Manesar, Haryana: In the aftermath of the labour unrest at its Manesar plant on July 18 which left one dead and several injured, Maruti Suzuki is gearing up to hire fresh workers.

“We will not start production unless we ensure safety of our people,” Rabindra Chandra Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

“Police is investigating but not sharing its findings with us. Several people have been arrested but the main culprits are still at large.

“We are just hoping arrest, prosecution and conviction for those involved in violence. We just cannot start work with the existing manpower at the Manesar plant before police investigation completes.”

The auto major is eyeing numerous sources, including its own Gurgaon plant, to acquire a new work force for the plant.

“We are thinking on those lines. As of now, we are happy that the Haryana state government has fastened up the process by appointing the special prosecutor, forming a special investigation team. We are regularly sharing information with police about workers expected to be involved in the incident,” he added.

The number of new workers to be hired will be around 1,000.

“After investigation completes, we would ensure that only innocent people join the company. We are in the process of taking statements of 97 Management personnel who were attacked and as many as 200 supervisors present at the time of riots. We will screen workers before having them re-instated. Only innocent people would be allowed to join back. We cannot compromise on security of our people,” Bhargava stated.

Maruti also expects to fire approximately 500 workers who were involved in the Manesar plant clashes. Sources said that the company is thinking of derecognising the existing union. However, Bhargava denied that.

“The question of derecognising union is not being considered because almost all union members participated in mob attack and they all would be convicted. If new union is to be formed then we cannot help. We legally cannot stop workers from forming a new union. It is their right. Last year, workers went on strike thrice because they were misguided by outside unions. They did not even know about how to go about forming the union. They simply went on strike,” he averred.

Krishna Kumar Sindhu, Commissioner of Police, Gurgaon, informed Gulf News that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been set up to look into the incident and as many as 100 cops are actively involved in investigation.

“The Maruti Suzuki Management has given us names of 55 workers, out of which 10 have been arrested. We are interrogating those people. There are many more to be arrested including named and unnamed workers. Additionally, we have arrested 97 workers. All are aged between 23 and 28 years. Out of 91 arrested initially, 45 were from Haryana and remaining 46 from other states. At the moment, we are recording statements of the witnesses. We know that 12 executives of the Union were involved in negotiations with the Management for re-instatement of workers. These were responsible for instigation for this incident and are charged for murder,” Sindhu stated.

The Manesar plant produces Maruti Swift and Dzire, the latter went out of production earlier last week.

Asked whether the auto major was contemplating moving out of Manesar, Bhargava said, “we are losing approximately Rs 600-700 million per day but we cannot think of transferring production from Manesar to other plants for the time being because Manesar plant has capacity to produce 500,000 cars per year. We are thinking to have an additional unit in Gujarat but that is just expansion, not shift from here.”

However, Bhargava appreciated the state administration in Gujarat.

“Gujarat is a very good example of good governance and growth. Besides Gujarat, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu have also fared well. Karnataka is not good for manufacturing companies. Benguluru is good only for Information Technology (IT) companies. Haryana is alright every which way. It would be favourable for us if the state government is able to fairly investigate and identify those involved in violence,” he said.

Explaining the tragic incident, Bhargava said, “close to 500 workers were involved in the act of violence on July 18. A small group of workers must have incited other workers leading to uncontrolled violence at plant. But I must say that our relations with workers were reasonably good. It seems that the attack on the Management team was pre-planned and the workers were simply looking for an opportunity to attack. Ultimately, nobody gained. We are at loss. Workers are at loss. They are behind bars. It is a very confusing situation.”