The Historic Strike of 11th July 2007
As decided by the Joint Forum and call given, the strike started at 00.00 hours on 11th July 2007. The strike was an unprecedented success with close to 100% participation by workers and officers. The entire workforce rose up as one man to ensure that BSNL survives. It was a wakeup call for the government as well as the BSNL management. The 11th July strike was almost total by nearly 3,40,00 executives and non-executives. All BSNL offices, including telephone exchanges, telegraph offices etc. remained closed. It was for the first time that such a total strike took place since the formation of BSNL. It was also for the first time that all the executives except the ITS officers (who were mostly officers on deputation from DOT) were on strike in BSNL.
The strike was also complete in the BSNL Corporate Office, which was housed in the rented Statesman Building. The union leaders went from floor to floor and section to section and ensured that everybody is on strike. It was a sea of workers in the compound with more than one thousand attending to the speeches of the leaders of the JF.
The fact that the strike was called at short notice did not have any adverse impact on the strike. It was as if the workers were mentally prepared for a serious action on the issue. They wanted that BSNL should not be torpedoed by the government or the top management. The existence of BSNL was a life and death issue for the BSNL workers.
After the strike
All the newspapers and TV channels prominently gave the strike news. The cancellation of the 4.55 crore mobile tender was criticized severely. News was well covered in national newspapers – Political and Business Daily, Hindu, National Herald, Indian Express, Times of India, Business Line, Economic Times etc. The Economic Times wrote an editorial supporting the cause of the workers.
The Times of India in its report dated 18th July appreciated the BSNL Unions for their constructive activism as follows: “BSNL Unions, working to pull BSNL out of the grip of political pressures are attracting growing respect for their constructive activism.”
A letter from Shri S.Rajagopalan, former CMD MTNL, published in the Business Line dated 12th July stated: “Heartening is the principled stand taken by the BSNL Employees Union which has realized the danger to the future if the tender is delayed.”
Immediately after the strike, the Communications Minister met the Joint Forum again and assured that action will be taken to purchase GSM lines as also additional orders will be issued as soon as spectrum policy is announced and bandwidth allotted to BSNL.
The strike had its own impact. Matters moved fast. While it was to take much time to furnish the report to the Communications Minister and decision by him, the entire process was completed within one week and the Advance Purchase Order (APO) was issued. However, the APO was only for 2.275 crore (50% of the earlier tender) mobile lines and the higher technology 3G portion was not included, to save the face of the Minister. The Joint Forum strongly protested on both these counts. (To be continued)