Workers at Daikin, an air conditioner manufacturing company, have now been waging an ongoing struggle in Rajasthan’s Alwar region for over 170 days. Yesterday, August 8, in yet another protest march, the workers marched to the collector’s office to demand the withdrawal of illegal cases against the employees of the company. On January 8 and 9, 2019, Daikin factory workers, like lakhs of other workers across India, had taken to the streets to protest against the oppressive policies of the factory owners as part of a nationwide general strike. Following this, cases were registered against 18 workers, with over 70 named in an FIR on extremely serious charges of attempt to murder under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. Cases were also filed by the Rajasthan police against 600 unknown persons.
Reportedly, 2,000 workers from Alwar had participated in the workers’ general strike. The workers were taking out the rally from outside the front gate of the company, where they were thrashed brutally by the police leaving many injured. Gas bombs were also thrown to disperse the crowds.
Speaking to NewsClick, Daulat Ram of the workers’ union said, “There is a brazen attempt by the state government to victimise the workers. We had appealed to the state government to conduct a fair enquiry in the case, but our appeal yielded no results. We have given a list of demands to our local labour leader Tika Ram Dhuli at least eight to ten times but the state continues to remain unmoved by our problems.”
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He added, “The workers have been staging protests January onwards. Following the strike, eighteen workers were arrested who have not been released till date, they could not get bail because they were charged under section 307 of the IPC on charges of attempt to murder. Not just this, ten other workers were transferred to different cities in India without citing any reason. The workers have been protesting since, against both the police and the local administration who are siding with the factory owners.”
The workers had staged protest rallies in March as well, demanding an end to the intimidation tactics by the police. The workers have been leading the struggle under the banner of Neemrana Mazdoor Manch and the Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti. Previously, the workers of the company had to wage a long struggle to be recognised as a union. The process had been ongoing from 2012, however, they were formally recognised only in August 2018. The workers have been raising their voice against the inhuman treatment meted out to them inside the premises of the company. One of the protesting workers told NewsClick, “There’s barely any time to go to the bathroom. There is no provision of food or water on the site which is the bare minimum to function. We are being forced to function under enormous pressure.”
Currently, negotiations with the local collector have been initiated. However, the workers stated that they will continue to build momentum on the ground for their struggle.