July 11th, 2019 is the 59th anniversary of the Historic Five Days Strike of the Central Government employees.
The strike was against the retrograde recommendations of the II Central Pay Commission, which did not recommend minimum wage as per the 15th Indian Labour Conference approved formula as also no automatic DA whenever the cost of living was increased, as demanded by the unions. The increase in the wage was minimal.
Under the Joint Council of Action of the Central Government employees Federations (AIRF, AIDEF, Confederation and NFPTE), the biggest Indefinite strike in independent India started on the night of 11/12th July 1960. The government refused to negotiate despite continued efforts of the JCA as also many Members of Parliament including Feroze Gandhi ( Husband of Indira Gandhi). The government was adamant. Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called the strike as ‘Civil Rebellion’ and utilised the entire government machinery to crush it. Essential Service Maintenance Ordinance (ESMO) was promulgated and thousands of workers were arrested, convicted, dismissed, suspended, terminated and charge sheeted. All India leaders were arrested and put in Tihar Jail. Never before India has seen such brutal attack on any strike in the country.
It is to the credit of the workers and their loyalty to their organisation that the strike continued for five days. The entire train running system, the postal and telecom services were all badly affected. Unable to continue against the brutal attack of the government machinery and victimisation, the strike was called of on the fifth day.
5 Railways workers in Dohad were killed by police firing. 2 comrades in Kerala (one from postal and one from telephones) committed suicide unable to face the termination from service. Many were punished with rigorous imprisonment. Public, trade union leaders and outsiders were arrested for supporting the strike. Recognition of the striking federations/unions were withdrawn.
The workers faced these attacks with full confidence in their organisation and leaders. They knew there is no other way to defend their rights and justified demands. They saw the most cruel face of the so called ‘democratic government’.
PTTI and many international and foreign trade unions supported the strike and demanded the government to vacate victimisation. In the Parliament, Nehru government was put on the dock by eminent Members of Parliament like A.K.Gopalan, S.M.Banerjee, Nath Pai and many others, who demanded vacation of all victimisation.
It took more than three years for the vacation of victimisation and re-recognition of the unions and federations. But the scars remained for a long time.
Though crushed, the 1960 strike was not in vain. For that matter, no struggle is in vain. The government was compelled to act against the price rise, appoint two committees one after another on the issue of DA and has to start discussion with the unions on the constitution of negotiating machinery, which later became the Joint Consultative Machinery(JCM).
As a participant of the historic strike, I have my own hard experience, which I may narrate some time later.
The 1960 strike has many lessons for the working class. The determination, dedication and sacrifice of the leaders and workers who were part of the great struggle will ever be remembered.
The Central Govt. employees are once again on the struggle path. The struggle against the retrograde recommendations of the VII CPC will continue. The workers are waiting for decisions of the Modi Government.
On this 59th anniversary of the epic strike of 1960, we pay homage to all the participants of the strike and especially to those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle!