Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saroj Kumar Dhar (14.02.1936.-15.09.2008)

(Secretary General of All India Loco Running Staff Association and Deputy Secretary General of All India Railway Employees Confederation)

           Com. Dhar was born at Chittagaon (Bangladesh) in 14.02.1936. After partition his father shifted family at Panagarh of Burdwan district where he completed his School education. But he could not proceed further for higher education due to worst financial condition of family. Therefore, he had to join in service at the age of 19 years only. He joined as Engine Cleaner at Burdwan loco shed in the year 1955. Soon he realized the inhuman condition of workers due to heavy work load, excess hours of working, repression and onslaught of the administration. On the other hand due to callous attitude of the reformist leaders, utter frustration was prevailing among the workers. Com. Dhar joined the AIRF affiliated union and soon became very popular among the workers by dint of his cordial attitude.

         He was transferred to Anara shed of Adra division on promotion as Asst.Elect. Driver in the year 1966, also joined in S.E. Railway men’s Union.
In August 1970 at Vijayawada, ALL INDIA LOCO RUNNING STAFF ASSOCIATION was formed by organizing a number of Firemen Councils and other running staff unions existing in the country. Com. Dhar has taken a significant role in organizing and developing AILRSA along with other leaders’ like Com. Y Sundaramurthy, Com. MR Sabhapathy etc. He was elected as Assistant Secretary General of AILRSA. The main dissimilarity of Com. Dhar with other leaders of AILRSA was, he was having a political outlook and clear vision. As a running staff we have to fight for running men rights, as a railway worker we should join with other railway employees to fight against the adamant railway bureaucracy, as a worker we have to join with other working class of the country and fight against the anti working class policies of the Government which pave way to all the issues. We should not live like a frog in the well. 

           The first conference of the united organization of the loco men- the AILRSA was held at Bardhaman in January 1973. In some respect it was the most important conference in the history of AILRSA.

         Sk Dhar is a pole star, who had set the goal and direction of Trade union movement in Indian Railways through All India Loco Running Staff Association to fight against the anti-working class policies of the Ruling classes. A class conscious legendary, who strived, through out his life, for uniting the working class in their fight against exploitation and oppression. His life was full of struggles to build a classless society. Com. Dhar, a symbol of sacrifice, had declined an offer of M P seat in the year 1977 and dedicated whole time for AILRSA and Trade union movement.  

        Com. Dhar has been a trade unionist even prior to joining AILRSA. The historic strike of Firemen Council of Southern & South Central Railway has opened the flood gates for Loco men to flow and consolidate under the banner of AILRSA in a special conference held in Vijayawada in the year 1970.There after the Loco men never looked back, in their fight against exploitation.Com. Dhar’s presence in the Central Committee of AILRSA has helped in shaping the policies and priorities of the organisation on the lines of true trade union spirit. His contribution in bringing about and conducting historical struggles successfully was immense. To say a few, the 1973 August & December strikes of AILRSA resulting in reaching agreements on working hours limiting to 10 hours from signing on to signing off and other 74 demands bringing great relief to running staff in their working conditions and large scale promotions. By the strike preparation in march 1979 an agreement was reached on wages, running allowances, working conditions, uniforms etc; Resulting in constitution of Running allowances committee (Bhalla Committee).As a result a number of benefits were cornered to running staff, which are enjoyed by running men of not only yester generations but also by the present generation. e.g. payment of DA on 30% pay element in running allowances.

             Com. Dhar also played a vital role through AILRSA in bringing together 110 Railway unions on to single platform of National co-ordination committee for Railway men struggle(NCCRS) 1974, which launched the historical strike in may 1974 with a participation of 12 lakh employees, a biggest event on the world transport arena. This has paved the way for grant of Productivity linked bonus to railway men.

        The AILRSA faced many ups and downs from its inception and encountered a large number of hurdles in it’s march forward to progress. It could not have been possible for the organisation to over come these hurdles and remain a fighting force, but for the able and dynamic leadership of Com. Dhar and his wisdom in guiding the AILRSA. The self centered leaders tried their best to disrupt the functioning of organisation which was determinedly and collectively fought out by rank and file guided by Com. S.K. Dhar.  The services rendered by Com. Dhar are non-parallel as also the sufferings including victimisation in railways and long imprisonment particularly in different jails during internal emergency of 1975 till 1977. He displayed an exemplary leader ship quality during the most turmoil period of severe victimisation inflicted on loco men after suppressed 1981 loco men strike to keep up and maintain the morale of the rank & file of loco men and the organisation as a whole thus, succeeded in keeping the organisation intact. The victimisation was bravely fought out and succeeded in vacating the same.

1981 strike
         Agitations started from SER for local issues later in Western and Southern Railways in the month of Dec, 1980. In the background of bursting out of struggles at various places, the All India leadership of AILRSA given a national call without much preparation.
        Around 950 workers were removed from service by imposing 14/2 and article 311, ie. Without enquiry, 500 were compulsory retired, around 1000 reverted, break in service was imposed on 7000 Loco men. This strike was failed due to poor preparation and leg pulling by a section of leadership. For every victory hundred number of claiming will be there but for defeat no one will take responsibility.
        Some revisionist leaders left the organization blaming Dhar for failure of strike and it was com. Dhar’s responsibility to bring back the removed employees back to service. He left with empty cash balance, abandoned trade union and fearing work force. He then approached Com. Somnath Chatterjee, CPI (M) leader and  Speaker of Lok sabha for help. With Somnath’s letter he met leading Supreme Court Advocate KK Venugopal. At that time his consulting fee was Rs.35000/-. But Sri.Venugopal told “my consulting fee is Sri. Somnath’s letter”. His case fee was 105000/- . But Dhar was only able to collect 47000/- in many installments. Even then Adv. Venugopal fought the case and succeeded . The Railway authorities not utilized the 14/2 and article 311 after that incident. This was a unique achievement.
        Later he traveled entire country to build up the organization. He succeeded in making 13 zonal bodies for AILRSA out of 16 zonal railways.  AILRSA rose like a phoenix bird. He was a simple man in personal life. He developed unity among the railway trade unions,

         Com. S.K. Dhar, Secretary General of All India Loco Running Staff Association and Deputy Secretary General of All India Railway Employees Confederation is died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on 15th September, 2008. He was 72.

           Though Com. DHAR is physically not among us his memories will remain for ever in the history of trade union and RAILWAYMEN IN GENERAL AND LOCO MEN IN PARTICULAR, and his demise on 15-9-2008 is a great loss. We pledge to accomplish the unfulfilled tasks. 


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