Sunday, May 24, 2020

Com Har Charan Singh. Ex AILRSA Leader from NR

Com.Harcharan Singh was born on 06.06.1933 in West Punjab (now in Pakistan) as the eldest among the 5 children in a big and poor family. After independence, his family migrated to India.He completed his matriculation in 1950 and owing to his father's death and financial condition of his family, he couldn't study further.

He joined Railways on 30.03.1952 as Shed Cleaner at Amrirsar. After clearing the necessary exam, he was selected as Fireman 'A' in 1965 in FZP division. He became a Goods Driver in 1970.

In 1960, for participating in the strike, he was jailed for 15 days alongwith 400 people.

In 1968, he was the Divisional Secretary of the Loco Running Staff Welfare Committee and participated in an one-day token strike in Ludhiana. And later in the same year, he participated in a big strike and was suspended for 1 and a half years from 19.09.1968.

He also participated in the AILRSA strike of 1973.

In 1974 General strike, he was suspended for more than 1 year.

He also participated in the 1980 strike of Northern Railway. 

For participating in 1981 AILRSA strike, alongwith 16 other comrades in FZP division, he was dismissed from service. Even after his dismissal, he had collected Rs.500 per month from all the active members and distributed to all the dismissed employees till their reinstatement.

In 1991, he attained superannuation in his dismissed period.

On 05.08.1993, based on the verdict of the Supreme Court case against the victimisation, Railway Board released his reinstatement orders and compensated fully.

In the BGM held at SBC, he was entrusted the laborious job writing the history of AILRSA by the central committee and he submitted an initial draft. 

During the preparation of the draft, he had travelled to Pakistan for researching some details and had narrowly escaped from arrest at Lahore. He was ably assisted by the Lahore Train Drivers group and so returned to India safely.

He has 1 son and 2 daughters and now lives in Punjab.

He will be celebrating his 87th birthday in about 12 days i.e., on 6th June.


Of the innumerable struggle in the post independent period notable of which all Indian Railway strike for five days in 1960, one day token strike of 1968 were not fully successful, which had an ill effort on the railway workers and demoralised them. But the successful strikes of AILRSA in 1973, brought the workers out of frustration, and enthused the workers and faith in struggle but overall the Railway TUs were divided into two different camps one pro-united and the other anti-struggle. This division was also visible in the categorical Associations as well. In the AIRF convection (conference) the following decisions were taken. 

1. The AIRF having abandoned all hopes of a settlement on the basis of government’s promises and polices decided to serve strike notice to go on an indefinite strike from 27th Feb 1974 from 6 a.m. 

2. To hold a convention of all Trade union organisation in railway and central Trade union organisations by Nov 73 to bring about co-ordination of action for the success of the strike. 

3. Its affiliated unions are directed to collect a struggle fund of Rs 2 Lakhs each by Dec 31-1973 so as to ensure the success of an indefinite strike action. 

Accordingly, Fernandes had a meeting on 26th, and 27th Dec 1973 in New Delhi which was attended by 50 representatives of various organisations. This meeting decided to have another meeting in New Delhi on 24th and 25th Jan. 1974 inviting other organisations, who had not attending this meeting. In the Jan 74 meeting representatives suggested that the date fixed for railway indefinite strike commencing from 27th Feb 1974 has to be postponed and instead of that a National convention of Railwaymen to be convened in Delhi on 27th Feb 1974 by the AIRF. 

The National Convention which took place in New Delhi on 27th Feb 1974 was participated by all Railway unions recognised and unrecognised; Industrial and category unions and all central Trade unions viz, HMS, AITUC, CITU, BMS, HMP, and UTUC were also participated. Though NFIR representative were also invited they did not attend and 109 unions in total took part in the convention. The convention after a daylong deliberation formed the National Co-ordination Committee. For Railwaymen’s Struggle (NCCRS) writer was a witness and adopted the following six point charter of demands:- 

1. (a) All Railwaymen be treated as industrial workers with full trade union rights including right to negotiate. 

(b) The working hours of railwaymen should not exceed eight hours per day. 

(c) There should be job evaluation of all railwaymen through a scientific system to be followed by their reclassification and regradation with the need based minimum wage as the wage for the lower paid worker. 

(d) Pending the completion of job evaluation and reclassification, immediately parity in wages with those of workers in the Central Government undertaking viz, HMT BHEL, HSL, HAT etc. 

2. Dearness Allowance linked to the cost of living index with full neutralisation for every rise of four points in a six monthly period. 

3. Bonus at the rate of one month’s wage for the year 1971-72 and 1972-73. 

4. Decasualisation of all casual railwaymen and their confirmation is service with all benefits given to them with retrospective effect. 

5. Adequate and subsidised food grains and other essential commodities through departmentally run shop. 

6. All victimisation cases should be withdrawn. 

Further the convention called upon the Railway Ministry to open negotiations on these demands and arrive at a settlement there on by April 10, 1974. The conventions also served an ultimatum on the Railway Ministry that if a settlement on these demands was not forth with coming by that date, the railwaymen would consider themselves free to resort to an indefinite general strike with effect from any date thereafter. 

With another resolution convention formed a committee with 109 members with the name NATIONAL COORDINATION COMMITTEE FOR RAILWAYMEN STRUGGLE (NCCRS) drawing one members from each union and also formed the 13 members Action Committee consisting of the following: 

1. George Fernandes:- Convenor 

2. Priya Gupta :- All India Railway men’s Federation (AIRF) 

3. J.P. Chaubey :- All India Railway men’s Federation (AIRF) 

4. K.P. Rama Swamy :- All India Railway Employees confederation (AIREC) 

5. Narinder Singh Bhangoo :- All India Railway Employees Confederation (AIREC) 

6. Hari Singh Chaudhury:- All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) 

7. S.K. Dhar :- All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) 

8. Parvathi Krishanan: - All India Trade Union congress. (AITUC) 

9. Siri Krishna :- All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) 

10.G.S.Gokhale :- Bhartia Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) 

11.N.M. Pathak :- Bhartia Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) 

12.Samar Mukherji :- Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) 

13.N.S. Chakarvarti :- Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) 

The Convention urged all participant organisations to form NCCRS at every possible level immediately on the central pattern, and to OBSERVE DEMANDS WEEK from 2nd to 8th April 1974. 

Sh. K.V. Raghu Nath Reddy the union Labour Minister on the basis of Newspaper reports about the likelihood of Railway strike initiated talks with various Trade union organisations of railwaymen’s unions including NFIR on 11th April 1974. But the Railway Minister Sh. Lalit Narain Mishra raised some technical objections of negotiation with the National Co-ordination Committee for Railwaymen struggle (NCCRS). The position taken by the railway minister and the Railway Board (RB) was that the AIRF would be the official representative of the railway workers, but they can bring with them anybody they like to. On this background the action Committee finally decided to form a Negotiating Committee consisting of all the members of NCCRS and included Sh. D.D. Vasisht in place of Priya Gupta. Then the negotiation started with the team of (RB) officers specially the G.P. Warrier Member Staff Railway Board, on one side and NCCRS and NFIR on the other side. After discussion Member Staff Sh. Warrier declared that no demand could be conceded and that he did not have the authority to negotiate. NCCRS served notice on 23rd April 1974 to start the strike on May 8th 1974 at 6 a.m. if there was no honourable settlement for the six point Charter of Demands. 

Immediately the railway minister met the Negotiating Committee on 18th April 1974 and then deputed Shri Mahammed Shafi Quereshi the then Deputy Minister for Railway to continue negotiation from 20th April 1974. Deputy Minister for Railway wanted the NFIR also to be present in the meeting. The negotiating Committee did not object it, but even there was no progress in the negotiation. Meanwhile Quereshi has to rush to Kashmir upon the death of his father. Therefore the negotiation had to be postponed to 27th April. Due to this the negotiation delayed for full one week. Again the negotiation started on 30th of April, but no appreciable improvement was in sight. On the same day Sh. L.N. Mishra Minister for railway himself came to meet the NCCRS leaders. On that day it was decided that the minuets of the meeting will be given on 2nd of May 1974, as on 1st of May there was Labour Day. Unfortunately on the night between 1st and second May Com. Geroge Fernandes was arrested at Lucknow airport while coming back from Lucknow, and another member of negotiating Committee Sh. H.S. Chandhry was also arrested, Com. P.K. Barua Secretary General of AILRSA along with many militant cadre who spear headed and organising the strike were arrested though out India, and put in prisons, and many other repressive measures were started to undertake. Throughout Punjab where the worker were coming back after holding rallies on the eve of first May Day, they were beaten up and the leaders were arrested. The railway colonies were cordon off. At many places, where the wanted leader was not arrested his family members were beaten up a taken to Police Stations. At many place throughout India the workers went on strike on second of May 1974, in protest against this high handedness of the Govt. 

The NCCRS in a hurried meeting with available members strongly condemned the undemocratic and provocative action taken by the Govt. and the railway authorities, and addressed a letter to Shri L.N. Mishra MR on 2nd of May 1974 informing him that as a protest the remaining members cannot continue the negotiation further. It also called upon all railway workers to organise protest action all over the country.

will continue....


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