Thursday, September 10, 2015

SK DHAR(14.02.1936-15.09.2008):

Com. Saroj Kumar Dhar widely known as Com. S.K. Dhar was born in Chattgram district of Bangladesh on 14.02.1936. He had to leave Bangladesh at an early age to West Bengal. He joined Railways as an engine cleaner at Burdwan in 1956. Right from his early years of service, he associated with trade union movement and occupied a position in ERMU which was affiliated with AIRF. AILRSA was not in existence then, but Loco Running Staff at different places started to organize themselves in different names. Com. Dhar subsequently came to South Eastern Rly and joined as an Electric Assistant Driver at Anara in Adra division after qualifying in the Railway Service Commission in 1965.

When Com. Dhar joined South Eastern Rly at Anara, the Electrical Asst. driver had to carry the tool box and PT box (portable telephone box) from Crew Booking point to Loco. Com. Dhar started resisting this system and simultaneously started to organize the Asst. Drivers Association. The resistance to this system reached a peak and trains started getting detained. At last the administration was forced to modify the system and the Asst. Driver Association became a powerful organization. While Com. Dhar was organizing the categorical Association, his thinking was not sectarian. He always tried to use the forceful organization in the interest of struggle for common cause and working class movement. He always paid a vital role to bring the Railways into the main stream of national working class movement. As a first step, he took the lead to organize Loco Running Staff Association in South Eastern Rly uniting all three wings of traction i.e. Electric, Diesel and Steam.

In the mean time All India Loco Running Staff Association came into existence and its first conference was conducted at Jamnagar in Western Rly in 1965. It was a time when the Firemen Council of Southern Railway became a forceful organization and struck work, which paralyzed the Railway. It was Com. Dhar’s and Com. YD. Sundaramurty’s effort that a unity convention (special convention) could be organized in 1970 at Vijayawada to unite all the different Loco Running Staff organizations which were functioning in different names under the single Banner of AILRSA. Com Dhar was elected as Joint Secretary General.

The Burdwan Conference in 1973 in which Com. Dhar played an important role for taking the strike decision. Com. Dhar was in the negotiating committee which led a successful and historical negotiation resulting in the strike period being converted into SCL. These strikes encouraged AILRSA efforts and the NCCRS was formed which lead the 1974 strike. Com. Dhar was also in NCCRS highest committee. It is countless and can’t be narrated the instances of able leadership of Com. Dhar.

That quality of leadership and dedication elevated him to the post of Secretary General of AILRSA from our seventh BGM which was held at Kota in Western Rly in 1978 and since then he has continued as Secretary General of AILRSA till his death, maintaining coordination with all the different fighting sections of working class.

In our BGM at Varanasi in 1974, there was strong resistance to the decision of participation in historical Railways strike in 1974 from a small group of delegates which we neutralized and the decision was taken to participate in Strike, his role being crucial.

Similarly there was an attempt to split the AILRSA in 1980 in Agra BGM and we successfully quelled this conspiracy under his tactful leadership. There were continuous attempts from anti-unity force and the Railway Administration to disrupt AILRSA but under his wise leadership, we were able to maintain the status, position and unity of AILRSA.

Com. Dhar’s life was full of struggles. He not only participated in 1968 token strike of Railway men but took a leading part to organize it. He was arrested under MISA in 1976 during the period of internal emergency and was in jail in Tihar and Jaipur for 2 years term. He also faced suspension, removal and penal transfer but nothing could break his spirit. Com. S.K. Dhar spent his whole life in struggle against a reformist idea which has a wide influence over Railways movement and upheld the principle of unity and struggle.

In the year 1981, AILRSA was forced to stage a strike because of the massive victimization like summary removal and other dreadful onslaughts, unleashed as a policy of government of India, by the Railway administration headed by the then Railway Board Chairman Mr. M.S.Gujral. 

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 gave a national call without any preparation.

Prior to the strike, there developed some kind of difference of opinion between Com.M.R. Sabhapathy and Com. Dhar. Com. M.R.S resigned from All India President post, which ought not to have been done by him, if he had placed association interest and integrity above all other interests and considerations. That paved the way for the administration to strike against the loco men.

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 there are hundreds of claimants, but for a single defeat no one will take responsibility. Some of the leaders blamed Com. Dhar for the failure of strike.

Some revisionist leaders left the organization blaming Dhar and it was Com. Dhar’s responsibility to bring back all the removed employees back to service. He was left with an empty cash balance, abandoned trade union and fearing work force. He then approached Com. Somnath Chatterjee, CPI (M) leader. 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 able to collect just Rs.47000/- in many installments. Even then Adv. Venugopal fought the case and succeeded. The Railway authorities did not utilize 14/2 and Article 311 after that incident. This was a unique achievement.

During the period 1980-1990, this organization had a lean period of activities because of the massive victimization. Com Dhar traveled the entire country to build up the organization once again. His perseverance was not in vain and he succeeded in creating 13 zonal bodies for AILRSA out of 16 zonal railways. He was a simple man even in personal life. He developed unity among the railway trade unions, where the AIRF and NFIR were maintaining monopoly and domination. He along with Com. N.S Bangoo worked hard to organize the All India Railway Employees Coordination Committee (AIREC) as a challenge to the recognized federations. He was Assistant Secretary General of AIREC.

His commitment to the ideals and the ideology he believed in, made him an ardent supporter and participant in all activities connected with the workers, which led to his arrest and incarceration during the dark days of emergency. His entire life had been a saga of struggles and sacrifices. It is the life sketch of comrades like S.K Dhar which gives inspiration and motivation for thousands of workers today and in the days to come while they face the toughest challenge of existence and survival imposed by the inhuman imperialist intimidation and exploitation. 


C. Sunish.


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