July 11th, 2020 is the 60th anniversary of the start of the Historic Five Days Strike of the Central Government employees in 1960.
The strike was for acceptance of Need Based Minimum Wage per the 15th Indian Labour Conference approved formula as also for grant of automatic DA whenever the cost of living index is increased, as demanded by the unions. It was also against the retrograde recommendations of the II Central Pay Commission which only denied the justified demands of the workers and the unsympathetic stance of the central government.
Under the Joint Council of Action of the Central Government Employees Federations (AIRF, AIDEF, Confederation and NFPTE), the biggest Indefinite Strike in independent India started on the night of 11/12th July 1960, the anniversary of the 1946 P and T Strike. The government refused to negotiate despite continued efforts of the JCA, as also many Members of Parliament including Shri Feroze Gandhi, M.P.( Husband of Smt.Indira Gandhi). The government was adamant. Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called the strike as ‘Civil Rebellion’ and utilised the entire government machinery to crush it. Essential Service Maintenance Ordinance (ESMO) was promulgated and thousands of workers were arrested, convicted, dismissed, suspended, terminated and charge sheeted. All India leaders were arrested and put in Tihar Jail. NFPTE Secretary General Com. P.S.R.Anjaneyulu was paraded through the streets of Delhi while sending to Tihar Jail. Never before India has seen such brutal attack on any strike in the country, not even in 1946 Postal Strike, when the British were the rulers.
It is to the credit of the workers and their loyalty to their organisation that the strike continued for long five days, despite severe repression and manhunt. The entire Railways, Postal and Telecom services- all were all badly affected. Unable to continue against the brutal attack of the government and victimisation, the strike was called off on the fifth day.
5 Railways workers in Dohad were killed by police firing. They are Coms. Ranjit Singh, Sakharam, Sitaram, Kripa Shankar and another comrade whose name is not known. Two comrades in Kerala, Com.Ekambaram from Telephones Palakkad and another Comrade from Trichur Postal Division, whose name is not known, committed suicide unable to face the victimisation and termination from service. Many workers were punished with rigorous imprisonment. Public, trade union leaders and outsiders were arrested for supporting the strike. Recognition of the federations/unions were withdrawn.
The workers faced these attacks with full confidence in their organisation and leaders. They knew that there is no other way to defend their rights and achieve justified demands. They saw the most cruel face of the so called ‘Socialist Pattern Government’.
PTTI and many other foreign trade unions as also the trade unions in the country supported the strike and demanded the government to vacate victimisation. In the Parliament, Nehru government was put on the dock by eminent Members of Parliament like Comrades A.K.Gopalan, S.M.Banerjee, Nath Pai and many others, who demanded justice to the workers and vacation of all victimisation.
It took more than three years for the vacation of victimisation and re-recognition of the unions and federations. But the scars remained for a long time.
Though crushed, the 1960 strike was not in vain. For that matter, no struggle is in vain. The government was compelled to act against the price rise, appoint two Committees one after another to consider the demand of DA and has to start discussion with the unions on the constitution of negotiating machinery, the Joint Consultative Machinery(JCM).
As a participant of the historic strike, I have my own experiences, which I may narrate some time later.
The 1960 strike has many lessons for the working class. The determination, dedication and sacrifice of the leaders and workers who were part of the great struggle will ever be remembered.
The Central Govt. employees are once again on the struggle path. The working class are on struggle against the curtailment of trade union and labour rights, imposition of more working hours, privatisation of Public Sector Units etc. etc. Utilising the Covid situation, Mody Government wants to steam roller its anti – people policies.
On this 60th anniversary of the epic strike of 1960, Red Salute to all the participants of the strike and especially to those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle! 1960 Strike has given the message that the workers will never surrender to the anti-worker policy of the government.