I am yet to get over the fact that we lost Awanish to a ghastly and dastardly act of violence by a mindless group of people for whom human life has no value.
As I pen down my thoughts, my mind is flooded with some unanswered questions, "What was Awanish's fault?"; "Is there no value and respect for human life?"; "What drove the workmen to act in this barbaric manner"?; "Is there a systematic defect or has the socio-economic and socio-cultural fabric of our society decayed beyond redemption"?; "Why did Awanish have to pay such a heavy price - was it because he had the tag of a General Manager - HR"?
I believe that what happened in Manesar on July 18 was symbolic and representative of a social decadence that has set in. The entire ethics & value framework of the Indian society has broken down. We no longer demonstrate tolerance of differences, we do not respect the fact that people can have different ideologies and views and we are becoming increasingly impatient and hostile towards each other. The problem of labor unrest at Manesar or at other places in the country has its roots in the socio-economic and socio-cultural framework of the civil society.
I feel education and sensitization of the unionized workmen on the revised industrial framework of the country and the corresponding consequential changes in Union Management relationship model has become mandatory. There is a serious need to go back to the drawing board and establish new norms and principles of the employer-employee relationship model, especially in the light of increasing engagement of contractual workmen across organizational processes.
Over the last few years, the Indian Industry across sectors has gone into an overdrive of contractual engagement of workmen with a view to manage their cost of operations. What started initially as contract workmen being engaged in tertiary and non-core activities of the enterprise, have now become all pervasive across operations, even in the core areas of the organizations' operations. While the number of contractual workmen in the country has gone up exponentially over the past few years and the dependency of corporations on them have increased manifold, the legislative framework to monitor and regulate their employment conditions is inadequate. There is also a lack of welfare and social security framework for the contract workmen. In this scenario, where employment terms are not clearly defined and the nature of the engagement is not permanent, there is bound to be doubt and misunderstanding between the employer and employee, unless there is a defined legal framework for contract workmen.
The trade union system in India also requires a serious review and re-orientation of its approach in order to monitor, manage and advocate the cause of the contract workmen in this country. This group of people is still unorganized and there is lack of an organized institution to take up their cause. Hence, this group very often suffers from a feeling of inadequacy and constant deprivation by the employers. The trade unions in India have to revisit their own operating models and try to engage themselves more constructively and pro-actively in this changed industrial relations scenario.
Last but not the least, I feel that enterprises should not view contract workmen only as a group of people who are being employed and engaged to reduce employment or overhead costs. They need to be seen and treated at par with the permanent employees and accordingly they should be offered working conditions, which any other permanent workman enjoys. The moment we try to create a deep divide between two fellow workmen, feeling of discrimination, deprivation and exploitation is bound to arise, thereby leading to unrest and recurrence of Manesar.
I feel that all the 4 stakeholders - the government, the employers, the employees and the society need to seriously revisit and re-orient themselves to handle the sensitive issue of contract labor engagement.