Two days after he met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Osamu Suzuki, chairman of Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, on Sunday sought to soothe the frayed nerves in Haryana, where the company has two plants, saying the North Indian state was his “first home” in India.
Earlier, his decision to meet Modi before meeting Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had raised many eyebrows. Speaking at a roundtable with senior journalists here, Suzuki said: “Haryana is my first home and Gujarat is my second. I have conveyed this to the two chief ministers.”
Asked which one was his favourite home, Suzuki responded: “It would be unfair to make a judgement. I have experienced Haryana, but I have not experienced Gujarat.”
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the Indian joint venture of Suzuki Motor, is setting up a new plant in Gujarat to manufacture over 500,000 cars a year with an investment of over Rs 4,000 crore This will be the first manufacturing facility of the country’s largest car maker outside Haryana.
Suzuki’s week-long visit to India is significant as it is the first after the July 18 violence in its Manesar plant that lead to the death of an executive and the lock-out of the unit for over a month.
Suzuki added the company would look into any reason for dissatisfaction among workers. “Internally, we will go for introspection and find out whether there were other reasons for dissatisfaction and take necessary counter measures.”
He also made it clear that the company had no intention of closing its production in Manesar or reducing its commitment in India, where it has been present for 30 years. Reiterating the point, R C Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki India, said: “There has been no change in their investment plans in Rohtak (Haryana) where an R&D (research and development) centre is being set up, or by Suzuki’s motorcycle subsidiary which is setting up a second plant, or what has been committed in Manesar at all. All these investments are in Haryana.”
However, Suzuki said the company was waiting for the Haryana government and the police to tell them the reason behind the violence at the Manesar factory. “We have asked Mr Hooda to tell us the reason for the incident. As the 12 executive members of the union have been arrested, we have no information.”
He added that hiring contract workers was a global phenomenon and was also done in Japan. However, explaining the higher average salaries in the Gurgaon plant, Suzuki said: “Manesar is only seven years old, while the Gurgaon plant is 30 years old, so there has to be a salary difference as the latter have more experienced workers.”
Providing details of its roll-out of cars in the Manesar plant, which was re-opened on August 21, Maruti Suzuki India Managing Director Shinzo Nakanishi said: “In the five days after we reopened, our target was to make 900 units, but we achieved 436 units. We expect in August to produce 72,000 to 74,000 cars which is almost the same as in July or what it was last year in the same month.”
Nakanishi also said that about 330 workers which constitute 68 per cent of the planned induction and 94 per cent of the supervisors had joined work. However, he admitted he would not be able to give a deadline for normalisation of production or when the security bandobast should be withdrawn.
Bhargava said the company was already responding to the need of workers in Manesar for housing as rentals in the area had gone through the roof. “We know the rentals are very high. That is why we have identified land in Daruhera and Pataudi with the help of the Haryana government, where they can build their homes. We will also help them by arranging finances.”