Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
Various trade unions are commemorating and paying homage to the martyrs of the strike on 19 September 1968. Workers of the railway union in Pathankot where workers were martyred held a meeting in memory of the brave fighters. Workers wrote articles remembering this day and said this was a prelude to 1974 railway strike.
The entire Central Government employees went on a one-day strike on that day and wrote a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian trade union movement. The major participants of this strike were the Railways, Defence, Postal and Telegraphs (P&T) employees. A Joint Action Council (JAC) spearheaded the strike.
The demands of striking workers were:
- Need Based Minimum Wage.
- Full neutralization of rise in prices.
- Merger of DA with Basic Pay.
- Withdrawal of proposal to retire employees with 50 years of age or on completion of 25 years of service.
- Stop victimization and reinstate victimized workers.
- No retrenchment without equivalent alternative jobs.
- Abolition of contract and casual labour system.
The Congress government, led by Smt. Indira Gandhi, came down heavily on the strikers. Essential Services Maintenance Ordinance was proclaimed. CRPF was used to suppress the strike. 17 striking employees were brutally killed at Pathankot, Bikaner, Delhi and in Assam, in police and military firing and also by running the train over the employees. 40,000 employees were suspended. 12,000 Central Government employees and leaders were arrested and jailed. 64,000 employees were issued with termination notices.
Consequent to the strike, the govt immediately started Joint Consultative mechanism and made it a statutory body and announced the appointment of the 3rd Pay Commission. The same government which had refused to accept the demands was compelled to implement some of them afterwards. The DA was granted regularly. The liberalized pension scheme was introduced in 1973.
One worker expressed his feelings about the strike in the following words:
I am proud that I participated in the strike on 19 September, 1968.
I am proud that I had a leading role in that strike in CTO Trivandrum.
I am proud that I am a product of the Token Strike on 19 September 1968.