Nostalgic Memories of Telegraph/ Telegram Services

Morse Key Board for sending telegrams.

Five years have passed since the government of India closed the Telegraph / Telegram services in India. Despite strong protests from the union and the public, the telegraph / telegram services were closed on 15th July 2013 by the Government of India. BSNL Employees Union organised protest actions, but the decision was already taken by the government stating that the service is in loss. It is true that telegram services lost its attraction and use to a certain extent after the mobile services and various message applications started, but it was a record for courts, banks and such organisations. Our plea that at least it should be kept in the four metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Chennai in which Central Telegraph Offices a minimum of at least about 500 messages were received and dispatched was also not conceded. However, our demand for a Telegraph Museum was accepted and is now situated in former CTO Building, Kolkatta.

The history of telegraphs started long back. The electrical telegraph was invented in 1775. The first commercial telegraphs were introduced by the Western Railways in Britain in the 1830s. It was introduced in India in 1854 along with the railways.The telephones were not invented and the fastest communication system was the telegraphs. Only the Britishers were employed as telegraphist both in Railways and in Telegraph Offices in the initial stages due to its utmost importance and secrecy. The Britishers used the telegraphs and Railways effectively to crush the First Independence War of 1857, which they called as ‘Sepoy Mutiny’. The Telegraphs grew fantastically during the second part of the 20th century and there were telegraph offices in all important cities and towns. In small places, the services were manned by the Postal officials called ‘Singnallers’, who kept the connection between the cities and the villages through telegraph wires.
Telegrams were sent by government as also by public to inform urgent and important news. The CTOs in the metro cities used to have about 100 or 200 telegraphists at the same time and round the clock. The telegrams were taken as official records in the court etc. It was authentic and clear. Since the charge for sending telegram was on the basis of the number of words, the message was constructed briefly with minimum number of words. The message may be of great happiness or that of sorrow like death or disease. The unions used to organise ‘telegram campaigns’ as a method of protest sending the same in large numbers to the concerned authorities.

After the growth of telephones and mobile services, the importance of telegraphs started to wane. By the second decade of 21st century it was almost limited to certain official messages. According to the government and the BSNL, there was much loss and it can not be continued as a viable service.

When the government decided to close the telegraph offices and telegraph/telegram services from 15th July, BSNL Unions put up strong protest and organised protest meetings. As President of the Union, I went to Mumbai and Kolkata offices and held press conferences for getting the support of the people at large for continuing the services.

Telegraph is a heritage service and accommodated in heritage buildings in the big cities. CTO buildings in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc. are heritage buildings, which have to be maintained as such. Lakhs and lakhs of documents connected with the history of the Mughal, British rule etc. are there in the old documents of the telegraph offices. Just like Western Court building in Delhi is occupied by a hotel, there are proposals to turn these heritage buildings also in to such posh hotels. You can see that many of the historic palaces have already been converted in to hotels.

A PLI case was filed in the court, but did not get any relief. It can only be said that the BSNL management had taken an unwise anti-people decision as also without taking in to confidence of the unions, which were trying to improve the services and make the company financially viable.

Despite all efforts to ensure that the telegraph services are kept as a token of the past, as in the case of trams in Kolkata, neither the government nor the BSNL agreed. It was finally decided to close it on 15th July 2013 forever.

Nobody expected what happened on the day. It was a pleasant surprise. Thousands of people gathered in front of telegraph offices to send their last telegrams to their near and dear ones. Even after midnight of 15/16 July, the queue did not stop and many people had to return disappointed that they could not send the last telegram. Their spontaneous response on the last day showed their love and appreciation of the telegraph services.

Five years are over after closure of telegraph services. The people have almost forgotten the ‘telegram’. The new generation may wonder what is ‘telegraphs’ and ‘telegram’. But those who knew telegram and sent or received it will always remember the same – A nostalgic memory!

Scotland also protest Trump’s visit

After protest by the British people against the visit of Trump to their country the people of Scotland also held a large anti-Trump banner and other signs while the U.S. President is visiting Trump Turnberry Luxury Collection Resort in Scotland as people gather to protest during his visit to the United Kingdom on July 14, 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The President of the United States and First Lady, Melania Trump on their first official visit to the UK after yesterday’s meetings with the Prime Minister and the Queen is in Scotland for private weekend stay at his Turnberry.

Telecom Trade Union Movement – A Saga of Struggles, Sacrifices and Achievements (1) The Historical Bhopal All India Conference

Telecom Trade Union Movement – A Saga of Struggles, Sacrifices and Achievements (1)
The Historical Bhopal All India Conference

More than 26 years are over after the All India Conference of All India Telecom Employees Union Class III (affiliated to NFPTE) held at Bhopal on 24th to 29th October 1991, which heralded a new progressive and militant leadership in the organisation.
The new leadership with Com. V.A.N.Namboodiri as President and Com. Moni Bose as General Secretary was elected defeating the four decades revisionist leader Com. O.P.Gupta and his camp, who were in the leadership of the union since 24th November 1954, when National Federation of P and T Employees (NFPTE) was formed merging all the existing unions in Telecom department with 9 affiliated All India Unions, including AITEE Union Class III. The change was heartily welcomed by the vast majority of the workers.
Back ground
We have to go back a little to find out the importance of the AIC and the election. As already stated earlier, NFPTE was formed in 1954, but P and T unions existed from the first decade of 20th century and has a long and great tradition as one of the pioneers in the country. Postal service in India started in 1756 and the Telegraph service is 1854, both under the British rule. Telephone service started in the early 20th century, in a limited way which developed fast. The service conditions were very strict and offensive and the wages very meagre. Though there were some spontaneous agitations in the last decade of 19th century in Poona etc., the unions were formed only after 1900.
Formation of Unions
Indian Telegraph Association (ITA) was formed in 1908 under the leadership of Henry Barton, an Anglo-Indian Telegraphist, who was also called Harry Barton. Almost at the same time, Babu Tarapada Mukherjee formed the All India (including Burmah) Post Office and R.M.S. Union, although it functioned earlier as Calcutta Postal Club, since the Department did not allow unions to be formed. Both the unions were formed in Calcutta, the capital of India at that time. However, the All India Postmen and Lower Grade Staff Union was formed in Bombay under the leadership of Shri V.G.Dalvi, Bar-at Law, a well-known Advocate. Another union, All India Telegraph Union (AITU), was formed in Calcutta. All these unions organised agitations for bettering their service conditions and wages.
The Postal Strike of 1946, which continued for 22 days, was withdrawn only after the British rulers accepted all the 12 most important demands raised by the union. It was a great victory for the workers. The appointment of the First Central Pay Commission, separate memorandums submitted which were contradictory and the unsatisfactory recommendations –all convinced the leadership of the various unions to join together in to one union. Accordingly, the Union of P and T Workers (UPTW) was formed on 13th August 1947, two days before India’s Independence, merging almost all unions.
NFPTE was formed on 24th November 1954, merging all the existing unions, including UPTW. Nine All India Unions were formed affiliated to NFPTE, two each in Postal, Telegraph, RMS and Telephone section, one for class III and another for class IV. One union for both the class III and Class IV in administrative offices was also formed. Unification or Realignment, as it was called, was a very important and favourable development. The first Secretary General was Com.B.N.Ghosh, respectfully called Dada Ghosh.
The 5days of strike of CG Employees from 11/12th July 1960 and the One Day Token Strike on 19th September 1968 were historical in all ways, including the number of participants, the brutal victimisation, the sustained fight against dismissals, termination, arrests etc. More than two dozen comrades became martyrs in these struggles shot dead by the police or run over by the trains during the strike period. Two persons committed suicide unable to bear dismissal/termination.
There have been serious differences in NFPTE on the policy and programme to be adopted. One section wanted to fight against the anti-worker policy of the government tooth and nail through militant struggles. The revisionist side did not want to fight against the policies of the government, but wanted to limit it to only on some benefits to the workers and no struggles. The crisis resulted in a hard fought election in the Federal Council in 1970 at Vijayawada where the revisionists lost and the leaders of the militant section were elected with Com. K.G.Bose as President and Com. A.S.Rajan as Secretary General. In the next Federal Council at Calcutta in 1971, the defeated section floated a parallel list of office-bearers, well knowing that they cannot win. The government utilised the opportunity and recognised the fake list. The result was that while the KG Bose section went on strike in the 1974 Bonus Strike, the section led by Com.O.P.Gupta opposed the strike and did not participate.
The impasse continued till the end of National Emergency declared in 1975 by Smt. Indira Gandhi. After sustained discussion and adjustment unity was restored in NFPTE by 1976.
NFPTE was bifurcated in to NFPE and NFTE in 1986 consequent to the bifurcation of the Department in to Postal and Telecom. There was no other alternative, though the workers wanted a united organisation.
In NFPE, the militant leaders Coms. K.Adinarayana, N.J.Iyer and others took the lead, while in Telecom, the leadership of the revisionists under Com.O.P.Gupta continued. The workers were not happy about the revisionist leadership and each and every opportunity, including the Circle and All India Conferences were utilised to fight for the correct policies.
It was in this context that the All India Conference of All India Telco Employees Union Class III was held at Bhopal was held from 24th to 29th October 1991. (to Be continued)
(NB: ‘The History of the P and T Trade Union Movement’, a book published by this author has described in detail all these developments till 1986.Copies of the book are available with Com. R.N.Parashar, General secretary, AIPEU Group ‘C’, Dada Ghosh Bhawan, 2151/1, New Patel Road, New Delhi – 110008, who published the same. The Price is Rs. 100/.)

Hima Das, the athletic champion – Congratulations!

 

New Delhi, Jul 13 : “I am living a dream”, said Hima Das as she tried to put in words her remarkable journey from being a stubborn footballer in a nondescript Assam village to becoming the first Indian woman world champion in athletics.
The 18-year-old Das, daughter of farmer parents at Kandhulimari village at Nagaon district, has become the toast of the nation after she won a gold at the IAAF World U-20 Athletics Championships in Finland yesterday.
She is also the first Indian — male or female — to have won a gold in a track event at the world level.
She joined Neeraj Chopra who won a gold in javelin — a field event — in the IAAF World U-20 Championships in the last edition in 2016 in Poland. (Courtesy: Ganashakti)

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE BROUGHT INDIA IN TO ATHLETICS HONOURS!

Medical Allowance restored for BSNL Retirees, but quantum reduced.

After continued efforts by AIBDPA and BSNLEU, the Medical Allowance without voucher to the BSNL retirees have been restored by BSNL. Orders have been issued. But the quantum is reduced to 50% and the minimum will be Rs. 12,000 in a year, paid in 4 installments. AIBDPA has strongly protested and demanded for restoration.

BSNL Optical Sub-marine System between Chennai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands

State-run telco, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has given a contract to NEC Technologies India to build an optical submarine cable system between Chennai and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Under the deal, NEC will manufacture the optical submarine cable and provide technical assistance during the turnkey implementation.

The contract is for a system that includes a segment with repeaters from Chennai to Port Blair and seven segments without repeaters between the islands of Havelock, Little Andaman (Hutbay), Car Nicobar, Kamorta, the Great Nicobar Islands, Long Island and Rangat. The total cable length will be approximately 2,300km and carry 100Gb/s optical waves.

The cable system will provide the A&N Islands with sufficient bandwidth for supporting voice and data connectivity that enable the implementation of e-Governance initiatives, such as the establishment of enterprises and e-commerce facilities. The system will also assist educational institutes in the sharing of knowledge and will play a significant role in driving the “Digital India” vision, a campaign launched by the Government of India to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically.

“BSNL is pleased to select NEC for implementing this prestigious project. We trust NEC for the technological edge they hold in the domain and their commitment to adherence of timelines to ensure successful completion of the project. This project will enable much needed high capacity connectivity with the Andaman Islands and usher a new era of development for the region,” said Anupam Shrivastava, Chairman, and Managing Director BSNL.

Courtesy: Economic Times)

Telecom TU Movement – A Saga of Struggles, Sacrifices and Achievements

Telecom Trade Union Movement – A Saga of Struggles, Sacrifices and Achievements

Introduction

The P and T (including BSNL) employees and their unions/associations are observing this year, the 50th anniversary of the historic One Day Token Strike of 19th September 1968. Four years back in 2014, the 60th year of the formation of National Federation of Posts and Telegraph Employees (NFPTE), the militant organisation of the P and T employees, was celebrated.
The central government, whether headed by UPA or NDA, has been continuing the implementation of its anti-worker, anti-people neo-liberal policies, which are completely detrimental to the interest of the nation and the people. All-important PSUs are in the list of the NITI Ayog for privatisation or closure to suit the requirement of the corporates, whose influence on the government is well known.
Both the Postal and the BSNL workers are in sustained struggles to save the Postal and BSNL services from privatisation and to provide a better service. It is a hard battle and requires the whole hearted support of the entire trade unions and the common people to defeat the nefarious policies of the government.
In this context, it will be appropriate and a requirement for the Postal and BSNL workers to know the past and the various struggles organised. In this connection, I have authored a book “History of the P and T TU Movement” , published by NFPE and released in its All India Conference last year at Bengaluru by Comrade Tapan Sen, M.P., General Secretary of CITU. The book reviews the period from the start of the TU movement till 1986, when NFPTE was bifurcated in to NFPE and NFTE, consequent to the bifurcation of the Department in to Postal and Telecom. The appreciation received by the book as also request from many comrades has made me to think about writing about the history of the movement since 1986. First I am thinking of writing about the telecom unions (including BSNL) from 1986 to the present period. This will be serially posted in this blog, for the present.
Our senior comrades, who were part of the movement, are requested to guide and help me in improving, modifying and correcting, if there is any thing missing, mistake etc.
The articles will start from tomorrow serially.
V.A.N.Namboodiri, Founder General Secretary, BSNL Employees Union.

Book on Historical One Day Token Strike of 19th September 1968.

The One Day Token Strike of Central Government Employees on 19th September 1968 was historic in all aspects, the demands, the huge participation, the draconian punishments, arrests, dismissals, terminations and so on. Striking workers were killed by gun shots as also by running train over the picketers – the eternal martyrs. The fight against victimisation was a saga of determination and tenacity to ensure that each and every dismissed / terminated worker is reinstated.

19th September 2018 is the 50th anniversary of this mighty struggle of lakhs of workers. I am writing a book on the One day Historic Strike to be released on 19th September. There were 290 comrades terminated in P and T in Kerala alone. I would request our comrades in Kerala, who have got some information about the strike in their towns/cities/area like participation in the strike, victimisation, fight against victimisation etc. to kindly send to me so that those incidents can also be included. Photographs, if any, in connection with the strike, including the photoes of the leaders may kindly be send to the following address;

V.A.N.Namboodiri, S-8, Alhind Elite Apartments, P.O. Nadakkav Kozhikode – 673011. Mob: 9868231431 E-mail: van.namboodiri@gmail.com

Thanks to all.

BSNL starts Internet Telephony Service – Congratulations!

State-run telecom firm BSNL today unveiled the country’s first internet telephony service that will allow users to dial any telephone number in India through its mobile app.

Now BSNL customers will be able to make calls using the company’s mobile app “Wings” to any phone number in the country.

Before this, phone calls on mobile apps was possible within users of a particular app and not on telephone numbers.

“In present competitive environment, increase in market share by BSNL is laudable. I congratulate BSNL management for internet telephony which will enable consumers to make call without SIM,” Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said after inaugurating the service.

Using this service, BSNL customers will be able to make calls on any network in the country even by using BSNL wi-fi or any other service provider.

Telecom Commission, highest-decision making body of the Department of Telecom, had allowed companies who hold valid telecom licence, to provide app-based calling service even by using wi-fi connection.

The service provider will be required to comply with all the interception and monitoring related requirements and calls will be charged by telecom operators and all rules related to normal calls will be applicable on them.

The registration for this service will start this week and the services will be activated from July 25 on wards. (Courtesy: Press Reports)