July 19, 2012 / 5:37 AM / 5 years ago

India police hunt 3,000 after deadly riot at car factory

MANESAR, India (Reuters) - Indian police were searching on Thursday for 3,000 people they want to detain after one person was killed and scores injured in a riot at a car factory in the north of the country.

Hundreds of police have secured the Maruti Suzuki (MRTI.NS) factory in Manesar, arresting 88 people after property was smashed and parts of the factory set on fire during Wednesday’s violence, police said.

Labor unrest at the factory, where the union has accused India’s biggest car manufacturer of anti-worker and anti-union activities, cost the company more than $500 million in lost production in 2011.

Wednesday’s violence flared after a disciplinary incident against one employee. Company officials say workers began to attack senior management during discussions, while the workers’ union said its representatives were attacked first.

“The police have taken charge of the premises,” Maruti Suzuki spokesman Puneet Dhawan said. “One body was recovered from the premises. It is charred beyond recognition.”

A human resources manager at the plant is missing and his family has been flown in to identify the body, said Maheshwar Dayal, deputy commissioner of police in Gurgaon, the nearest major city to Manesar.

A Maruti source, who declined to be identified, confirmed that a human resources manager was missing.

“We have created a special investigative team to look for the leaders of the riot. We will make more arrests soon,” Dayal said.

Ei Mochizuki, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Suzuki Motor Corp (7267.T), which controls the Indian carmaker, said one local employee had died and two Japanese employees had been hospitalized after the unrest.

The factory, which can make 550,000 vehicles a year and accounts for around a third of Maruti’s total output, would remain closed on Thursday, the company said.

Shares in the carmaker, which saw its sales fall 11 percent in the fiscal year to March, partly due to the protracted labor strikes, fell as much as 9.4 percent on Thursday.

MURDER CHARGES

Iron rods and other sharp tools lay scattered outside the factory gate on Thursday, next to a burned out security building, as 1,200 police officers secured the site, around 40 km (25 miles) south of New Delhi.

Fifty management personnel and 9 police officers were injured during the clashes, Dayal said.

Those arrested could be charged with murder, attempt to murder and arson, said K.K. Sindhu, commissioner of police in Gurgaon.

Maruti and the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) said the violence stemmed from a disciplinary incident involving one employee.

“To resolve the issue amicably, members of the senior management met the union. During the talks, the workers attacked the members of the senior management, executives and managers,” Maruti said in a statement late on Wednesday.

MSWU president Ram Meher accused the company of “anti-worker and anti-union activities” in a statement on Thursday.

“The gates were closed by the security on behest of the management and the bouncers brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms,” Ram Meher said in the statement.

“They, joined by some of the managerial staff and police later, beat up a number of workers who have had to be hospitalized with serious injuries. The bouncers, who are anti-social elements on hire, also destroyed company property and set fire to a portion of the factory,” Meher said.

The union is keen to talk with the company and government officials to resolve the dispute, Meher added.

Late last year, Maruti brokered a deal with workers that ended weeks of strikes and protests which cut into sales and market share.

“This incident shows that the management have also not learned anything from the last three strikes ... in 2011,” D.L. Sachdev, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, told reporters.

Charan Lal Sharma, labor minister for the state of Haryana, where the factory is located, told ET Now television channel that he was travelling to the site to discuss the issue.

Writing and reporting by Henry Foy in MUMBAI; Additional reporting by Kentaro Sugiyama in TOKYO; Editing by Tony Munroe and Daniel Magnowski

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