Shri C.M.Stephen, senior leader of Congress as well as INTUC, took over charge as Communications Minister in March 1980. After losing from Delhi constituency, he contested from Gulbarga in Karnataka, in the vacancy created for him by resignation of the sitting M.P., and became M.P. and Minister.
It seems that somebody has put it in his head that FNPTO, the INTUC affiliated union in P and T to which he was closely connected, can grow only if NFPTE is decimated. NFPTE questioning some transfers made at his instance violating existing norms irritated him. Furthermore, complete participation of P and T workers in Kerala in General Strike of 19th January 1982, called by the central trade unions, in which INTUC was not a party, made him mad.
Attack on unions was swift and drastic. TU rights achieved through continuous struggles were denied. Hoisting union flag, exhibiting union notice boards, holding of meetings in office premises, which facilities were available for years were banned. Union workers were victimised for no reason. Many were transferred.
Naturally, union reacted and organised continuous struggles and agitations against these attacks. Even some of the newspapers criticised the victimisation. Opposing attack on their union, workers stood like a rock and fought back. They understood that this was an attack on their existence itself. The Minister and the departmental authorities were on the defensive before the public.
P & T workers in Kerala as per call of Circle Coordinating Committee started Non-Cooperation agitation from 1st May 1982. The entire communications system in Kerala collapsed. Even directions from higher ups to make telephone system functioning failed. The 16 days non-cooperation movement in Kerala is a shining chapter in the history of the movement itself. Considering declaration of general election as also conceding to the advice of the All India Unions, agitation was temporarily withdrawn.
As in other divisions, many transfers took place in Calicut Telephone District Circle also. All office-bearers of circle union, except one, were transferred outside their recruiting unit in violation of existing orders. On 10th May, me, Circle Secretary, was transferred to Kavarathi, capital of Lakshdweep Islands, far away from Kerala.
All comrades joined new place of posting. Taking all things in to consideration, I was directed by union to continue at Calicut without proceeding to Kavarathi. Once joined there, it was certain that they would not allow even to come to mainland as permission was required to leave from the Administrator, Lakshadweep Islands, who was having personal grudge against me for having been gheraoed at Calicut on an earlier occasion on issues of Lakshadweep administrative employees. Even otherwise, all office-bearers being transferred will result in non-function of the District Union. Hence was asked stay at Calicut to keep the fort. For not joining duty at Kavarathi, was issued with Rule 14 charge sheet proposing major penalty.
Since having been transferred, was struck from the rolls of Calicut exchange. No duty, no salary. A proposal was mooted by Circle Union to pay me some relief, which I humbly refused. Further it was very difficult for the union to implement it in the very difficult situation.
During this period, went to Ernakulam and met High Court Advocate M.K.Damodaran in connection with a court case. He asked why a case is not filed against transfer to Lakshadweep. He said that he will take full responsibility. Accordingly case was filed against the fully unjustified transfer. Adv. Damodaran was closely connected with the P & T Unions from the time he was practising in Tellicherry courts and continued it till his death.
Case dragged on for months and years. Unfortunately no stay could be obtained. When Adv. Damodaran was sick, Adv. K.Chandrasekharan, Socialist leader, M.P. and later Kerala Minister appeared on two occasions.
At last judgment was delivered on 6th February 1985 cancelling the transfer. Advocate Damodaran called me to Ernakulam on the date of receiving copy of judgment. After handing over judgment, he told me that department had already decided to appeal against the judgment and it was necessary that I join duty before that. Otherwise, will have to continue outside as before.
Next day itself went to District Manager, Telephones and gave joining report along with copy of High Court judgment. He contacted General Manager at Trivandrum, who directed DMT not to allow me to join duty, as appeal was being prepared. Situation as envisaged by advocate. Something has got to be done.
Went directly to Test Desk in auto-exchange, where I was working earlier, gave joining report to Supervisor and started working after signing Attendance Register and marking duty. Did not tell supervisor about my meeting with DMT and refusal to allow me on duty. Only after about one hour, DMT as well as Supervisor understood what has happened. But no further action was taken against as they were afraid to proceed on that line, since I had already joined duty as per High Court judgment.
Department certainly went on appeal against the judgment, but failed there also. Though transfer was cancelled, entire period of about 34 months was treated as ‘dies-non’ , without paying salary for the period. No service, no pay. I went on appeal against imposition of ‘die-non’, but could not get a favourable decision.
Decided to go on appeal in Supreme Court for getting the period of 34 months treated as service and payment of salary for the period. Went to Delhi and met Senior Advocate Com.E.X.Joseph, who was a central government employee himself. He was in Audit and Accounts Department and was Secretary General of Audit and Accounts Association as also Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers. Was dismissed for his union activities. After a very long historical legal fight, he was reinstated, but later resigned and started practice in Supreme Court.
I knew him well since the period of his dismissal. While under dismissal, he was publishing a monthly by name ‘Labour World’ and I canvassed many subscribers for it. While visiting Delhi, I used to meet him, visit the press and discuss organisational matters. He came twice to Calicut to address union meetings on our invitation. There was another connection. He had married Smt. Kalpana, daughter of NFPTE Secretary General Com. D.Gnaniah.
Com. Joseph went through my case in detail and advised me that chance for a favourable judgment was 25% only and that filing a case in Supreme Court is very costly. I accepted his advice and returned without filing appeal in Supreme Court. (to be continued).