SUSTAINED STRUGGLES AGAINST VICTIMISATION OF 1968 STRIKE
One Day Strike of 19 July 1968 ended by 12.00 hours mid-night. When we went to attend duty next day, orders of suspension were waiting. Within few days, most of active workers were suspended or terminated according to whether one was a permanent or temporary employee. Provision of Rule (5) of Temporary Service Rules was misused for termination. This was the situation in Kerala as well as all over India. Maximum number of terminations in Calicut Telegraph Engineering Division. Tension between DET K.S.Thomas and Union due to many local agitations, gherao etc was main reason. He tried to settle accounts misusing post-strike period. Terminations would have been much more, but for a clever move by Com. A.Achunni, who was establishment section clerk and union leader. He put up case of about 60 officials due for confirmation before DET about one week earlier and got them confirmed. This reduced number of terminations.
There were 44 terminations and 95 suspensions in Calicut city alone, including Postal, RMS, Telegraph and Telephones. Most of the comrades in Telecom Lodge were under suspension, including District Secretary Com.Karayi Sreedharan, P.V.Nambissan, V.Kesavan, K.Prabhakaran, E.P.Sukumaran and me. In addition, Coms. K.Bhaskaran Nair,K.Krishnan, N.V.Raghavan, K.C.S.Nair, A.Achunni, P.A.Thomas, M.V.Sadanandan, P.Appu, E.Richards, T.Kalliani, P.V.Unnikrishnan, K.Kunhikrishnan (BDA), P.P.Sankaran Kutty, K.Vijayan, P.A.Thomas, C.V.Warrier, R.Rajendrn, P.G.Ravindran V.Gopalan, P.Ravindranath, Sreekantan Nair and many others were also suspended.
In Postal side, Comrades K.Damodaran, K.T.Muhammed (famous drama artist and writer), U.Ramachandran Nair, K.V.Velayudhan, Janaki Kutty, V.M.Padmanabhan Nair, T.Chathukutty, A.P.Noorudin were under suspension.
In Telegraphs, Comrades K.Chandran, P.Moidu, K.Velaudhan and others were suspended. In RMS, Comrades Soman Gangadharan, K.P.Unnikrishnan Nambissan, N.Devanand and some others were under suspension.
(I might have missed names of many comrades who were suspended as union records have been either lost or misplaced. Comrades who remember any other name may kindly inform so that their names can be included.)
Condition of terminated employees was pathetic. Most of them were young recruits who had entered service recently and not got confirmed. Never thought that they will lose their jobs for participation in strike. Believed in their union and leaders. It was responsibility of union to protect them. It is exactly what union did.
Many parents criticised them for going on strike, causing loss of job. It was difficult for them to sit at home. About 20-25 of these comrades used to come to Telecom Lodge in morning to avoid continued criticism at home. We will supply them tea. We were all suspended and it was very difficult to provide food daily for all these comrades.
By about 7.30 hours, along with these young comrades we will go to some of the factories, which usually start work at 08.00 hours. Will meet union leaders there. Meeting will be held in front of factory and one of us standing on a wooden stool will explain about strike, termination and other cruel victimisation by central government and request support. Will give them donation coupon of 10 paise and collect fund.
After workers entered factory, will go to nearest low cost tea shop and provide breakfast. Usual menu, tea and cooked tapioca.
After 10.00 hours, go to offices of state government, central government etc. with 10 paise coupons. Meet union leaders and workers and collect donation. Kerala N.G.O.Union, KGPTA, KSEBWA, KSRTCEA and other unions and their leaders gave full support and contributed. Sometimes, we will go to merchants, shops and collect donation.
Almost every day, there will be protest jatha organised in city. Suspended and terminated workers alone were sufficient. In addition, working employees also. Starting point was usually telephone exchange. Jatha with around 200 – 300 will go through Palayam, S.M.Street and end either at RMS Office, Post Office or Telegraph Office, where meeting will be held and two or three comrades address. Sometimes it will be ‘Torch jatha’, holding burning pieces of rubber tyre or bamboo sticks filled with kerosene oil. Slogans demanding reinstatement, revocation of suspension, against central government and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would be raised. These jathas and meetings strengthened workers to face any eventuality.
How to support terminated employees, who will not get any salary? Suspended employees will get at least 50% subsistence allowance. On pay day every month, union leaders will meet workers who are in job and collect liberal donations. Since recognition of unions were withdrawn, it was not easy to collect membership and donations. Many leaders including me were prohibited from entering offices. Notices were pasted on entrance gates to this effect. Still we used to go and collect. Result will be one more charge sheet. Still we were able to collect donations and give full salary amount to terminated employees for first few months. Later we were compelled to collect from suspended comrades also. Local co-ordinating Committee of P and T Unions ensured that terminated comrades in all sections – Postal, RMS, Telegraph and Telephones received their relief money without fail. Once a drama with was organised at Sree Narayana memorial Hall and profit from sale of tickets utilised for paying terminated employees. ( TO BE CONTINUED)