1981 December. All India Conference of All India Telecom Employees Union Class III is to be held at Calcutta from 29th December 1981 to 2nd January 1982. Starting the conferences in the last week of the year and ending in the first week seems to be tradition with NFPTE and affiliated unions. The second Federal Council at Calcutta ( 28.12.1955 – 02-01-56), third Federal Council at Hyderabad ( 26.12.1956 – 01.01-57), Fifth Federal Council at Jaipur ( 26.12.1958 – 31.12.58), eighth Federal Council at Madras ( 27.12.1963 – 01.01.64) and so on. It will be very cold in the northern India, but it is the time for marriages, festivals, conferences. It is the time of holidays also. With layers of warm clothes and good food, time for enjoyment.
Myself Circle Secretary of the major Telephone District, Calicut. ( For a few years major districts were treated as circles). This AIC going to be very important since decision to be taken for Strike called by the Central Trade Unions. It was well known that OPG, GS, E.III was not in favour of strike. Hence we had to put maximum pressure. More number of delegates required. We in Kerala decided to attend in large numbers. Calicut District alone 38 delegates.100 delegates from Kerala. E.III AIC was not much strict about number of delegates. Delegates from Calicut started on different dates according to availability train reservation. Myself, wife Pankajam, P.A.Velayudhan, Janaky Kutty and M.Kalliani started by the Howrah compartment in West Coast Express leaving for Madras at 00.15 on 25th December. Reached at 14.30 hours at Madras. Howrah Coach in the shunting yards till 20.00 hours. Lady comrades went to a relative’s house, took bath, food and returned. Myself and PAV in the train. We were afraid whether the snakes moving uninterrupted in the thick grass near the shunting yards will get in the compartment. Exactly at 20.00 hours train started for Calcutta. Took bath from train itself. Ate sweets and snacks brought from homes. A lot of other delegates also in this Coromandal Express. Reached Howrah in the early morning of 27th. Coms. Balu, Punnassery Balan and other delegates who reached earlier were waiting in station. By bus went to AIC Reception Committee office, took meals from exchange canteen and met senior leaders of Calcutta including Com. Ananata Bhattacharjee, General Secretary, Reception Committee. We went for a tour of the city in a bus. Visited many places including Botanical gardens. Com. Kalliani lost her bag in the bus, but somehow we managed to get it after going to the bus head office.
AIC addressed by Coms. Jyoti Basu (CITU) and Indrajit Gupta (AITUC). Mammoth procession in town in afternoon. Heated discussion about participation in the national strike. Coms.Moni Bose, PVC, myself and many comrades strongly demanded participation in strike, while OPG and followers tactically opposed. At last it was decided to strike ‘wherever possible’. I was elected Federal Councillor. New year day was celebrated in a big way by the delegates. On 3rd some of us went to the residence of Com. Moni Bose and had tea. All of us had a detailed tour of the historic city and visited many heritage sites. Fortunately we could hear Com.EMS addressing the rally in Parade Grounds in connection with the W.Bengal state Conference of CPI(M). Hearing three stalwarts in a few days.
Return journey became a big problem. Although we had booked the return tickets from Calicut itself, some tickets were in waiting list. Immediately on reaching Calcutta we had checked in the station, but they were still in W/L. Every day some of the delegates went to railway station to find out whether tickets are confirmed. Negative. But at the same time, those who booked return tickets after reaching Calcutta had got reservation. There was something very very wrong going on. Even on 3rd January when enquired, no confirmation. We had to start by 17.00 hours on 4th.
Without confirmation, it will be almost impossible to travel. Tickets had to be confirmed. I went to Railway Station in the morning and enquired. Tickets still not confirmed. Waited to meet Chief Superintendent of the R/Station. Went to his office. He has not reached. It was on the 5th or 6th floor. The peon there started going down the lift with a wheel chair stating that the officer is arriving. I went along with him in the lift. The officer was sitting in the car. He was helped to sit in wheel chair, for which I also helped. Came up in the lift and to his room, myself also also helping. On reaching his office room, he told us to leave the room. I understood that he has to arrange himself seated in his chair, which he wanted to do without help.
After few minutes I was called to the room. I told him that even after one month of booking, our tickets are not confirmed, while even those booked by delegates after reaching Calcutta have been confirmed. First he said nothing could be done as it will be according to rules. Then I had to tell him that we are from telephones and will complain to higher authorities. Then he asked me to wait outside. In the meantime I went to the Union Secretary and told him about the difficult situation. After some time, I was called by the Superintendent. He got all the tickets confirmed, but in different different compartments. OK, at least all tickets confirmed.
We waited in the platform for the Coramandal train to arrive. Platforms congested due to heavy rush of passengers. Train arrived, not much time to start. We rushed to each compartment, got the concerned comrades to their respective berths. Somehow managed to put every body in the train.
By evening next day reached Madras. Got down. Visited some places in the city. Stayed in a hotel. By 11.30 on 5th started for Calicut by West Coast Express. Heavily slept in the night. Reached Calicut next day. Everybody tired, but happy and satisfied.