50. BHOPAL ALL INDIA CONFERENCE
All India Conference of All India Telecom Engineering Employees Union Class III, affiliated to NFPTE (E.III Union in short) held at Bhopal, capital of M.P., from 24th to 29th October 1991 was an important session, which resulted in many unexpected changes in my life and work.
Unity was restored in NFPTE and E.III Union. But still there were differences in attitude to be taken towards anti-worker policies of government, on issues of the workers as well as on agitational programmes. P and T Department was bifurcated in January 1985 in to Postal and Telecom Departments. The hidden agenda was to privatise the much profitable telecom services step by step, keeping the comparatively loss making Postal Department with government. Of course Postal department was in loss only due to the below cost services offered as popular measure.
Consequently, NFPTE was also bifurcated in to NFPE and NFTE in the Federal Council held at Calcutta from 17th to 21st March 1986. NFTE was comprised of five unions in telecom sector, including bifurcated union of CGM Office Administrative Employees Union. NFPE was comprised of five unions in Postal side including the bifurcated union of PMG office Administrative Employees Union. Instead of the 9 unions in NFPTE, there were now 5 unions in both NFTE and NFPE.
I could feel the sadness of delegates in the bifurcation of NFPTE, in which all section of P and T workers were together and participated in glorious strikes and faced victimisation. It was just like partition of a joint family. It was unavoidable since department had already been bifurcated. Hence, except a few delegates, everyone supported bifurcation.
The interesting thing was that leaders of both progressives as well as revisionists groups were in a way happy on bifurcation. O.P.Gupta, who became Secretary General of NFTE and his revisionist group was happy that all five unions in NFTE were headed by his group, though rival group was also there in each union. N.J.Iyer – K.Adinaraya progressive group was happy that they were in good majority in NFPE with all unions, except R.IV in their influence. Only Com. V.A.Harsulkar, General Secretary, T.III Union, opposed bifurcation, if my memory is correct.
(In Kerala, despite bifurcation, Unions affiliated to both NFPE and NFTE functioned in co-ordination, continued with the joint circle conferences till BSNL was formed in 2000. But still NFPE with affiliated unions and BSNLEU are functioning in the same ‘P and T House’. Co-ordination continues at Circle and lower levels).
E.III Union is the biggest union in NFTE, having maximum membership. Since formation of NFPTE in 1954, O.P.Gupta continued as its General Secretary for about four decades, with good support base. Most of the Circle Secretaries are comrades who have been brought up by him and his staunch supporters. A dismissed Central employee, who was appointed as office secretary of the then union in 1946, through his commendable work rose as the Joint Secretary of the Union of P and T Workers (UPTW) and later became first General Secretary of both E.III and R.IV Union in NFPTE. In the 1949 proposed strike, he was arrested and jailed for more than one year. In 1960 strike, again arrested and in jail. But by middle of 1960s took the revisionist path. In 1971 Calcutta Federal Council took lead in walking out and submitting parallel list to government thus disrupting NFPTE. After bifurcation of NFPTE, he was the unquestioned leader in NFTE and E.III Union. No contest in the All India Conferences. His proposals were usually accepted
Although a minority in E.III Union, the progressive section had firm footing and was respected for the way they approached the issues. They waged sustained battle in the E.III Union for correct policies. In the struggle for Bonus, opposition to the Emergency, struggles against victimisation etc. they were in the forefront and exposed the revisionist leadership. Each All India Conference was a battle field between the two groups.
Till 1976, no office bearer post was given to progressive group. From 1976 Chandigarh Conference, where unity was restored, 3 posts of office-bearers were given to our group. Though later elected as Assistant General Secretary, I was never called to work at Central Head Quarters, Delhi. But went to CHQ and started functioning for which OPG did not object. But no important work was allotted to me.
One of the major demands of telecom workers was ‘Two promotions to each employee during service’, which was adopted by Patna Convention. But serious struggles were not organised for achievement of the same. In addition, OPG accepted ban on recruitment as well as reduction of existing posts for settling One Promotion. Instead of fighting for the demands, a system of adjustment and accepting whatever proposed by department with minor modifications became the line. Leadership was, in fact, accepting the neo-liberal policies of the government.
It became clear that a change in leadership has become unavoidable, if the demands of the workers have to be met, their aspirations to be materialised. It was at this time that All India Conference at Bhopal was notified.
Few months before AIC, Coms. Moni Bose and J.Renganathan (Vice-Presidents) and V.A.N.Namboodiri (Asst. General Secretary) had resigned from office-bearer ship protesting against the wrong policies and actions of the General Secretary. In their resignation letter, which was circulated to all office-bearers and circle secretaries, they pointed out the anti-worker agreement made by the leadership and consequent loss to the workers. The resignation letters were widely circulated all over India. I toured many places in the nearby circles, T.Nadu and Karnataka, and addressed meetings explaining our position. Other leaders of our progressive group also did the same thing. We were preparing for a serious fight in the AIC for correct policies and militant struggles for settlement of workers issues. (to be continued)