|Thursday, 26 March 2009 17:43|
HISTORY OF IRTSA – ITS STRUGGLE & ACHIEVEMENTS
IRTSA was formed in November, 1965, with an objective to unite & strive for better service conditions and emoluments of the Technical Supervisors / Engineers on the Indian Railways. Prior to the formation of IRTSA, there was no platform or organization to represent this vital category of “Frontline Managers” on the Indian Railways. Consequently the category had suffered tremendously at the hands of the Railway administration as well as the First and Second Pay Commissions due to lack of any forum to represent them before either of these forums (set up between 1946 - 1948 & 1957 - 1959 respectively) due to lack of any forum to represent them before either of these forums (set up between 1946 - 1948 & 1957 - 1959 respectively). Consequently, the category was equated erroneously with the non technical categories in group ‘C’ although the pay scales of Engineers / Technical Supervisors were much higher in Pre-1931 era than the other categories. IRTSA has represented and struggled for resolving the major problems facing the Engineers on the Indian Railways and has made remarkable achievements for the betterment of the Engineers in particular and the Railway men at large.
Finally an Association was formed on 27th November, 1965, at Chennai. Shri Harchandan Singh was elected as its first General Secretary. The Association was initially named as Indian Railways Apprentice Mechanics & Ex-Apprentice Mechanics Association. Within an year thereof, the name of the Association was changed to INDIAN RAILWAYS MECHANICAL SUPERVISORS ASSOCIATION (IRTSA), in a historic All India Conference held at New Delhi, on 27th November, 1966. The Conference was largely attended and widely publicized in the media. The Association was thereafter got registered at Delhi (no. 1329) under Indian Trade Union Act. Steps were simultaneously initiate to represent the problems of the category and to seek their early redressal through collective efforts and enmass representations. The Association worked in coordination with Indian Railways Foremen Association - which was formed in 1964 and which was finally merged with IRTSA in August, 1970 during the All India Joint Convention held at Ajmer.
GRADUAL GROWTH :- IRTSA initially represented a section category of Frontline Engineers /Technical Supervisors (who were then called the Chargemen, Foremen & Draughtsmen etc.) on the Indian Railways when there was no other platform to represent the category as a whole on the Indian Railways - due to which the category suffered a lot at the hands of the administration and the first two Pay Commissions. Its membership was subsequently extended to other cadres of the Technical Supervisors including the Junior Supervisors, thereafter to the TXRs, IOWs, PWIs, SIs, & BRIs etc. – (who had since been re-designated along with Chargemen, Foremen and Shop Superintendent etc, as Junior Engineers, Section Engineers & Senior Section Engineers) Over the years, the Membership was further extended to Store Incharges (DSKps / DMS, Lecturers, Instructors & Scientific Staff etc.
IRTSA gradually built up into a strong organization and made remarkable achievements – continuously struggling for the betterment of Technical Supervisors and Railway men at large during the last nearly 40 years. But in-spite of strong recommendation by Railway Accident Inquiry Committee (RAIC) and Railway Reforms Committee (RRC), it had not been given "ede-jure" recognition. But still it kept up its struggle and made numerous achievements (as enlisted separately in the chapter on Achievements). However, it had not affiliated itself to any Union or Federation at any stage, even though continuously striving for better Industrial Relations at all levels.
THE RAIL SUPERVISOR:- IRTSA started its monthly journal "The Rail Supervisor" in 1969 as a mouth piece of IRTSA. The journal served a very useful purpose as a media for communication both with members and the administration - highlighting the demands and aspiration as well as the organizational activities besides the publishing the copies of administrative orders & decisions made from time to time on related issues.
VOICE OF RAIL ENGINEERS :- After publishing “THE RAIL SUPERVISOR” for 37 years, CEC , IRTSA, decided to start a new journal under the title “VOICE OF RAIL ENGINEERS” keeping in view the changed environments and perspective. It has since been registered and is being published from Chennai.
struggle, efforts & Achievements
at administrative level
IRTSA continuously tried to resolve the problems of the category. It represented their grievances before the Railways Administration at all levels as well as before various other forums - including 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th Pay Commissions, Railway Accident Inquiry Committee (RAIC) and Railway Reforms Committee (RRC) etc.
IRTSA organised Mass Movement for betterment of Technical Supervisors and held Rallies, Dharnas, Relay Fasts and Work-to-Rule to highlight the plight of Technical Supervisors, who had been completely ignored by the previous Pay Commissions due to lack of any platform to represent them.
IRTSA was the first organisation to raise the demand, for “Parity of Pay Scales with Government Undertakings” and "Time Bound Promotion" in 1967. While these demands were initially termed as unrealistic by several veteran leaders at that time, but ultimately became the hallmark of the Trade Union Struggle on the Railways and elsewhere in the country.
"Mass Petition to Parliament"- IRTSA organised an all India "Mass Signature Campaign" in 1968-69 through 4 sets of petitions in all the four directions of the country and submitted a 12-Meters long Petitions (on tracing cloth) to the Parliament, followed by raising of several questions in the Parliament - through numerous M.Ps. – including Shri Minu Masani & Com. Oye Gupta etc, on the plight of Technical Supervisors on the Railways.
The Struggle of ’74:- IRTSA joined the struggle of Railway men at large for some of most genuine and long pending demands – including Payment of Bonus to Rail men and Parity of Pay Scales with Public Undertakings and decided, for the first time in the history of Railways, that Technical Supervisors should participate en-mass in All India Strike by Railway men in May, 1974.
It was especially on account of the totally negative & apathetic attitude of the Railway administration towards their demands. The Strike was total and complete success - especially at places where the Technical Supervisors took the lead and participated en-mass. Over 350 Technical Supervisors were removed from service and many more were suspended and arrested all over India, including most of the senior central leaders of IRTSA - including Er. (Late) S.C.Gupta, Central President, Er. J.N. Rao, Er. Harchandan Singh, Er. Jyoti Banerji, Er. A.C. Bhattacharya, Er (Late) K.Sampat, and Er (Late) K.N. Kundu and Er. Tapan Banerji etc. – to name just a few - although the sacrifices of all others who were victimized were in no way lesser or possibly more.
IRTSA mobilized and provided relief to victimised Supervisors. Er. Jyoti Banerji, then Zonal Secretary, IRTSA (Eastern Railways) and many others – in-spite of being victimized themselves, intensively toured to raise and distributed relief to the victimised Technical Supervisors every month for the entire period of removal, especially on Eastern Railways, where over 120 Technical Supervisors were removed from service, and reinstated mostly after court cases or on issue of General Orders of Reinstatement in 1977 (issued by the then Railway Minister Prof. Madhu Dandavate).
Relations With other Trade Unions:- IRTSA maintained cordial and federal relations with other Trade Unions, as it was strongly felt that a time had come when the Technical Supervisors could not remain aloof or in isolation from the mainstream of Trade Union Movement. CEC, IRTSA strongly and unanimously endorsed these views and asked its office bearers and members to develop and maintain cordial and interactive relations with other Unions.
REPRESENTATIONS BEFORE 4 PAY COMMISSIONS & OTHER FORUMS
Railway Accident Inquiry Committee (RAIC):- IRTSA appeared before Railway Accident Enquiry Committee (RAIC -1968) headed by Justice Wanchoo, and proved that one of the reasons for lack of safety on the Railways was the growing frustration amongst the Technical Supervisors due to low pay scales, inadequate avenues of promotion and non-supply of requisite material. The RAIC accepted the evidence and made several recommendations for improvement of status and powers of Technical Supervisors and for recognition of their Association to discuss and represent their problems.
Third Pay Commission (TCPC): IRTSA submitted an exhaustive Memorandum to the Third Pay Commission. A team of CEC Members appeared before a Pay Commission for the first time, to represent the case of Technical Supervisors and achieved substantial improvements in the pay scales – including reduction of pay scales of Technical Supervisors from 6 to 4 and highest Pay Scales of Rs.840-1040 and Rs. 840-1200 exclusively for the Technical Supervisors which were highest amongst the entire Group 'C' cadre.
Railway Labour Tribunal (RLT): Many members of IRTSA – appeared before the Railway Labour Tribunal headed by Justice Miabhoy and evinced evidence before the Tribunal to secure better pay scale of Mistries (Supervisors) and Special Pay (superintendent Allowance) for Foremen & Assistant Foremen who were thereupon designated Shop Superintendents and Asst. Shop Superintendents.
However, The case for better avenues of promotion for Chargemen (now called Junior Engineers) cold not be won in the Tribunal and IRTSA gave a call for “Work-to Rule” in 1973 for this and some other demands including grant of PCO Allowance/Special Pay etc. it many years of struggle to get these demands conceded (as enlisted under the Achievements).
After years of Struggle, the whole category was treated as one cadre for the first time in 1984 and provided with a marked improvement in the avenues of promotion by re distribution of posts on percentage basis (raising the number of posts in the two highest scales from about 18% to 37%).
RRC-: IRTSA submitted a Memorandum to the Railway Reforms Committee (RRC) on 1983-84, on administrative, conceptual and manpower planning on the Railways - besides the role and plight of Technical Supervisors. RRC accepted many of the suggestions and made suitable recommendations on the issues, including better avenues of promotion, better Supervisor-to-Workers ratio and recognition of Association of Senior Supervisors to discuss and resolve their problems at all levels. The proposal for recognition was later on accepted by the Railway Board, but was dropped due to opposition from certain quarters.
Fourth CPC: IRTSA submitted an exhaustive and comprehensive memorandum and appeared before the Fourth Pay Commission as a main spokesman for Technical Supervisors and were able to get the highest Pay scale gong upto the maximum of Rs 2375-3500 which was the highest amongst entire Group 'C', besides numerous other benefits.
Court Cases : IRTSA fought and won three prestigious cases in the CAT for the grant of Group 'B' status for Senior Technical Supervisors and higher pay scales for Chargemen (since designated as J.Es) (both in CAT New Delhi) and Incentive Bonus for the S.E. and S5.E. (in CAT Bombay). Railways side tracked the judgement of CAT for removal of anomaly regarding classification of posts in Group B. But the other two Judgements brought much needed relief to the category.
Struggle for better Avenues of Promotion & Cadre Restructuring:- IRTSA carried on continuous and intensive struggle for better avenues of promotion and career planning. Finally, the Railway Board improved upon the Cadre Restructuring of Technical Supervisors in 1993 (raising the percentage of posts in highest scale from 10 to 17%, and from 37 to 45% in the two highest scales combined together).
Fifth CPC : IRTSA delegation appeared before the Fifth Pay Commission after submitting an exhaustive Memorandum to the Commission. The Pay Commission accepted various demands including parity of pay to Drawing Design Office and Store Supervisors with other Technical Supervisors.
Fifth CPC suppressed the top grade of Technical supervisors - by deviating from the broadly accepted principle of 3.25 times rise of the existing pay scale, merely to accommodate Group 'B' and Group' A' officers above the Scale of Technical Supervisors.
IRTSA retaliated strongly against the great injustice done by the Fifth Pay Commission. All Trade Unions as well as IRTSA served a Strike Notice against this and other anomalies in the CPC Report. The Railway Board finally agreed to remove some of the anomalies and to improve the highest grade of Technical Supervisors to Rs. 7450-11500 instead of Rs. 7,000 - 11,500, (as recommended by the Pay Commission). Though the improvement was marginal but the violation of basic principle was undone.
In this period, Central leaders of IRTSA (lead by Er. M. Shanmugam & Er. Harchandan Singh had series of meetings with Members of the Railway Board and intensified interaction with Railway Board as well as with other Trade Unions of Railway men to resolve the numerous outstanding problems of Engineers / Technical Supervisors at large (especially those for improvement in Pay Scales of Supervisors as J.Es., grant of group 'B' status to Senior Technical Supervisors and Cadre Restructuring etc), which are now at the stage of finalization.
SCPC & Role of IRTSA:- Like the previous 3 Pay Commission, IRTSA had presented, to the Sixth Pay Commission, a separate Memorandum for grant of Interim Relief, a Reply to the Questionnaire of the Commission and another exhaustive Memorandum on charter of demands. The Pay Commission assured IRTSA that the Memorandum shall be given due consideration. The Memorandum was well argued and supported with a lot relevant data and documents.
Building consensus on basic issues:-A major effort of IRTSA this time had been to build consensus on basic areas of thrust not only within the organisation but also in the Trade Union movement as a whole. This was very important as there used to be a big gap between the demands made by IRTSA and by other trade unions and Federations etc. But this time the gaps in demands made by IRTSA and those made by other Unions / Federations was substantially narrowed down. This was on account of a large number of Engineers and others participating in the internal deliberations of various unions, with the similar data base while framing the charter of demands
However, there was bound to be a lot of difference in emphasis on many issues – especially in regard to categorical problems, anomalies and job contents – which were differently reflected by others than IRTSA. It was in this regard, that the Oral Evidence was essentially required. Denial of it by the Pay Commission to any of the Associations other than the recognized Federations ,was bound to have its impact – but to what extent, only time will tell. But the struggle will go on till we get full justice.
By Harchandan Singh,
General Secretary IRTSA