The incident happened at 19.45 hours on Sunday, 5th March 1967, almost 50 years back. The place : In front of Central Telephone Exchange, New Delhi. A young lady telephone operator on her way to duty was molested and bitten on cheek by a miscreant. She ran down to the telephone exchange weeping and completely shattered.
The shocked, angered and agitated lady telephone staff ( Delhi Exchange was a feminised one) spontaneously went on tool-down-strike. As at the wave of a hand, the trunk boards were unplugged, the headgear sets removed and the entire trunk and international telephone services were at a complete stand still. The hundreds of lady telephone operators reacted with all their anger at the insult, molestation and humiliation of their co-worker.
This was not the first such incident. The way from the Connaught Place to the exchange was usually dim-lighted. There was a taxi stand in front of the telephone exchange and teasing of the lady telephone operators coming and going before and after their shift duty hours was not uncommon. Protests by the workers were unheeded by the administration and police. The above incident was the breaking point.
General Secretary of the union Com. O.P.Gupta and other leaders rushed to the spot. The workers demanded that unless the taxi stand is removed from there, more security and transport facilities are provided to the lady staff from the Connaught place to the exchange, the tools-down strike will continue. Negotiation took place with the top officers of the department and the police.
Th strike went on for hours. At last the tools-down strike was called off after the demands were conceded. It was assured that transport will be arranged temporarily which will be made permanent and that the taxi-stand will be shifted from the place. Once the demands were accepted, the workers returned to their duty.
Hard working conditions, shift duties, heavy work-load, lack of minimum facilities – the workers used to be at the limit of their patience and many such spontaneous struggles took place to defend their right to work and to save their honour.
The P&T Workers have a glorious past of unity and struggles.