As informed earlier the story of the Historic Five days Strike of 1960 is being serially posted from today.
THE HISTORIC FIVE DAYS STRIKE OF JULY 19601.
1 . THE BACKGROUND OF 1960 JULY STRIKE
The 5 days historic strike of the Central Government employees which started in the midnight of 11th July 1960 is recorded in golden letters in the annals of the trade union movement. It was a strike which had far reaching results.It will seem unbelievable that how a government headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who was a respected leader of the freedom movement and an idealist who declared himself as a socialist and who wanted to change the system for the betterment of the toiling masses, could be so cruel as to deny the just rights of the low paid government employees and brutally suppress their struggle through the repressive machinery of the government. But that is what really happened.
Before going in to the reasons of the strike and its various stages, it will be apt to have a look in to the developments of the past few years of the central government employees’ movement and struggles.
British Rule in India
The East India Company which came to India first as merchants, gradually involved themselves in the disputes of the kingdoms and strengthened their position. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, they became stronger and started grabbing kingdom after kingdom on one pretext or other, with the help of the better disciplined and equipped British army.
After suppression of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, which was later correctly called as the ‘First War of Independence’, British government directly took over the reins of the administration of India. The Viceroys, Governor Generals, military officers and thousands of British officers who came from Britain brutally exploited our country. At the same time, they also brought in some reforms which were intended to strengthen their grip on the country. The Railways and Telegraphs which were introduced in India in 1854 gave a strong base to the British rule. Postal services were started in 1774 itself, though it was made available to the public only later. British Officers were at the top of the administrative machinery, including Indian Civil Service (ICS) cadre.
Unlimited power, high salary and quick promotions for the British officers; but pitiable condition for lower officials, who are mainly Indians. Very strict service conditions for them. Severe punishments even for minor mistakes. Very low wages with which it is impossible to maintain a family. No right to form unions or associations. No machinery to raise their demands. What more can be expected for an enslaved people?
But no power on earth can keep the employees and toiling masses enslaved for eternity. It is only natural that protests will arise and workers be organized. By the end of 19th century unions were formed in Railways and certain other industries and many strikes organized. In 1866, Anglo-Indian Workers in Railways issued strike notice. ‘Amalgamated Society of Railway servants in India’ was formed in 1874 with 960 members. Strikes were organized in Nagpur Empress Mills as also in textile mills in Bombay and Ahmedabad in 1879. Strike took place in the jute mills in Bengal in 1895. Postmen in Poona went on strike in 1880.
The formation of Indian National Congress in 1885 and its activities gave encouragement and inspiration to people including the workers. Indian Telegraph Association (ITA) was formed in 1906. Almost at the same time Calcutta Postal Club was formed, which later was converted in to All India (including Burmah) Post Offices and RMS Association. All India Postmen & Lower Grade Union was formed at Bombay in 1919. Henry Barton, Babu Tarapada Mukherjee and V.G.Dalvi who took initiative in forming these unions and led them are treated as the founders of the P & T Trade Union movement. Within a short time, these unions strengthened and organized many strikes.
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the first national trade union in the country, was formed on 31st October 1920. Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, S.A.Dange, Diwan Chamanlal and other leaders of Congress, Communists and Socialists were there in the forefront. It was a united organization.
Formation of AITUC was followed by formation of All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) in 1924, All India Audit & Accounts Association (1923), All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) and Income Tax Employees Federation (ITEF). Associations were formed in other central government departments also gradually. (To be continued).