Tuesday, May 12, 2020


 The Railwaymen strike in 1974 is the biggest strike ever seen by the country. Under the leadership of Sri George Fernandes, President AIRF around 125 railway trade unions joined hands together.

The strike was declared to start from 8th May 1974, but since the leaders were arrested, strike preponed to 2nd May. Strike lasted till 28th May 1974.

Some articles about this strike will be posted continuously in order to educate new comrades.


Two private British Companies namely the East Indian Railway Company and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway(GIPR) Company founded in London in 1845 started the construction of the Indian Railways. The first Trade Union formed in Indian Railway was Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in India (ASRSI) in 1874. Later the name was changed as United Service and Railway Servants Association in India (USRSAI). In 1920 All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed. Around 18 Railway Trade Unions participated in the conference. In 1924 All India Railway Men's Federation (AIRF) was formed. Initially it was affiliated with AITUC. AIRF got recognition by Railway Board in 1929. But unfortunately the Federation and its leadership failed to meet the growing needs of the working class movement. They never tried to meet the fighting needs to organize the mass action and give a permanent militant basis of workers unity.

In 1947 the Indian National Congress succeeded in dividing the working class by creating Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), a rival national centre of the working class fully under the organizational control of Indian National Congress. Slowly they organized National Federation of Indian Railway Men (NFIR), which is born with recognition. In 1948 Hind Mazdur Sabha was born as an organ for reaching the working class with the amorphous political outlook of the socialists who professed to uphold the constructive aspect of trade union work, which in plain words meant abandoning class struggle and practicing reformism. AIRF got affiliated with HMS.

During 1960s, unrest grew amongst railway workers on the issue of low wages, harsh working conditions and long hours of work. The negative response from the management and the inability of the two recognized Federations (AIRF & NFIR) to fight for their grievances and protect their interests generated a sense of frustration and alienation among workers. Recognised unions leadership was increasingly perceived to be corrupt and prone to fall prey to material privilege due to their proximity with railway management. The authorities require a sober loyal leadership. The reformist leadership of the Federations with its outlook of economism and lack of militancy offered an ideal support to the authorities.


In 1968, the Firemen of Southern and South Central Railways struck work for 21 days demanding 8 hours of duty. While Com. K. Anandan Nambiar MP was negotiating with the Deputy Railway Minister for solution of this demand the Railway Board entered into an agreement with the AIRF and NFIR leadership for a 14 hours duty from signing ON to signing OFF. The leaders of the both federations propagated against strike. This organized strike breaking, resulted in the victimization of the workers and the struggle had to be withdrawn. This however, left a long trail of bitterness among the Loco Running Staff about the AIRF and NFIR leadership.


In August 1970 at Vijayawada, ALL INDIA LOCO RUNNING STAFF ASSOCIATION was formed by organizing a number of Firemen Council and other running staff unions existing in the country.


Against the pathetic working conditions and unlimited working hours the agitated loco running staff organized All India strike from 1973 August 2 nd . The Railway Minister was forced to call the leaders for conciliation through Labour Minister. After 4 days of negotiation some accepted formula could be worked out and the Labour Minister has to sign the agreement after which the strike was called off. 10 hours duty was declared in Indian Parliament. But both the recognized Federations opposed any settlement with AILRSA, the Railway Board was also opposed it. They tried to sabotage the agreement. This victory had given a big boost to the self confidence of the railway man, and had greatly influenced the subsequent formation of NCCRS and historic strike of railway men in May 1974.


National Co-ordination Committee of Railway Men's struggle (NCCRS) formed. AIRF, AILRSA, AIREC, AITUC, CITU, BRMS and around 125 Railway Trade Unions joined hands with the biggest labour strike ever seen by the country, since the leaders called for conciliation were arrested strike pre-opened from 8 th to 2 nd May 1974. 14 lakh employees participated and entire Railway traffic paralysed. Around 1 lakh employees were removed from service under 14(ii) /149. 50,000 casual labourers were terminated without any notice, 30,000 employees kept under suspension – various type of harassment. The Railway Bureaucracy was able to mobilize a section of reformist leadership of AIRF and weaken the struggle. Finally the strike ended on May 28 th , making a number of "alive martyrs'' contributed by one or other. The leadership was under the illusion that successful strike even for 7 days would force the Government to come to a settlement. They never took into account the fact that the authorities were equally prepared for holding out in any strike for about 3 weeks or even more. Later in June 1975 internal emergency was declared by Smt.Indira Gandhi and the political background was changed.

Taking opportunity of Internal Emergency in 1975, the Loco Running Staff Grievance Committee was wound up. The following leaders of Central Committee were arrested at Delhi under the instances of the then Minister of State Railways, when those leaders stay back after the CWC meeting to meet with Minister as the interview was granted for their meeting in a delegation.

The following are the arrested leaders.

1. Com PK Barua, the then Secretary general

2. Com. SK Dhar, the then Joint Secretary General

3. Com. N Sarkar, the then Working President

4. Com SR Bagga, the then active leader of Northern Railway

5. Com Ashok Guptha, the then active leader of Delhi division.

All have been arrested under MISA and detained in notorious Tihar Jail.Delhi. Subsequently transferred to Jaipur Jail after 6 months and another six months detained at Jaipur and Jodhpur Jail.

There were arrest warrants against Com T Hanumaiah, one of the asst Secretary General

(will continue......)


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