Kuldeep Jhangu, president of Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh, tells S Khurram Raza that the minister needs to take concrete steps to revive the economy instead of giving meaningless statements
What is the situation on the ground?
The automobile companies are using the ongoing economic slowdown to fire employees. Hundreds of them have already lost their jobs and the sword is hanging over millions. On top of it, the government is also trying to divert attention from the main issue.
Do you agree with the data of economic slowdown?
Yes, there is economic slowdown and 30% sales have dropped in comparison to last year — though it could be less in the case of the two-wheelers industry — and for this economic slowdown, the policies of the Central government are responsible.
How is the government responsible and what it can do to reverse the process?
Government can do a lot as automobile industry is the backbone of the Indian economy. Demonetisation and faulty implementation of GST are the major policy decisions of the Union government directly responsible for the current economic slowdown. The government can still step in. It can give an economic package to the automobile industry, reduce the GST slab, ease the loan conditions, reduce the rate of interest, reduce the taxes levied by state governments. But instead of taking concrete steps, the Finance Minister is just giving meaningless statements. All the trade unions condemn these statements. The whole country is laughing at the statement given by the Finance Minister that the drop in car sales is due to Ola and Uber cabs. These cabs have been around for the last ten years; they have not come in last six months and neither these companies have bought cars from USA or Germany. They are buying them in India itself. Finance Minister should take back her statement and should announce some relief measures for the auto industry.
How many workers in Maruti industry are affected by this slowdown?
In Maruti, there is direct hiring of employees, which has gone down by around 30 per cent. But in the auto parts companies, they have a contract system, and these companies have terminated many employees, including many who were working for them for a long time.
What is the condition of the vendors who supply parts to Maruti?
They are also directly affected as Maruti is not taking material from them due to the drop in sales. So these vendors are also reducing their work strength. It’s important to note that the slowdown has affected not only the workers in Maruti or in its vendor companies but even those down the line like chaiwallahs to cleaners in the truck. People are losing their livelihood at a very fast pace and the government seems clueless.
What are your demands?
Basically, the government should come forward with some relief package immediately. Our demand is that the companies should take back our colleagues, stop firing others and talk to us on the wage settlement issue. Most importantly, GST should be decreased immediately otherwise the whole economy will fall flat.