Suzuki Motor Corp Chairman Osamu Suzuki said the Japanese car maker is committed to its investments in India even as he expressed concern over the time being taken to find the cause for violence at the Manesar plant of its subsidiary Maruti Suzuki.
“In any case Japan’s Suzuki has no plans to withdraw from India nor to stop production at Manesar. We are here for the last 30 years,” Suzuki told newspersons here after his meetings with Chief Minsters of Haryana and Gujarat since his arrival in India on August 22.
He said while he was concerned over the time being taken to find out the reason for the July 18 violence at Manesar that killed one senior executive and injured 100 others, the job has to be done by the Haryana Police. “I asked Maruti Suzuki management—isn’t it taking it too long to find out the reasons? 12 executive members of the union have been arrested…it is impossible for Maruti Suzuki to get in touch with them. We have no information,” he said.
It may take even six months, Suzuki said. Earlier in the day, he impressed upon Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to find out the root cause of the Manesar incident. Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) is investing Rs 2,600 crore to set up a new diesel plant, expand capacities and R&D activities in Haryana 2014. It is also investing Rs 4,000 crore in Gujarat for a new plant.
Reiterating that violence was not acceptable, Suzuki said “we are internally trying to find out if workers were dissatisfied. In case we find any such problem, we will take counter measures”. MSI Chairman R C Bhargava said that the company was already in touch with the Haryana government for land at Daruhera and on Pataudi road for facilitating housing for Manesar workers through co-operatives.
Bhargava agreed that the living conditions of Manesar workers were bad because as rentals in the area had shot up, but for that MSI was not to be blamed.Asked about his preference between Haryana and Gujarat, Suzuki said: “Since Gujarat plant will become operational after three years, any comment will create misunderstanding… it is unfair to make a judgement. I have experience in Haryana, not in Gujarat.”
He also avoided a replay to a query on whether MSI would employ contract or casual workers in Gujarat. MSI has already decided to do away with contract workers in the production line of its plants, even though Suzuki said the practice of hiring casual workers was prevalent all over the world, including Japan.
Bhargava said the wage difference between permanent and contract workers would be only 10 percent and MSI’s decision to do away with the latter would not put any significant financial burden on the company. Sharing concern over difficulties faced by the Manesar workers for accommodation, Bhargava said the housing initiative has been underway even before the violent incident.
He further said that at the time of the incident there were union issues pending which the management had not addressed. “This is what surprised and shocked the management…I have never come across where there has been a class attack. Here it happened, what should we believe?” he said, indicating there could be external elements.
However, Suzuki said: “I am not saying what is the possible reason, The reason is not clear.” Bhargava also defended the severance package given to erstwhile Manesar plant union leader Sonu Gujjar and others.
While Gujjar would have been terminated in any case, the management chose to give him the severance package to avoid a long-drawn legal process, he said, adding the violence at the plant had no link with it.
“It is a practice prevalent in the industry because this was a quicker way of settling the issue. This is a practice followed widely in the Indian industry,” Bhargava said. Commenting on the production schedule at the Manesar plant, MSI Managing Director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi said as against a target of nearly 900 units planned in five days after lifting the lockout, 436 units of Swift and Dzire have been rolled out.
The Manesar plant produces the company’s selling models such as Swift and Dzire along with SX4 and A-Star. In terms of worker attendance, he said 68 percent of the 330 people who were to rejoin duty have reported so far, whereas 94 percent of supervisory staff have been in attendance.
Nakanishi said in the next week production would be further ramped up.Suzuki said that he has visited India “hundred times” regularly since 1982 and he considered the Manesar incident as unfortunate and untoward. The Japanese people consider India as a democratic country where people abide by law.
“MSI does not belong to Suzuki (alone). It is also an Indian company. I believe all MSI employees are my family members,” he said. He also ruled out the possibility of caste as one of the reasons for the violence.
“I can deny caste was the cause. In the last 30 years in Gurgaon, there has never been such problem,” Suzuki said. Asked on whether the plans to launch a new 800cc have been affected due to the Manesar violence, Nakanishi said: “The schedule to change the Alto model has not changed.”