Thursday, August 13, 2020

AGITATION OF LOCO RUNNING STAFF 1973 – 

ALL INDIA STRIKE BY LOCOMEN: 



AILRSA 3rd All India BGM held at Burdwan (ER WestBengal) on 20 & 21 Jan 1973. The BGM elected Com PK Barua (NF) as Secretary General and Com MR Sabhapathy(SR) as President. Later AILRSA Central Committee decided to organize all India strike from 1st August 1973 against the pathetic working conditions and unlimited working hours. The association approached different political leaders and MP’s for their support. 

In the early morning on August 1, 1973, Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi and Railway Minister Sri. L. N. Mishra woke up to the news that the train services all over the country has come to a grinding halt owing to the nationwide strike of the loco running staff. The news of the strike spread all over the country and abroad through the media such as AIR, BBC and news papers. As days passed, thermal plants were running short of coal resulting in power shortage, movement of rice, wheat, petroleum products and other essential commodities were badly affected and passengers were stranded in railway stations or had to cancel their planned journeys. The Parliament plunged into pandemonium. Members cutting across party lines supported the loco men’s strike and wanted the government to call AILRSA leaders for discussion on their demand for reduction of duty hours and other demands and an early end to the strike that had crippled the country. Many leaders of AILRSA were arrested under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in different parts of the country. 

The government called AILRSA leaders for discussion. Many of them were flown by air to New Delhi for want of train services due to the strike and to save time in restoring train services. The talks started on August 10. The Railway Minister, the Labour Minister, Railway Board officials and AILRSA leaders participated. An agreement was reached on August 13 and the strike was called off. The main demand of reduction of duty hours was conceded and a Loco Running staff Grievances Committee (LRSGC) was formed under the chairmanship of Sri. Mohammed Shafi Qureshi, Minister of State for Railways, with members of Railway Board and AILRSA leaders to discuss and settle other issues. (Gradually this was extended to zonal and divisional levels.) The matters on which agreement was arrived at was prepared and signed by Labour Minister Sri. Raghunatha Reddy on behalf of Central Government and given to AILRSA leaders. Next day, Railway Minister Sri. LN Mishra made a statement in Parliament on the terms of agreement between the government and AILRSA. Both the agreement and the Minister’s statement in Parliament unequivocally stated that the loco running staff need not be required to work more than 10 hours at a stretch. All the loco men arrested for participating in the strike were released unconditionally. The days of absence from duty and the days under detention in jails were treated as leave. 

But both the recognized Federations opposed any settlement with AILRSA, the Railway Board was also opposed it. They tried to sabotage the agreement 

The government and the railway officials went back from their commitment on 10 hours duty and from other commitments. Railway Board order on 10 hours duty was invalidated by the Board itself in the name of clarification and the CAT/ERS judgment on duty hours was distorted to raise the minimum duty hours to 13. LRSGC and other channels were abandoned. It is as if we have to start everything afresh. 

But the 1973 loco running staff strike is written in golden letters in the history of railway trade union movement as the only strike in Indian Railways that ended with a discussion and agreement with the staff representatives. The message is that if the employees are well organised, and if our demands are genuine, we can make even the government of the strongest Prime Minister to come to terms. And that is the importance of August 13. 

The victory of the Loco Men strike pave way to the Railway Men strike of 1974, biggest strike ever seen by India. 

With the support of Communist and Socialist leaders Sri George Fernandes, a socialist leader competed and won as AIRF president. He take initiation to mobilize entire Railway Trades unions. The convention was attended by over 125 Railway trade unions. 

1974 -HISTORIC STRIKE BY RAILWAY MEN: 

National Co-ordination Committee of Railway Men's struggle (NCCRS) formed. AIRF, AILRSA, AIREC, AITUC, CITU, BRMS and around 125 Railway Trade Unions joined hands with the biggest labour strike ever seen by the country, since the leaders called for conciliation were arrested strike pre-opened from 8th to 2nd May 1974. 14 lakh employees participated and entire Railway traffic paralysed. Around 1 lakh employees were removed from service under 14(ii) /149. 50,000 casual labourers were terminated without any notice, 30,000 employees kept under suspension – various type of harassment. The Railway Bureaucracy was able to mobilize a section of reformist leadership of AIRF and weaken the struggle. Finally the strike ended on May 28th , making a number of "alive martyrs'' contributed by one or other. The leadership was under the illusion that successful strike even for 7 days would force the Government to come to a settlement. They never took into account the fact that the authorities were equally prepared for holding out in any strike for about 3 weeks or even more. Later in June 1975 internal emergency was declared by Smt. Indira Gandhi and the political background was changed. 



Sunish C 
11.08.2020

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