REMEMBERING THE GREAT ONE DAY
STRIKE OF 19TH SEPTEMBER, 1968
I consider it as my solemn duty to be associated with the webinar organised to commemorate the supreme sacrifice of the martyrs of the great one day strike of Central Government employees that took place on 19th September, 1968. The Government had considered the strike as a rebellion or a revolt against a democratically elected system. Whatever they could do to terrorise, oppress and subjugate by brutal power, they did – but it could not dent the determination of the employees. 17comrades lost their life in that struggle indicating how the Government of the day had been dastardly in their approach towards the strike of the employees, which happened, having failed to receive a reasonable response from the Government over their just, genuine and indisputable demand for the grant of Minimum wage, which proposition had been accepted by the Government earlier in the tripartite meeting. The name of Pathankot, Bikaner, I.P. Estate in Delhi will always be a painful memory in the annals of that great strike action. Thousands of comrades lost their job. Many were terminated and innumerable comrades were proceeded against. Several comrades were dragged into criminal cases, which lingered on for years together.
It is through such sacrifices, a great edifice was built. Confederation became the voice of lakhs of Central Government employees. It became the single platform to articulate the demands, negotiate and settle issues. It united all employees and workers of all departments of the Government of India. Confederation became the forum to initiate struggles and carry it to its logical end.
The 1968 one day strike had a great prologue and a much greater epilogue. The 1960 indefinite strike of the Central Government employees and the 1974 strike in which the Railways workers were the predominant participants, are recorded as the bitter struggles of civilian employees of India. No strike had created such a tremendous impact over the society. It compelled the Governments and the employers in general to effect a change in their attitude. The Government set up a permanent negotiating forum called JCM.
The 1968 strike will also be remembered for another historical feat. Kerala was the only State in the country then ruled by a communist Government. It openly defied the directive of the Government of India and refused to take recourse to repressive measures to suppress the movement. The then Chief Minister of Kerala, com. EMS. declared that his government would not take any police action against the striking workers, as he firmly believed that strike is an inalienable right of every worker. Com. EMS was threatened of dismissal of his Government but the rulers at the centre did not dare to do.
The 1960,1968 and 1974 strike actions were not mere pages in the struggle history of our movement but glittering stepping stones cemented by blood and sacrifice of our predecessors. We must on this day, though painfully realise that the basic issue that motivated and enthused the rank and file was the demand for a decent wage system based on the minimum wage formula, which the country had promised to the working class. That demand continues to be our demand unrealised till today basically due to the inability of waging a united struggle of all Central Government employees. Today is the day for us to remind ourselves of that unaccomplished task and take inspiration from the fact that the 1968 strike paved way later for the cost indexation of our wages in the form of Dearness allowance for employees and dearness relief for pensioners.
The post 1968 period witnessed political upheavals of an exponential nature. The declaration of emergency and consequent suspension of all fundamental rights; the losing of power for INC at the centre, the experience of coalition governance, the collapse of the economy, the emergence of communal forces through the spread of hatred; the disappearance of scientific temper from the society; the attack on secularism; the attack on constitutional institutions, capture of State power by creating communal frenzy and above all the intensification of neo liberal economic policies, the corporate ascendancy over governance, the growth of crony capitalism etc. are a few that compels mention.
Whenever the political power is concentrated on a single party having brute majority in the Parliament, the common man had suffered. The rights are curtailed. Legislations which are clearly anti-people in character would be made without deliberations. Most of the labour welfare legislations presently in the statute book of the country have been withdrawn or replaced. Ever since the new liberal economic policies were ushered in, there had been concerted efforts on the part of the Central Trade Unions to unite and fight. Today barring the BMS, the trade union wing of the ruling party, all Central Trade unions have come together to fight the continuing onslaught. Confederation of CGEs and workers had been and continue to be the partners along with the Central Trade Unions and other independent Federations in this venture. Innumerable strike actions were organised by the Indian working class since 1991. Confederation was part and parcel in all these struggles. But still, the unity of Central Govt. employees is a mirage. There had been no negotiation worth the name even on a vital issue like wage revision after the 7th CPC recommendations. The Government has refused to make any correction to the blatant mistakes in the computation of minimum wage by the 7th CPC. There had been no consultation when the dearness allowance was freezed and denied in April, 2020 taking advantage of the Covid 19 situation. Never before such arbitrary decision has been taken by the Government in the matter of dearness allowance compensation. The Joint consultative machinery, which was set up with the avowed objective of avoiding the civil servants going on strike has been almost dismantled. Its meetings are not held and no consultation is made on any issue. The efficacy of our organisation in the face of these onslaughts has undoubtedly dwindled. The unity of the Central Government employees, which gave militancy to the movement in 1968 has disappeared. This is not to say that the Confederation had been complacent or is complacent today. It is only to emphasise that our activities are not sufficient enough.
In 1960s and 1970s, we have been raising the slogans against the monopoly capital. The Indian industrial scene in those days were dominated by two houses, viz. Tatas and Birlas. Today when the entire country is gobbled up by Adani and Ambani, we must painfully realise that it did not figure even in our slogans. 19thSeptember, when we salute our martyrs, when we commemorate that great struggle, when we feel gratified of our achievement of cost indexed wage structure, when we remember with gratitude the sacrifices of our predecessors, it must also be an occasion to ponder over the present state of affairs, make introspection and do things tangible enough to encourage the younger comrades to tread the path of struggles and ensure a better tom KKK
CONFEDERATION OF CGE & WORKERS