I have no personal knowledge of what exactly happened on that unfortunate day in Manesar. Enquiry reports are awaited, and I prefer to wait rather than hazard a guess. One thing is certain though, that what happened ought never to have happened.
What is critical is that going forward we need to quickly create the conditions that will enable production to resume as soon as possible, and then ensure that such violence does not recur in future. This will involve bringing the guilty to justice at the earliest, and creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding through continual dialogue to create a win-win solution. The plan of action must have short and long term components, and involve active participation of the entire eco-system comprising employers, employees, government, trade unions and civil society.
As important as punishing the guilty, is to draw upon the strength and goodness of the large majority which was not directly involved but is suffering the consequences.
I would say that industrial relations in the Country at large are at a critical stage. Unless we handle it with sensitivity and care, it can become a major problem. If you look at the unorganized part, the real problem lies there. It is important for all the people involved to sit down, talk and understand each other. There has to be a lot of give and take that needs to take place between the stakeholders – employers, unorganized and organized workers, trade union leaders, the government and civil society. The old paradigm out of which we operated, that ‘I can win by making somebody else lose’ or ‘I can get away with being unfair to somebody’ is not going to work in the new paradigm.
An area where there is room for a lot of debate is contract labour. On the one hand, you have to find ways and means to be competitive because we are now in a global economy. If you are not competitive, then the business will shift and go somewhere else, which means that you need to have flexibility. On the other hand, if you create so much inequality in the system, people doing the same job get vastly different salaries and the difference between the lowest-paid and the highest-paid becomes very high. These create strife.
We have a big opportunity to become globally competitive without exploiting low-cost labour by focusing on innovation and productivity. Unleashing human potential and tapping the Indian genius through empowerment and inclusion, which is the only sustainable route. This is much easier in a democracy rather than in a totalitarian society like China. However this will not happen automatically and needs huge investment in infrastructure (including education and basic health) and much higher standards of governance right through the value chain.
The focus should be on ensuring competitiveness along with equity and inclusiveness.