Sunday, May 17, 2020

Com. Nrisingha Chakrabarty, Secretary CITU, who was Railway worker and a leader of railway trade unions for several years gives us the present publication “History of Trade Union Movement.” 

Exerts from his book. 


Situation in AIRF 

By the end of 1974, the AIRF had secured pass facilities for its organizational purposes. But regular PNM was not being held. It was understood that the authorities had told some of the leaders of AIRF that unless George Fernandez was removed from the post of President-AIRF the PNM facility will not be restored with the declaration of internal emergency. Shri George Fernandez went underground and gave a call to railwaymen to oppose the emergency. The other members of AIRF leadership openly disowned the circular which was stated to have been issued personally without such a decision taken in any meeting of AIRF. Ultimately Shri George Fernandez was removed from the post of President from the annual Convention held at Guwahati which he could not attend. This incident confirmed that from the British period itself the Railway Board had adopted a policy of recognition being granted to railway unions so long the persons approved by them held key posts in the unions and could influence the policy and the activities of the union. 

There are several examples of how recognition was utilized to secure servility of a section of the leadership in any recognized union. Comrade R.P. Dutt in his book “India Today” has quoted a letter from the railway authorities in which it was stated that the union shall enjoy recognition so long as Shri Jamnadas Mehta is its President. Such conditions were imposed on many other unions at different times. The AIRF leadership did not oppose these at any stage and removal of George Fernandez from the post of its President was a part of this understanding. 

In the SER the union affiliated to AIRF which was also affiliated to AITUC was virtually hijacked. A conspiracy was hatched and J.M. Biswas with a handful of persons could secure recognition of the authorities and also blessings from the AIRF leadership for having successfully taken away the union from the followers of AITUC. Com. Indrajit Gupta was still President of the Union when it took place in December 1975. It is understood that the subject was taken up even with the Prime Minister but she did not intervene on the ground that there was a court case. 

Loco Running Staff Grievance Committee Wound Up 

While, efforts for a solution of the problem of victimization continued, the authorities took a position f going slow on solving victimization. Re-instatement was but a trickle. But the continued trickling back of railway employees in service coupled with the functioning of the NCCRS at local levels kept up the morale of the workers. The demoralization which had followed the 1960 and 1968 strikes was not there through the victimization was many times more. 

The continued functioning of Loco Running Staff Grievance Committee which was set up under the agreement arrived at in August 1973, and solution of some of the cases of old victimization had kept up the morale of Loco Running Staff in a better state than others. It is worth mentioning that even at the stage of formation of NCCRS, a section of loco men led by its President M.R. Sabapathy was opposed to joining in a common platform with AIRF. This resistance had to be overcome. After the failure of 1974 strike this section had tried to take advantage of the situation. But continued functioning of the grievance committee had helped others to maintain unity inside the organization. This situation continued till internal emergency was imposed in June 1975 in the context of growing struggle against the Congress (I) Government under the leadership of Late Jai Prakash Narayan. 

Taking advantage of the emergency the Loco Running Staff Grievances Committee was wound up and a statement was made in Parliament that all assurances given in 1973 had been fulfilled though in reality it was far from truth. 

Effect of Emergency of Railwaymen 

The untrammeled powers given to the bureaucracy during internal emergency had helped the officials in the Railway Board and zones to function with more arbitrariness. The emergency having taken away the rights f protest, the railway workers felt dejected and the officer increased work-load on tem at will. They had also violated or circumvented the General Rules and ran the train services in violation of safety rules. As a result there was slight improvement in running of passenger train services in as much as the trains mostly ran to time but there was an increase in accidents. 

As there is often a talk about the train services having run to time during the emergency because the railway workers were forced to work, the railway trade union works should know the fact that the economy of the country was developing a crisis and by 1973-74, recessionary trend which had affected the freight and passenger movement was seen. Hence with lesser number of freight trains and increased work load on the staff, there was some improvement in running of passenger services. But simultaneously there was an increase in accidents and interruption of through traffic running, which will be seen from the following table:- 

Year           Pass     Freight          No. of  Dead    Injured                    Interruption of
                                                                                                              through traffic
                        Kms.                           Kms.               Acci-                                     
                         (in Millions)            (in Millions)   dents                                    
1972-73        133,527                    136,531        --              ---          -----        -----            
1973-74        135,664                    122,354        782          71           391           11,257
1974-75        126,254                    134,304        925         103          285           11,101
1975-76        148,761                    148,219        964          37          261            10,275
1976-77        163,836                    156,756        780         79            388             7,588
1977-78        176,635                    162,687        866       172            421             9,047

Arrest of Loco Running Staff Leaders 

In this background he Loco Running Staff were forced to take a decision to step up the movement despite emergency, because taking advantage of the internal emergency the agreement on ten hours minimum duty at a stretch was being violated at all sphere as. Any one protesting against such violation or on demanding relief after 10 hours duty from signing “on” was being victimized afresh. Insistence on safety precautions and observance of rules in preferences to oral orders of the officers, was being treated as an instance of defiance and the workers were being punished. But before taking up any concrete decision for struggle, they thought of making an effort to meet the Deputy Railway Minister, Shri Mohd. Safi Qureshi, the Chairman of the Loco Running Staff Grievance Committee, who having fixed a time for discussion had the leading workers including Joint Secretary General and the Working President of the organization arrested from New Delhi Retiring Room and sent to jails in Rajasthan. 

(Will Continue…..)


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