By Anand Sinha
Edited by Sanchita Malhotra, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
The recent killing of the CEO of a jute mill in the Hooghly district of West Bengal has sent a wave of shiver across the business community of the state. The business leaders are apprehensive of working in the state under such circumstances. The violent attack again betrays the claim of cordial management- workers relationship in the industry. It calls for immediate attention of the government to look into the matter and take steps to resolve it.
Mr S. K. Maheswari, CEO of the North Brook Jute Mill had called the union leaders to discuss the reduction of working days out of which no conclusion was drawn. Though by the evening, rumours spread across the mill that the decision to reduce working days from 5 to 3 days a week had been finalised. Many workers rushed into the office of Mr Maheswari and, attacked him violently after a verbal confrontation. He was declared, brought dead when he reached the hospital. Two more management members were violently injured in the attack.
The jute industry of the state has been in a dismal state and most mills are showing bad returns. Huge losses are being incurred by the mills and maintaining a maximum output protocol is next to impossible, workers are also not being paid proper wages due to huge losses. Further reduction in the working hours would definitely have hurt their livelihood harshly. The bad conditions of this industry and many other industries in not only West Bengal, but many other states, has put the workers at the receiving end of the resultant economic crisis. Many mills have been shut down or are in a sick condition, due to which the workers are forced to look to other inconsistent sources of income. Needless to say, the managerial and clerical members are comparatively well off than the working class members. It further discontents the workers in the times of economic crisis.
It is under these circumstances that the killing of Mr Maheswari must be analysed. Again, it is one of the many lenses through which it can be analysed. Whatever happened in the Hooghly mill is an unacceptable and unjustified act of violence. The reason for the act seems to be the rage of some workers over the reduction of the working hours in the mill. Its justification on the basis of a class conflict theory is unacceptable because the managerial team was not reducing the working days due to its vested interests. The mill was not producing enough because of unsatisfactory returns on capital. The establishment of egalitarian working conditions in the mill never seemed to be a motive behind the confrontation and the subsequent violence, though the Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant violence in 2012, of more violent degree, could be possibly attributed to it. Even then, “egalitarian” would be quite a huge word for it.
The anger and rage of the workers had been deflected onto the CEO and other management members because it could not find a justified platform to vent it out. It was not a moment of some French revolution. The solution of the problem did not lie in the killing of a man whom they identified in exclusive and simplistic terms, that is, as a representative of the exploitative class. The problems of the industry are complex. Their simplistic and violent solutions do not exist and those who deem them are foolish in their perspective of the situation. Sit-ins, protests, strikes etc. are more effective and productive means of dissent. Anger of the workers was justified but violence isn’t.
Currently based in Delhi, Anand is an English literature student at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, University of Delhi. After working as a content writer and editor for an online firm for a few months, he interned at Youth Ki Awaaz. Sinha defines his political stand as centre-left. His interests include literature, cinema, music, philosophy and world politics.