There have been lakhs of leaders and active workers who have been in the forefront of the struggles of the P and T Workers and for strengthening the workers’ organisations.
There are certain comrades, who took initiative to form the union/s in the Posts and Telegraphs Department in the early 20th century, while still the country was under the British imperialist rule. The task was not easy. The workers were afraid to join the unions. But these pioneers took the initiative and by their dedicated and sincere hard work formed the unions and strengthened them.
Though there may be many leaders who took the initiative, the following three leaders are considered as the main Pioneers of the P and T movement.
1. Henry Barton (23rd June 1864 – 13th July 1938)
He was a Telegraphist in W.Bengal. He organised the telegraph workers and formed the Indian Telegraph Association in 1908, which became a strong organisation in no time. He was the General Secretary of the ITA for a long period.
He published a journal also. Through continuous struggles and discussion, he could settle many issues. He was interned for his TU activities. After he became ill in 1936 he went to Britain and settled there. He passed away on 13th July 1938.
“Barton’s memory shall remain as a beacon light to the Trade Union Movement”.
2. Babu Tarapada Mukherjee ( 1868 -20th September 1929)
Babu Tarapada Mukherjee entered P and T Department as a Postal Clerk in Calcutta on 1st February 1895. From the date he joined, he saw the worst working conditions and slavery of the workers and the meagre wages. First he organised the Postal Club in 1907, which functioned as almost a trade union which later was converted 1920 as the All India (including Burma) Post Office and RMS Union. This union became a militant organisation. For his historic Presidential speech in the Lahore All India Conference in 1921, in which he analysed the British rule, the condition of the workers and the need for sustained and militant struggle, he was charge sheeted. He was given the offer to apologise and save his job. But not Babu Tarapada. He fully justified his speech with valid points. He was dismissed from service on 20th November 1921. But he continued to serve the workers till his death 20th September 1929.
” You are men and not dumb driven cattle……..Organise this power, organise with a purpose, organise with determination, and i promise you success knock at your door” – Babu Tarapada’s Lahore Speech.
3.Dada Ghosh ( B.N.Ghosh) ( August 1898 – 7/8 July 1961)
The Founder Secretary General of NFPTE in 1954, Bhupendra Nath Ghosh, entered the Postal Department as a clerk in the GPO Calcutta on 18th March 1918. From day one he connected himself with the union, and became a leader of the All India Postal and RMS Union. He was one of the top leaders who led the historic successful 1946 strike which was also part of the Independence Struggle.Naturally when all the unions realigned and NFPTE was formed on 24th November 1954, he was elected as its first Secretary General.After vacating the post in 1960 and returning to Calcutta, he committed suicide on the night of 7/8 June 1961 putting the entire P and T fraternity is deep sorrow.
” Comrade B.N.Ghosh is an institution by himself who has ably guided the destinies of the P and T workers and through them the bulk of the Central Government staff for over four decades and thus he has joined the line of the revered leaders Tarapada and Barton” – From NFPTE Guwahati Federal Council Resolution, 19-25 April 1960 on farewell to BN Ghosh.
There are many other leaders like Comrades K.G.Bose, O.P.Gupta, N.J.Iyer, K.Adinarayana who built and led the movement in the last many decades and are no more. New leaders have come. It is a continuing process.
We inherit a great tradition, a tradition of struggle and unity for the interest of the workers. In our own way we have conducted militant and revolutionary struggles, got victimised, but at the same time strengthened the movement and got benefit for the workers.
The life and work of the great Pioneers of the P and T Movement inspire and strengthens our determination to fight and advance for the cause. ( Posted in connection with the Diamond Jubilee of of NFPTE on 24th November 2013.)