STRENGTH AGAINST WAR ECONOMY (continued)
The rates of dearness allowance which were sanctioned and were being paid up to 1942 to the P and T workers and other government servants, specially those belonging to the lower strata of services, were mainly on the basis of the findings of the G.I.P. Railway Court of Enquiry. Shri S.C Joshi, who was then the Hon. Secretary of the All India Postal and RMS Union, Bombay Provisional Branch, and head of the salaried employees with which the All India Postal and RMS Union was affiliated took an active part in the Court’s enquiry of course, his connection with the Railway Federation gave him the full opportunity to advocate the Railway workers’ cause before the court which ultimately benefitted the P and T workers as well. During the pendency of the Court’s enquiry the Postal and RMS Union with a view to give him impetus to the Railway workers’ movement for increasing the dearness allowance through the efforts of Shri Joshi, was able to create an All-India wide movement. At many places there were joint meetings etc. The All India Postal and RMS Union Conference held at Agra gave further impetus to the movement. The young progressive group took a leading part in the fund collection.
The All India Postal and RMS Union at this stage was found to be ever ready to advance the P and T workers’ movement and was willing to work conjointly with all other unions. The All India Telegraph Union and the Indian Telegraph Association were as it appeared, determined not to work with each other on a common platform and the Indian Post and Telegraph Union was playing altogether a different role which will be discussed later on. The political, economic and war situation had brought, outwardly at least, all the unions closer to one another at the earlier stage but the real earnestness for bringing unity of thoughts, deeds and work began to grow by the end of 1942. The political situation in the country had worsened during the year which created confusion amongst the lower and upper middle class people but the working-class practically remained firm, their only concern being increase in dearness allowance.
Sudden grant of evacuee allowance to Government employees working in Calcutta and other border districts for removing their family members, created worst confusion amongst the people in general and the Government servants in particular. All were found busy in removing their family members to the interior. This sudden and unasked for action of the government made the people panicky for the time being. The P and T Unions through their concerted action were able to keep the P and T workers in good spirit. Although the Unions had assured the department all help and co-operation, the Government issued an ordinance prohibiting all P and T employees, who belong to essential services from leaving station without the previous permission of any Gazetted Officer in the Department.
However, on receipt of the news of the desertion by 19 P and T workers at Dimapur ( Manipur Junction Road) and S.O.S calls from other stations, I left alone for my Assam tour on 27th May, 1942, and during my entire tour I had to address the numerous meetings. In every meeting I stressed upon the workers the need of sticking to work and not to be deserters. The only slogan I raised was “Guard your hearth and home and stick to your duty at this hour of crises”. I visited Barisal, Comilla, Chittagong, Sylhet, Silchar, Shillong, Lumding, Mariani, Dimapur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and on my way back – Narayan Ganj, Dacca, Mymensing. I remember while I was addressing a big meeting of the P and T workers at Chittagong Maheshkhali Aerodrome, located in a part of the town, it was being bombed. The meeting went on smoothly and it adopted a resolution that the staff should not leave the station. The Department was contemplating to shift the non-essential sections of Chittagong P and T offices to Dacca but in fact as a result of the resolution, the idea was given up.
The P and T workers from all Bengal and Assam had been drafted to Dimapur to cope up with the extra rush of work in civil Post Offices. Besides, there were field post offices also in their large numbers. Thousands of evacuees from Burma were found moving westward. The P and T workers who deserted, did so not so much out of fear but for want of proper supply of ration and water and other necessities of life. My entire tour was a successful one. The P and T Workers not only made up their mind to stick to their duties but began to work with changed outlook. The memory of those dreadful days is still vivid in my mind. I still feel contented that I did not fail to discharge my duty as General Secretary of the Bengal and Assam Provincial Union – and could go to each and every centre of Eastern Bengal and Assam to take care of co-workers whom I had the good fortune to serve through the union.
I came back on the 9th of August, 1942, the memorable day when the August movement was launched, collecting “Splinters of Bombs” for presenting them to my second son, aged six, who was ailing. But I learnt that the boy had died on the 8th, a day before my arrival. Misfortune never comes alone. After a few hours of my arrival, my wife expired. Repentance came to me for my neglecting them and I took a vow not to keep any connection with the union in future. (To be continued.)