STRENGTH AGAINST WAR ECONOMY (continued)
On the 18th December 1942 Mr. Harold Schoobert the then Director General of Posts and Telegraphs invited all the Central Unions’ representatives in Calcutta to discuss various problems confronting the P and T workers. Dr.Noronha, Indian Telegraph Association, Mr. P.C.Chatterjee, All India Telegraph Union, Mr. K.M.Prabhu, Indian Posts and Telegraph Union, Mr. Bhupen Ghosh, All India Postal and RMS Union (authorized by Central Union), Mr. Rohini Roy, All India Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union, Mr. D.N.Ganguli Administrative Office Union and others met the DG P and T in a round table conference. The internal political situation of the country had gone from bad to worse. All the Congress leaders including Mahatma Gandhi had been arrested on the night of 8-8-42 and put in jail and there was general uprising throughout the country on 9-8-42 known as the August Movement. Hundreds of Post Offices had been burnt and telegraph lines cut and in the East in the Assam border the Azad Hind Army was advancing. The anti-British feeling was intensely growing, rather it was at its height. In such situation Mr. Schoobert made an appeal to the Union leaders for co-operation and for rendering every assistance to the war efforts of the government. The P and T Department, he reminded plays an important role in war. The assurance of co-operation and help were given by all. The question relating to sanction of dearness allowance at the increased rates was the main item discussed in the conference. Dr. Noronha placed his suggestion for five rupees increment of dearness allowance for every 20% increase in cost of living index. His suggestion appeared to be a very reasonable one and based on scientific calculation. Ultimately this suggestion was also accepted by the Pay Commission. The conference urged for measures for protecting all P and T buildings and construction of shelters in all areas which were possible targets of bombing.
Mr. Prabhu’s presence in Calcutta gave me an opportunity of discussing afresh with him about the possibility of him and others in the I.P.T.U. specially belonging to Madras Presidency, coming back to the All India Postal and RMS Union which was the parent body. Mr. Prabhu replied that it was more or less a question of prestige and it would not be possible for them to come back; on the other hand, he raised the issue that even if the Postal and RMS members would come back to All India Postal and RMS Union what would happen to those belonging to Telegraph and Engineering arms of the services as I.P.T.U. was a combined union of both Post and Telegraph workers. He suggested that the All India Postal and RMS Union should change the name and constitution so that all the P and T workers could be accommodated in it. Many of the officials in Telegraph Engineering divisions in Uttar Pradesh and Linemen in Bengal had already been pressing the All India Postal and RMS Union to enroll them as members. During the war period many of the Postal signallers had gone on deputation to the Telegraph arm and they were influencing the Postal signallers to join as a whole the All India Telegraph Union. The Director General of Posts and Telegraphs however rejected the prayers of Postal signallers joining the Telegraph Union and the Engineering people and Linemen joining the Postal and RMS Union. The suggestion of Mr. Prabhu went in to my brain straight. I began, with all earnestness to create an atmosphere in favour of building one union for all P and T workers and took courage to propose that All India Postal and RMS Union should be dissolved and all in a body should join the I.P.T.U., but any how there was no response to this – so I concentrated all my energy to change the constitution of the All India Postal and RMS Union so that the Telegraph workers in general and members of the I.P.T.U. in particular, specially belonging to Madras Presidency may be induced to join the organization. In the whole of Northern India from N.W.F.P. to Assam the members of the I.P.T.Union were mostly Muslims but such was not the case with Madras.
It may be recalled that the All India Postal and RMS Conference held at Allahabad in 1935 had tried its best for full three days to bring about a settlement between the leaders of the two rival provincial unions of All India Postal and RMS Unions in Madras headed by Mr. Soma Sundaram Mudaliar and Mr. K.M.Prabhu. The conference gave a verdict that a fresh Provincial conference to be convened under the joint signature of Mr. Prabhu and Mr. Mudaliar at Mysore. The followers of Mr. Prabhu instead of joining the conference called at Mysore preferred to join the I.P.T.U. and formed a separate circle union. A section of members in I.P.T.U. in Madras later on had been feeling about the importance of reamalgamation of unions. The pressure from a section of Engineering and Linemen workers as has been stated above was already there. The Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union advanced a new scheme for reamalgamation of their union with the All India Postal and RMS Union provided at the divisional level the funds were kept separate and secretary was a common man who should be an outsider to be helped by joint secretaries one from Class III and one from Postmen and Class IV. The movement inside the All India Postal and RMS Union for changing the name and constitution began to grow. Even the leadership of the All India Telegraph Union verbally supported the move and gave some sort of assurance that in case the All India Postal and RMS Union change its name and constitution they would consider the question of merger favourably. The war situation was gradually bringing all the P and T Unions closer. (To be continued )