57. MARCHING AHEAD WITH COURAGE AND DETERMINATION
Stay and work at Delhi since November 1991 was a continuous struggle for existence and dedicated effort to advance the cause of workers and organisation. Not only at office and residence, but also wherever we were touring, problems were created by vested interests, including department and OPG group. As stated earlier, they could not accept the defeat in Bhopal AIC, after continuous dominance and leadership for about four decades since formation of NFPTE. Disrupted union by submitting parallel list of office-bearers. Membership verification was delayed and stayed through court cases. Utilising the closeness with the administration created all difficulties for the functioning of E.III / E.III(N) Union at all levels. It was a hard fight for existence.
Extreme climate of Delhi is well known. Intolerable heat in summer and intolerable cold in winter. No Air Conditioner, no heater in the residence as well as in office. Very often electricity failure, especially at night. Will go to verandah, sit in the coir cot, but no wind. Sometimes two or three hours. Had to take bath in severe cold water in winter, since no arrangement for hot water. Immediately after bath, dress and wear warm cloth. No money with union or self to purchase water-heater. It was after some years, that these essential facilities could be arranged.
In order to take up issues of workers and settle them to the expectation of members, more man power in office was necessary. I was alone, after Moni Bose shifted to Calcutta. Organisational tours were important. Either Assistant General Secretaries or other office-bearers should be at headquarters to assist. They will stay in General Secretary’s room.
Accordingly, in addition to the Assistant General Secretaries Comrades Debashish Dutta Gupta, P.Abhimanyu, P.Asoka Babu and P.Appaji, Comrades C.K.Narasimhan, M.P.Kunhanandan, S.R.Nayak, S.C.Bhattacharya, Mihir Dasgupta, G.L.Sheik, S.Chellappa, P.V.Chandrasekharan, S.Gopal, Badri Narayanan, G.Soman, Nikhil Sarkar, M.N.Reddy, K.R.R.Verma, P.Manickamoorthy, R.Muralidharan Nair and many other comrades came to CHQ availing their own leave, spending money and worked. CHQ could be run effectively only due to their selfless services.
Continuous tours were taken during this period to streamline the organisation, form branch and district unions wherever it did not exist. Met leaders of OPG group and tried to convince them to return to mother union. Went to homes of many comrades and had detailed discussion. There were many senior comrades who became inactive due to the wrong policy and undemocratic attitude of OPG. Many of them became active again. OPG group in collusion with administration created umpteen difficulties during such tours.
During a tour of Jabalpur, I was meeting workers in telephone exchange along with Com. S.R.Nayak , Circle secretary, M.P.Circle and enquiring about their problems. Heard shouting of slogans from outside “Namboodiri Go Back”. We came out and saw about twenty youngsters demonstrating and shouting slogans. I asked them what is the problem and who they are. They told that they are riksha drivers, belonging to AITUC and they are protesting against one Namboodiri who has come from Delhi, as per direction of their union. When I disclosed my identity, they withdrew from the scene.
Another incident in Patiala, Punjab. No members, no branch there for our union. Along with All India Vice-President Com. Gurcharan Singh, stood near the gate and started a small meeting with the employees who gathered, explaining problems of the workers. Com. M.L.Sharma, Circle Secretary of Punjab (OPG Group), who is a long-time friend of mine, came with a few comrades and sat there. After my speech, he asked many questions to confuse the employees. I answered one by one. When he went, all his followers did not leave. That day itself we could organise a branch there.
When went to Amritsar along with Comrades R.L.Moudgil, CS T.III Union, Gurcharan Singh and some other comrades, District Secretary of OPG group tried to stop us entering the exchange. I was determined to enter and he was forced to give in. Went to the trunk exchange where about 20 to 25 employees were on duty. Told them who I am and requested them to hear me for a few minutes. Spoke on the problems of the workers and organisation. They heard me with interest. Branch Secretary, OPG group, who was there thanked me and told that they all belong to OPG group and will continue so. The interesting thing was that when we visited after a few months, Com. Swaran Singh, our Secretary, told that good number of comrades have joined our branch.
Com.M.Sadanandan of Hubli was a very good leader and organiser, President of the P and T Cooperative Society, who was also connected with some trade unions in the PSUs stationed at Hubli. He had been inactive for some time due to the wrong policy and discrimination by OPG. Went to his house along with other comrades and requested to take active part in the union. He became Circle Secretary of E.III Union, then E.III(N) Union and BSNLEU when it was formed after corporatisation. His yeomen service is always remembered.
Even when most divisions in Rajasthan were with OPG group, Kota was strongly with us. Com.Swarankar, who was a well-known leader has been somewhat inactive for some time. Met him along with other comrades and discussed. He once again became active and gave guidance to our workers and strengthened the organisation.
U.P.Circle under veteran leadership of Circle Secretary Com.R.S.Yadav, was always with KG Bose group. But we did not have any branch union in the major city of Kanpur. Went there along with Com. Yadav and few others from Lucknow, held a meeting under a banyan tree and formed the first branch union. Within no time, other branches were formed and gradually we became the major force.
In the first verification of membership in E.III Union, our loss was mainly due to malpractices as also due to our meagre votes in Maharashtra, a major circle. This has got to be changed. Toured important cities including Mumbai. Met Shri Aravind Sawant, leader of MTNL Karmachari Sangh and Shivasena leader (later M.P. and Central Minister) in his office. We got a good reception. His support was assured. Within years, got majority in Maharashtra. After formation of BSNLEU, he attended AIC of BSNLEU at Mumbai and addressed on our invitation.
Likewise, attended most of the circles and met leading comrades.. Many veteran comrades gave their support.
CHQ was in acute shortage of funds. General Secretary was on loss of pay, since no leave at credit. Union not able to pay salary. The condition of the CHQ employees was worse. For three – four months, salary could not be paid. Printing charges of union journals for about one year was not paid to Gopal Printers. Fortunately, knowing the financial condition of the union, owner of the Press did not insist on immediate payment.
A few words about Shri Narayan Das Kapoor, owner of Gopal Printers. Aged more than 80 years. Will come to his office every day and attend work. When dispute was created by submitting parallel list, O.P.Gupta, former General Secretary, told Kapoor not to print Telecom and Correspondence for new General Secretary Moni Bose, but print for Vichare. Reply given by Kapoor was this : “ For forty years since 1954, I have printed journals for you, when you were the General Secretary. But now the General Secretary is Moni Bose. Though you and I have a long and close friendship, I cannot do a wrong thing. I will print the journals for Moni Bose, who is the GS.”
Funds had to be collected to meet immediate requirements. Quota received from branches was very less, due to dispute. The system of deduction of subscription of membership from salary and remitting to the union had not been introduced.
Decided to tour circles for fund collection in September 1996. First, the southern states. A convention was held at Kottayam, Kerala, with comrades present from all over the circle. Explained financial difficulties being faced by CHQ and requested for donations. An amount of Rs. 39,000 was received then and there with liberal contributions. Next day convention was at Perundurai near Erode in T.Nadu. Rs. 60,000 received as donation. Three casual labour comrades donated Rs. 2,000 each. Was reluctant to receive such big amount from casual labour, but they told that they have come with their families and it was their decision to donate to the union which is fighting for them. Leader of state government employees who was in the dais also donated a good amount.
Three meetings on third day in Andhra Pradesh circle – at Vishakhapatanam, Vijayanagaram and Sreekakulam. In the first two place got Rs. 10,000 each. Though our branch union was not started at Srikakulam, meeting was held and some amount was received.
Retuned to Delhi and paid salary of the employees including arrears. Toured other circles and got donations.
Remembering another instance. Central Working Committee Meeting at Vadodara, Gujarat. Circle Secretary Com.A.C.Shah donated Rs.5,000 and District Secretary Com.R.T.Sharma donated Rs.25,000 as personal donations. There was good applause.
During this period, toured extensively from North Eastern circles to Gujarat and from Kerala to Kashmir, in trains, buses and motor bikes. Stayed in lodges, homes of our comrades, offices, Dharmasalas, Gurudwaras etc. Will mention about these tours later.
Whatever the hardships and difficulties, our comrades were determined to make all out efforts to strengthen the organisation and to settle the issues of workers. Thousands of comrades dedicated themselves for these activities. We were sure that these sacrifices will not go in vain and there was a better future. Thanks to all these valiant comrades! (TO BE CONTINUED)