Thursday, August 13, 2020

About Loco men Struggle of 1973: 

BT Ranadive, President CITU 



Excerpts from Forward of History of Railway Trade Union Movement a Study by Nrisingha Chakrabarthy. 

“…. 

Both the authorities and the federation leaders failed to understand that though the form of protest appeared to be a return to craft organization, it was in reality a class protest against the non-militant compromising leadership. Therefore, the protest continued to grow. New organizations continued to be formed. 

They also united in one common organization though some of them do not have clear idea of the future steps of the movement. 

But the formation of these unions outside the federation and the subsequent activities had broken a stalement in the movement, which had lasted for more than fifty years. Thanks to the growing chasm between the discontent of the ranks and the wool-eyed policy of the federation leadership, the mass could not find a proper vehicle for their militancy, their action. There was no agency hitherto which could give a jolt from outside to the self-complacent leadership and galvanize the whole movement. 

This fact is now being created and opening new prospects in uniting all sections of railway workers. This is already seen from what has happened in 1973 and 1974. The Loco Running Staff Association a militant organization with an enlightened and courageous leadership which is aware of the danger of craft spirit, waged a heroic struggle for reduction of hours of work. They had to work for 14 hours. They demanded 8 hours work. Their strike was an all-India strike which virtually paralyzed the railways. The Govt. which refused to recognize their association had to negotiate with them and accept to reduce hours of work to eight. Needless to say the ‘satyameva’ Govt. went back on its agreement and the workers had to wage another heroic struggle. 

The historic importance of the Loco struggle of 1973 was that it was an all India struggle, and not a local struggle as in the earlier years, organized outside the pale of the recognized federation. A militant independent leadership is developing and it is swaying wide and vital sections over the head of the federation leadership. The new militant section of the workers is no respecter of the hoary past. If the other sections who are combined with it in a common organization follow the same line and winning the confidence of the mass, it will open a new chapter in the history of the railway workers movement. 

The loco workers’ strike of 1973 paved the way for the glorious all-India strike of railway workers in 1974. The strike showed the great strength of the railway workers, if only all sections combine together. It showed what the workers could do only if the AIRF leaders fell in line with the mood the demands of the workers and did not pull in a contrary direction. It is of course true that the personal role of Shri George Fernandez, the then President of the AIRF was crucial in securing the support of the leadership for that grand action. The workers stood heroically against Congress repression. The author narrates several instances of such repression. “ 

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