A seemingly unending struggle

Everytime The Factory by Rahul Roy is screened across the country, a tribute is paid to the struggle of Maruti workers against the company in Manesar.

The documentary revisits the lives of the workers, who are still fighting the management of Maruti Suzuki. The workers strike gained maximum attention from 2011 to 2013.  The struggle which was initially about the company’s corporate structure, gradually became about the government, the judiciary, the environment and lastly, poverty — all of which is given apt importance in the film, in descending order.

On July 18, 2012, when the managing director of the plant died in a suspicious fire accident amidst the violent rift between the management and the workers, 147 workers were jailed on murder charges, out of which around 30 are still in jail. Most of them were part of the union which was already struggling against the company’s regulations, the main being the good conduct bond.

The struggle is shown in a Kafkaesque sense, where the lives of the Maruti workers outside jail, and also the ‘absent’ faces inside, are intertwined in personal turmoil as well as with the district and High Court. The one-and-a-half hour long film follows their daily lives and their journey which is close to K’s journey to the castle in The Castle by Franz Kafka. It is disheartening and painful to see families of those whose monthly income was nothing more than Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 losing their only earning member to a “not a strong case.”

On one hand we see Maruti Suzuki gaining more shares in the country with a car rolling out of the plant every 50 seconds, on the other hand we hear the story of these struggling workers who worked for eight hours a day, with 30 minutes recess (which they claimed to be 10 minutes) and a seven minute tea break.

Though the jail and courtrooms were always talked about, there are no shots from inside the jail or the courtroom in the film. “This was done on purpose. I wanted to show only the outside of the jail and how there’s more struggle outside that structure,” says Rahul Roy, director.

Even if the jailed unionists are ‘absent’ on screen, their semblance is felt throughout the film. In one shot a wife receives a letter from her husband in jail, who declares his love for her and also the struggle.

When one starts understanding the discrepancies of the famous tarik pe tarik system of the judicial system in India, Roy takes us through the environmental hazards the Maruti Suzuki plant caused over the years. The most dangerous one being the blocked rainwater trails which joined the Yamuna before the plant was constructed right on top of four such trails. The environmental hazard leads us to square one — the government — that allotted the land to Maruti Suzuki where these trails moved freely. The film is observational, where one sees facts, and they are not narrated or projected in texts.
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