The All India conference of All India Telecom Employees Union Class III, the biggest affiliated union of National Federation of Telecom Employees (NFTE), was held at Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, from 24th to 29th October 1991. Along with our comrades from Calicut (Kozhikode), where I was working at the time, we started two days in advance so as to tour the nearby places as also to meet the delegates in advance to discuss organisational matters. Comrades M.Balasubramaniam, wife Rojana, V.Nalini, M.V.Sadanandan, P.V.Nambissan, K.Damodaran, C.P.Sadanandan, Radhakrishnan, my wife Pankajam and many other comrades were with me. It was a two day journey by train and after reaching Bhopal Railway Station, we stayed at a nearby hotel as the Reception Committee had not yet arranged the accommodation etc.
The two days before the AIC was utilised to meet the delegates coming by train and discussing with them about the organisational issues, mainly the support being given by Com. O.P.Gupta, General Secretary of the union to the anti-working class policies of the government as also the anti-democratic functioning of the union itself. Many comrades agreed with our opinion.
In between, we also found time to visit the ancient caves nearby, the famous mosque in the city etc.
The AIC was being arranged by constructing a very big pandal in the extensive maidan, New Dasra. Though there were provisions in the constitution of the union for the number of delegates to the AIC, the convention was that all those who came and remitted the delegates fee were accommodated as delegates.
There were about 3,000 delegates including a large number of women. Many have come with family and were interested to visit places of attraction, even when the proceedings are in progress. Only about half of the delegates will be present most of the time, while others are either in the dining hall for taking breakfast/lunch/dinner, or were out for sight-seeing. Families will sit there one day or so and then leave the place. There was enough scope for doubt that this kind of situation was created purposely to avoid any serous discussion in the AIC.
However, there used to be serious discussions, debates and fight on the issues, the organisational matters and agitations. There used to be bitter fight on the policy to be adopted in settling the issues of the workers. The inner struggle was always there in E.III Union. This is what happened in the Bhopal AIC also.
The Conference was presided over by Comrade Homi Daji, M.P., President of the union. It was the convention of most of the unions in NFPTE from the start to elect a Member of Parliament to be the President. Many were the top T.U. leaders and M.P.s who were Presidents of the unions. Comrades S.M.Banerjee, Mahesh Dutt Mishra, N.K.Bhatt, Subhadra Joshi, S.B.Das, Homi Daji were some of them. One reason was that these leaders could raise many of the issues in the Parliament and focus them for settlement. This was stopped by the government later, but still certain unions continued the system for some more time.
Comrade Homi Daji was the General Secretary / President of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and was elected more than once to the parliament from the Indore constituency in Madhya Pradesh. He used to preside in the AIC from the first to the last, instead of a token presence only.
The open session was held in the main pandal, which was attended by about 5000 including the delegates and public. Chairman, Telecom Commission H.V.Wagle, Advisor (HRD) V.Rajagopalan, CGM M.P. D.K.Gupta, GS T.3 Union P.S.Raman Kutty, GS Line Staff Union Chandrasekhar, GS RMS – 3 Union N.M.S.Rao, GS T.IV Union Sagir Mohammed and other leaders addressed.
(to be continued)