19th January 2021 is the 12th death anniversary of Comrade E.Balanandan, President of CITU, PB Member of CPI(M) and former Member of Parliament. He had passed away on 19th January 2009. From an electric worker he rose to the highest position in the trade union by his dedicated and committed work for the toiling masses. He was simplicity itself. Personally myself and also P and T Union movement and BSNL Employees Union are indebted to Com. Balanandan for his advise and guidance in framing an ideological base and also strengthening the organisation. At the time of formation of BSNL Employees Union his guidance was inspiring. In all the crises, his advise saw us overcoming the hurdles. Com. Balanandan is not with us now. But his memory and advise will always be remembered and we will march ahead. Red Salute to Com. E.Balanandan!
Tens of thousands of kisans are on struggle for the last one and half months demanding repel of the three anti-farmer law amendments and also the anti-people electricity bill. They are sitting on the borders of India’s capital Delhi, facing bitter cold and rain. Women, children, old people -all are there. The co-ordination Committee which leads the struggle includes more than 250 kisans’ organisations. It is a fight for survival of the ‘Annadathas’ of the country. Central Trade Unions except BMS, service unions, political parties, cultural organisations – all have given support and solidarity to the struggle.
We demand central government to concede the demands of the kisans by cancelling the anit-farmers bills.
It became necessary to shift to Trivandrum after being elected as Circle Secretary. Applied for transfer and got it without delay. Packing dresses and other necessary things in an iron trunk box, left for Trivandrum. Very difficult for wife Pankajam to look after two young children aged 3 and 5 and also to attend duties. One girl was arranged to help.
Reached Trivandrum on 13th June 1977. Went directly to the room in which Com. G.Soman, union leader and T.O., Trivandrum was staying. He was not there. Since I knew where the key was kept, took it, opened door and settled. Soman had gone home at Varkala. This was a place from which it was only minutes to telephone exchange as also to P and T House, the Union Office.
One more comrade staying in the room – Com. P.Balakrishnan, T.O. Both of them used to go home now and then. I will be on tour frequently. So, only very few occasions when all of us will be together. Breakfast, meals etc. from nearby Trivandrum Hotel. Tea, snacks from exchange canteen when on duty. In almost all exchanges, there were departmental or co-operative canteens.
Colleagues and supervisors were helpful. Was given light duties and allotted convenient shifts in order to attend union work. Necessary to go to office of General Manager daily to discuss issues. Walking, bus or autoriksha was mode of journey. Mostly walking, since buses were vey congested and auto riksha costly.
There was no typewriter for circle union. Difficult to work without one. Even as Branch Secretary at Cannanore, I was used to work on typewriter. Very small old portable typewriter purchased from a Typewriting Institute from Trichur for Rs.100/- in 1962, is still at Cannanore Union office, as told by comrades there. There were no funds for Circle Union to purchase typewriter. In fact, it was almost nil balance, when new office-bearers took over.
Com.S.R.K.Panickar, newly elected Asst. Circle Secretary came to rescue. Typewriter purchased for Reception Committee of Circle Conference at Kottayam was given for temporary use. Kept at residence, since work can be done in day and night, without disturbing others. There was no space in the very small room allotted to union in P and T House.
Com.N.P.Padmanabhan, Circle Secretary and Convener, P and T Co-ordinating was staying with family in one small room in P and T House. Offices of all 9 unions were functioning in the small place available there. Everybody somehow managed. P and T House was centre of the town and ideal place. It was near General Post Office, Central Telegraph Office, and Telephone Exchange. RMS office not far away, which was in Railway Station. After some years, the building was purchased by the unions and new building constructed where the offices of NFPE and BSNLEU are functioning now.
A new journal “Teleworker” was registered and published by E.III Union, in addition to common journal “Kampithapal” published by Co-ordinating Committee. Helped publishing specific issues of telecom workers effectively and timely.
Lot of urgent problems pending without settlement due to unhelpful attitude of officers as also due to disputes in union and non-recognition for some years. Circle Working Committee discussed and decided to collect all these issues and submit a detailed memorandum to General Manager. A Committee with Circle Secretary, Organising Secretary Com.K.P.Govindan Kutty and Assistant Circle Secretary Com.N.Padmanabhan was formed to tour all exchanges/ offices in divisions, meet workers, hold meetings and collect all problems. Implemented effectively. Workers were happy that their leaders have come to the spot, discussed with them about their day to day problems. Well for leaders also to understand problems of workers.
These issues included working conditions in offices/exchanges, welfare measures, requirement of office/exchange buildings, space for recreation, dormitory, canteen, requests for compassionate appointments, transfers, delay in promotions, confirmations, departmental examinations, staff shortage, lack of equipment, providing staff quarters, delay in settlement of staff claims and so on. All these were compiled and included in the Memorandum, which ran more than 50 full pages.
Memorandum was submitted to General Manager, Telecom Shri K.V.Srinivasan. He was surprised to find so many problems pending and how they were collected. Serious discussion took place and assurance was given that they will be settled as early possible.
Knew that assurance is one thing and settlement another. In order get issues settled early, a proposal was presented to GM. Many of these issues required approval of Chief Accounts Officer of Circle. Suggested to GM that CAO along with Union Circle Secretary visit all divisions with respective DET and Divisional Secretary of union and take decisions on the spot and approval given, wherever possible. This was agreed. Lot of problems were sorted out in this way. Tours were utilised to organise union meetings. (to be continued). Photos 1. S.R.K.Panickar 2.K.P.Govindan Kutty
Unity restored in All India Union. Now the task was to forge unity in Kerala Circle.
As stated earlier, there was serious difference between the two groups. Though in minority, OPG group was functioning with recognition and majority K.G.Bose group without recognition.
Coms. M.C.Ayyappa Kutty and V.Sreenivasan, Circle Secretaries of KG Bose group and OPG group respectively, discussed and decided to hold the two days Unity Circle Conference at Quilon (Kollam) on 27-28 December 1975. First day for conferences separately, next day Unity Conference.
It is tradition of Kerala to hold all Circle Conference together of unions affiliated to NFPTE. But since this was a unity conference of two groups in E.III Union, other circle conferences were not held there. No all India union leaders were present.
As scheduled, both groups conducted their separate circle conferences first day. How to vacate victimisation of terminated and other comrades in connection with 1974 strike was most important issue in KGB group conference. It was difficult to conduct militant struggle in view of Emergency.
Leaders of both factions sat together and discussed about conduct of unity conference and also election of office-bearers. It was decided that Circle President will be from KG Bose Group and Circle Secretary from OPG Group. Other posts will be equally distributed. KG Bose group, though had good majority, agreed to this unjustified equation in order to restore unity.
Unity session held in evening elected a united list of office-bearers with Com.V.A.N.Namboodiri as President and Com.T.V.Joeph as Circle Secretary. Conference ended with slogans of unity.
Though unity was restored at Circle level, it was more difficult to implement at lower levels, since for last few years there were rifts and quarrels on almost every day on one or other issues between the groups. Both groups wanted important post of Secretary. Circle Union took decision that majority group will take Secretary post and other the post of President. Office-bearers will be equally divided as in circle. It was easy to advise, but difficult to implement.
One after another District Conferences were held. Both President and Circle Secretary participated in all conferences. Circle Secretary spoke supporting Emergency while Circle President sharply opposed it. Though it was dangerous, correct position had to be placed before delegates. For election office bearers, groups as well as Circle President and Circle Secretary used to sit in a closed room and finalise list. Sometimes, it took three or four hours, but certainly settled in the end. Unity had got to be restored.
Kottayam Circle Conference
Next Circle Conference of E.III Union was held at Kottayam on 7-9 May 1977. While delivering Presidential address I became unconscious and fell down. It seems that food taken from a hotel at Alwaye in the night while coming to Kottayam day before may have been poisonous. Managed to attend conference somehow and then got admitted in Medical College Hospital, Kottayam. Com. T.V.Joseph was elected as Circle President and me as Circle Secretary unanimously.
I was in hospital for a few days more. Coms. N.S.S.Nair, District Secretary, Kottayam, M.K.Jacob, S.R.K.Panicker and Com.P.N.Kurup who came along with me from Calicut and other comrades gave all help while I was in hospital. I was advised to be in hospital for a few days more. However, I told that I will go to Calicut and get admitted in the Medical College there. That was what was done. After some days, got better. Joined duty. Being elected as Circle Secretary I had to shift to Trivandrum. (to be continued).
Reaction of split in NFPTE had its reactions in Kerala also. It started in Calicut. Annual Conference of E.III Union, Calicut Phones Branch, was held participated by about 70 members. When election process started, 5-6 comrades walked out stating that they have difference and gave a parallel list of office-bearers to department. All India Union, even without calling for a report from Branch or District union, recognised parallel list.
Branch Union approached court which delivered judgment accepting the duly elected office-bearers of Branch union. CHQ was compelled to recognise elected office-bearers. However, after a few months CHQ recognised the parallel list again.
Similar disruption was planned and implemented in other branches and divisions in Kerala. After some time, recognition of E.III Circle Union, Kerala was also withdrawn by CHQ. Recognition was granted to disruptors’ team.
It was period of Emergency. KG Bose group which opposed Emergency and OPG group which supported Emergency tried to improve their support base by massive campaign.
Not only problems of staff were not settled during Emergency, but further attacks started on employees and working class. Five DA instalments due were denied to CG employees. Recognition of NFPTE and all India Unions were withdrawn. As stated some of the union leaders were put behind bars. All these resulted in a rethinking on the part of both groups.
The All India Conference of E.III Union was held at Chandigarh in 1975. Even at this time, Circle and Branch unions of Kerala continued without recognition from CHQ. However, it was decided to participate in AIC. A meeting was held in Delhi with presence of Comrades N.J.Iyer, Adinarayana, L.A.Prasad – leaders of KG Bose group. As Com.M.C.Ayyappakutty, Circle Secretary had left for Chandigarh, I was asked to attend. It was the consensus that even if General Secretary OP Gupta refuses to entertain, our delegates have to attend and express our opinion. If, after unity talks, posts of office-bearers are offered, we should accept. So far during all these years, not a single post has been given to KG Bose group by OPG.
Kerala delegates reached there, but no accommodation given. Our delegates were denied registration. But still participated. Later, accommodation was provided in the premises of telephone exchange, which benefitted us to contact outstation comrades in night.
As usual in E.III AIC, there was serious discussion on problems and organisational matters. Strong criticism against OPG was raised for supporting Emergency and engineering disruption. No action was taken by CHQ to get the dismissed workers of 1974 reinstated. I moved a resolution to that effect, but President, Com.Homi Daji M.P., tried to snatch the mike from me. Stepped down from stage and continued speech from down below and moved resolution demanding government to reinstate terminated workers. As OPG had not participated in strike, they did not want the house to know that many had gone on strike and got victimised. Coms. Moni Bose, J.Renganathan and others also sharply criticised wrong priorities of CHQ.
About half of delegates walked out protesting against pro-government stand of CHQ and non-settlement of urgent problems. Moni Bose was leading the walk-out, while I was in the rear bringing all our delegates to outside. All of a sudden one hefty Sardarji came running with intention to beat me. O.P.Gupta, who was nearby hit him in such a way that the comrade was thrown feets away. I just walked out, as I have not seen. It would have been an embarrassment both to him, the comrade and me.
OP Gupta came out, discussed with us, sorted out things and we went back to continue participation in conference. Discussion took place and unity was restored. As part of agreement, for the first time 3 posts were allotted to us. Coms. Moni Bose and R.S.Yadav were elected as Vice-Presidents and Com. K.M.R.Unni from Kerala as Asst. General Secretary.
In NFPTE Federal Council held at Bombay during 6-8 August 1976 understanding was reached between both groups to bring unity in the organisation. A united list of office-bearers with Shri Shashi Bhushan M.P. as President and Com.D.Gnaniah as Secretary General was elected. But government refused to accept and recognise the unanimously elected list of office-bearers. Government cancelled registration of union journals and confiscated printed copies of same. Attack against Federations and Unions intensified.
Thus unity in NFPTE and E.III union was restored. But in Kerala, both groups continued functioning separately. (to be continued). Photos 1) Homi Daji M.P. 2) D.Gnaniah 3) O.P.Gupta
Consequent to the glorious Railway strike of 1974, a series of struggles and agitations took place in various sectors, including Central and state governments. It was during this period that Allahabad High Court delivered an explosive judgment nullifying election of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It was a bolt from blue. To overcome this situation and subdue agitations, draconian ‘National Emergency’ was declared on 25thJune. It was quite unwarranted. Fully unjustified.
Thousands of opposition party leaders, including M.P.s and MLAs, were arrested and jailed within days of declaration. Many leaders of central trade unions and service unions jailed. Any speech, write-up, criticism against central government was treated as treason and ‘culprits’ jailed. Many student leaders were arrested and tortured. Full censure of newspapers. Entire matter to be shown to censor before printing. Police can enter anywhere and arrest anybody at their sweet will. Democratic rights torn apart. Terrific fascist move to save the chair.
A National Convention by Central- State Employees’ Federations was decided to be held at New Delhi by the end of June 1975. As a delegate from Calicut, I started by train to participate in the same. Reached Delhi in the morning of 26th. New Delhi Railway Station was full of police and CRPF. Comrades who had come to receive us told that National Emergency has been proclaimed and many leaders arrested. We were taken to the official quarters of Com. Jyothirmoyi Basu, M.P. He had already gone underground to avoid arrest. We were directed not to go outside, to be safe.
Since I had been to Delhi several times before and knew where abouts, went to 4, Ashoka Road, official quarters of Com.A.K.Gopalan M.P. to get further information. I used to visit there every time when in Delhi. Com.A.K.G. was in Kerala. Spoke with Com.Narikkutty Mohanan, correspondent of Deshabhimani who was there. He expressed difficulty in passing news to Deshabhimani newspaper, Kerala, since not getting trunk calls. STD and mobile phones were not introduced.
At that time, Com.K.Prabhakaran, P and T leader, Ernakulam, called. Com.Mohanan gave the phone to me. I asked Com.Prabhakaran to connect Ernakulam Deshabhimani office. Com. Mohanan passed all latest information in connection with Emergency, including arrest of opposition leaders.
Deshabhimani daily next day came with all the news, which no other Malayalam papers have received. I remember that there was also a caricature of Prime Minister of Indira Gandhi with a sword in her hand. Com.Narikkutty was questioned several times by the police about the news. There was no proof against him since there was no record of any outgoing or incoming trunk call. There was no telegram. He escaped arrest and jail.
National convention did not take place. On the day fixed for Convention, Mavlankar Hall and premises were surrounded by police. Organisers had already cancelled the Convention. Many comrades who came to the Convention were arrested and jailed later.
Leaders of central and state government employees in W.Bengal, Assam and other states were arrested. In Kerala, NFPTE leaders Com.K.Prabhakaran (Ernakulam), M.G.Sasidhara Kurup (Alleppey), K.Madhavan (Trivandrum), V.Sasidharan Nair (Neyyattinkara), V.A.Ouseph and Sathyanathan (Calicut), were among the arrested.
Arrest at Calicut
As always, trunk lines were busy and calls were naturally being delayed on that day also. State Minister Shri K.G.Adiyodi had booked a trunk call. After some time he called trunk enquiry number 181. Since there was a good number persons calling 181 and it was call queue, there was some delay. He was infuriated and abused the operator and threatened arrest.
Emergency period. Minister immediately called police and asked to arrest the operator. Police rushed to trunk exchange. But Com.Sathyanathan, concerned telephone operator, was shifted from exchange by union leaders before arrival of police. For about one month Sathyanathan was shifted from place to place to avoid arrest. Com.V.A.Ouseph was managing this operation. At last police managed to arrest both Ouseph and Sathyanathan. Sent them to Central jail, Cannanore.
The police took me twice in to custody. The first time they called me to Police Station and warned me about holding of union meetings and addressing them.
Second time, it was in a dramatic manner. I was returning home after morning duty at about 02.00 P.M. When I reached in front of northern gate of office of City Police Commissioner, two constables in mufti stopped me and asked me to get in to their car as S.I. of Police wanted to see me. I told that I can come to police station, after taking lunch from home. They were in no mood to agree. Since I understood that they will forcibly push me in to the car, I agreed. They took me to the Puthiyara Police Station. SI had gone for lunch. They left me in the room and went outside.
Immediately I called 198 (Fault Repair), the section where I used to work and informed that I am in Police Station. Within 10 -15 minutes many comrades from exchange reached police station in cycle and by walk. My wife Pankajam came with lunch. Police was baffled as to how information got leaked and so many persons came within minutes.
Sub Inspector arrived, asked me a few questions. He told our comrades that I will be released after some questioning and there is nothing to worry. They left. By about 06.00 PM, SI told me that police will take me in their vehicle to my house. I said it is only walkable distance and I can walk. He insisted. I got in the police van.
When it reached near my residence, I told driver to stop. But without speaking he continued driving. For about one hour the van rounded here and there and at last stopped at an old two storied building. In the darkness, I could not identify the building or the place. (to be continued)Photos 1. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi 2. Com V.A.Ouseph. 3. V.A.N.Namboodiri 4. K.Prabhakaran. 5. Deshabhimani with Emergency news
I was taken to a large room upstairs. A police officer in civil dress was sitting in front of a large table. Later I understood that he was Superintendent of Police. I was given a seat in front of him. Two burly muscular police officers in uniform were sitting on other end, whom I could identify as Dy. Superintendents.
There were two or three large files in front of SP. He was cordial and started asking many questions, going through files about my place of birth, schools studied, job details, union activities, agitations, transfers etc. etc. I could understand that details in the files were about me. I have known earlier that certain branches of police used to keep such files of union office bearers. When I joined Ernakulam on transfer in 1970, one police officer called me and enquired certain information. When I asked him how he knew that I was at Ernakulam, he told that such information are regularly updated by them. Hence no surprise here.
Questioning continued for some time. In between, when any telephone call came, I was asked to go to next room and will be called back after call. Phone calls became frequent.
At this stage, SP told officers that they can leave. He told me that there are serious complaints about me including sabotage as also about my speeches against Emergency in union meetings. He confided that a certain senior political leader wanted me to be taken in to custody and jailed. He said that since there is no incriminating evidence against me, I am being allowed to go. With a smile, he asked whether I know him. I said no. Then he told that he was class mate of my eldest brother and he knew me well. It was a surprise.
He asked his personal driver to take me home. I still had doubts and told that I can go by auto riksha. He insisted. I got in and driver started car. Now recognised the place and building which was near West Hill maidan.
When car reached near Police Commissioner Office, got down. Walked to telephone exchange. Large number of workers had gathered there discussing what to be done about my arrest. When they saw me, they were happy and shouted slogans of welcome. Told them what happened, except the personal part of what SP told. This was not disclosed till recently. I am mentioning now, since at least once have to thank him openly.
Elections and afterConfident of victory, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared General Elections in January 1977. Except few political leaders, like Com.George Fernandez, almost all others were released from jail. Coms. V.A.Ouseph and Sathyanathan were also released.
Anger against Emergency and Indira Gandhi government was fully reflected in election. Despite advantage of Emergency situation, Congress Party was routed and newly formed Janata Party, a combination political parties, won with huge majority and formed government with Shri Morarji Desai as Prime Minister. Hated Emergency was immediately withdrawn.
While our comrades were in jail, union made some efforts to get them parole. I had been elected as Kerala Circle President of the union by this time. Along with Circle Secretary Com. T.V.Joseph met Chief Minister Shri C. Achutha Menon, requested for parole of our comrades. He told us that these matters are being dealt by Shri K.Karunakaran, Home Minister. We met Home Minister. He was sitting in a big hall. Just before we were called, many police officers went in and came out within minutes. We were called . We requested for parole. When he understood that Adiyodi incident as reason for arrest and custody, became angry and told that we get pardon from Minister Adiyodi. He also criticised behaviour of telephone operators in general. He cited his own experience stating that a trunk call to Indiraji (of course, before she became Prime Minister) was disconnected after 6 minutes by the operator, stating that extension cannot be given due to large number of pending calls. He further stated that ‘ if it was during Emergency, all operators would have been arrested and jailed’. We did not say anything, but requested again for grant of parole. He said ‘will consider’. Of course, Com.V.A.Ouseph got parole for a few days. It is to be mentioned that most of those jailed did not get any parole.
One day one comrade from Cannanore intimated that NGO Union leader Com.E.Padmanabhan is coming on parole by bus and was asked to wait at KSRTC Bus stand. When he got down we took tea together. He entrusted me with certain responsibilities which was carried out without delay. He proceeded to Palghat by bus.Coms.
Ouseph and Sathyanathan joined duty and got back wages. One problem remained. Sathyanathan had applied for job in Indian Bank, was selected and appointment order from Head Office, Madras has come, while he was in jail. Extension for six months was allowed and appointment order was cancelled later. He was very particular about this job, since pay scales were higher.
How to solve the problem? With a representation from Com. Sathyanathan, proceeded to Delhi, immediately after Janata government came in to power. Went to Janata Party Office situated in a big compound with many official bungalows of Ministers. There were name boards of the new Ministers on some of the bungalows. Hundreds of people from various states were crowded there to meet their leaders. Canteen available, where food was supplied free. People were celebrating victory of Janata Party.
Met party office Secretary there. Stated the matter. He went through the representation, signed it, returned and asked me to meet Finance Minister. Went to North Block in an auto. Directly entered Minister’s Office. No sentry, nobody stopped. Finance Minister Shri H.M.Patel was coming out from his room. Met him told the facts and gave the representation. He read it, signed and told me to meet Finance Secretary in nearby room. Met Finance Secretary. He directed me to Joint Secretary (Finance), whose office was functioning in the 5th floor of L.I.C.Building opposite Dak Bhawan near Patel Chowk. Took an auto riksha, went there, met Joint Secretary, Finance. He went through the letter, asked me further details. Then he telephoned General Manager of Indian Bank Head office at Madras. He told GM that “ Mr. Namboodiri, is sitting before me. Appointment orders should reach Calicut, before he reaches there.” So happy that mission has been successful.
Immediately went to nearby V.P.House, called Calicut and informed the happy news. As told by Joint Secretary, appointment order had been received by Sathyanathan before my arrival. An example, how Janata Government functioned in its early days, without any red tape or delay.
Most of Emergency excesses were rectified within weeks after new government took over. P & T workers terminated in Kerala in connection with 1974 strike were reinstated. Choudhury Charan Singh, who became Prime Minister in 1979 issued orders granting Bonus, first to railway employees and then to all Central government employees. The most important demand of the 1974 Strike was settled as also victimisation. (to be continued). Photos: 1. Prime Minister Choudhary Charan Singh 2. Kerala Home Minister K.Karunakaran 3. Delhi Secretariat North Block 4. Indian Bank Head Office Madras 5. Finance minister H.M.Patel
Great tragedy struck P and T movement. Com.K.G.Bose, revolutionary leader and President of NFPTE, passed away on 11thDecember 1974 at Royal Hospital London, where he was admitted for treatment of dreaded cancer. Entire P and T fraternity was in shock and dismay at loss of the great leader.
Along with Dada Ghosh, Com.KG ensured that entire P & T workers in Bengal and Assam participated in 1946 Postmen Strike. He was jailed and dismissed in connection with 1947 proposed strike. Led 1960 historic strike. He was Circle Secretary of E.III and P.III Unions of W.Bengal as also President of P.III Union. Later he was elected as President of NFPTE. He was elected as MLA to W.Bengal Assembly and also functioned as Member of Pay Commission for W.Bengal State employees. His simplicity and comradely approach to workers were appreciated by all.
K.G.’s health deteriorated due to continued tour and hectic activities. It was diagonised that he was suffering from cancer and was admitted in London Hospital for expert treatment, but could not be saved.
As mentioned earlier, Kerala comrades had a special attachment to him. He had attended Joint Circle Conference of P & T Unions held at Calicut in 1965. He also visited Calicut later. I had earlier mentioned about my first meeting with him in the Trivandrum All India Conference, where he took up the disciplinary case with Member P and T board and settled.
I got opportunity to discuss with him many issues and seek his advice. He was prompt in replying to letters and explained various issues in details. I still keep some of his letters with me. His younger brother, Com.Moni was also a veteran leader of P & T employees and was terminated from service in connection with 1949 strike. He was elected as General Secretary of E.III Union, defeating O.P.Gupta in Bhopal AIC, where I was elected as President. Moni Bose became first Patron of BSNLEU. He passed away in 2010.Com.K.G.’s speeches in All India Conferences were heard with rapt attention. In between sessions, young comrades like us used to meet him and get advice on how to present issues in AIC.
His death is a great loss to CG and P&T employees and a personal loss to me. He will always be remembered as one of the great leaders of P and T trade union movement. He continues to be inspiration for many generations of workers. The road in front of his house is named “K.G.Bose Sarani” in his honour.
Red Salute to Com.K.G.Bose!(to be continued)
Photos. 1. Com.K.G.Bose 2. Myself with Com. Moni Bose 3. KG with wife Com. Parul Bose 4. Procession with Com.K.G. Bose after reciving him at Calicut Railway Station. Myself on his right side.
Bonus Convention held at New Delhi focused demand of Bonus to CG Employees. The slogan ‘Bonus for All’ caught imagination of workers. This was effectively taken up by Railway workers under leadership of Com. George Fernandez, Secretary General of AIRF.AIRF organised a Convention of all unions in Railways on 27th February 1974 to discuss the matter. More than 3000 delegates representing about one hundred unions attended. National Co-ordination Committee of Railwaymen’s Struggle (NCCRS) was formed as also an Action Committee with Com. George Fernandez as Convener. It was decided to organize indefinite strike from 8th May 1974, mainly on the demand of Bonus. Confederation of CG Employees and NFPTE (KG Bose) also gave strike notice. NFPTE (OPG) not only did not give strike notice, but also opposed it.
The central government was rattled by strike decision. Strike was to start from 8th May but due to mass arrest of George Fernandez and other leaders, it started 6 days earlier in Railways. Central government met strike with utmost cruelty and vengeance. Tens of thousands of workers were arrested and jailed. Railway Quarters were searched and even family members were beaten and harassed. In many staff quarters, water – electricity connections were cut. It was all-out attack on workers.
In Calicut, procession organized in support of strike was lathi-charged by police. Participants severely beaten. Two newspaper reporters also badly beaten and hospitalised. It was terror unleashed against strikers and their supporters. Due to split in Confederation and NFPTE, the strike could not be continued for more than 3 days by central government employees and was withdrawn. Railway workers continued strike. Strike support committee was doing all what could be done.
It was at this time that Com. A.K.Gopalan, M.P. , great working class leader, along with his wife Com. Suseela Gopalan arrived at Calicut. He was not well and doctors advised complete rest. He was taking rest at the residence of Advocate P.K.Kunhirama Poduval. When I reported to him about the serious situation in Railway Colony, he wanted to go to there immediately. Though we tried to stop him, he was adamant. Wherever there is suffering, he will rush there, despite ill health.
We started for Railway Colony. He stepped out from car at entry gate of the colony and started walking. Com.A.Kunhiraman Nair, veteran NGO Union leader and some other comrades also reached by the time. We were about 6-7 people and led by Coms AKG and Suseela, started walking slowly in to the colony through the small road. Women and children who were alone in colony houses saw AKG, started joining us. Within few minutes, it became a big jatha and culminated in the school premises inside colony. By this time, police reached. Party comrades also reached. A loudspeaker was brought and Com.AKG started speaking. One police official, without knowing who it was speaking, came forward and threatened to arrest. AKG told him that ‘I am AKG and you can arrest me’. The poor policeman was dumbfounded, became silent. By that time, senior police officers came and normalised the situation. AKG spoke consoling the families of Railwaymen and told that nothing will happen to them. He warned police officers that he will come and sit in dharna if harassment continues. The meeting was over after Com. Suseela Gopalan also addressed. After this incident, there was a halt to harassment of families in colony.
The Railway strike continued for about three weeks. All leaders and thousands of workers were arrested. Heavy victimisation took place. It was only after change in government at Centre that victimisation could be got vacated. Strike was full success in P and T in Kerala and W.Bengal. 40 workers were terminated and many workers including me suspended. Continued agitations were organised against victimisation. It was only after Janatha government was formed in 1977, that reinstatement and vacation of victimisation could take place. (to be continued).Photos 1. George Fernandez 2. Suseela Gopalan 3. Memorial to Com. A.K.Gopalan 4. Com.A.K.Gopalan.