. Even after three to four years of employment they don’t give you ESI. They cut 540 Rs in the name of PF – when people leave the job, some are paid double amount of the fund money, some are paid single, some are not paid out at all. Sometimes you have to work 36 hours on stretch – they won’t give you money for food, and the overtime is paid single. Wages are paid with delay. If we don’t have any security ourselves, so will we give anyone else security? We just wear uniforms and stand around.

Eastern Medikit Worker- 292 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
The 300 casual workers were paid their March wages late, on 20th of April. The company did not pay the new minimum wage, only 3,870 Rs. The April wages haven’t been paid yet – 15th of May. The company does not include the Dearness Allowance of July 2009 nor the Dearness Allowance of January 2010. The casual workers work on two 12-hours shifts, the overtime is paid at 14 Rs an hour – March overtime has not been paid yet either. The management would not let casual workers leave after 8-hours, no matter if the worker is ill, no matter if he or she might drop dead.

Bharat Export Overseas Worker - 493 Udyog Vihar Phase III.
None of the 300 workers employed in the factoryget ESI or PF. The helpers in the finishing department get 120 to 130 Rs for an 8-hours shift. Workers work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, payment is at single rate. There are three faulty fridges for drinking water. The toilets are very dirty.

Oberoi Hotel Worker (Shankar Chowk)
The workers employed through Starling Vilasan work on the construction site of the five-star Oberoi Hotel. The 300 workers get neither PF, nor ESI. Their wages are below the minimum wage: 3,600 Rs.

Pearl Worker,- 446 Udyog Vihar Phase V.
Even if management makes you work till 1 a.m., they won’t give you extra-money for food. Only the first two hours overtime are paid at double rate – the rest single rate.

Radhnik Export Worker- 215 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
If you want to get drinking water or go to the toilet you have to take a token. If they make you work till 2:30 am they give you 30 Rs extra for food, though the food in the canteen is not good. We work 80 to 100 hours overtime per month, they pay single, but force us to sign double-rate. The 500 skilled tailors get neither ESI nor PF – officially they run as employees of Om Enterprise, but management says, that when clients/buyers come to the factory we are supposed to say we are Radhnik company workers.

Polypack Worker- 193 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
If you take one day of per month, they mark all four weekly days off as absent, even so you have worked. This means that you lose 720 Rs of your monthly wage. The daily shift times are from 8 am till 8:30 pm, they often make you work till midnight. They call any work after 12.5 hours shift ‘overtime’, and pay it less than single rate. The 50 workers hired through contractors are paid 5,400 Rs: for 26 days of 12.5 hours.

Taurus Home Furnishing- 418 Udyog Vihar Phase III.
The helpers are paid 3,000 Rs, the checkers 3,500 Rs and the tailors work on piece-rate. Out of 300 workers only 10 to 15 might get ESI and PF. The drinking water is bad. The toilets are dirty.

Countess Craft Worker- 6 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
The workers employed in the carpet show-room have not been paid February, March and April 2010. The company has not paid into the PF fund the last two years. Since three years the company has not paid the statutory bonus.

Crew Banks Worker- 199 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
Severe wage delays of two month now.

Gaurav International Worker - 198 Udyog Vihar Phase I.
The managers swear a lot at us. The female thread-cutting workers are paid only 3,000Rs, the male helpers 3,000 to 3,300 Rs, there is also physical abuse going on.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


(New Series No. 184, September 2003)

8 Months

Aged 19-20 years: A little farmland in the village. After graduation came to Delhi with a friend in December 2002. Joined Maharaja Prints near Badarpur border Delhi at 1,400 rupees per month salary. There's only one shift of 12 hours, from 8 in the morning till 8 at night. Payment for four hours in overtime at single rate. No ESI (health insurance), no Provident Fund. Left the job after four months and came to elder brother in Mujesar (village turned slum industrial area). Brother got a job in Khem Cardboard Factory in Sector 24, Faridabad through a contractor with 1,800 rupees per month for 8 hours duty. There were two twelve hour shifts in the factory. Overtime payment was at single rate. Correct payment was not given after deductions of this or that. 2,200 rupees per month. During summers, upset stomach for 5-6 days. Left the job. Joined Alfatoyo Factory in Sector 6 through a contractor. Rest only on Sunday, 1,400 rupees salary per month. Two shifts of 12 hours each and payment of overtime at single rate. Fight co-workers in the factory and beaten outside of the factory. Worked there for one month and then left the job. Trough a contractor's subcontractor joined Cast Master Factory in Sector 6. fr 8 hours per day for 30 days of the month, no Sundays off, 1,800 rupees salary. There was one shift of 12 hours, morning 8 to evening 8 and overtime payment was at single rate. There are 4 furnaces in the factory, worked on one furnace. Sieve aluminum scrap, remove ash. Liquify it in the furnace, take out the molten metal, and pour into moulds. Then remove the product and store it. During work, my ribs were burnt by molten aluminum. With the dwindling of orders from Yamaha company, work decreased and I was thrown out of a job on July 13. My June wages were paid on July 27th after making me run in circles quite a bit. Wages of 12 days July have not been paid till today. August 14 and I'm being made to run around again.

15 years
Age 33-34 years: After ITI (Industrial Training Course) years, I came to Faridabad and completed my internship at Escorts first plant. A friend got me employed in High Tech Gear Limited in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan. The management operation was so extensive, it's difficult for me to describe. There used to be half an hour lunch break and there was a shortage of plates in the canteen. There used to be a lot of push-and-pull for food, and you had to wash the shabbily-cleaned plate of another to have your own meal on. I soon left that job and came to Faridabad. I worked as a casual worker in different plants of Escorts Company. At that time, I was a young guy and used to think I was making a lot of money. Acquaintances explained to me how long would I remain a casual worker and I should try for a permanent job. In this situation, after I was again given a break, I went to Noida and in 1992 joined Yamaha Factory there. At that time in Yamaha Surajpur (Noida) there were 600 permanent and another 600 hired through cntractors. At the time of the contractors, there was no ESI and no health benefits and no Provident Fund. But there is to be no break-time. This way I worked in the factory continuously for 4 years. When the company removed the contractors, and by employing us itself, health insurance and Provident Fund laws were implemented. Luring us with promises of making us permanent workers, the company extracted massive amounts of work from us. There were more than 150 welding shops, 135 in machine shops, 100-150 in body assembly, 70-80 in engine assembly casual workers in the factory. At the time of union elections, leaders each time would make promises that casual workers would be made permanent. Of the 600 casual workers who were working in Yamaha Surajpur factory, 300 workers had been continuously working for 8 to 10 years like this. After Yamaha obtained a share in Escorts motorcycle, it put up a voluntary retirement scheme. But the workers did not leave their jobs. Then many were transferred to Faridabad from Surajpur. Even after that, 600 casual workers continued to work in Surajpur. And with the increase of demand from Yamaha workers for motorcycle, the company started C shift (night shift from midnight to morning/0 hundred hours to 800 hours) in the factory. And with the permanent workers refusing to work in C shift, the C shift was run by casual workers. Caught up in the snare of getting a permanent job or 10 years, I hardly took any leave. I forgot all about my brother, sister, father, mother. Work rubbed away my body. But facing problems in the market, the company dismissed casual workers. With the sale of Yamaha motorcycles continuing to fall, the company began single shift work in the factory. And then, 300 of us casual workers who had been working eight to ten years continuously in the factory were given work for 12 days each month. We met union leaders and told them that you have not been able to secure us permanent work, but at least get our monthly wages fixed. The leaders said you should look for work at some other pace. By making our monthly wage 1,000 rupees, the company forced us to leave the job. To feed my family, I joined a factory in Faridabad on contract. Before the months end, I was removed. In July on removal, the ideas of committing suicide on the rail line were shaking me but I stopped myself by thinking about my little daughter and my wife.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


(New Series No. 151, January 2001)
We get out of the factory after the shift ended. We got in the auto that we've hired on a monthly basis. We would talk every day. And talk and talk. The auto stopped at the red light. A car hit the auto and sped by. The auto overturned. Everyone became unconscious but since the auto had stopped, it was not fatal. As soon as they came to consciousness, those who were less hurt, one-by-one took other autos and went to their homes. Even after reaching home, they did not inform the family members of the girls who stayed in their neighborhood. Those who had suffered the major injuries and were unconscious were taken to the hospital by autodrivers.

We talk a lot yet we are not saying anything. This is merely an example of how we are just killing time.

-22 year old working girl: We seven, eight girls sit together. We talk a lot. About our girlfriends, about our families, about our guy friends. We tell lots of jokes. We recite couplets. We talk about fashion. Sometimes, we also back-bite. Sometimes, whne the discussion is about films, we talk about this or that film. Sometimes, when the conversation is about eve-teasing (harassing females), then we all curse men. There are conversations about the world. What kinds of people exist in the world. Seeing the poor and sad. Oh, we if we had something, we would give it to them. We talk about companies. We curse management and nickname managers and supervisors. Problems of the family and the problems with the neighbors. Difficulties in collecting water. Bickering about getting the gutter cleaned and the quarrels about the garbage in the alleys. Anecdotes about children. Our own childhood enjoyment. and mischeivousness of student days. We talk a lot amongst ourselves.

-12 class boy: When we were in 10th class, we used to get fed up sitting the whole day in the school and used to talk about not studying further but rather doing some course for employment. Now in 12th class, we talk about the future. We talk about food and games and laugh a lot. Till the final examination, the conversations are about books in the syllabus. We talk about girls merely to pass the time. We hardly talk about marriage or dating, In fact, people talk little. They hide their concerns because of jealousy towards one another. We do not talk openly to one another. Most of the discussions revolve around showing off. Discussions about material goods. T.v., fridge, house...So big...talks about jobs, fat salaries, big companies, deskjob, clean work...In conversations about neighbors and neighborhood, mostly it's about putting one another down. Discussing the household affairs of others in the neighboorhood. Between one another, there is tension. Fights break out even while collecting water.

-50 year old man: People talk only in their own circles. You don't talk to everyone. One evaluates and then talks. It seems as though lines have been drawn that one has to so much with this person and not about this with that person. Some of it is due to upbringing and some due to the fear of a fault of being found and then rebuked. Even with one's own brother, one's problems are hidden from him or to extract something out of him, they are inflated. It's a ritual to say that things are 'okay.' It has also become a tradition to present one's condition as better than another's. No one reveals one's own shortcomings. It happened because of this or that reason; it wasn't a failing on my part. One never talks about one's misdeeds. And if a mention does take place then by giving a presentation of the conditions, one tries to justify one's misdeeds. However much one may hide, still most conversations begin with personal discussions and then maybe move on to social discussions. Leader-type people never converse about themselves or their concerns. They straight-off talk about society, politics. Concerns about the family, about the neighborhood come in what's deemed as personal. Old people start their conversations about families with discussions about son, daughter, daughter in-law. Most people in the 50-6o year old age group are tired of family. They talk badly about their children.

30 year old man: Casting aspersions is widespread, downplaying the other is rampant. Not talking straight, hiding camaflouging. To down play others and to raise one's self up is dominant in conversations. Show-off and phony display amongst relations have become too pervasive. Back-biting has become a normal practice. This process of regurgitating whatever is on the radio, on t.v., in newspapers, throughout the day has unfolded.

-Around 50 years old man: According to me, people don't talk among themselves because people usually only talk to one another who serve a purpose and where that isn't there, they don't talk. Relations founded on love and respect are not existant today. This is because of the age we live in. People think only of their interest. People have become too clever from listening to the radio, watching television and films and talking on the telephone. We pick up the scum that is going on in the world.

-Around 40 years old: Superfluous discussions have become a problem. So much is spoken that is difficult to say anything. If we don't sift and select then we'll get bogged down in the marsh of conversations that feed the present system. If we don't, we'll sink into these discussions.

Listening to and telling one another's sadness, pain, problems, and difficulties is the point to begin from. The point of departure seems to be to focus discussions on what all we can do to lessen our difficulties.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On Schools

(New Series No. 165, March 2002)

"40-50 years ago in Garhwal (Himalayas) children 5 year old children got together in the village on the auspicious day of Vasant Panchami. With the beating of drums and flute etc., they were taken to be registered in schools. The father who used to plow the fields had the desire that desire his son should not plow. Therefore, his son should go to school. The paraphenalia of those who returned home from jobs on the plains motivated children to go to school."

"Earlier children used to be taught that they should be truthful and honest. But now, they are told that they cannot survive this way. They must be clever. If one is to survive in this society, then 'cleverness' must also be taught as a subject."

School is amongst the holiest of cows in the present social system. Extreme patience is requested for this discussion.

Discussions on the city often get reduced to its problems and suggestions for reforms. It is rare that the discussion be focused on a critique of the city itself. The same goes for wage-work. To talk about the school and education seems to be still more difficult.

But to raise questions on the axioms of city, wage-work, factory, office, competition, army, school etc. is to raise questions on the present social system. To overcome the present social system which deterioriates living, it's a primary requirement to discuss these subjects.

A Little History

In slave-owner and slave, fuedal lord and serf, hierarchic social systems, literacy (knowledge of the alphabet) was limited and remained limited. To confine reading and writing to the priest, the Father, the Imam, language different from ordinary people's language, Latin and Sanskrit were used. Only the sons of slaveowners, princes, and priests went to schools. It is obvious that to maintain these hierarchic systems, literacy was important. But it should also be kept in mind that for the famous Magna Carta document, the King of England put his seal because he did not know how to sign. The King of England was illiterate. And Emperor Akbar used to his thumprint as a signature. He was also illiterate.

Efforts to limit literacy in the past and efforts to make everyone literate today...seems to be a knot. What is this knot? We will focus on the Indian subcontinent.

Aimless Versus With Aim

Those who have different aims than oneself, it is a tradition to call them aimless. With victory in the war at Plassey, East India Company began taking over state power in the subcontinent. By calling the existing hierarchic social system aimless and barbaric, the East India Company furthered its victory campaign.

Even today ,children have to learn, by rote, the list of reforms to transform uncivilized persons into civilized by rote the list of reforms that were done to make the uncivilized into civilized ones. Opposition of sati (wife burning herself on her husband's funeral pyre), propagation and expansion of education...Some patriotic scholars used to or do raise sharp objection to Lord Macauley's education policy for producing clerks.

But it is without debate that the East India Company laid the basis for the expansion of schools, education, literacy in the Indian subcontinent. Isn't this fact enough to loosen the knot?

Taking of 1/4th produce=loot; Taking of 90% produce= legal

Taking of one-sixth of people's produce by the king or emperor was said to be just according to the law. Those moving up to become kings used to forcibly collect 1/4 of the produce. This was called loot. Generally, in the hierarchic fuedal system, labouring people's produce would be usurpsed by 1/6th to 1/4th. Taking more than that, while maintaining the system, was not possible. In the eyes of the new advocates of civilization, limiting collection to 1/6th or 14th was aimless. To extract more out of the labouring massess,the need for a new social construct, the necessity for new hierachic social system was presented.

On looking back, we find that the role of East India Company in the Indian Subcontinent was to prepare the basis for a new hierarchic social system. East India Company played an important role in laying a lasting foundation for production of the market. Transforming the production of peasants-artisants into production for the market prepared the ground for the present social system. The basic tenet of the market system for making more extraction possible- increase trade! School-education-literacy have an extremely important role in increasing the productivity of persons and thereby promoting the exploitation of geographical and social diversity through distant trade. The propagation, expansion of school-education by East India Company, then by the British government and then by the native government must be viewed in today's context where 95 to 98% of workers' production is taken away from them. Not only 1/4th but 1/6th was also loot. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss the holiest cows of the present social system where 98% of our production is swallowed up.

The Blindfold of Holiness

How much exercise seems to be necessary merely to begin a discussion on schools! It is hoped that it will be possible to have more natural conversations about the institution in the form of schools which aims to mold children as per the requirements of the market by molding-beating-thrashing-erasing-chiselling... Hopefully, it will be easier to discuss it by loosening or opening the holy blindfold of 'making children's futures'. What kind of future? The language of the present social system is the language of events. And if we stay within this language then the mass slaughter of Gujarat is only a cracker-sparkler in comparison to the bomb blasts which seem inevitable if the present social system continues...
Children as raw material, teachers as operators, other employees as helpers, school as factory...What kind of a picture is this? We prepare our childre to sell themselves on the market...What is this? Come, let us put a question mark on school, on the present social system.