FORMATION OF P AND T CIRCLE UNIONS, KERALA
Kerala State was formed in 1956. But it took more than 5 years to form Kerala P and T Circle, bifurcating from Madras Circle. Formed on 1st July 1961 with Director, Posts & Telegraphs (DPT) as head.Formation Kerala Circle Conference of all affiliated unions of NFPTE was held on 16th December 1961 at Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala. I participated as Branch Secretary of E.III Union and Branch President of E.IV Union, Kannur. The conference held at DPT office premises and participated by about 130 delegates, took following decisions:
1. A Co-ordinating Committee of P & T Unions to be formed with representation from all unions.
2. Office of Co-Ordinating Committee and Circle Unions should be in same place.
3. Circle Conferences should be held jointly.
4. A journal to be published by Co-ordinating Committee.
The fact that NFPTE and its affiliated All India Unions functioned in same office, P & T House, in Delhi and NFPE Journal, P & T Labour, might have influenced such a decision. However, holding of Joint Conferences was a far progressive decision. It was a declaration of unity. A small house near General Post Office was taken on rent and ‘P & T House’ inaugurated. ‘Kampithapal’ (P & T in Malayalam), joint journal was started on 11thJuly 1962. High Court Advocate Com.T.C.N.Menon, M.P. was elected as Chairman and Com. V.K.Syed Mohammed, Circle Secretary of Postal Class III Union, as Convener of Co-ordinating Committee. Co-Ordinating Committees were formed at District and local levels.
Co-Ordinating Committee and Circle Unions ceaselessly made efforts for vacation of victimisation of 1960 strike and at the same time strengthening organisation. After some time, unions got recognition. Regular functioning started.
All my lodge mates at P & T Home were non-vegetarian. Preparing vegetarian food alone for me was a problem. Considering same, I shifted to another lodge on the side of the Fort maidan, which was run by LIC Comrades and which was fully vegetarian. Comrades Parameswaran Namboodiri, Easwaran Namboodiri, Chathukutty Nair, Bhaskaran Nair and a few others were there. I got a small room separately with table, chair etc. in ground floor. Convenient for me for going and coming at odd hours due to shift duties, without disturbing others. One key to front door was given to me. Stayed there till my transfer to Kozhikode in 1964.
Was elected as Branch Secretary in next Annual general Body meeting. All India, Circle, Divisional and Branch Conferences used to be held strictly every year. All Telephone Exchanges from Kasargode to Thalassery were under jurisdiction of Kannur Branch.
Whether duty or not, will reach Exchange in morning after breakfast. Reading, playing carroms, chess etc. in the club room. Playing badminton in evening in maidan on the side of exchange. Will be adjusted according to duty. I was elected as the Club Secretary also. Young new recruitees joining every two months after training. Staying in lodges and hostels. Much help to Union and Club activities.
Good relation between employees and subscribers. Strict instructions were there that identity should not be disclosed to subscribers. But, interestingly, many subscribers recognised operators by voice though they did not know their names and cannot recognise them by person. On the contrary, operators knew everything about subscribers. An interesting situation. It was only S.I. and Linemen who went to subscriber office for providing new connection repair etc.
Sufficient staff not available, especially in small exchanges. It was heavy work. For 24 hours duty and for granting weekly offs, there were only five operators in these exchanges. If anybody was to be granted casual or medical leave, one operator had to be sent on deputation from Kannur. Nobody was prepared to go since no DA or TA was given and the junior most official used to be sent. After becoming Branch Secretary, I volunteered to go since the days can be utilised for organisational activities there. Also relief to the unwilling junior officials.
Was deputed for a month to Kanhangad Exchange, in leave vacancy of Head Operator Com.John Vincent. Being senior most, was in-charge of exchange. In addition to regular duty, had to attend to many records, sending reports to higher authorities, attending complaints etc.Kanhangad exchange was a magneto exchange. Only about 50 local connections. Local, Trunks, Enquiries all to be attended. Switch board was old and faulty. Mechanic had to attend now and then. A grave problem came to notice. While one important subscriber is connected on trunk lines every day to Bombay at a particular time, another subscriber is cleverly overhearing same by simply lifting his telephone and asking for another local connection. Mechanic could not rectify due to faulty board. I noted the same in Log Book and informed higher authorities by telegram, requesting immediate action. For about one week, this continued, but still no remedial action. Sub-Divisional Office and Divisional Engineer, who were at Kozhikode and Thrissur respectively, took no action.
This situation could not continue. I spoke to many priority subscribers, told them that switch board is out of order and beyond repair. A new board is required for good service. They were asked to send telegrams, draft which I gave to them, asking Director General to install a new board. All of them send telegrams, as required.After a few days, without any intimation, DE, SDO and ESP came rushing to exchange, after meeting some of the subscribers who complained. Subscribers had told them that they sent telegrams as required by Head Operator. Officers were furious and questioned me why such action on my part? Why not informed them earlier? Showed them copies of the telegrams, log entries as also showed how certain subscribers were able to overhear others when speaking. They were still angry and threatened me with suspension and went away. But no disciplinary action, since they well knew that they were at fault. The good thing was that within a few months, new CB Board was got installed.
Was deputed to Payyanur Exchange several times. Most of the operators there were from T.Nadu and they took leave now and then. The magneto exchange was in a room in a line building and these operators were staying in other connected rooms. I also stayed with them. Maximum duty adjustments, which helped the officials to go to their native place now and then, with leave and without leave. Gradually all of them got transfer to their native place.
There were Linemen allotted to attend Railway communications/signals system called Telegraph Linemen. Every day they have to test these lines contacting telephone operator on duty. In case of fault, they have to move through railway line, find fault and rectify. They were issued with Railway duty passes within their jurisdiction. They were provided with Railway Quarters with 24 hours duty. They can take one mazdoor with them while travelling for attending duties. Many times they helped union leaders on tour. They were an intermediary for all officers, union leaders etc. while travelling in train. They were given importance by the Railway Staff also as maintenance of their lines depended upon these officials. (to be continued). Photos (1) Magneto Exchange (2) Magneto Telephone (3) Kampithal 2nd issue 1962 ( 4) Report on inauhuration of Kampithapal (5) Newly constructed P &T House at same site where original P& T house stood.+2