Maruti Suzuki declares lockout at Manesar plant

Two days after violence broke out at Maruti Suzuki’s automobile plant in Manesar, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki R C Bhargava Sunday said work would not recommence at the plant until police investigation was complete.

He said that work will resume only after the Management is satisfied with safety and security mechanism for the health and life of the managerial staff.

Bhargava denied shifting the plant to Gujarat.

“There is difference between shifting and expanding. We never said we wanted to shift and move out of Manesar,” said Nakanishi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

Nakanishi said he was “too shocked” at the outbreak of violence, pointing out that Suzuki had a peaceful presence in Indonesia, Pakistan and several other neighbouring countries.

Violence at Maruti Manesar plant broke out on Wednesday after Human Resource team suspended one worker and the workers’ union demanded his reinstatement. While negotiations were on with the senior management, the mob forcibly shut the main gate and prevented managers from leaving the premises after working hours.

Thereafter, armed with iron rods and door beams of cars, the mob spread out in groups in the factory area and targeted supervisors, managers and executives. In simultaneous attacks in different parts of the factory, the mob beat the managers on their head, legs and back, rendering many of their victims bleeding and unconscious. They also ransacked offices, broke glass panes and wantonly damaged property. Finally, they set the offices on fire.

Awanish Kumar Dev, General Manager (HR) at Manesar Plant was burnt to death inside the plant facilities.

His post mortem reports reveal that he was beaten before he was left to die in fire. Dr. Deepak Mathur of Civil Hospital informed that Awanish died of suffocation. At the same time, multiple fractures on both legs reveal he was beaten up before he was left to die in the flaming facility. Due to injuries in his legs, he could not escape the fire and his body kept blazing even after he had died. Several executives, managers and supervisors were brutally attacked and injured, and nearly 100 of them had to be hospitalized of which 24 are still admitted in hospitals such as Artemis, Medanta Medicity, Paras and Columbia Asia.

Dr Vishal Sehgal of Artemis said that "36 injured employees were brought to the hospital till Wednesday night from the Maruti Suzuki plant. Of these, 17 were admitted, while the remaining 19 were discharged after administering first aid. Four more were discharged on Thursday, leaving 13 employees still admitted with us. And they all are fine and stable."

The two Japanese nationals have been identified as 50-year-old Torri and 46-year-old Saijo, who were brought in with head and orthopaedic injuries caused by blunt trauma.

As many as 91 workers were arrested and produced before a local magistrate who remanded them to 14 days’ judicial custody. They have been accused of various charges including rioting with weapons, murder, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, assault and trespass.

Authorities threatened to press charges of murder and attempted murder against all 3,000 rioting workers at the plant as the mob attack had led to a person’s death.

Fearing the arrest, thousands of Maruti Suzuki workers who lived in the two villages adjoining the IMT Manesar - Dhana and Aliyar - fled overnight.

Bhargava said the violence at the Manesar plant could be compared with tsunami which struck “completely unexpectedly.”

While speculation is rife that caste-based abusive language and discriminatory remarks made by a supervisor triggered the violence, Bhargava ruled this out stating that both the said supervisor and worker belonged to the same caste.

Maruti believes it to be an orchestrated act of mob violence at a time when operations had been normal over the past many months.

He also accused workers’ union of unnecessarily stretching the negotiation between Management and itself in order to demonstrate its false efforts towards resolving issues such as office leave, late coming, incentives etc.

Asara Panchayat denies issuing Talibani diktat

The Asara Panchayat on Tuesday denied issuing any diktat against the freedom of womenfolk and blamed the media for "misrepresentation of facts."

“I was not in town at that time but on my return, I realised that elders in the village had a meeting in which they decided to ask girls to refrain from using mobiles, wearing western clothes, going out alone etc. During the meeting, the seniors deplored the age-old practice of dowry being given at the time of marriage to the family of the groom. It was also decided that both boys and girls must be sent to school for education. The Media did not present the correct picture of the decisions taken at that meeting," one Haji Salim from Asara village said explaining the "guidelines" issued by the Panchayat on Saturday.

General Secretary of Jat Mahasabha Yudhvir Singh dismissed any role of the Khap Panchayat in these guidelines.

“It was no way the decision of the Khap Panchayat. The meeting was held among some responsible people of the village who unanimously arrived at the decision to issue guidelines because of sharp rise in the number of criminal incidences against women in the village,” Singh stated.

"We dont want misbehaviour with women on the streets which was a rountine thing here. The women were simply asked to be careful, and to move out with the men of the family in order to ward off any mishappening," Yudhvir explained.

Interestingly, some women from Asara village came out in open support of the "guidelines."

“When Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is from Italy, can wear Indian traditional outfits then why we as Indians should not do the same. Girls must wear suit-salwar only”, said Reema (name changed on request) from Asara village.

“Provocative clothes should not be worn as they are the cause of rape many a time. Girls are raped because they go out wearing jeans practically inviting a rape. We are happy to shun our western outfits and mobile phones,” said Shama (name changed on request).

Beerpal Rathi, an activist fighting for farmers’ rights in Asara village, informed that the chief of the Panchayat does not take any interest in day-to-day affairs of the village. He lives in New Delhi and broadly manages things from there.

"Also police is not active in our area. When the entire village has happily accepted the precautionary measures or guideliness or what the Media is dubbing as diktats, why is the Central government reacting to it? The Media should also not unnecessarily flare up the matter," he advised.

Obama expresses investment fears in India

US President Barack Obama has indicated the need for India to implement reforms for job creations and to ward off stagnation in investment.

In an interview to PTI, Obama cited the concerns of the American business community to make his point.

"Many in the American business community have expressed concerns that the investment climate in India is unfavourable. They tell us it is still too hard to invest in India. In too many sectors, such as retail, India limits or prohibits the foreign investment that is necessary to create jobs in both our countries, and which is necessary for India to continue to grow," Obama said.

Lauding India's growth worldwide even in difficult times, he said, "Indian innovation is an engine of the global economy. And even with the recent challenges, the Indian economy continues to grow at an impressive rate. The Indian people have displayed a remarkable capacity to meet India's challenges.”

"There appears to be a growing consensus in India that the time may be right for another wave of economic reforms to make India more competitive in the global economy," he added.

Talking of the effect of global economic crisis on growth rate of India while pledging support to India in its implementation of difficult and necessary reforms, Obama said, "it is not the place of the United States to tell other nations, including India, how to chart its economic future. That is for Indians to decide."

Describing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his "friend and partner" with whom he had worked closely, Obama said he valued the insights of the Indian leader at various international fora including the recent G20 meeting in Mexico.

At G20 summit, Obama had said that one of the best things the member countries could do to bring global economy back on growth path was to renew the focus on growth and job creation in their own countries.

"That's my priority in the US. Of course, one of the most effective ways we can create jobs is to continue expanding trade and investment, including between the US and India," he had said.

India reacts

Obama’s remarks about the investment scenario in India have united the political leadership of the country. The ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre and Opossition Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), as also Left and regional parties, expressed strong displeasure at Obama's statement.

Minister of Corporate Affairs Veerappa Moily said Obama was ill informed of India's strong economic fundamentals.

Sensing a larger conspiracy, Moily said that “certain international lobbies are spreading these kind of words.”

Congress leader Harish Rawat said that “we cannot do things to impress another country or their economy, but we will take decisions to fulfil the needs of our own economy.”

Similarly, Opposition parties ridiculed Obama’s remarks and said the Government should not come under any pressure and refrain from relying on "prescription offered by others."

“They want to open up our economy and market on their terms. For this purpose, they are creating this pressure.... as it is, no one believes that under the present situation, there will be any sea change in the investment scenario world over,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Nilotpal Basu reacted.

BJP described Obama’s remarks as “laughable” and said “that country is giving us a certificate on investment and economy when it itself is facing economic problems. We have to ensure our national interests on our own. It is laughable.”

BJP and the Left have opposed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), especially in retail citing interests of the small trader.

“If Obama wants FDI in retail and India does not want, then it won’t happen just because he is demanding it,” former finance minister and veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said.

“The US only wants its market to expand in our country,” Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Shahid Siddiqui said.

ARF discusses claims over S China Sea

One of the biggest problems India faces today relates to China’s claim of "undisputed sovereignty" over South China Sea due to which New Delhi had to withdraw its exploration projects in Vietnamese oil blocks this year. Besides China, countries such as Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the sea.

Amid tensions between China and Association of South East Asian Nations over South China Sea, India Thursday said that it supports access to resources in region in accordance with principles of international law, and asked all nations to respect these principles.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna acknowledged engagement of concerned parties in discussion to address the issue and hoped that progress will be made with respect to implementation of Guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.

Krishna held that the security and economic prosperity of nations is vitally linked to safety and security of sea lanes of communication. He also emphasized the need for states to work together to address common threats to maritime security.

“The menace of piracy has been expanding its reach and it should be addressed firmly through cooperative action,” said Krishna at the Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phnom Penh.

”We have been following developments in respect to the South China Sea. As we had stated earlier, India supports freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all. We have noted that the parties concerned are engaged in discussions to address the issue, and we hope that progress will be made with respect to implementation of Guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea,” he added.

Pakistan rejects State involvement in 26/11 attack

Pakistan Today bluntly rejected any state agency involvement in terror attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 that killed 166 people.

While interacting with media, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said Pakistan “strongly rejects insinuation of involvement of state agency” in Mumbai terror attack, if there are any gaps, they will mutually try to fill them.

He also said that blaming each other on the issue of terrorism will lead to no result. While offering joint investigation in the matter, Jilani said, “Whatever evidence India has should be shared with us and we will investigate.” 

He also rejected revelation by Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal as a setback to trade cooperation between India and Pakistan. He said both countries are victims of terrorism and they need to intensify cooperation in order to combat that.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that the arrest of Jundal has added a "new urgency" to getting quick information from Pakistan on the masterminds of 26/11.

"Bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai attacks would be the biggest confidence-building measure," Mr Mathai added.
Abu Jundal's Pakistani passport and his ID are clear cut evidence of state sponsorship though Pakistan denies having issued any Pakistani passport to Jundal.

Jundal's passport states Muridke, which is also the headquarters Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front organization, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as his place of residence.

Last week, after the arrest of Abu Jundal, Home Minister P Chidambaram accused Pakistan of helping terrorist in carrying out attack on Mumbai. Pakistan Interior minister Rehman Malik reacted sharply saying Jundal was an Indian and India's own Taliban was to blame.

Jundal in his confession told Indian investigators that he, along with LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, under the supervision of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency ISI, was in the control room in Pakistan directing the terrorists in Mumbai during the 26/11 attack.