Monday, May 25, 2020

Com Har Charan Singh 

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 on 6th June. 


Actually when the drama of negotiation was being played by the Minister of Railway, at the same time the Govt. was preparing itself to defeat the strike Com. Nrisinga Chakraborthy. writes, “The Railway Ministry from the very beginning had realised that another strike in the railway is inevitable. Hence their strategy was chalk-out in order to defeat the struggle procrastinated, and negotiation continued at a snail’s pace. It may be noted that Sh. S.A Dange from AITUC took part in negotiations though formally two other members were there. At his suggestion the main demand of Parity in wage with the Public sector undertaking was left to be negotiated last and negotiation on other small point was started. Govt. offered to settle some of the demands on the basis of Miabhoy Tribunal. For example the demand of 8 hour duty to all railwaymen was countered by the Railway Minister stating that the Miabhoy Tribunal had gone through in depth into the provisions of HOER and has made some recommendations, which are beneficial to a large section of railwaymen. The Railway minister contended that they could not go beyond the award of this tribunal likewise the demand of cheap grain shops was countered by the argument that It would be discriminatory. The authorities contended that fairer price ships would be opened in the railway area”. 

“The preparations of the railway authorities were much more elaborate. They first made an assessment as to how many people would not join the strike. They made a special note about the people who were undergoing punishments of reversion and removal from service or were facing discipline proceedings for major punishment. The second point which they concentrated was to keep the steel plants or ratter all plant full of their required raw material. They also built up a surplus stock of food grains in the deficit states. After the strike notice was served on 23.04.1974, they cancelled 700 passenger trains and gave preference to the fright movement. They had also a plan to arrest the leadership on a, “NOT TOO EARLY NOT TOO LATE BASIS. Payment of all arrear dues, PF loans etc. was stopped, so that the workers did not have resources to prolong the struggle”. 

He further added, “The negotiation on 30th April 1974 was more or less bound to failure. It was felt that perhaps entire negotiation team would be arrested as soon as they came out from the negotiation. In such a circumstance steps were taken to ensure that the negotiations are not broken on that day. The Railway Minister offered to sit late in the night or on the next day, but the next day being the first May, the date of negotiations could be fixed on 2nd May 1974. But from the night of first May the arrests were started throughout the country in thousands covering both railway trade union and other leaders. Very few of the negotiating team were left out. Most of them were rounded up in the first night while some went underground. On 2nd 1974 Com. V.R. Malgi died of heart failure after his arrest and the strike in Central Railway at Bombay (Mumbai) started after this from 2nd May 1974 itself”. 


There are two lessons from the repression from the Govt. and the management. 

(i) It had surpassed all previous records. So it is necessary to record the nature and to what extent of the repression they could thirst upon not merely to show the heroism and courage with which the railway workers and their families had to face, and even then continued the struggle about 28 days, i.e. up to 28th May 1974. 

(ii) But even also to warn the railwaymen beware of what to expect in their future strike (if they launch) so that they could prepare the railwaymen properly to face such repression. 

(iii) The workers were denied their due arrears of wages, loans from PF etc. so that they did not have enough money with them when the strike started and resume duty for fear of hunger. 

(iv) The Labour Ministry issued a circular to the Rail authority by exempting them for pay the wages to railway workers within the period of limitation as provided under Payment of Wages Act. 

(v) Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) was circulated once again, in spite of the fact, that Railway Minister had assured the parliament that the Govt. will not arrest anybody or apply Maintenance of Internal Security Act( MISA) against the striking workers and arrested more than 5000 workers many of whom were subjected to summary trails and punished with one year Rigorous Imprisonment. Furthermore it was propagated through media and through official circulars that all those who join the strike would be so punished in order to strike terror. 

(vi) Ration cards of the striking workers were cancelled by the respective Block Development Officers (BDOS) in some places. 

(vii) Medicines and admission were banned in the Railway as well as in Govt. Hospitals. 

(viii) Many Trade unions and political leaders other than railwaymen were also arrested so that they could not help in the strike. 

(ix) Three thousand workers were summarily dismissed/ removed from service under Rule 14(ii)/149 without any opportunity of self defence. 

(x) Prohibitive orders including curfew were imposed on all railway colonies and their surrounding area so that striking workers were not able to keep any contact with those who had not joined the strike or hold meeting, procession etc. 

(xi) Services of temporary and casual workers who joined the strike nearing about five thousand were state way terminated without any notice. 

(xii) During the period of strike railway colonies were turned into battle field, the colonies were surrounded and all mail members arrested and told that they have either to go to jail or go to work. Those who refused to go to work were also subjected to physical torture like pushing pins in the finger nails, putting the workers on the railway plate from in the hot sun etc. 

(xiii) When the ladies of railway colonies protested against this sort of torture they were also subjected to severe lathi charge which caused abortions, break of bones etc. Workers were forcibly thrown out of their quarters and when it could not be done due to mass resistance, water supply was cut out or roofs broken so that they could not stay in quarters. 

(xiv) When the workers under warrant not found in their quarters their belonging were looted in the name of seizure. In workers absence their sons were arrested. A magazine released by the Guruswami Alamelu Labour Research Centre writes under the heading. “Rail men know(Y) our Heroic and Historical Strikes writes, “More than 50000 workers have been arrested under MISA DIR and detained without trial. To terrorise the railwaymen, false fabricated, and foist cases have been registered against the arrested and without allowing them with their advocates to defend and they were sentenced to imprisonment. Over 10000 workers served with removal/dismissed orders, nearly 30000 workers thrown out of their Quarters with bag and baggage. The railwaymen were being indiscriminately beaten up, their women folk dishonoured molested or manhandled. Even their children were not being spared, marching the workers to their work spots at bayonet point non-payment of their earned wages in order to literally starve the workers into submission slander, lie propaganda against the NCCRS leaders and strikers carried though Radio, Television, Army special Reserve police centre and state reserve police. In nut shell the Government had gone to very low level to put down the challenge posted by Railway Government Again it Writes, “Anti-Repression day” was organised on May 21 throughout India by Central Trade Union organisation by holding massive rallies in metropolitans cites and important centres to mobilise public opinion to prevent the Govt. repression and compel it to have negotiation settlement”. 

(Will Continue.....) 


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