I remember I issued a circular letter to all the forty branch unions in Bengal and Assam giving a cautioning not to fall in trap of those so-called labour leaders. There was a rumour afloat at that time that Dewan Chaman Lal was contemplating to organize a Federation of P&T Unions. The All India Postal and RMS Unions conference which met at Mymensing during X-mas of 1945 was from many points of view a momentous session. The Hungry Badge Campaign which was started by Bihar and Orissa Provincial union and had to be suspended on getting a threat of punishment from the then Director General of Posts and Telegraphs, Shri. Krishna Prasad, was revived by the conference which fixed the 16th February, 1946 as the day for launching. Hungry Badge Campaign for one week throughout India. The conference issued a clarion call to all Postal and RMS employees to join the badge campaign to draw special attention of the government to the pitiable condition of the Postal and RMS workers and also issued an appeal to sister unions to join the movement.
Shri.P.C.Chatterjee , the General Secretary of the All India Telegraph Union not only attended the conference, spoke eloquently in favour of such a move and was seen wearing a badge himself .
This session of the conference also took a unanimous decision to change the name of the All India Postal and RMS Union to “The Union of Posts, Telegraph and RMS (India)”. The very object of changing the name was to bring within its fold the Telegraph, Telephone and Engineering people, and it was also our intention to bring back within our fold the members of the I.P.T Union who had earlier seceded from All India Postal and RMS Union and were not willing to come back unless the name was changed. I feel proud to say that I was the author and mover of the resolution for changing the name to U.P.T.R(I).The Indian Posts and Telegraph Union was already functioning as combined union therefore there was no reason as to why Govt. should object to our changing the name. Shri.Chatterjee also supported this move.
All Present at the conference carried this impression that the All India Telegraph union would merge with the U.P.T.R(I) and that union would join the Hungry-Badge Campaign . It is worth recording that the said union in practical field opposed both these moves. The All India Telegraph Union and the Indian Telegraph Association joined hands and asked the D.G.P&T not to accord recognition to the U.P.T.R(I). So our attempt met with failure. The DG P&T refused to recognise the change. The union however started utilising the new name for all internal correspondence.
The All India Telegraph Union, to our utter surprise, issued a circular letter to all its branches not to have any connection with the Hungry-Badge campaign and did not rest there but went to the length of describing the move to be an illegal one.
There was opposition also from a section of leaders of the All India Postal and RMS Union against the Hungry Badge Campaign, in spite of the fact the campaign met with success throughout India. Although the All India Postmen and Lower Grade Staff union did not fall in line with the movement, the rank and file of the union at many station joined the campaign. This Hungry Badge Campaign in fact according to many, was nothing but the ground – work for 1946 July struggle.
The rumour which got currency in September 1945 took a real shape in January, 1946. On the 24th of January, 1946 on the initiative taken by Dewan Chaman Lal with himself as President a loose Federation under the name –The Federation of Post and Telegraph Union came into existence. It is worth mentioning that those leaders of the different P&T unions, who per chance were present at Delhi at the time, got seat in the Executive of this new Federation. The Unions which joined the Federation had not taken any previous sanction of their respective central councils or conferences, but had done so only on the initiative of their leaders which was widely resented by the Circle and Branch Unions of the federating unions. Inspite of these facts, the Federation got prominence and later on, the representative Executives of the federating unions, as there was no way out of it, ratified the actions of the General Secretaries of the different unions for their joining the Federation. Shri. B.S.Kamble General Secretary, All India Postal and RMS Union was elected as the first General Secretary of Federation. The Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union however, preferred to keep away from the Federation and the Indian Telegraph Association, of which Dr.Noronha was the General Secretary, was at this initial stage also kept out of it. There was opposition to this latter organization coming into the federation at least from one of the federating unions. Shortly after, on pressure from other unions, Dr.Noronha was invited to Delhi by Dewan Chaman Lal and his Association took a decision to affiliate itself with the Federation. There is a hearsay that he agreed to join the Federation on the condition that he should be given opportunity to be its General Secretary and shortly after this it so happened one day that Dr. Noronha was declared to be the General Secretary of the Federation by replacing Shri.Kamble. It still remains a secret how it happened, who were the persons to take initiative to effect this unwarranted replacement.
Prominent among those who took an active part to bring the Federation in to existence and to set it in to a workable condition were Mr. M . A. Jabbar, Shri. Raja Ram Rao, Shri.Jestin Banerjee, Shri.B.S.Kamble, Shr.P.C.Chatterjee, Shri. Raj Bahadur, Shri.Basant Singh, Shri.Gian Chand Khanna and others.
It must, however, be admitted that inspite of many defects, the federation attracted the notice of the Govt. as well as of the workers. The new organization gained quick popularity and everyone was maintaining high hopes that the Federation will be in position to deliver the goods to the workers. Hence there was jubilation and enthusiasm. (To be continued)