50th year of 1968 september 19th strike
Secretary General, Confederation of Central Govt. Employees & Workers
2018 September 19th (Next year) is the 50th Anniversary of 1968 September 19th one day strike. All leaders and workers who led and participated in that historic strike have either retired from service or are no more.
The indefinite strike of Central Govt. Employees in1960 was the first major strike of Central Govt. Employees after independence. The five days strike from 1960 July 11 midnight was brutally suppressed by the Central Government declaring it as “Civil Rebellion”. The main demand of the strike was improvement and modifications in the 2nd CPC recommendations. The Need Based Minimum Wage, though adopted by the 15th Indian Labour Conference in 1957, was rejected by the 2nd CPC.
The Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM) was constituted in 1966 by then Home Minister Gulsarilal Nanda, as per the decision of the Government. The apprehension of the progressive leadership that this negotiating machinery may not settle any major demands of the Central Govt. employees and may become just a talking shop or a time killing business, ultimately resulting in abnormally delaying the genuine demands, came true within a year of its formation. In the very first meeting of the National Council JCM, the following three demands were notified by the staff side.
1. Grant of Need Based Minimum Wage as approved by the 1957 Tripartite Labour Conference.
2. Merger of DA with Pay
3. Revision of DA formula
After prolonged discussion for about one and a half year, disagreement was recorded. As per JCM Scheme once disagreement is recorded, the item should be referred to compulsory arbitration. But Govt. rejected the demand for arbitration. Protesting against this arbitrary stand of the Govt. the staff side leadership walked out of the JCM and decided to go for one day’s strike. A Joint Action Committee was formed and the date of the strike was decided as 19th September 1968. Eventhough, the INTUC affiliated organisations were initially a part of the strike decision, later on they decided not to join the strike due to the intervention of the then Congress Government headed by Smt. Indira Gandhi.
The following were the main demands of the strike charter of demands.
1. Need Based Minimum Wage.
2. Full neutralisation of rise in prices.
3. Merger of DA with Basic Pay
4. Withdrawl of proposal to retire employees with 50 years of age or on completion of 25 years of service.
5. Vacate victimisation and reinstate victimised workers.
6. No retrenchment without equivalent alternative jobs.
7. Abolition of Contract and Casual Labour System.
Strike notice was served and the Joint Action Council (JAC) decided to commence the strike at 0600 AM on 19th Septembe r 1968. Intensive campaign was conducted throughout the country. AIRF, AIDEF and Confederation was the major organisations in the JAC. Govt. invoked Essential Services Maintenance Ordinance (ESMO) to deal with the strike. Govt. also issued detailed instructions to impose heavy penalty including suspension, dismissal, termination, Break-in-service etc. on the striking employees. Para-military force (CRPF) and Police were deployed to deal with the strike. Central Govt. gave orders to all state Governments to suppress the strike at any cost. It was a war-like situation. Arrest of Leaders started on 18th September itself. About 3000 employees and leaders were arrested from Delhi alone. All over India about 12000 Central Government employees and leaders were arrested and jailed.
Inspite of all these brutal repressive measures the strike commenced on 18th after noon itself at many places and was a thundering success all over India and in all departments including Railway, Defence, P&T etc. About 64000 employees were served with termination notices, thousands removed from service and about 40000 employees suspended. Seventeen (17) striking employees had been brutally killed at Pathankot, Bikaner, Delhi Indraprastha Bhavan and at Upper Assam in lathi charge, firing by police and military and by running the train over the bodies of employees who picketed the trains.
Though the strike was only for one day on 19th September 1968, the victimisation and repression continued for days together. Struggle against victimisation also continued including work-to-rule agitation, hunger fast of leaders from 10th October 1968. There was unprecedented support to the strike and relief work and also to agitation for reinstatement of the victimised workers, from National Trade Unions, state employees and teachers Unions/Federations etc. A mass rally was organised before the residence of Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi on 17th October, 1968.
Kerala was ruled by the Communist Govt. during the strike. Chief Minister Com. E. M. S. Namboodiripad declared Kerala Govt’s full support to the strike of Central Government employees. The Central Govt. threatened dismissal of the Kerala Govt. for defying the Centre’s directive to suppress the strike.
1968 September 19th strike is written in red letters in the history of Indian Working Class. The demand raised by the Central Govt. employees - Need Based Minimum Wage - was the demand of entire working people of India. Even today, the Central Govt. employees and other section of the working class are on struggle path for realisation of the Need Based Minimum Wage. The demand of the Central Govt. employees to modify the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission to ensure Need Based Minimum Wage is not yet conceded by the BJP-led NDA Government. Even the assurance given by three Cabinet Ministers including Home Minister, Finance Minister and Railway Minister regarding increase in Minimum Pay and Fitment formula is not honoured by the Govt. even after a lapse of one year and entire Central Government employees feel cheated.
It is in this background, we are entering into the 50th year of 1968 September 19th strike. Let us pledge that we shall continue our struggle for realisation of the demands raised by the matryrs of the 1968 strike. Let us pay respectful homage to those valiant fighters who sacrified their life for the working class of India. Let us salute and honour all those who participated in the historic strike, especially those who had been victimised severaly for joining the strike. Let us organise various programmes throughout the country at all levels, to commemorate the inspiring memory of 1968 September 19th strike.
National Call from Trade Unions :
Intensify the Surging Struggles
Working people in India have sounded the bugle again for countrywide struggles including strike actions against the anti-people policies of the Modi Government. After this Govt took over in 2014, there have been two country wide strikes in 2015 and 2016. In additon to these, there have been strikes and struggles in various parts of the country involving almost all sectors. These strikes included many countrywide sectoral strikes.
Modi Government and the Prime Minister himself started his rhetorical campaign with “Shrameva Jayate”, trying to camouflage the Govt’s pro-corporate policies. This sloganeering has got exposed without much delay, with the Government unleashing a war against working people by amending Labour Laws and also other steps in the name of ease of doing business. The last 40 months have seen severe attacks on almost all the hardwon rights of the working people.
It is in such a background, the Central Trade Unions and independent national federations, once again decided to call a national convention on 8th August. Of course, there was one exception in the list of Central TUs. That was of BMS, which has been staying away from the joint actions after BJP came to power.
The huge mobilisation of delegates from all the states, literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, covering all the sectors reflected the anger amongst the working people against the policies of the Government.
Actually many of them had converged in the huge talkatora stadium, in the midst of struggles they have been conducting.
The public sector workers fighting against privatisation, Central Government employees continuing their struggles on their demands of implementing Government’s assurances related to pay commission, State Government employees on sturggle for wage revison and also against National Pension Scheme, Defence Production workers struggling against privatisation, Bank Officers and employees preparing for another strike against destructive reforms, Telecom employees on struggles against privatisation and also against denial of wage revision, Insurance employees fighting against disinvestment, Medical and Sales representatives struggling for people oriented drug policy, Scheme workers on continuous struggle for getting the status of workers and related benefits, private sector workers in struggle in various parts of the country struggling against denial of Trade Union rights, Various sections of informal workers raising demands of minimum wages and social security and above all contract, casual and outsourced workers from various sectors including Central and State Government departments - All were there to raise their voice of protest.
It is this urge that prompted such a big number of delegates reaching Delhi, many of them not finding a place even to stand inside the stadium.
The speeches of the leaders of the Central Trade Unions reflected fully the aspirations and expectations among the participants.
The declaration adopted in the convention dealt with the situation among all sections of working people in the country.
Noting the unprecendented unity among the peasantry in the country and the militant struggles going on in various states, the convention extended ‘full solidarity to the fighting farmers’. The declaration noted that it is the same set of pro-corporate, pro landlord policies which have created a severe crisis in Agriculture, leading to continuing increase in spate of suicides.
The convention called upon all sections of working people to unitedly struggle against the anti-people policies of the Government. The declaration noted that ‘the task before the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions and independent National Federations is to further intensify the surging struggles in various sectors through concerted united agitation and mobilisation at national level, to be followed by country wide general strike action a culmination and consolidation of all sectoral struggles.’
Charter of demands
The convention reiterated the 12 point charter of demands, whcih formed the basis of the previous countrywide strikes, especially after 2014. The convention noted that ‘the Government has been continuing arrogantly ignore the 12 point charter of demands on minimum wage, Social security, worker status, pay and facilities for the scheme workers, against privatisation and large scale contractorisation etc being jointly pursued by the entire trade union movement of the country’.
The background of the demands
It is of great importance to the trade union movement of the country to remind itself, the background of certain demands put forward by the joint platform.
One of the most important is the demand for Rs.18,000 per month with indexation. This demand itself is an interim one on the basic demand of fixing minimum wages as per the unanimous decisions of the 15th Indian Labour Conference and the Supreme Court directives.
Indian Labour Conference (ILC) the highest Tripartite forum related to labour had in its 15th session in 1957, adopted a scientific basis for fixing minimum wages. Later on, the supreme court in its judgement in a case related to Raptakoss and Brett added 25 percent in addition to the ILC recommendations. ILC decision on minimum wages is a scientific method, based on energy requirement to a worker and family.
The Trade Union movement in the country has been raising this issue of minimum wages all these years.
It is to the credit of the Central Government Employees movement in the country, that they took up this issue and conducted strikes and struggles from 1959 onwards.
Most important of the struggle was the one day strike on 19th September 1968. Major demand of the strke was the acceptance of the 15th ILC decision on minimum wages. Even after 49 years of this historic strike, the demand is still not met. But, how the ruling class of India tried to drown a day’s strike by its own employees in cold blood, exposed once again their anti worker approach and their class biased policies.
Seventeen employees were killed on the strike day in police firing and lathi charges. Some were even thrown down from high rise office buildings. Hundreds were injured in lathi charges, tear gas etc.
Government had involved Essential Services Maintance Act (ESMA) days before the strike. After the strike 64,000 temporary workers were sacked. 40,000 regular workes were suspended. Many of these were punished in various ways, including termination.
Some of those who were terminated had to wait till 1978, when congress was defeated in 1977 elections, to get reinstatement.
Trade Union Movement in India, can never forget such large scale killings and victimisations just for a day’s strike. That too, when the one day strike was for a demand which the government had agreed to, in the highest tripartite body. The fact that the Government had not yet accepted this principle exposes governments at the centre, though led by various parties and fronts.
Central govt employees are even now on struggle on this demand of minimum wages and in March, 2017 had conducted a day’s countrywide strike.
Exploitation through contract, casual and out sourcing systems are continuing. Lakhs of workers in sections like Gramin Dak Sewa, Scheme workers like Anganwadi, Asha, Midday meal workers continue to suffer under govt. of india, without even getting the status of workers.
This experience shows that the struggle should be more inclusive of all those who are affected by the policies of the Government and the struggle has to be developed in to a struggle against the policies of the ruling classes.
It is with this in mind, the convention has called for campaigns and conventions from the local, regional and state level and for massive mobilisation at Central level.
Three days mass Dharna on 9th, 10th and 11th of November in New Delhi will witness massive mobilisation from all over the country.
The convention has also called upon the working people to prepare for indefinite, countrywide strike action against anti-people, anti national activities of the Government.
Against disruptive forces
Need of the hour is total unity of the working people. The convention has noted the danger of disruptive forces active in the country. The convention ‘recorded its strong denunciation against communal and divisive machinations on the society being carried on with the active patronage of the government machinery under the present polity and called upon the working class ‘to raise their strong voice of protest.’
While these campaigns will be jointly undertaken, various organisations will also concurrently conduct independent campaigns to prepare their own ranks and also others for the joint struggle.
All out efforts are required to reach out to all sections of working people. With the government and all their supporters including the corporate and government led media on their side, the efforts of the unions and its floor level cadres have to be strengthened in whatever ways possible to meet all the challenges.
The days ahead are those of massive, militant struggles, and every one has to be prepared to take up the tasks.