11th July 2018 is the 58th anniversary of the great struggle of the Central Government employees which started on 11/12th July 1960 and continued for 5 days.
The Indefinite Strike was the result of the continuous negligent attitude of the central government on the demands of the CG employees. The First Pay Commission was appointed after the historical 22 days P and T strike in 1946, in which the British Government was compelled to concede all the 12 major demands raised by the employees. India got Independence in 1947 and the CG employees were also exhilarated that now they will be working under Indian Government headed by Indians. The “Socialist pattern of Society” declared by Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave the hope that the issues of the CG employees will also be considered favourably. However, the NFPTE and Confederation were compelled to issue a strike notice demanding appointment of II Central Pay Commission, only after which the Pay Commission was appointed.
But the report of the II CPC was completely retrograde. Neither the Need Based Minimum Wage prescribed by the 15th Indian Labour Conference held in 1957 was accepted/recommended nor any clear formula for grant of DA when cost of living index increased was prescribed. The government was not even prepared to discuss with the Confederation of CG employees, NFPTE and other federations on improving the recommendations, stating that it is an ‘award’. The employees had no other alternative but to go n an indefinite strike.
The government reacted with anger. How the CG employees can go on strike in independent India, when the government is trying to improve the lot of the people? How can they oppose the government elected by the huge majority of the people and led by a great leader like Jawaharlal Nehru, the freedom struggle leader? The government regarded the strike as a ‘Civil Rebellion’ and promulgated the draconian ‘Essential Service Maintenance Ordinance’ by which the strike in central services were banned. Those who went on strike were liable to be arrested and jailed for six months and a fine of Rs. 500 imposed. Those who supported the strike or gave any assistance to them were to be punished with one year jail and Rs.1000 fine.
It is to the credit of the leadership and workers that they braved the threats and went on strike well knowing the consequences. The indefinite strike started in the midnight of 11/12 the July 1960. Employees on duty from the telephone exchanges, telegraph, post and RMS offices walked out at the tick of the clock and the great strike started. The Railway employees stopped their duty and the trains were stopped and piled up in the stations and nothing could move. Defence factories stopped working. The central administration Delhi, including the offices of the ministers stopped functioning with the employees on strike in the Central Secretariat. About 3000 CG employees were in jail since 17th September for participation of a massive rally in support of the strike. All leaders were arrested and jailed. NFPTE Secretary General, Com. P.S.R.Anjaneyulu was arrested, handcuffed and made to walk through the streets. It was taken away only when the magistrate ordered the police to remove it.
The Youth Congress along with the Special branch, local police etc. was on the look out for the strikers, who went underground in many places to avoid arrest. Tens of thousands of strikers were arrested and put in jail all over India. Railway workers were killed by police firing and purposely over run by trains. Two comrades committed suicide, including Com. Ekambaram, Telephone Operator, Palakkad, who could not adjust to the punishment of termination and a family to support. The government actions were nothing short of a vicious attack on the enemy in a war.
The workers understood the cruel face of the government. They continued the strike for 5 days, though all the leaders were in jail. At last, the leaders called off the strike from the jail.
The ordeal was not over. Thousands of strikers who came to rejoin duty were suspended and terminated from service. Hundreds of termination notices were issued to temporary employees. Rule 14 charge sheets were issued to many to dismiss them from service. Even the British government did not treat any strike like this. Asking and fighting for the legitimate rights of the workers was treated as a crime.
Com.A.K.Gopalan and other M.P.s raised the issue of vacation of victimisation in the Parliament and severely criticised the Government. They asked, ‘is it the same Jawaharlal Nehru, who supported the railway Strike of the British workers in 1926 and also the P and T Strike of 1946 in India, who is treating the present strike as ‘Civil rebellion’ and punishing the workers?’ Vacate the cruel punishments, they demanded.
All these had some effect. By about four years, all who were terminated and dismissed were taken back, suspensions revoked and court cases withdrawn. It was a great relief to the workers.
The strike and the victimisation in 1960 convinced me and many other young workers that there is no other alternative to the workers other than a strong union and sustained struggle to advance the cause of the workers.
But the anger and fire in their mind and heart did not vanish even for a second. It was burning throughout the years and the result was the mighty One Day Toke Strike of 19th September 1968, the 50th anniversary of which is being observed this year.
The 1960 strike, though brutally suppressed, was not in vain. In fact, no struggle is in vain. The result may not come immediately, but it is bound to come. In this struggle also it was the same. The government was compelled to appoint two DA commissions one after another for recommending formula for DA revision and formation of a forum for discussion, the Joint Consultative machinery (JCM).
While observing the 50th anniversary of the epic strike, let us pay homage to the martyrs of the 1960 strike and also pledge ourselves to continue the great tradition and fight for the right of the workers and for justice to the down trodden. It has become most important at this stage, especially when the hard won rights of the workers are being taken away one after another and even ‘hire and fire’ formula is being implemented the Modi government itself through ‘fixed term’ jobs.
STRUGGLE FOR UNITY, UNITY FOR STRUGGLE, AND STRUGGLE AND UNITY FOR PROGRESS!