40th Anniversary of the Historic General Strike of 19th January 1982

The decision of the BSNL Employees Union to observe the 40th Anniversary of the historic General Strike of 19th January 1982 is a timely decision, especially on the eve of the General Strike being organised on 23-24 February 2022 as per the call of the 10 Central Trade Unions and Independent Federations including that of Central and State Government employees. On this occasion, it will be appropriate to to look in to the reasons that caused the strike in 1982, the demands and the actual strike action all over India.

The General Strike on 19th January 1982

A Working People’s National Convention was held at Bombay on 4th June 1981 under the auspices of the Central Trade Unions to discuss about the grave situation arising out of the anti-people, anti-worker policies of the Central government and to prepare for a serious struggle opposing the same. CITU, AITUC, HMS,BMS, UTUC, TUCC,INTUC (Dara), UTUC (LS) as also about 40 Independent Federations, including that of Central-State Government employees participated. Confederation of CG Employees & Workers and NFPTE were represented by their All India leaders. In all, about 2000 delegates and 1000 visitors participated.

The National Campaign Committee (NCC) of Trade Unions was formed to organise sustained struggles against the attacks on the working class. A 13 point Charter of Demands including supply of essential commodities at reasonable price, remunerative prices for the peasants, minimum wage for agricultural workers, stringent action against black-marketeers, Repeal of National Security Act of 1980 & ESMA 1981, Need based minimum wage for working class, full neutralisation in the cost of living, Bonus to all workers, ban on retrenchment and closures, withdrawal of all victimisation, Recognition of unions on the basis of secret ballot, full guarantee of collective bargaining and trade union rights etc.

The Convention called for agitational programmes including State/Region wise conventions, Rallies all over India on 3rd November 1981, March to Parliament on 23rd November 1981 followed by One Day Token General strike on 19th January 1982.

The March and Rally organised on 23rd November 1981 at the Boat Club was massive, participated by lakhs of workers, including central- state government employees from all parts of India. The workers marched through the streets of New Delhi and assembled at the Boat Club. (At that time, processions and rallies were allowed up to Boat Club, very near to Parliament). A huge pandal was constructed in which the leaders sat and addressed the mammoth rally. After the Inauguration, the central trade union leaders went to the Parliament, submitted the Charter of Demands, returned and addressed the rally.

On the same day, Confederation and NFPTE met and discussed about successfully implementing the strike decision. While the progressive section in NFPTE led by Com. N.J.Iyer, K.Adinarayana and others were for joining the strike called by National campaign Committee, the group led by Com.O.P.Gupta, SG NFPTE was for solidarity action. The SG NFPTE announced that solidarity demonstrations and dharna will be organised. But the progressive section was for strike.

The strike was a big success all over India affecting all sectors. In Kerala and W.Bengal, the entire P and T Workers went on strike. There were partial strikes in other circles also. In all centres, solidarity actions were organised by central government employees. One hour walk-out was observed by Audit and Income Tax employees.

The strike was ruthlessly met by the government. 10 workers were killed on the day and became martyrs. Thousands were awarded with dies-non and break-in-service. It took many years to vacate the victimisation.

The 19th January 1982 strike was a starting point for subsequent united struggles of the working class. The progressive section in NFPTE and Confederation were appreciated by the workers for their correct stand.

40 years are over after the great 1982 united strike. In the last General Strike called by the 10 Central Trade Unions, more than 25 crore workers participated. The central, state and PSU employees also participated in full. The strike in BSNL was full with BSNL Employees Union and other unions calling for strike.

While preparing for the two days General Strike on 23-24th February 2022, the memory of the First general Strike in 1982 will certainly inspire the workers.