Friday, May 22, 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 

“The Great Railway Strike And After 

Exerts from his book. 

Support to Railwaymen 

The NCCRS realized that railwaymen alone, will not be able to withstand the onslaught of this unprecedented victimization. Hence it invited all the Central Trade Unions in a meeting on 21st July 1974 and it was decided to observe 14th August as a “SOLIDARITY DAY”. 

The National Convention of Working people against Wage-freeze held at New Delhi on the 28th August 1974 adopted a resolution condemning the repressive policy of the Govt. and demanding end of victimization and finalization of demands. This was re-iterated in hundreds of Conventions held all over the country. Each Central Trade Union Organization also had taken measures from their own and to support railwaymen. 

CITU Organises Legal Aid 

The CITU realized the need to organize legal aid and relief to the workers and directed all its units to help the victimized railwaymen. At Calcutta, it also organized a Legal Aid Committee with the help of Democratic Lawyers’ Association which could enlist the support of leading counsels like Shri R.C. Deb, Sri Somenath Chatterjee M.P. etc. Inspired by this many organizations came forward. Notable amongst them is the confederation of the Central Govt. Employees led by Com. K.G. Bose, who reeling from the effects of victimization on themselves, came forward and donated for initiating the work of the Legal Aid Committee. Equally generous was the help from the State Govt. Employees’ Co-ordination Committee, the Reserve Bank Employees’ Association and the All India Insurance Employees’ Association, who directly helped he workers with relief. The West Bengal Committee of CITU collected a sum of Rs.45,000 for the purpose. The democratic masses rallied round the railwaymen. Even those under detention in jails, sent their contributions. 

It is only with such contributions and selfless service given by eminent lawyers that the CITU could organize the following cases in Calcutta High Court; compared to the extent of victimization, this was not much. 

Types of cases                ER               SER                 NFR    Total               Workers
Against Removal
               14(ii)                    62                   54                   38       149                 899
               149                        3                    18                      1         22                 605

Detention MISA                  15                   35                   13       63                     63
Against transfer                    9                       9                     1        19                   100
Against reversion               X                       1                      2          3                         3
Against Compulsory
Retirement                           5                       2                      X          7                       7
Against trial under
  D.I.R.                                 X                       9                    X           9                       38

For Contempt of
Court  Order                          X                       2                    X           2                       4
Grand Total                        94                 130                     55     274                   1719

Apart from this legal help was rendered in lower Courts at Rourkela, Adra, Jabalpur and Cuttack. A team went to Guwahati as well to organize legal aid in Assam High Court also. This is CITU’s record of solidarity with the victimized Railwaymen. 

Apart from this is several other states and High Courts, the CITU has organized legal aid and relief to Railway Workers. In Cochin High Court Co. M.M. Cherian led the defence of Casual Labour and won the cases both in the single bench and the Division Bench. The CITU Central office also circulated the judgments to all concerned so that legal defence could be organized properly everywhere. 

Attempts to Split Railway Workers’ Unity 

The Govt. and the Railway Board had hoped that through stringent measure against railwaymen, they will be able to strike terror. They miscalculated the stamina of railwaymen. So when they found that the high-morale of railwaymen could not be broken they took steps to sow dissentions amongst not be broken they took steps to sow dissentions amongst various organizations and even organize splits. Amongst others the militant Loco Running Staff Association was also affected for some time. 

The Railwaymen however saw through this game and patiently worked to defeat its game as well. 

Strains within NCCRS 

The open incitement by the Govt. against the NCCRS, the prolonged victimization, which was intensified later by withdrawal of privileges earned through struggles earlier, worsening of working conditions in the name of discipline and serious economic punishment to the workers while reinstatement, created a crisis in the functioning of the NCCRS. However, the new awakening amongst railwaymen, the new sense of unity developed through the struggle and the realization that preserving and strengthening the hard earned unity is the need f the hour, had kept the NCCRS bodies at local levels alive and functioning. The most enviable record in his respect has been created in the Eastern Railway where the NCCRS which has kept itself functioning, has collected about Rs.12 lakhs in order to help the victimized workers, and has also agreed to shoulder the responsibility of hosting the national convention if held a Calcutta. 

A paradoxical situation has arisen in that while NCCRS bodies at lower levels are functioning in quite a wide area, the NCCRS body at the top has become immobilized. In fact, the decision to hold the National Convention on 26th August 1974 was sabotaged and the meetings f the Action Committee had become scarce. Many constituents of NCCRS, demanded that the National Convention be held and the NCCRTS, bodies at all levels be reactivised and strengthened in terms f the resolution adopted on 25th June 1974. The Railway Employees’ Confederation took initiative to convene a meeting f the General Body of the NCCRS at Secunderabad. A meeting of the Action Committee was held on 17th February 1975 and it was decided to hold the National Convention at Calcutta in April, 1975. But the meeting of the Action Committee scheduled on 15th March 1975 to finalize the arrangements of the National Convention was postponed. Till the time of gong to the press, nothing further is known. Com. Samar Mukherjee on behalf of the CITU ha commented about this unhappy state of affairs and requested Com. Fernandes to clarify the position. He further requested that 8th May should be observed unitedly in a befitting manner. Com. George Fernandes issued a circular calling upon all constituents of the NCCRS t observe the first anniversary of the historic strike unitedly all over the country. 

Govt. Refuses to Honour Court Verdict 

The Govt. intent on its desire to publish the railwaymen opposed the court cases filed in different High Courts, and mobilized their best resources. But different High Courts of Calcutta, Gujarat, Andhra and Kerala pronounced judgement against the illegal removal under Rule 14(ii) as well Rule 149. Instead of honouring these judgements, they preferred appeals to the Division Benches and the Gujarat, Andhra and Kerala High Courts have once again turned down their appeals. The hearing in the Division Bench of Calcutta High Court has been completed and judgement is awaited. 

A writ has also been filed in the Kerala High Court against the illegal benefits granted to the black legs and stay order has been granted against the said orders.

( Will Continue...)


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