New Delhi: India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s Manesar plant will be turned into a virtual fortress when production resumes at the factory on 21 August after a month’s lock-out prompted by labour unrest that left one executive dead and 100 others injured.

At least 650 security men will be on duty to ensure peace on the day the plant reopens, company officials said on Thursday as they made public the date that production will resume and announced the sacking of a third of the 1,500 permanent workers employed in Manesar.

“We had promised that during this week we would let you know when we will start production," Maruti chairman R.C. Bhargava told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday. “While the repair works were completed earlier, the company had stated that it could only start production when the safety and security of its managers, supervisors and workers could be ensured."

photoThe New Delhi-based company declared a lock-out at the plant on 21 July after some militant worker unleashed violence targeting senior officials after an altercation between an employee and his supervisor. The injured included two Japanese executives who needed hospitalization.

Suzuki Motor Corp. chairman Osamu Suzuki, who is expected to visit India on 22 August for the company’s annual general meeting, is expected to review the situation at Manesar and visit the injured officials. Separately, he is likely to pay Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi a visit.

Production at the Manesar plant will be resumed in phases. To begin with, the company will have 300 workers at Manesar who will produce 150 cars a day. The production will be increased gradually. It will start producing the Swift and DZire models.

Also See | Manesar Mess (PDF)

“It is good news. But we will have to wait and see how soon the company can reach full-scale production," said Mahantesh Sabarad, senior vice-president (equity and research), Fortune Equity Brokers Pvt. Ltd.

The police have arrested a number of workers, including the 12 union leaders, and started legal processes to bring the guilty to book. “More arrests may follow the police investigations, which are continuing," Bhargava said.

The state government has agreed to deploy 500 police personnel headed by a senior officer around the Manesar plant. In each shift, 100 of them will be in the Maruti Suzuki factory. At least 40 security officers will provide security to managers, supervisors, and where necessary, the workers. Security arrangements were made at the residences of the employees.

“In addition, we have formed a team of 100 security guards. Most of these guards are ex-servicemen," Bhargava said.

A former labour ministry secretary at the Centre criticised Maruti’s move to start production under heavy security.

“I am unable to understand the mindset of the management. What are they trying to prove by having such a heavy safety net," said Pravat Chaturvedi, former Union labour secretary. “It has never happened in India and a Japanese company doing it is very unfortunate. It is going to send wrong signals regarding industrial relations in the country. At Maruti, it is going to give rise to further tension."

Out of 1,500 permanent workers, the company has decided to sack 500 workers.

“Based on internal investigations, the company has identified those workers who were involved in the violence and in whom the company has lost confidence. The company has taken note of the fact that only a few months back, following a mutually agreed settlement, these workers had signed a good conduct undertaking. These workers will not be taken back," the firm said in a statement separately.

“If in the course of our enquiries or police investigations, it appears that more workers were involved in the violence, action will be taken against them as and when required."

D.L. Sachdev, secretary, All India Trade Union Congress, said the sackings were not justified.

“The unfortunate part is not taking back those workers. It’s illegal and unfair. Ideally, those workers should be given chargesheets and an opportunity to explain their situation," said Sachdev. “Police has already arrested 118, then why are they not taking the rest of them?"

Sachdev said the planned security arrangement at the plant was extraordinary.

“The entire Haryana administration is just trying to appease the management," he said. “They are not willing to understand how much management is responsible for this incident."

The company will no longer depend on contractors for hiring casual workers, but will start hiring on its own from 2 September. Both contract and permanent workers will get the same salary.

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