48 years are over after the great historical one day token strike of the Central Government employees which took place on 19th September 1968.
It was a strike which shook the government and the country. More than 30 lakhs of CG employees participated keeping the country to a standstill. The P and T workers with their strategical position in the Communication sector ensured that the entire machinery of the governments, both at central and states was paralysed.
It was a struggle for the dignity of labour, for the 15th ILC approved Need Based Minimum Wage, for full neutralisation in cost of living through Dearness Allowance and such other demands. The demands were well understood by the workers despite the false propaganda of the government.
The Indira Gandhi Government used the hated Essential Service Maintenance Act and other such anti-worker ordinances to suppress the struggle, instead of conceding the just demands of the workers. The workers did not flinch; they had the bitter experience of the 1960 strike which was treated as ‘Civil Rebellion’ and tried to be suppressed by then then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The workers had understood the real policy of the government, which was only to support the rich and ignore the justified demands of the workers.
It is to the credit of the Communist Government in Kerala, headed by Com.EMS Namboodiripad, who declared that his government will not use the ESMA against the striking government employees, despite the central government warned him that failure to implement ESMA may result in dismissal of his government.
Thousands of workers were arrested, jailed, terminated, suspended, dismissed and heavily victimised. NFPTE and other CGE unions were derecognised. For the first time after the formation of the united organisation, NFPTE in 1954, a fake union was floated, which later became FNPTO to serve the interests of the ruling political party, but which was shunned by the workers. The heroism shown by the ordinary workers was beyond description.
In Calicut, Kerala, where I was working at that time, 44 temporary employees were terminated, 95 suspended and almost all the active workers charge-sheeted and punished. I was out of service for about three years and was reinstated after transfer to another division. This was the case with many of the leaders and active workers and even ordinary members.
Many years have passed since then. The workers are now getting DA automatically, whenever there is an increase in the cost of living. Strike victimisation has come down. Usually only dies-non is issued for participation in the strike, except in isolated cases. Recognition of the union is not withdrawn. But still we are to get Minimum Wage implemented as per Dr. Akroyd formula which is around Rs.26,000 at present and the VII CPC has recommended only Rs. 18,000. The struggle of the CG Employees will continue for justice. BSNL employees, who were part of the CG Employees earlier, always keeps close connection with the CG employees including very cordial relations of the unions/associations.
On this 48th anniversary of the historical strike, I pay homage to the martyrs of the 1968 September 19th Strike. The great leaders who led the strike, the workers who implemented the call – we remember all of them, some still in the movement, all of them retired and some already no more with us. I will always remember those comrades who were part of this great struggle and contributed for a better future for the working class.