CHAPTER – VIII
Since the day of termination of war in the East, the Post and Telegraph workers of Bengal and Assam including those working in RMS C and N Divisions which were under the control of the P.M.G. Bihar and Orissa respectively, became restive. The apprehended disbandment from Defence of India Corps (P&T), a measure which would substantially reduce their monthly emoluments at a time which the cost of living was not only exorbitantly high but was continually going up and up so the discontentment were brewing. The officials in their large members throughout India who had been working in the P&T Department for years together as temporary staff apprehended from the department to make room for the war service candidate in whose favour orders were already issued by the Government, which created discontentment and dissatisfaction amongst them. The political situation in the country was uncertain and the Trade Unions were also making all efforts to consolidate the working class movement. The P&T movement in India specially in war affected areas like Calcutta and Bengal and Assam took a turn. Eight young Postal Officials of Calcutta started a Reorganisation Party with the object of revitalizing the P&T Trade Union movement by placing it on a democratic foundation and to win the objective through mass movement. Their small organization rapidly gained in strength by their activities which were of new type. They were able to spread magnetic influence over the entire youngsters of Calcutta and outside. The twelve mass meetings which they arranged in different Post Offices in Calcutta during October and November 1945 created mass enthusiasm amongst the workers. The last meeting which was held in Calcutta G.P.O on the 7-11-45 was memorable one. The rally was attended by thousands. Those who addressed the meeting issued a clarion call to the workers to be prepared for any sacrifice. I had occasion to address most of these meetings. One of our leaders had described the speeches delivered by some of the youngsters to be of highly explosive nature and declared that they were preaching sedition. The police took note of it. I had to defend those youngsters. I remember to have said “We do not believe in sedition but let it be noted by all present here that we no longer believe in petitions as well.” On the Eighteenth of December 1956 under the leadership of Shri.Kamble, the General Secretary of All India Postal and RMS Union, we met Shri.Krishna Prasad, the then D.G.P&T at Delhi and placed the demands for substantial increases in dearness allowances, specially in Bengal and Assam where the Defence of India Corps was disbanded with effect from the 30-11-45 and the staff were in extreme hardships. During the discussion with the D.G. P&T, I had occasion to tell him that we had gone to him for the last time like the five Pandavas asking for five villages only, viz, increase in dearness allowance, and if that would not be granted there would be Kurukshetra War. This threat even was of no avail. The All India Conference of Postal and RMS Union had already, under pressure of the progressive group in the Union, taken a militant programme and was preparing for the Hungry Badge Campaign. The reorganization party of Calcutta, whose membership had swelled to several hundreds, took decision to spread their activities throughout India and had actually issued leaflets to all parties of India. This reorganization party came into existence with the bold object in view, firstly to make the entire organization a democratic and a fighting institution to look after the welfare of the P&T workers and secondly to run it on trade union principles, not free from politics which is needed to secure full socio-economic justice for the workers. Anyhow, sometime after the Reorganisation party came in to existence, I found myself to be a member of the party, but I had no occasion to attend any of their executive meetings. Nevertheless I could feel that the eight persons who took initiative to organize the party belonged to three, if not four, distinct schools of thought and ideology, and yet could work together for a common purpose which was to turn the entire P&T movement in to a fighting organization. It is difficult to say what was going on in other parts of India but in Uttar Pradesh, the leaders of All India Postal and RMS Union were able to enroll a large number of Engineering workers as members of the U.P.T.R.(I), the new name given to the Postal and RMS Union . The leaders of the I.P.T.U in Madras presidency were trying to bring unification in the organization and in the movement through the newly established Federation. Rightly or wrongly from the very beginning due to various reasons I had my dislike for this federation. However our union leaders took a decision to make best uses of it. The President of the Federation Dewan Chaman Lal and many others leaders of other unions and a few in the All India Postal and RMS Union itself pleaded for suspending the Hungry Badge Campaign which was to be started on the 16th of February. I disagreed. Earlier the Director General of Posts and Telegraphs had threatened Bihar Union leaders with punishment for launching the Badge campaign. The All India Conference at Mymensingh had accepted the challenge thrown by the D.G.P&T to the Bihar Union leaders, it was therefore considered not to suspend the contemplated campaign but to go on with the programme without caring for the opposition. The Federation and the Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union simultaneously served the Govt. with a strike notice on the 24th February 1946 on the demands for revision of scale of pay of post-31 officials only. The Government forth with referred the matter to Adjudication and Justice Rajadhyaksha was appointed Adjudicator. The terms of reference fixed by the Government was, “As to what little interim benefit could be given to the entrants”. On the 5th March, The Executive Committee of the Federation assembled at Western Court New Delhi. The All India Council of the Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union had met separately on the very date to discuss and decide as to whether to accept the adjudication or not. The postman union’s decision was in favour of accepting the adjudication. The Federation followed suit. The General Council and the Executive Committee of all the federating unions also met at the time in Delhi. The Western Court Meeting of the Federation was attended by the representatives of all the unions. It was a gathering of eighty stalwarts. Dewan Chaman Lal and Shri D.K.Lahiri Choudhury influenced the house to adopt a similar resolution to that of the Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union and accepted the adjudication. I was the singular person to oppose it and suggested for boycott of adjudication proceedings but could not carry the house and walked out of the meeting alone. The adjudicator was not appointed to adjudicate over the demands for which the strike notice was served. Hence it was irregular on the part of the Federation to accept it.
Earlier on the 7th February, 1946 the Central Legislature had adopted a non- official resolution urging upon the Govt. to appoint a Pay Commission for revising the pay scales of the entire Central Government Employees. This resolution was practically sponsored by the P&T Unions. The Government thereupon had announced its decision for appointment of pay commission. Efforts were thus made to check the movement from within and outside by adopting this two fold method. Despite, the P&T workers movement continued to progress.
The decision taken at the Western Court meeting in favour of accepting adjudication which was appointed not to consider the demands put forth in the strike notice but some other new issues and for withdrawal of strike notice created annoyance not only in the mass of the workers but also in a section of leaders which found exposition through my walking out of the meeting. The postmen union had taken earlier decision in favour of adjudication and cancellation of strike notice and their decision to some extent influenced the leaders of the Federation and the federating unions which had served strike notice separately, to take a similar decision. Besides the entire central leadership in the Federation and in the federating unions which from the very beginning never meant going on strike and was vacillating all through, took it as an additional plea for cancellation of strike notice. Among those who were against withdrawal of strike notice and were in favour of going Sahay Srivastava, Basanta K Chakravarthy were the prominent persons. I myself it goes without saying, shared the views held by Sri.Raj Bahadur and others and could be one of those who led the opposition. Shri.Sati Raman Prasad M.A.B.L, an eminent lawyer of Muzaffarpur who was then the General Secretary of the then Bihar and Orissa Provincial Branch of the All India Postal and RMS Union and was found in the first days’ meeting to associate with the opposition group, on the second day crossed the floor and joined hands with Sarbasree Dewan Chaman Lal , D.K.Lahiri Choudhry Dr.G Noronah P.C.Chatterjee, B .S Kamble and M.A Jabbar as it seemed opposed to direct action in any shape including “Hungry Badge Campaign”. While the mass of the workers who were under extreme economic pressure wanted to ameliorate their wretched service conditions and improve their economic life through trial of strength but the bureaucracy’s agents in the Unions and in the Federation were acting in a different way in the interest of the Govt, which was playing tactics anyhow to delay matters and ultimately kill the movement. (To be continued)