CHAPTER V: Organising the Labour

As far as I can remember, the party leadership asked me to work with the labour forces in 1944. Initially, I used to communicate with the Port and Dock labourers since we did not have much of a organisation in this two sectors. We had not been able to penetrate them. After this, I was asked to work with the labour force of the Railways.

In 1944, the party was trying to organize a Trade Union in the B. N. Railways. I was part of the effort. I met leaders like Mohammed Ismail and Nikhil Maitra. Maitra was expelled from the party later. Those who helped in this work – and I can only remember only the names of some of them – were Nityananda Chowdhury, Amulya Ukil, Purnendu Dott Roy, Satyen Ganguly and Satya Gupta. Saroj Mukherjee played a vital role during this time, it was he who introduced me to people like Ukil and others. The Trade Union activity was growing. There were calls from Dhaka. Along with Bankim Mukherjee and Saroj Mukherjee, I had to go places like Parvtipur are sodhpur. Kamania Dasgupta, who later become the Chairman of the Ranigunj Municipality, was a known figure in the labour Movement of Sodhpur. Saroj Babu used to devote a lot of his time to the Provincial Committee as member-Secretary.

It was an extremely difficult task to develop a Union in the Railways. Since there was already an existing one – the B. N. Railway Employees Association. Humayun Kabir was to later become President of the organization.

We had to fan out in areas like Sealdah, Howrah, Kanchapara and the border areas with Assam. Finally, the B. N. Railways Workers Union was established in 1944. I became its General Secretary with Bankim Mukherjee as/its President.

The War had not yet ended. It was too difficult to travel on trains. I had to make do with only a bag during commuting; I never felt any stress or physical discomfort though.

We pursued our aim with unrelenting effort and branches were soon to grow in East Bengal, North Bengal and Assam. The opposition Union did not live any stone interned to spread disinformation against us.

There was a small but recognized Union at Domohari in Jalpaiguri. It was called the B. D. Rail Road Workers Union and its General Secretary was Biren Das Gupta who went as to become a member of our party. The Vice-President of this Union was Parimal Mitra. Hailing from Jalpaiguri, he was to later become the Forest & Tourism Minister of the Left Front Government in West Bengal.

Much later, the B. N. Railway workers Union and B. D. Rail Road Workers Union amalgated. The new President was Mohammad Ismail and Vice President was Parimal Mitra. I was elected the General Secretary and Biren Das Gupta was made the Joint General Secretary. Kamal Sirkar and Krishnamurty from Madras were included in the working committee. A publication, Rail Mazdoor, with Parimal Mitra as its editor, was released but the entire administration devolved on Kamal Sirkar Englishman. We demanded that our Union be recognized officially. There was much dilly-dallying over the matter. But the recognition came anyway; we were further encouraged. There were some perks too; being the General Secretary of the recognized Union, I was entitled to a first class pass or Railway travel. Our influence on the labour force grew from strength to strength.

The All India Railwaymen’s Federation was being run by reformists. We demanded that our Union too should be included in the Federation. They tried their best to ignore us but we were successful in the end. Earlier, the party = led SIR Workers Union had been included in the AIRF. I got involved with some other trade Unions also. Mr. Bhandarkar was General Manger of the east Bengal Railway. His son was sympathetic to the Communist Movement. Having returned after studying in Cambridge, he had joined a Mercantile firm in a responsible post.

He died before his time was due. At the time of his death, he had a savings of Rs. 10,000/-. His father handed over the money to us Saying, at the same time, that he was aware of his son’s political beliefs. He felt that it would only be in the fitness of things it his son’s savings came to the aid of the party. It was not only economic issues which rallied the railway workers. There was a constant effort to build a political philosophy. Their were instances when Railway Labours struck work over political matter. The sailors had revolted. A new history was being written at the Bombay Port by the Indian Armymen. The entire country was being rocked. The admiral of the British Navy served an ultimatum that the surrender should be effected within 24 hours. Otherwise the rebel ships would be sunk.

The BPTUC office was situated at 249, Bowbazar Street. We met there. A counter  Offensive was planned. The British imperialists had to be taught a lesson. A 24  hour Railway Strike was called. No bogey would move. There would be no work. A total bandh. We were septic. Would we be successful? Yes, it was. The Railway labour force had set a new example in the struggle against imperialism.

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One response to “CHAPTER V: Organising the Labour

  1. Pingback: CHAPTER V: Organising the Labour « JYOTI BASU MEMOIRS

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