- DEARNESS ALLOWANCE
The first two main demands in the notice for strike were grant of Dearness Allowance (DA) and Need Based Minimum Wage. Let us examine how these demands were evolved and how much important are them to the workers.
Dearness Allowance is a bye-product of the II World War. DA as such did not exist before the II WW. The main demands in the Postal Strike of 1908, Telegraph Strike in the same year and the Postmen Strike of 1919 were wage revision, increase in certain allowances and improvement of service conditions. Pay was revised during 1926-27 also. All these could be achieved due to the strong organization, strategic position of the services and the effective strikes organized. But there was no scientific base evolved for calculating the basic wages.
Due to the spiraling prices of essential commodities as a result of the II WW 1939 – 45, the real value of the wages got drastically eroded. It was a situation where one cannot even buy the essentials with the meager wages received. Workers’ struggles arose one after another as the employers were not prepared to increase the wages, as a result of which, they were compelled to grant some allowance to the workers. They were called “Dear Food Allowance”, “Old Textile Allowance” “Revised Textile Allowance” etc.
Many employees in P&T and Railways were recruited to ‘Defence of India Army’ during the war. They were eligible for Free Ration Allowance, Military Compensatory Allowance and certain other allowances. Other central government employees were denied of the same. Demand was raised that these allowances should be paid to all C.G.employees. Agitational programme ‘Hungry Badge Campaign’ was organized in this connection. As a result, Government was compelled to grant ‘Grain Allowance’. It was the start of the system of ‘Dearness Allowance’ in the Central Services.
During this period, the Adjudication headed by High Court Judge Rajyadhyaksha took decision to grant Rs. 5 to Rs. 15 as ‘Dearness Allowance’.
The First Pay Commission, headed by Federal Judge Sreenivasa Varadachariar, appointed in 1946 recommended a scientific basis for calculation of DA connecting it with the cost of living index. It stated that the basic wage recommended by it was based on the then existing cost of living index and DA should be increased according to the increase in the COL.
The prices increased drastically during and after in II World War. Partition of India along with achievement of independence, migration of crores of people from Pakistan to India, vice-versa and connected fratricides, other unexpected developments – all resulted in shortage of food articles and huge increase in prices of essential commodities. The real value of the wages went down. The condition of the Central employees, who are transferred now and then, worsened beyond explanation.
There were other reasons for the rise in prices. The new government in power gave a long rope for the market forces by withdrawing many earlier restrictions. It resulted in increased exploitation of people and toiling masses by the bankers, big industrialists, manufacturers and business tycoons.
Interested parties used to propagate that price rise is similar to natural calamities like floods, drought etc. It is ‘god’s wrath’ according to some others. The fact is that the continuing price rise is only man made. It is a natural phenomenon of the capitalist system. Increasing prices to amass profit is the method adopted by capitalist countries. This type of increasing prices cannot be seen in socialist countries.
There is full justification to demand DA to compensate the increase in prices. But Nehru government was not prepared to grant DA as per the recommendations of the First Pay Commission. A meager Rs. 10/- was only granted in the background of the 1949 strike-call by the Central Government employees.
The II CPC appointed in 1957 did not recommend the Minimum Wage of Rs. 125/- as was required based on the decision of the 1957 Tripartite Labour Conference. It recommended only Rs. 70/- and DA of Rs. 10/- only. It recommended a pay slab up to Rs. 150/- and another up to Rs. 300/- and recommended Rs. 10/- and Rs.20/- respectively for those slabs for 135 points in cost of living index on the basis of 1949 = 100. The II CPC also recommended to consider increase of DA if cost of living increases 10 points for 12 months, but did not state what the amount to be given is. It can be seen that the recommendations were even lower than what was recommended by the First CPC in 1946. The suggestion that central government can take decision on DA considering the finance of the government and connected matters was nothing short of actually denying DA.
The government and the II CPC were trying to impress upon the employees that increase in prices was a temporary phenomenon and that it will not continue. But the facts were completely contrary. The First CPC had prophesized that the prices will stabilize within a few years at 185 -200 (1939=100). But by 1948, it increased from the earlier 310 to 346. The Gadgil Committee appointed in 1952 also gave similar prophesy that prices will stabilize by end of 1952. But instead the cost of living index increased form 367 in 1952 to 377 in 1953 (1939=100).
II Central Pay Commission was compelled to accept this fact. It noted that the COL had increased to 414 in 1958 with base 1939 = 100, meaning that 314 points have increased after 1939. Though CPC expressed the hope that price rise can be contained through the intervention of the government, again the COL increased 21 points within a short time. The hope expressed by the CPC that the COL could be contained at 115 points (1949 = 100) was also shattered as the COL increased to 118 from 112 in 1959.
These facts expose the fallacy of the government’s assurance that price rise is being contained. It was only intended to mislead the workers. The opinion of financial experts, who was towing the line of the government, also was proved wrong. The government was trying to reduce the expenditure on wages by cheating the workers; at the same time allowing the corporate houses to reap big profits. The steep rises in prices, exposed the hollowness of the government’s anti-worker policy.
The propaganda of the government that taxes will have to be increased if wages are increased was also exposed, as the taxes got increased even without any increase in wages. Another argument was that prices will increase if the wages are increased. This was also found hollow, since the prices increased without any increase in wages. The government was misleading the public to deny justified wages to the employees.
Another argument of the government was that workers will have to tighten their belts for the success of the Five Year Plans and developmental activities. It has been proved that this argument only helped the capitalists and corporates to increase their profits manifold. The workers are always prepared to make sacrifice for the progress of the country. But it can never be agreed that the workers have to sacrifice for thickening the pockets of the employers.
In short, the demand of the workers that DA should be granted to compensate the increase in prices is based on historical facts and economic justification which are time proved. That is why the demand for DA was placed as the first demand in the 1960 strike notice. (To be continued).
Very sad news. Com.Naresh Kumar, Circle President, BSNLEU Haryana Circle and one of the leaders who strenghthened the union in Haryana to the present position passed away today morning. He worked at Hissar. He was always very active and gave leadership along with Com.M.S.Kadian, Circle Secretary. His wife Smt. Asha Rani is working as DGM Finance BSNL at Hisar.His death is an irreparable loss. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family, comrades and friends.
- JOINT ACTION COMMITTEE PREPARES FOR INDEFINITE STRIKE
A meeting of the full Joint Action Committee was held at Bombay on 29th May 1960 presided over by V.G.Dalvi, Chairman. S.Madhusudan, E.X.Joseph, K.M.Nair (Confederation), K.G.Shreevastava, P.C.Banerjee, J.Jambusamy, D.Lobo, K.M.Mathews (AIDEF), Gopal Singh Josh, Chandrasekhar, K.Ramamoorthy, P.S.R.Anjaneyulu, O.P.Gupta (NFPTE), V.R.Malagi, Umraomal Purohit, Amaresh Sen, B.P.Roy Choudhury, J.P.Chaubey, R.C.Chakraborty, Sathyan Kar (AIRF) along with JAC Secretary Peter Alvares participated. All of them were well known and respected leaders of their respective organizations.
The meeting gave call to form Joint Action Committees at all levels as part of the preparation for strike and to organize meetings to explain the decision to go on strike and the demands. To meet urgently on emergent matters, a small committee was formed with Peter Alvares (SG AIRF), S.M.Joshi (SG AIDEF), D.S.Rajaratnam (SG Confederation) and P.S.R.Anjaneyulu (NFPTE).
Although the JAC had requested for a meeting with the Prime Minister, it was intimated that since the Prime Minister is proceeding to the Common Wealth Conference, no time can be fixed to meet the unions. Considering this fact and other points, the date of the indefinite strike was postponed from 19th June to midnight of 11/12 July 1960. The reply received after the return of Prime Minister from the Conference was very much disappointing. It was stated that the Pay Commission report is treated as an award and hence no change can be made. Hence it was added that there will be no use in a discussion with the unions. It was suggested in the letter that the unions can discuss the issues with their respective departmental authorities, but it was of no use as the matters were of a general nature and no department can take independent decisions. Probably in giving such a reply, the Prime Minister might have been irritated by the formation of the JAC and the strike decision.
The reply from the Prime Minister denying any discussion with the unions created a tense situation. Workers became angry that the Prime Minister was not even prepared to discuss the demands with their leaders. They considered this as a great injustice. There was no scope for any further discussion, since the Prime Minister himself has closed the doors for negotiation. Even those leaders who had asked for some more time for the strike realized that strike was the only way. The reports received from the thousands of branches were also for an immediate strike.
The JAC which was held at New Delhi on 23rd June 1960, called upon all the Federations / Unions to issue notice for strike on 25th June. The government may try to take all steps to crush the strike and victimize the workers and hence all preparations are required to defend the workers, advised the JAC.
The JAC gave letters seeking support and solidarity to AITUC, INTUC and HMS, which were the then National Trade Union Centres.
Strike notice was served on 25th June itself to the departmental heads by all Federations and Unions which are part of the JAC, along with the Charter of Demands for settlement of which the strike call is given. Workers started preparation for the strike, keeping away doubts and fears.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru intervened at this stage and directed Labour Minister Gulzarilal Nanda to meet the unions and discuss the issues. The latter met and discussed the issues with the leaders of the JAC at his official residence. Though there was some improvement in the discussion on Negotiating Machinery, Social Security, Service conditions etc. , there was no meeting ground on the most important issues of Dearness Allowance and Minimum Wage. Naturally, the negotiation failed.
Immediately the JAC met, reviewed the discussion and connected matters and decided to proceed with full preparations for the strike. It called upon the workers to make the strike a big success by full participation. The bugle has been sounded. The strike became inevitable. (To be continued).
CHQ is very much saddened to report that Smt. P. Dhanabakkiam (74), elder sister of Com.P.Abhimanyu, General Secretary, BSNLEU has passed away on today, the 12th May, 2021. He had lost his brother in law on 01-05-2021. Both have sucumbed to Covid-19. It is a irreparable loss to the entire family and difficult to bear.
AIBDPA expresses deep sorrow on the sad demises and conveys heartfelt condolences to Com.P.Abhimanyu and other family members.
REPORT OF THE II CPC
The Report of the II Central Pay Commission was placed before the Parliament on 30th November 1959 by the Finance Minister along with the decisions taken by the government on Minimum Wage, Dearness Allowance, General Provident Fund, House rent Allowance, City Compensatory Allowance and other issues. The recommendations of the II CPC were most disappointing. Further, government did not take any decision making improvements on the recommendations. The workers and their unions were enraged. There was serious resentment among all sections of the workers.
NFPTE Federal Executive was held at Bombay on 5-8 December 1959 and discussed the whole issue in detail. It passed a resolution strongly protesting against the recommendations as well as the government decisions. It observed that the ‘workers are more disappointed after the recommendations of the II CPC, than before it was appointed.’ There was strong opinion that a strike should be organized immediately, but the leaders convinced that discussion with the government be held for getting improvements before any final decision is taken on strike.
The National Executive of Confederation which was held at Bombay on 9-10 December 1959 under the Chairmanship of Nath Pai, M.P. also expressed strong protest on the recommendations as well as on the decisions of the government. It was decided to meet the Prime Minister and discuss the matter. Along with that, it was also decided that a joint meeting of all the Federations/ Unions of C.G. employees be held to organize future programmes, if the government does not take favourable decisions.
Nath Pai. M.P., President of the Confederation, issued a statement against the unsatisfactory recommendations. A Protest Day was observed with massive participation on 7th January 1960 as per the call of the Confederation.
CONFEDERATION EXECUTIVE MEETING AT BOMBAY 23-24 JANUARY 1960
The Confederation Executive which met at Bombay on 23-24 January 1960 reviewed the entire situation and adopted a 12 Point Charter of Demands as given below:
- Constitution of ‘Whitley Council’.
- Acceptance of the principle of Compulsory Arbitration.
- Compulsory GPF in its present form be withdrawn.
- For fixation of pay and pensionary benefits, 1.7.1957 should be the date.
- Formula of the Varadachariar Commission for grant of Dearness Allowance with suitable adjustment should be accepted.
- Status-quo should be maintained of the earned leave and casual leave. Industrial workers should be put on par with non-industrial workers in these matters and the operative staff should be made eligible for all public holidays or compensation thereof.
- Minimum Wage should be on the basis of the 15th
- Ceilings on increase as a result of fixation of pay should be lifted.
- Reclassification of cities should be done on the basis of present population; all state capitals should be classified as ‘B’ barring those with 10 lakh population and above. In places with high cost of living, adequate compensation should be provided.
- Efficiency Bar should be abolished.
- Weekly Off or Compensatory Off should be given to all.
- Confirmation in service to be ensured after one year service.
(It can be seen that many of the rights the employees are getting now were not available then, as the Charter of demands indicated). It was decided that the Charter should be ratified by all the affiliated federations /Unions of the Confederation. Talks were held between Nath Pai, Chairman of the Confederation, N.M.Joshi, General Secretary AIDEF and Peter Alvares, General Secretary, AIRF on the decisions of the Confederation. It was unanimously decided to move jointly against the II CPC recommendations.
BOMBAY CONVENTION ON 2-3 APRIL 1960
A Convention of Confederation, AIRF, AIDEF and NFPTE was held Bombay on 2-3 April 1960. NFPTE was represented by V.G.Dalvi, B.R.Bamotra, D.G.Nanotkar, B.W.Vaidya and R.S.Palsule. The Convention strongly protested the anti-worker stand of the government and took unanimous decision to go on Indefinite Strike with effect from 19th June 1960 on the following demands:
- Dearness Allowance to be paid on the basis of the First CPC recommendation @ Rs.5/- for every 20 points increase in the 12 monthly average of cost of living index 1947 = 100.
- Minimum Wage should be based on the norms prescribed by the First CPC.
- To set up a Standing Board consisting of equal representatives from employees’ Federations and officers of the various departments (government nominees) with a neutral Chairman to settle all disputes / claims of any category of employees.
- No curtailment of any existing facilities, rights and privileges.
- To set up an Arbitration Board and recognize only one union in one industry.
- Withdraw the provisions of summary dismissal and punitive actions.
As part of preparing for a united struggle, a Joint Council of Action (JAC) was formed with V.G.Dalvi (NFPTE) as Chairman and Peter Alvares (AIRF) as Secretary.
The JAC organized Press Conference on 11th May. All the papers gave wide publicity to the views expressed by the JAC. As per the call of the Joint Action Committee, 25th May 1960 was observed as ‘Demands Day’ in all centres by holding rallies and meetings.
NFPTE FEDERAL COUNCIL AT GAUHATI ON 19-25 APRIL 1960
It was at this juncture that the annual Federal Council of NFPTE was held at Guwahati from 19th to 25th April 1960. The FC was of the strong opinion that a struggle has become inevitable on the major demands of the P&T and central government employees. V.G.Dalvi and P.S.R.Anjaneyulu were elected as President and Secretary General. (To be continued).
- APPOINTMENT OF II CENTRAL PAY COMMISSION
The government appointed II Central Pay Commission on 21st August 1957 with the following Members:
- Justice Jagannatha Das, Judge of the Supreme Court, Chairman
- V.B.Gandhi, Member
- N.K.Sidhantha, Member
- M.L.Dantwala, Member
- Mrs.Maragatham Chandrasekharan, Member
- L.P.Singh, ICS, Member Secretary
- P.F.B.Pias, Associate Secretary
Since there was delay in announcing Interim Relief, Confederation and NFPTE gave call to the workers to observe 13th September 1957 as “Interim Relief Day”, which was effectively organized. Dada Ghosh, Secretary General NFPTE, addressed a letter to the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pointing out the delay in granting interim relief to which the PM replied that the Pay Commission is seized of the matter.
FEDERAL COUNCIL AT BOMBAY, 5-10 DECEMBER 1957
The Third Federal Council of NFPTE was held at Bombay from 5th to 10th December 1957. The FC reviewed the activities including the withdrawal of the strike and appointment of Pay Commission. The Council protested against the delay in grant of interim relief. V.G.Dalvi and Dada Ghosh were re-elected as President and Secretary General of the Federation.
On 17th December 1957, Finance minister T.T.Krishnamachari announced interim relief of Rs. 5 per month to all officials drawing a basic pay not exceeding Rs.250/- as per the interim recommendations of the II CPC. The interim relief was completely insufficient. Hence the unions organized Pay Strike on 1st January 1958.
As per the call of the Confederation, workers launched ‘Signature Campaign’ from 16th February against the meagre interim relief. 1th March 1958 was observed as “All India Protest Day” by organizing general body meetings and mass rallies.
QUESTIONNAIRE BY THE PAY COMMISSION
The Pay Commission issued a questionnaire to the Unions seeking their replies and comments on the various points being considered by it. These included the General Principles, Minimum Remuneration, Dearness Allowance, Pay Structure, Conditions of Service, Facilities and Amenities, Economic Factors and General Matters. As per the Pay Commission, there were 18 lakh central employees, 21 lakh State employees and 16.70 employees in local bodies and teaching profession.
All the unions/associations of the central employees including Confederation and NFPTE gave detailed replies to the questionnaire. In their reply, they pointed out the criteria and unscientific proposals of the CPC questionnaire.
MEMORANDUM TO PAY COMMISSION
Just as in the case the First Pay Commission, a large number of unions submitted memorandums to the II CPC also. In reply to a question in Parliament raised by S.M.Banejee nad Prabhatkar, M.P.s, it was informed that 101 organisations in P & T alone had submitted memorandums. 22 Unions have replied to the questionnaire. Except NFPTE, all were small sectional unions or associations. NFPTE and the 9 affiliated unions gave detailed Memorandum touching all important points.
All India Railwaymens Federation, All India Defence Employees Federation and other major Federations also submitted detailed memorandums. These Federations pointed out specific issues of employees of their particular departments.
EVIDENCE BEFORE PAY COMMSSION
NFPTE and its 9 affiliated unions gave oral evidence before the II CPC for four days from 29th July to 1st August 1958. The full Pay Commission including Chairman was present. V.G.Dalvi, President, B.N.Ghosh, Secretary General, V.S.Menon, Secretary and all General Secretaries along with a few other office bearers participated including O.P.Gupta, R.P.Chatterjee, A.S.Rajan, D.Gnaniah, Jamna Das Akthar, Gopal Singh Josh, Ajoy Kmar Das, Sisir Bhattacharjee, Pakrasi, D.G.Nanotkar, P.S.R.Anjaneyulu, Dharam Vir, Kabal Singh and Sarjesh Mukherjee. All the issues were effectively placed before the Pay Commission with special importance to Minimum Wage, Interim Relief, Dearness Allowance, Pay Scales, Promotions, Service Conditions, Union rights & privileges.
Other Federations also submitted their evidence before the Commission with special reference to their departments.
The Federal Council of NFPTE held at Jaipur from 26th to 31st December 1958 reviewed the developments after submission of memorandum and oral evidence to the II CPC. The issue of brutal victimization, including dismissal of CG employees under Rule 4(A) and 4(B) of the CCS (Conduct) Rules also came up for discussion. Com. E.X.Joseph, General Secretary of Audit & Accounts Association, was dismissed under these rules and the employees in the department were fighting a heroic battle.
The Federal Council after thorough discussion decided to organize the following agitational programmes demanding early submission of CPC report as also settlement of other demands and against victimization:
- Demands day on 11.02.1959
- Pay Strike on 02.03.1959 (01.03.59 Sunday)
- Telegram Campaign on 16.03.1959
- Pay Strike and Badge Campaign on 01.05.1959
- If the issues are not settled, extra ordinary meeting of the branches will be held to ascertain the opinion of the members for strike action.
The Federal Council re-elected V.G.Dalvi and B.N.Ghosh as President and Secretary General respectively.
All the agitational programmes were effectively organized. The workers were agitated at the delay in submission of the Pay Commission report. (To be continued).
- FIRST CENTRAL PAY COMMISSION
The Pay Commission with Justice Sreenivas Baradacharya as Chairman furnished a questionnaire and gave it to all unions asking them to submit their comments. Different unions gave different and contradictory comments and demands. The effort for a uniform reply did not succeed. This failure on the part of the unions was unfortunate.
The Commission recommended grant of Rs. 5 as Dearness Allowance when the cost of living index goes up 20 points. Even though a small increase, this recommendation paved the way for grant of DA based on cost of living index for the first time. Some of the recommendations were unfavourable. The different demands raised by the unions might have been one of the reasons for the adverse recommendations.
The unfavourable recommendations of the Pay Commission were a warning to the unions. It underlined the need for a united organization. Discussions were held between the unions on this aspect and the result was the formation of the Union of Posts and Telegraph Workers (UPTW).
India became independent on 15th August 1947 ending the two centuries British rule. British rulers were sent back to their country. People were happy. India was declared a Republic on 26th January 1950.
The hope of the central employees that the new government headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru will do justice by taking favourable decisions on their important and urgent demands was soon found out to be a mirage. The Centre did not accept and implement the favourable recommendations of the Pay Commission including on DA. The spiraling price rise and unavailability of essential commodities made life miserable. The hoarders and black marketers had their day. The government utterly failed to contain steep price rise. The low paid central government employees were unable to make both ends meet.
It was under these circumstances that the P&T and Railway employees decided to go on strike demanding control of prices of essential commodities, grant of DA for increased cost of living index etc. The government was not prepared to tolerate any strike. The Supreme Council of UPTW was convened at Madras to take the final decision to go on strike. The central government moved fast. Most of the leaders and activists reaching Madras Railway Station were arrested on the spot and jailed. Police camped at the Council site. The result was that no strike decision could be taken. The arrested leaders including K.G.Bose, O.P.Gupta, Moni Bose, Janak Gupta and others were kept in jail for months. Many were dismissed and terminated. Some of them including K.G.Bose, Moni Bose etc. were never reinstated in service. In between, the government passed an ordinance prohibiting strike. The strike did not take place.
This serious developments were discussed in UPTW council. Certain opinions arose whether it was correct to call for a strike when the new independent government had only started its work. There was a strong feeling that efforts should be made by all the existing unions for a united organization.
The central government also came to the same conclusion. Instead of a number of unions to deal with, it was better if a single union was there. Communications Minister Rafi Ahmed Kidwai presented the government proposal for a single union. The next minister Jagjivan Ram discussed the issue in detail with the unions. The government had the thinking that strikes can be avoided though discussion with a single union.
After detailed discussion between the unions and the government, it was decided to merge all the unions and form a new organization. According to the agreed proposals, there will be One Federation and 9 affiliated All India unions. Neither the affiliated unions can leave the Federation, nor the Federation can disaffiliate any of the unions. It was a compulsory Federation. In the meeting of delegates of all the existing unions held at Delhi on 24th November 1954, National Federation of P & T Employees (NFPTE) was formed with 9 affiliated All India Unions ie. Class III and Class IV unions in Postal, Telegraphs, Telegraph Engineering and RMS and one combined union of class III & IV in the PMG Offices. The government recognized NFPTE and its 9 affiliated unions and declared that it will not recognize any other union in P & T. V.G.Dalvi and Dada Ghosh were elected as the first President and Secretary General respectively of NFPTE.
The Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers was formed on 16th August 1956 in a convention at Delhi participated by delegates from NFPTE, ITEF, Audit & Accounts Association, Civil Aviation, Survey of India, CPWD etc. This was a milestone in the forward march of the Central employees’ movement. AIRF and AIDEF, the organisations in Railways and Defence, did not join the Confederation probably due to the fact that both of them are having more employees / members than the total employees represented by Confederation. (To be continued).