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Corporate rivalry buzz rises from Gurgaon

July 27: An uneasy calm shrouding Gurgaon, whispers are getting louder that “corporate rivalry” could be behind the clashes at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India.

Haryana finance and labour minister Birender Singh today said after an extended meeting with the company management that the state would probe the rivalry angle.

“We have been hearing that some similar company or the other may be involved in inciting the workers to violence. We are looking into the matter,” he said.

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India’s no-competition pact with Hero Honda ' the two were in a partnership before Honda India struck out on its own ' is nearing its end. The Gurgaon company is also getting into production of other two-wheelers.

As the glare settled on corporate rivalry, a small reprieve came the way of the Gurgaon police bigwigs, who have for the last two days been accused of staging a Jallianwala Bagh-type assault on protesting Honda workers.

Chief minister B.S. Hooda announced in a news conference that deputy commissioner Sudhir Rajpal and SP Yoginder Nehra would not be asked to proceed on leave now, but only from the day the probe panel starts work.

“The decision to send them on leave is aimed at ensuring an impartial and fair inquiry,” he said.

Asked why they had not been transferred immediately after the clashes, Hooda said holding anyone guilty before conducting an inquiry was not fair.

But the CPM whetted its knife against the state’s allegedly “crude bias” against the workers, demanding the removal of officers responsible for the lathicharge and a change in the terms of the inquiry committee.

“The reported terms of reference of the judicial inquiry, which includes examination of the ‘role of outsiders’ is highly objectionable and are framed to protect the officials concerned and must be suitably amended,” the politburo said in a statement late tonight. “It is clear that with the officials continuing in their posts, no impartial inquiry can be held.”

This morning, a flash strike called by lawyers at the district court churned the eerie Gurgaon calm. The protest was announced after an advocate representing the arrested workers was refused bail.

Sources said Rajendra Pathak was picked up with 60 employees on Monday on charges of rioting and attempt to murder. He has alleged torture in police custody.

“I had condemned the district officials for the lathicharge on TV because of which I was arrested. I was tortured for two days before being produced before court today,” Pathak said.

Gurgaon bar association leader Kulbhushan Bharadwaj said the strike would continue till all charges against Pathak were dropped.

Trade unions, including Aituc, Citu, Hind Mazdoor Sabha and Haryana Trade Union Mahasangh, have called a Gurgaon bandh tomorrow in protest against police brutality on workers.

Anticipating trouble from “anti-social elements”, the police have called in additional forces from neighbouring districts to maintain law and order.

“There will be 19 magistrates to monitor industrial areas. We are not expecting trouble from areas where the malls and movie theatres are, but mobile units would be keeping watch. The management of top industries has assured us they will be open,” Rajpal said.

At Gurgaon civil hospital, where relatives of injured workers clashed with police yesterday, security was tight. Doctors said 48 employees had been discharged and 10 were stable.

Honda India today resumed production at its plant in Manesar. The ongoing labour unrest has caused the company an estimated Rs 125 crore-loss over the past month.

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