The Puzzle That is India-UAE Trade

Publlished in the Economic and Political Weekly

How is it that the United Arab Emirates has become India’s largest trading partner in recent years, overtaking the United States, European Union and China? An unusual pattern of two-way flows in gold, diamonds and jewellery seems to underlie the boom in bilateral trade. There is reason to suspect that some of this trade involves round tripping of merchandise and to that extent the volume of India-UAE trade may be artificially inflated.

Full article available here.

Employment Trends in India: An Overview of NSSO’s 68th Round

First published in the Economic and Political Weekly

The findings of the Employment and Unemployment Survey 2011-12 (68th round) reveal that over nine million persons found employment between 2009-10 and 2011-12. This was characterised by some sections of the media as a “rebound” from the stagnancy between 2004-05 and 2009-10. However, our analysis shows that the average growth in employment between 2004-05 and 2011-12 remains low at 2.5 million per year. The findings also reveal that a growing proportion of the workforce is moving to non-farm activities, and a falling proportion is engaged on a casual wage.

Read here…

Bajaj Auto Workers’ Agitation: Withdrawal and Triumph

First published in the Economic and Political Weekly

Workers at the Bajaj Auto’s Chakan unit in Pune stopped work for 50 days before unconditionally withdrawing the agitation on 13 August. The union made a controversial demand – cheap equity shares for its members. This article looks at this demand, the questions around the issue of going on strike (in the current economic atmosphere), the ability to sustain it and the lack of adequate state intervention.

Abhishek Shaw (, Lina Mathias (

When 950 workers at the Chakan (Pune) plant of Bajaj Auto struck work on 25 June, among their demands for improved wages and work conditions was one that generated much controversy – the union asked for equity shares, or what is called employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), at Re 1 a share. While a number of information technology (IT) companies and a few in other fields are no strangers to ESOPs in India, this was the first time that workers from the assembly and production floor made the demand.

The demand for ESOP was dismissed in no uncertain terms. “No one, not even the chairman, has got free shares in the last 50 years, and we are not about to start now,” Rajiv Bajaj, managing director (MD) of Bajaj Auto, told the media. He added for good measure that if the workers’ demand is like that of a wayward child, the company, as a parent, had to be “fair but firm”. In another media interview, he said, “This is a public limited company, not a kirana (grocery) shop that I can handle (company) shares like that” (Gupta and Baggonkar 2013).

Bajaj also made it clear that his company did not believe in “buying the loyalty of people by throwing them shares”. ESOPs are okay for the IT industry or where capital is an issue, and even the automobile companies that issue shares do so only to the top management in their research and development (R&D) division and not to workers, he said.

Bajaj’s almost indignant response to the demand and the union’s justification for making it shows the chasm between how managements view workers’ role and how the latter see it. Read on…



A Nuanced History of Madras’ Working Class

First published in the Economic and Political Weekly.

The Making of the Madras Working Class by Dilip Veeraraghavan (New Delhi: Left Word ), 2013; pp 358, Rs 750.

Abhishek Shaw ( Chandrika Radhakrishnan ( is an independent researcher and editor of Thozhilalar Koodam (Workers’ Space,, a blog dedicated to reporting and documenting labour issues.

The little-known history of the first organised labour unions of India, formed between 1918 and 1939, and the role they played in the formation of a working-class consciousness and the struggle for Independence are vividly described in The Making of the Madras Working Class by Dilip Veeraraghavan. This book was first written as a dissertation titled “The Rise and Growth of the Labour Movement in the City of Madras and Its Environs, 1918-1939” by Veeraraghavan, who submitted it to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras in 1987.

Published posthumously (in 2009), it is a meticulous historical account of the period and is an inspiration to students of history, as well as visually disabled students.

The book takes us back to a period in India’s history which has largely been associated with the Indian National Congress and the struggle for freedom. Veeraraghavan, however, narrates a detailed and nuanced history of the working people of Madras, with insights into the processes of negotiations between workers, labour unions, nationalist leaders, factory owners and the colonial state. The accounts in the book are relevant to the workers’ movements even today. Read on here…

Comparing NSSO’s Employment Surveys – A Methodological Note

First published on

Correcting for an error in method, it can be shown that the National Sample Survey Organisation had underestimated employment in 2009-10 and therefore overestimated the number of jobs created between 2009-10 and 2011-12  by over 4 million, bringing the figure down from 13.9 million to around 9.35 million.

The press release on the results of the Employment and Unemployment Survey (EUS) conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2011-12 claimed that as many as 13.9 million jobs were created in just the two years since the previous EUS conducted in 2009-10.

This piece of statistics was picked up and played up by sections of the media (Padmanabhan and Rao 2013). But look a bit more closely at the numbers and the methodology and you will find that the NSSO may have erred – not in its survey but in how it made its estimates based on the survey. Specifically, it seems to have used out-dated projections of the total population in 2009-10 which have since been shown to be under-estimates. This has therefore placed employment in 2009-10 at a lower level than it actually was and therefore gives an exaggerated picture of the growth of employment between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

A correction of the numbers shows that  the  NSSO had underestimated employment in 2009-10 by over 4 million and therefore the number of jobs created between 2009-10 and 2011-12 was over 9.35 million and not 13.9 million, over 30% less than claimed. How is this so?
Read on

Fifth Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Trust Lecture by Harry E Vanden

First published on Thozhilalar Koodam (

The Fifth Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Trust Lecture was delivered by Harry E Vanden at St.Xavier’s College in Mumbai yesterday evening. Vanden’s lecture was titled “Marxist Revolutionary Thought and Practice in Latin America”.

Harry Vanden spoke about  revolutionary movements in Latin America from the late 1800s to now and the hot debates these movements threw up about alternative ways of organising society. Vanden talked about the changing nature of revolutionary movements and the constant search for a more humane socialism, and the importance of establishing stable alternative systems.

The lecture was organised by The Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee. Harry Vanden was introduced by Bernard D’Mello, who is an author and deputy editor of the Economic and Political Weekly. Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas S J, Principal of St.Xavier’s College also welcomed the speaker and released a new book which is co-edited by Harry Vanden and Marc Becker titled,  Jose Carlos Mariategui – An Anthology. This book was first published by Monthly Review Press, New York, but is now published in India by Monthly India (Cornerstone Publications, Kharagpur).

Anuradha Ghandy was a member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). She died of cerebral malaria on 12 April 2008.

The following is the audio recording of the lecture.


The Fourth Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Trust Lecture was delivered by Arundhati Roy on 20 January 2012. To watch this lecture follow this link.


May Day Celebrations: Hyundai, Scholl and Asian Paints at Sriperumbudur

First posted on Thozhilalar Koodam (Workers’ Space)

Early on the morning of May Day, 2013, workers of Hyundai, Scholl, and Asian Paints hoisted flags and commemorated the workers who had struggled in the past to safeguard the rights of workers today. The workers called for greater solidarity between workers of different factories and pledged to continue their struggles for better working conditions and rights at the work place.

This is 90th year after the first may day celebrations in India were held in Madras on 1 May, 1923.

Hyundai Motor India Ltd.

Hyundai Motor India Ltd. workers assembled outside the main factory gate at the Sriperumbudur plant to hoist flags this May Day.

The two rival unions at Hyundai,Hyundai Motor India Employees Union (HMIEU) and United Union of Hyundai Employees (UUHE), hoisted separate flags.

The HMIEU flag is to the right of the main gate along with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) flag. The HMIEU workers, some employees and some dismissed employees, assembled around the flag and hoisted the flag while shouting slogans. The president of HMIEU, Dinakaran presided over the function. R. Sridhar, general secretary of HMIEU, who was dismissed in 2008, was also present.  Sanmina employees union president,  Mani came in solidarity.  S.Kannan, state committee member of  CITU was present and addressed the gathering along with E. Muthukumar, Kanchipuram District Secretary of CITU. Read the rest of this entry »


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