CHAPTER : XVI FORMATION OF UPTW (contd..)
The Jubilee session of the All India Trade Union Congress which was held in Calcutta from the 13th to 19th Feb, 1947 under the president-ship of Shri. Mrinal kanti Bose, granted affiliation to the All India Postal and RMS Union and the All India Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union. The congress session was attended by 27 delegates from both these unions. The following were elected as members of the All India trade Union Council:
1. Com. V.g.Dalvi
2. “ S.P.Anand
3. “ K.S.Dharia
4. “ Mrinal Kanti Bose
5. “ Om Prakash Gupta
6. “ B.N.Ghosh
7. “ Raj Bahadur
8. “ M.Alim
9. “ K.S.Pitkar
The communication formed an independent group in the Trade Union Congress. Shri. Mrinal kanti Bose and Shri. V.G.Dalvi were elected as member of the working Committee.
The session was a largely attended. I had the privilege of addressing the open session on the 13th. I remember to have spoken on strike period pay and on the grievances of the E.D.Staff. Shortly after the session was over the General Council met at the Moti Seal Free School under the Chairman-ship of Shri.M.N.Joshi, the newly elected President. In the Council, I drew special attention of Sri.Joshi to need for publishing the cost of living index of all big cities to which he agreed.
After the session of the Trade Union Congress was over, it struck me that if other recognised P&T Unions would also join the Trade Union Congress, it would pave the way for establishing one union of the P&T workers. My attempt to that direction did not bring any result. By joining the All India Trade Union Congress the prestige and position of the All India Postal and RMS Union had greatly increased. Some of the Unions had made forecast that the Government would object to the P&T Unions joining the Trade Union Congress but in fact no such opposition came from the Government side. By joining the Trade Union Congress both the unions established the rights and claims that the P&T Unions are not service associations but trade unions.
If an analysis is made as to what is a trade union, it will come out that in the trade union congress’ constitution it was nicely explained in the following words:-
“What is trade union?:-
A trade union is an organ of class struggle; its basic task, therefore, is to organize the workers for advancing and defending their rights and interests, and although collective bargaining is the necessary implication of a trade union and although in the transactional period to socialism, negotiations, representations and other methods of collective bargaining must remain as an integral part of trade union activities, labour and capital cannot be reconciled within the capitalistic system”.
The All India Postal and RMS Union, Bengal and Assam Provincial union got itself affiliated to the Bengal Provincial Trade Union Congress. I was given an opportunity to serve as a member of the working committee of the B.P.T.U.C and Sarbasree K.D.Roy Choudhry, J.N.Banerjee and myself were members of the General Council of the Provincial Trade Union Congress.
Coming in contact with the Trade Union Congress leaders, we took decision to run our union on trade union lines. During the days of the unions were within the Trade Union Congress, their activities greatly increased.
On the other side, a section of the leaders of the All India Postal and RMS Union headed by Com. Om Prakash Gupta the General Secretary of the Union, began in right earnest for preparing the grounds for establishing one union of P&T workers. Com .Gupta with his youthful energy wrote series of articles in the Indian Post advocating in favour one Union.
In March, 1947 issue of Indian Post, the Journal of the All India Postal and RMS Union, under the joint signatures of Coms.V.G.Dalvi, Mrinal Kanti Bose and Om Prakash Gupta was published a detailed scheme for amalgamation of all the P&T Unions. This scheme gave food for thought to all.
Since adoption of merger resolution at the Akola Conference of the All India Postal & R.M.S Union, The Indian Posts and Telegraphs Union came forward to ridicule the idea in the editorial of the POSTAL ADVOCATE, the journal of the Union in January, 1947 issue wrote justifying existence of so many unions.
It dittoed the policy of certain anti-trade unionists of great Britain of 1920 model who opposed the “closed shop policy “(one union) by saying that several organizations tend rather to strengthen than to weaken the cause of workers. It further contended in writing “Let there be healthy rivalry and competition in different unions catering for the same class of employees. The weaker and the inefficient of them will stand out and serve the cause of their members better.” It further went to the length of suggesting that as the existing Federation was there a parallel Federation to be established.
The “Telegraph Review” the journal of the All India Telegraph Union in its editorial of January, 1947 issue rejected the idea of one union and strongly advocated formation of one union only for the Telegraph, Telephone and Engineering Employees.
The Central Committee of the All India Telegraph Union also supported the idea of one union of Telegraph, Telephone and Engineering employees.
In spite of above facts the mass of the P&T workers who had been growing more conscious on the need of one union in one industry began putting pressure on the leadership. Even in the Postal and R.M.S Union and the Postmen & Lower Grade Staff Union a strong section was against having one union. Future events will show that the general Workers were in a position to influence the leadership of the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Union and the Indian Telegraph association to take a different view in the matter.
On the 30th of April, 1947, the Central Pay and Commission submitted its report to the Government. It’s Recommendations were most disappointing. None of the unions was satisfied with the findings of the Commission. The dissatisfaction amongst the mass of the P&T workers was this time at its height. All the Unions leadership began thinking as to how through concerted action the wrong done by the Pay Commission to the P&T workers could be righted. Every cloud has its live linking. The unsatisfactory Recommendation of the Pay Commission later on brought changes in the way thinking in the leadership of the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Union and the Indian Telegraph Association.
The Executive Council of the All India Postal & R.M.S Union which met at Delhi from the 12th to the 15th of June not only declared the recommendation to be unsatisfactory but took a decision to advance the cause for establishment of one union and adopted the following resolution:-
“This Council appeals to the Provincial, Divisional and District Branches and individual members to carry on an extensive propaganda amongst all members and members of the sister unions to arouse consciousness in favour of a single union and to achieve the same. They are directed to submit ordinarily a monthly report to the All India office on the efforts made”.
A convention of the District Secretaries was also held on the 15th June at the Union Academy, Raja Bazar, New Delhi. It was a largely attended gathering. I had the proud privilege of presiding over the convention which also took unanimous decision in favour of effecting merger of all the existing P&T Unions and expressed utmost dissatisfaction at the unsatisfactory recommendations of the Pay Commission.
Dr.G.Noronha General Secretary of the Indian Telegraph Association, who attended the Convention expressed definite opinion that in view of the injustice done to the P&T workers by the Pay Commission, establishment of the union was essential. Such a union if established the opinion would have enough potentiality, and would be in a position to achieve the objectives through struggle. He declared that his Association would like to join the proposed one union. On the 17th of June, Dr.Noronh, Shri.J.N.Banerjee, Shri.Om Prakash Gupta, myself and a few others met at Devico Restaurant in the Regal Buildings and had preliminary discussion as to how to advance the cause of the union movement. Dr. Noronha agreed to call a meeting of the different unions representatives in Calcutta on the 2nd July 1947.
On the 3rd June, Shri.P.C.Chatterjee General Secretary, All India Telegraph Union wrote to Com.Om Prakash Gupta that the A.I.T.U would join merger provided equality of voting between Postal and Telegraph side finds a place in the constitution .
On the 21st June, the Working Committee of the Indian Posts and Telegraph Union, Madras Provincial Branch, adopted the following resolution:
“This Working Committee directs Mr.Jabber and Shri.Sreepada Rao to inform the General Secretary of the I.P.T.U at Delhi that irrespective of the fact whether the Federation participates or not in the merger talks proposed to be held in Calcutta on the 2nd July 1947, this Working Committee is strongly of opinion that the I.P.T.U, must participates in such talks and make every effort to achieve the ideal of merger of all unions or devise any other machinery for creating unity and taking joint and concerted action”.
The General Secretary of the I.P.T.U agreed to the proposal. The news of participation of I.P.T.U in the merger talks in Calcutta created enthusiasm amongst the member of the Postal and R.M.S Union everywhere.
In these days rapid changes were taking place. By the time everybody had known that the British would leave India and that the country would achieve independence on the 15th August, 1947. The partition of the country in the East and West was known to be fait accompli. The Hindu P&T workers in West Punjab Sind and N.W.F.P and East Bengal were preparing for opting for India whereas the Muslims of India were preparing for would be Pakistan. Thus it was a transitory period. The Interim Government was manned by national leaders. Every soul was eagerly awaiting for the day which would bring freedom from bondage of 200 years. The thoughts and ideas were cropping up in every mind. A large section of the P&T Workers too did not lag behind. I am bribed with the spirit of unity they came forward to translate it into action. Com.Om Prakash Gupta who was already authorized to prepare the ground for amalgamation of the unions visited Madras and Bombay. In both the places he got encouraging support. Com.Gupta met Shri. V.G.Dalvi and Shri. K.S.Dharua on 24-4-47 at Bombay and discussed the entire matter relating to merger of unions. Shri.Dalvi agreed to work for the scheme to which he had already put his signature. Some hold the view that the following were the reasons which hastened effecting of merger of unions:
1. Unsatisfactory recommendations of a central Pay Commission.
2. Partition of the country.
3. Impending independence of the country.
4. Growing consciousness and urge for unity amongst the rank and file of workers.
On the 2nd July 1947 the representatives of four unions met at Olympia House, Calcutta, under the president-ship of Shri.Dalvi, duly authorized by their representative unions. The following gentlemen took part in the meeting:
Com. Om Prakash Gupta }
“ B.N.Ghosh }
“ K.S.Pitkar } All India Postal and R.M.S.Union
“ K.D.Roy Choudhry }
“ Raj Bahadur )
Com. B.S.Kamble }
“ Mrinal Kanti Bose } All India Postal and RMS union
“ M.A.Jabar }…………………………………………………..
“ K.V.Sreepada Rao } Indian Postal and Telegraph Union
“ P.Madhava menon }…………………………………………………………..
Dr. G.Noronha }
Com. B.G.Das } Indian Telegraph association
“ J.Subramaniam }
“ L.J.Gomes }…………………………………………………….
“ V G Dalvi Postmen Union.
The last session of the Merger Committee met at the Tarapada Hall on the 5th July. The Committee finalized the draft constitution for the Union of the Post and Telegraph Workers and the members of the merger Committee put their signatures and decided to hold the All India Conference of the respective Unions as well as the Merger Conference on and from the 12th August, 1947 at Delhi. It is worth mentioning that Shri.P.C.Chatterjee , General Secretary of the All India Telegraph Union who promised to join the meeting provided parity clause was embodied in the constitution, did not turn up to join the meetings of the Merger Committee assurances given to him by all that such a clause would be incorporated.
The decision of the Merger Committee was released under the joint signatures of Messrs. V.G.Dalvi, C.Noronha, M.A.jabbar and Om Prakash Gupta. The decision was as follows:
1. “The main decision taken by the representatives of the Merging Unions was the decision to accept the Constitution enclosed in toto, and to request their members to accept this Constitution as it stood, without amendments, since the introduction of amendments by the members of any one Union would involve further consultation with the other Unions and would be likely to throw the entire Constitution back into the meeting pot. The merging Committee, therefore, considered it essential that the members of each Union should accept the Constitution as a whole, and defer any amendments which they wish to introduce to a later date after the new Union had been fully established.
2. The second major decision was that each of the four Unions which had participated in the conference should make a contribution of Rs. 2500/- each to start the new Union with a small capital fund, and that each Union should be left completely free to dispose of its other assets, if any, and its members desire, subject to start another Union.
3. Thirdly, the Merging Committee agreed that the new Union should, as far as possible, take over the staff of the pre-existing Unions.
4. Fourthly, and finally, the Merging Committee agreed that their respective institutions should hold, as far as possible their extra-ordinary meeting or Conferences for the purpose of effecting amalgamation, in Delhi on the 12th August.
The Conference of the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Union, Indian Telegraph Association, All India Postal and R.M.S Union and All India Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union met at Delhi on the 12th August in all enthusiasm. All the first three unions in their respective Conference passed resolutions in favour of merger. The Postmen Union Conference, however, rejected the proposal.
On the 13th of August ,1947, two days before the country achieved Independence, the Merger Conference of the Three Unions met under the president-ship of Shri.B.S.Kamble. Amidst acclamation it adopted unanimously a resolution establishing the Union of Posts and Telegraph Workers. Thus the dream of one union became a partial reality. The Postmen Union and the All India Telegraph Union kept out of the unity move. The three great unions which up to 12th of August were functioning as separate organizations, with the establishment of the Union of Posts and Telegraphs Workers in a moment’s time forgot their past separate entities. The entire members of those unions numbering about fifty thousand souls felt as if they were members of the same family.
The Merger Conference elected the following gentlemen as office bearers of the Union of Post and Telegraph Workers
Com.N.M.Joshi – President
Dr.G.Noronha – Vice-President
Com.M.A.Jabbar }- Joint General Secretaries.
Com.Om Prakash Gupta }
The Conference also set up two bodies, one known as the Co-ordinating Committee and the other as the Negotiating Committee and framed and passed a Charter of Demands divided in to two parts such as the Short-term and the Long-Term Demands. The Co-ordinating Committee very ably effected merger of the three unions at the Circle, Divisional and Branch levels. The Negotiating Committee began negotiations on the demands embodied in the Charter. (to be continued)