Friday, October 9, 2020

 SIGNIFICANCE  OF  BABU TARAPADA  MUKHERJEE’S  HISTORIC LAHORE  SPEECH - CENTENARY  LECTURE -

M.Krishnan

Ex-Secretary General, NFPE & Confederation.

BRIEF  LIFE  HISTORY  OF  BABU TARAPADA  MUKHERJEE:

                 Babu Tarapada Mukherjee, the pioneer of the Postal Employees movement in India was born in the year 1868 at a Village named Baikunthapur in the District of Burdwan in Bengal State.  He has completed his BA degree course and got married in the year 1891.  Tarapada started his service carreer firstly at Raj Treasury, Coochbehar and then as Headmaster of Jetkeen’s School prior to his appointment as a Postal Clerk in 1895.  He entered the service on 1st February 1895.

                 From the very beginning of his service carreer, he started his trade union activities amongst the Postal Employees.  In those days it was not easy to organise trade union activities and form unions in employees front.  British rulers were very much against such ideas.  But Tarapada found out a new device.  He contemplated to carry on the trade union work through Recreational Club.  Accordingly, the “Calcutta Postal Club” was formed in the month of May 1908.  British rules were ready to accept such recreational club with a view to engaging the employees in the recreational activities and divert their attention from trade union functions.  British Government was generous enough to allot a plot of land at 37, Ganesh Chandra Avenue at Calcutta for the purpose and a building was constructed there, which is now the Circle headquarters of National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE) Postal and RMS Unions of West Bengal Circle.

                 Gradually this Postal Club became the nerve centre of trade union activities of the Postal as well as the Central Government employees movement.  Since formation of Postal Club numerous memoranda, petitions etc were submitted to the Postal Administration.  These organisers were often transferred to distant places, not only within Bengal but also Burma, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and even to Andaman Nicobar Islands as punitive measure.  But the employees could not be deterred from organising movement to realise their demands.  Babu Tarapada was always upright in giving them the leadership. The employees under the guidance of Babu Tarapada did not succumb to the vindictive measures of the administration but they finally succeeded in forming a trade union of Postal Employees viz; All India (including Burma) Post office and RMS Employees Union.

                 Under the auspices of this union, the Postal and RMS Employees 2nd Conference was held at Lahore on the 9th October 1921 of which Babu Tarapada was chosen to chair the occassion.  Babu Tarapada’s address as President of the Conference held two-way effect on the movement of the employees and on the outlook of the administration.  For the employees, the historic speech was a unique guidance as to how and which way the movement should be built and developed.  He roused in them the inherrent potentiality, capable of moving heaven and earth.  He taught the employees to organise themselves with a purpose which was bound to bring success to the movement.

                 On the other hand, the administration found on him the power of a tiger.  They were not ready to allow him to continue in service and remain a leader.  They, therefore, decided to remove him from service and brought charges against him.  In the memo, the administration said, “the Lahore speech was a public one.  It is calculated to bring Government and Postal Administration into contempt with their own employees.”  Babu Tarapada was asked to either make a public apology on their terms or submit resignation.  It means, in no way he can be retained in Government Service.  After his bold reply to the charges raised by the administration, while refusing to submit resignation, the administration’s axe fell on him and he was dismissed from service with effect from 20th November 1921.

                 It was a sad period in the life of Babu Tarapada.   His wife Smt. Sulakhanna Debi was in deathbed.  He was hesitating to go to Lahore to attend the Conference in such a condition of his wife.  But it was his wife who insisted that he must go.  After Tarapada’s return from Lahore, the condition of his wife became serious and the cruel hand of death snatched her on the 29th of November 1921, nine days after he was removed from service.  He has not informed her about his dismissal from service fearing that it may aggravate her health condition.

                 There is a saying, misfortune never comes alone.  This was true with Tarapada’s case.  He lost both his service and wife within one week.  He was a man who did not look into personal interest, courted sufferings for prosperity of others.  He remains as a guiding force of the movement of the Postal employees as well as the other Central Government employees.  Babu Tarapada breathed his last on the 29th September 1929.  Tarapada was a man of exceptional ability and energy, whatever work he undertook he crowned with success.

                 Tarapada was a studious man.  He studied many books on the Labour conditions of England and the method the British workers had adopted to improve their lot.  Once Postmaster General conducted surprise inspection of his Postoffice quarters where he lived with wife.  The Postmaster General was rather surprised to see that a petty Sub Postmaster had a fairly large collection of books on literature, philosophy, History and Economics.  Postmaster General enquired whether those books belonged to Tarapada and whether he read them all.  Tarapad replied in the affirmative.

                 Like a comet he trailed the blaze for a brief period of service of about 26 years and disappeared.  The pioneering history of Postal Trade Union movement is compressed in this period of his life.  Controversies did not deflect him from his resolve to meet the challenges of the time.  He met the adversaries with forbearance and calm.

HUMILIATING CONDITIONS OF POSTAL EMPLOYEES IN BRITISH INDIA AND THE BACKGROUND OF HISTORIC LAHORE SPEECH:

                 Tarapada Mukherjee in his reminiscences explained as follows:

                 “In 1895, I entered the Postal Department as a Clerk.  The initial pay at that time was Rs.15/-.  The staff position as a rule was quite inadequate on account of which clerks had generally to work for 12 hours a day.  The miseries of the clerks did not end there.  They used  to be very badly treated by the officers, severely punished for petty faults and personally abused by the Superintendent and other officers.  It is hardly possible to believe it now, but it is well known, that corruption was rampant even in Calcutta.  None could get leave without spending some money.  To get promotion from one grade to another, although by virtue of seniority, would cost at least Rs.60/- to satisfy the Superintendent. Juniors would often get promotion before their turn by means of bribes.

                 There was no printed gradation list at that time and it was not supplied to all offices.  In Calcutta two kinds of gradation lists were kept, one for show and the another being real.  Both these copies were written in pencil, so that the position of men could be altered at anytime, by erasing.  A man who was very junior in the grade would have been able to stand as senior in the gradation list by spending some money.  The result was that honest and god-fearing man has very little chance to get promotion to higher grade and had to rot in a grade for several years to come.

                 Another incident quoted by him in his reminiscences is cited below -

                 “A clerk of the Dharamtola Post office in Calcutta while on duty had an  attack of high fever.  His condition was such that he could not leave the office, so he had to lie down on the floor of the office on some bags which were spread for the purpose.  Mr. H.A.Sans, ICS, the then Postmaster General happened to visit Dharamtola Post office at that time.  He was so enraged at the sight that clerk misused the Post office bag and he was so unsympathetic that he dismissed the clerk then and there”.

                 In para-26 of his reply to the chargesheet, Tarapada narratted the following incident -

                 “I may mention only one instance that occurred in the Calcutta GPO to prove my contention.  An European lady came in the afternoon at the window of the Registration department and she asked the window clerk to accept a registered parcel.  The clerk explained to the lady that parcels were accepted in a different place and the one she had presented could not therefore be booked by him; and he requested her to go to the place where parcels were booked.  The lady got irritated and abused the clerk to her hearts content and came to the Asst. Postmaster in charge and complained against the window clerk.  The Asst. Postmaster called the widow clerk to know what had happened.  When the clerk was explaining to the Assistant Postmaster the real situation, the lady got more and more irritated and in the presence of the Assistant Postmaster slapped the clerk on the face.  What protection did the clerk get?  Absolutely none.  The Assistant Postmaster quietly told the clerk to go and work, and politely asked the European lady to go to the parcel window and gave his chaprasi to escort her to the proper place.”

                 The above instances, narrated by Tarapada Mukherjee will give an idea with what difficulty the postal workers had to work in those days.  There was no holiday to speak of, working hours were longer and above all, the treatment and behaviour of officers were inhuman.  Employees were naturally looking forward for a leader who could be able to remove their hardship.  Tarapada entered the Postal Department at such a juncture.

HISTORIC LAHORE PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS:

                 Babu Tarapada Mukherjee delivered his historic speech at the Lahore Conference of All India (including Burma) Post office and RMS Employees Union on 09th October 1921 - as President of the 2nd All India Conference.  First Conference was held in Delhi in the year 1920.

                 When we recall the famous Lahore Speech of Tarapada Mukherjee and read it again and again we could delve deep into his outlook and charactor.  His speech is full of exhortation to be bold, courageous, self-sacrificing and hard working.  He organised the employees into a mighty force so as to challenge the might of arrogant British rulers.

About the recommendations of Postal Enquiry Committee:

                 In his speech he spoke at length about the recommendations of Hazeltine Committee (Postal Enquiry Committee of 1920).  Quoting the following recommendations of the committee he furiously rejected the theory as placing the workers in the category of  beggars.

                 “Postal Committee starts with the very curious and insulting proposition that “all concession is of the nature of gift and this being so, it is for the donor to decide about what the measure of the gift shall be”.  This tantamounts to saying that the employers are donors and the workers are beggars and they must, therefore, be satisfied with beggar’s doles.”

                 Pointing out this comment of the committee, Tarapada exhorted the delegates -

                 “Workers are not beggars, they are the salt of the earth, they are the only  people who produce wealth.  Wealth consists of the Labour imprinted on material substance and in the absence of workers where is the labour to come from which is necessary to create wealth?  Those who do not work are parasites sucking like vampire the life blood of the society and are battening on the wealth produced by the workers.”

                 He further cautions that if workers stop work, all the bloated rich cannot have their glittering apparel, their bungalows and mansions and delicious food on their table.

About Discrimination in Pay Scales:

                 Tarapada rejected the Government’s argument that it is due to the financial crisis, better pay scales are not recommended to the Postal employees.  He recalled how the same committee has recommended better pay and working conditions to Telegraphists who at that time were Anglo-Indians or whites.

                 “The consideration of economy is, however cast to the four winds when question of raising the pay of the upper strata arises.  You will be surprised to learn that in the course of twelve months, more than one revision has been sanctioned for those who are paid by thousands instead of by tens, but when the poor underpaid, over worked subordinate staff is concerned, that is another matter.”

                 “Man is something more than an animal.  He cannot afford to pass his days in mere animal existence.  He cannot live contended if only his physical needs are satisfied.  His moral nature will rise in rebellion if it is altogether neglected.”  He rejected the plea of want of funds to pay better wages to postal workers and said that Postal department in India gave surplus when in England wages of Postal Workers were enhanced despite deficit.  He treated it as discriminatory.

About Insulting treatment meted out to Postal Workers and the threat of punishments:

                 Tarapada cited insulting treatment meted out to Postal Workers, long hours of work they have to perform and said that in every Director General’s circular the postal workers were terrorised into submission by adding the words -

                 “Mistake or failure to carryout instructions will be severely punished”.

                 He recalled how for every minor or unintended lapses, penalties, fine, stoppage at efficiency bars and debarring selection grades were imposed with heavy hand.

                 Through his speech he exudes high sense of learning as he quotes from Shakespeare and also form Greek Lawyer Draco, who promulgated harsh laws called Draconian laws.  He gave graphic details of the hard working conditions and the oppressive officers regime.

                 He exhorted the postal workers to revolt against such injustices -

                 “Brothers, we cannot afford to continue as we are, unless we belie our nature.  We must, therefore, determine to have our pay increased and working hours reduced.  We must fight and fight strenuously to secure what alone can make life worth living.  We must make up our minds in this Conference whether we shall continue to live as human cattle or “take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them”.        

                 “We have fallen from our high pedestral and we have lost consciousness of our true self.  We have forgotten that we have a soul which is the essence of God.  Once our hypnotism is gone and once we succeed in overcoming mean terror and low selfishness and abject submission to fate, the soul will manifest in all its glory and it will triumph over whatever obstacles may stand in our way”.

About Importance of Organisation:

                 In his speech Tarapara made the following exhortations emphasising the need to organise -

                 “If you are convinced in your heart that the recommendations of the Postal Committee are humiliating and unsatisfactory, if you feel you have been very shabbily treated and you deserved better, and if you are determined to obtain what you have a right to claim, only one course is open to you, and that is summed up in the one word "organise''.

Organise if you want real living wages,

Organise if you  want to have your working hours reduced,

Organise if you desire better treatment from your superior officers,

Organise if you want that the authorities should consult and consider  your opinion in all administrative measures affecting you.''

About the need that Memorandums should be backed up by the struggle of workers

                   Tarapada made it clear that mere submission of memorandum and petitions to the Government will not yield any positive result, unless we mobilise the workers and fight for the demands.

He said-

                   "Take it from me, brothers, that petitions and memorials and supplications will count for nothing so long as you do not organise yourselves in a manner to convince the Government that  you will no longer stand nonsense.''

About the feeling - We are for the Union and the Union is for us-

                   Through his speech Tarapada exhorted to be class consious and unite into a mighty centralised organisation  so as to free themselves from the shackles of slavish working conditions and low wages.

                   "Organisation to be effective must be centralised.  To make the All India Union a reality, demands a good deal from us.  We must rise superior to provincialism, we must broaden our outlook, we must cultivate a spirit of trust, we must be identified with the Union wherever it may be located, we  must fully develop class-conciousness, we must have implicit faith in the Union, in one word we must strongly feel that "we are for the Union and the Union is for us.'' so long as we cannot thus identify ourselves fully, the union will lack the full strength necessary for our salvation.''

About Six pre-requisites of an organisation-

                   For building a strong union he cited the five prescriptions presented by the Colonel Wedgwood, a labour leader of England, who visited and addressed meeting of Postal employees in Kolkata.

They included-

(i)      Feeling of class consciousness.  No organisation worth the name is possible, without class consciousness.

(ii)     Everyone should join the Union with heart and soul.

(iii)    Create substantive reserve fund for the functioning of the Union-without a strong financial backing union work cannot be conducted satisfactorily.

(iv)    Publicity of our grievances through media and journals.

(v)     Lobbying or influencing Parliamentarians to bring pressure on the Government.

                   To the above five prescriptions, Tarapada added a sixth one ie; (vi) "Discipline in the organisation.''

                   He said a decision taken by the Executive body of the Union after free expression of views and after hearing the opposing view, a majority decision on a particular proposition should be implemented by lower formations.

                   This is very much applicable today as there is a tendency to ignore or not implementing the decision of the apex body by the lower bodies.

                   He defined organisational discipline in one line as follows-

                   -"If my view does not find favour with the majority, I must subordinate my view to the views of the majority, and work loyally and whole heartedly for the common cause - This is discipline.''

About Maintaining Unity of organisation and to shun parochialism:

                   Tarapada in his speech gave call for steel-like unity in the organisation irrespective of province, language and exhorted to common brotherhood.  He said all workers are brothers and asked them to shun parochialism.

About Living wage for decent living:

                   Tarapada enlightened the audience on the question of living wage as follows:

                   The burning question of the day is question of bread and decent living.  Are we paid a living wage? 

                   Do we get sufficient wages to nourish our children with healthy and nutritious food, to clothe them decently, to house them in proper  and ventilated quarters with sufficient accomodation for purposes of decency and healthy moral development, to give them education, to pay for proper medical help, to meet their marriage expenses and various other social obligations, and provide for the rainy day?  Ah, brothers, we all know to what strait have we been reduced.  We do not live, but we merely exist, and drudge on to sustain life.”

About Four minimum requirements of Postal Workers:

                   Tarapada summed up the four  minimum demands of the Postal employees as below -

                   “We should consider what we actually want and determine what we should fight for.  To my mind four things are necessary to establish the subordinate service in the Postoffice on a correct basis.  The first thing we must have is adequate and decent wages; the second thing, curtailment of hours of duty, the third thing, good treatment from superior officers and moderation of punishment, and the last thing that we must have a voice in the administration in matters affecting the subordinate staff.”

Concluding the speech with an optimistic note

                   He concluded his speech saying, "Do try to make your Union strong and do not commit suicide folly of seeking recognition.  Recognition is bound to come from an unwilling Government as soon as you make your Union strong, he said.

                   Finally he gave the following clarion call on the workers-

                   "You are men and not dumb driven cattle; you have a soul which is the essence of God and which nothing can repress except your own folly, ignorance and supineness.  You have immense potentiality, capable of moving heaven and earth.  Organise this power, organise with a purpose, organise with determination and I promise you success will knock at your door.''

Historical importance of Lahore speech

                   It may be recalled that he lived in a period soon after 1917 world shaking Russion Revolution.  No doubt his views were very revolutionary for the period and his ideas robust and fresh.

                   The speech of Tarapada is a document worth reading again and again, Let us therefore treat his Lahore speech as a piece of permanent document acting as a beacon light to guide the path for trade union workers and leaders for all time to come.

The charge sheet and the reply

                   British Government took serious note of the contents of Lahore speech and they chargesheeted Tarapada Mukherjee.  The relevant portion of the chargesheet is reporduced below -

                   “There is no objection to reasonable criticism of any action, but public abuse of the Postal administration by a responsible officer belonging to it cannot be tolerated.  If you hold the views expressed in this address, you are disloyal to yourself by remaining in the Department.  Your whole speech is designed to stir up disaffection and disloyalty among the staff and it a matter for regret that any officer of this Department could be capable of such unseemly and disloyal conduct.

                   Ordinarily no officer who made a public address of this kind could be retained in Government service, but the Director General is willing to give you an opportunity of withdrawing your assertions and expressing regret.  I have been requested by the Director General to inform you that if you make a public apology on the terms set forth in the accompanying form he will ask the Government to overlook the matter upon this occassion, if you refuse to do so, you are given the option of resigning your appointment  or of being removed from Government service.  You are therefore, asked to submit your reply either in the form of apology sent herewith or to tender your resignation within one week from the date of 'issue of this letter''.

                   As soon  as the charge sheet was received, the leaders of the Postal club met together at a private meeting.  It was indeed a red letter day and the charge sheet may be regarded as an ephoc making document which forced the issue on the unionists.

                   Tarapada knew well that he could not depend on the possibility of union’s financial support, once he is dismissed from service.  Moreover Postal unions were not at all organised at that time and the idea of supporting Tarapada after his dismissal was not considered practical.  Tarapada would be doomed to lead a miserable life.  But then, he could not court dishonour.  The condition of his ailing wife was alarming and he was placed on the dangerous horns of dilemma.  Amongst all these worries, Tarapada maintained his spirit and decided ultimately to prefer self-respect to service.

                   Tarapada then submitted his detailed 40 paragraph reply denying all the allegations.  The concluding para of the reply statement is reproduced below

                   ''In these circumstances, I submit that I have done nothing unworthy of an officer of the Department, I would be false to myself if I were to apologise for doing what my conscience fully approves.  I would be false to myself and to the service, If I were to tender resignation for doing what I considered as the only honourable and sensible course conducive to the interest of both the Postal Administration and the workers in the subordinate service.''

                   Naturally, the British Government rejected the submissions made by Tarapada in his reply and dismissed him from service.

Long live Tarapada Mukherjee, Long live Lahore speech

                   Tarapada delivered the historic speech one hundered years back. He was dismissed from service one hundred years back.  He left this world almost 90 years back. But even now lakhs and lakhs of workers are remembering him and he will be living in our minds always and his historic Lahore speech will be reverberating in the minds of trade union leaders and activists in the years to come.

Long live Tarapada Mukherjee!

Long live historic Lahore speech!!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

HISTORIC LAHORE SPEECH OF BABU TARAPADA MUKHERJEE

AT THE LAHORE CONFERENCE ON 9-10-1921

                 I am deeply sensible of the honour that you have done by electing me President of the second session of the Conference of the All India (including Burma) Post Office at R.M.S.  employees.  I know my own shortcomings, and in all humility recognise my unfitness to discharge the very responsible duties of the President of an Assembly, composed of men coming from all parts of India and Burma gathered together to form decisions on momentous questions and to mature plans for carrying those decisions into effect.  I am sadly conscious of my limitations and I have not the conceit to think that I deserve the trust you have reposed in me.  Now that you have chosen me to preside over your deliberations, it would be false modesty to hesitate.  But at the outset, I prefer to tell you, brothers, that I seriously count upon your help to pilot me successfully through this difficult task; and it encourages me to think that you will most willingly render all possible help.  Last year the Hon’ble Mr.Kharparde, political leader of All India reputation, than whom a better champion the poor Post Office and R.M.S. employees can hardly find, was at the helm of the first session of the conference held at Delhi, and with what signal success you all know; and you have called upon me to step into his shoes!

                 2.  My election as President is not, however, without a special significance of its own.  I have passed my life in the subordinate service of Post Office, and am still in harness.  I have lived the miserable life of the subordinate staff, and it has become almost a part of my existence.  In choosing me you have grasped the true spirit of Labour Union; you have demonstrated that you are prepared to accept the leadership of one who has been the object of persecution on account of the active interest he has taken on behalf of brother officials; you have honoured one whom the Director General wanted to harass by illegally transferring him from Bengal to Burma; you have shown to the world that you have confidence in your own brothers and are prepared to depend upon your unaided strength for your salvation.

                 3.  I have come here under the deep shadow of an impending domestic calamity.  I had thought that I would not be able to leave alone, in Calcutta, my dying wife, and come to Lahore to attend the Conference.  But when I was told that you had chosen me President, it sent a thrill through me, not only because I was the recipient of such unique honour but because it revealed that you have learnt to place full confidence in yourselves and no longer upon extraneous help.  I could not bear the idea of damping your ardour by refusal; and I therefore, readily responded to your call, of course, with the full consent of my ailing wife.  With my poor equipments and in the present state of my mental anxiety, I shall be guilty of many shortcomings, but I earnestly hope you will not mind them and you will lend all possible help in the discharge of my duties to make me a success.

                 4.  The Punjab has, from time immemorial been a gate-keeper of India, and as such she has had to bear the first shock and the brunt of fight in all struggles for national existence.  It is therefore, in the fitness of things that in our struggle for emancipation from the slavery, economic or otherwise, that prevails in the Post Office and R.M.S. service, our stalwart brothers of the Punjab should play a worthy part, and the first two sessions of the Conference should be held in the Land of Five Rivers.  We are grateful to our Punjab brothers for their earnestness and spirit of sacrifice manifested in the fact of their having invited the Conference for two successive sessions.

                 5.  Let us take a brief survey of the events happening since we met at the last Conference.  The much talked of Postal Committee’s report has been published to give us an insight into the mentality that formulated a scheme of revision, grotesque in the extremes, absurd as absurd can be, insulting to the dignity of labour.  It is by this time familiar to you all what monster the mountain in labour has produced, of which many of you are probably victim.

                 6.  The Postal Committee starts with the very curious and insulting proposition that “all concession is of the nature of gift and this being so, it is for the donor to decide what the measure of the gift shall be.”  This tantamount to saying that the employers are donors and the workers are beggars and they must, therefore, be satisfied with beggar’s doles.  I am astonished and you are astonished that a Committee of responsible men, appointed by a civilised Government in the twentieth century can so far forget themselves as to place workers in the category of beggars, at a time, when labour has become self-conscious enough to contemplate taking “Direct Action” even in affairs of State.  Perhaps our crime of age-long silence in the past is responsible for such humiliating remarks, or, it may be, that the committee wanted to give a quietus to the growing manifestation of life in the Post Office by reminding the employees that they were no better than beggars, bound to accept without a murmur what charity the Government as donors were pleased to give, and it was useless to clamour for more.

                 7.  Ah! Brothers, workers are not beggars; they are the salt of the earth, they are the only people who produce wealth.  Wealth consists of the labour imprinted on material substance and in the absence of workers where is the labour to come from which is necessary to create wealth?  Those who do not work are parasites sucking like vampire the life blood of the society, and are battening on the wealth produced by the workers. Is it not amusing that the wealth produced by workers should be appropriated, and then the producers of wealth be called beggars and a pittance doled out to them, so that they may keep the body and soul together for further production of wealth for the benefit of others? 

                 8.  Consider, brothers, what this world would be, were the workers to stop work.  Not a grain of cereals would be produced, not a yard of yarn would be spun and woven, not a brick would be laid, not a tenement would be built.  Those bloated, over-indulged finely draped figures, airing their base manners to their own class would have no food to allay hunger, no clothes to over the body, no home to afford shelter; and they would soon cease to exist to call workers beggars.   Brothers, shake off the hypnotic spell, the somnambulism of past life, wake up and be self-conscious, appraise your value at its real worth, do not remain forgetful of the dignity of labour, realise your own strength, and march on double quick to the goal “heart within and God overhead”.

                 9.  Brothers, what better could be expected from the Committee, constituted as it was?  Through your Associations you sent up the names of certain persons on whom you had faith, and who could represent your view-point, had they been given a place on the Committee.  But the Government religiously excluded every person whom you nominated, and selected men on whom you had absolutely no faith.  You cannot be bound by the findings of a Committee with which you had nothing to do, and who had nothing to do with you.

                 10.  The committee have rejected the evidence given by your witness as worthless and conflicting and unreliable.  They were, however, scrupulous in comparing and weighting the schemes prepared by different Postmasters General and considering other reports emanating from the Government side.  Even in doing so, the Committee brushed aside higher scales proposed by certain Postmasters General, when a lower scale was proposed by another.  The fact of the matter is that the Committee was dominated by one idea in framing their scheme, and that is to keep down any considerable increase of expenditure, and they make no secret of this view in this report.

                 11.  The consideration of economy is, however cast to the four winds when the question of raising the pay of the upper strata arises.  You will be surprised to learn that in the course of twelve months more than one revision has been sanctioned for those who are paid by thousands instead of by tens, but when the poor under paid, over worked subordinate staff is concerned, that is another matter.  The soulless cruel cant of “demand and supply” then comes in, family budget is discarded, evidence of those affected is declared extravagant and unreliable, comparison is made with commercial firms, as if the Government are to follow instead of setting example to capitalist profiteers in the matter of remuneration to the employees, and every quarter is ransacked for the justification of denying what constitutes the real living wage in the present time.

                 12.   If we have a look at the scale of wages in the pre-war time and the advance sanctioned to compensate the increased cost of living in England, we may form a fair idea of the difference of treatment we receive from what our brothers in the British Post Office get.  In England a postman at the age of 18 years, on first appointment, used to get, before the war 20 shillings per week.  But on account of increased cost of living at present he is paid 53 Shillings per week.  Two very striking features rivet our attention - firstly, the pay of a postman on first appointment is Rs.175 in Indian money; and secondly, the increase of over 160% granted on pre-war pay.  The maximum pay sanctioned for clerks in the Indian Post Office varies from 120 to Rs.140, to be attained after a service of 25 years, if they are at all able to cross the two efficiency bars, to be rigorously enforced after 10 and 18 years service.  They have to start on an initial pay of Rs.35, 40, 45 or Rs.50 as the case may be, against Rs.175 for a postman in England.  Congratulate yourselves, brothers, on your good luck!  Your increase has been limited to 50% and most of you have got only a very small increase, and many have even been adversely affected.

                 13.  This increase of wages in England was not confined to the cadre of postman alone; the clerks get their wages enhanced in like manner.  To pay the enhanced rate of wages the British Post Office had to work at a loss of ten million pounds in the first year the increased pay was sanctioned.  To make up the loss the British inland postage has been raised, for letters to 2d and for post-card 1d, equivalent in Indian money to two annas and one anna respectively.  If we look to the Indian Postal Administration what do we find?  Year after year large surplus revenue is appropriated by the Government, and in this way over five crores of rupees out of Postal revenue has been saved in the course of eight years.  It has been the declared policy of Government both in the days of East India Company and after the transference of the Administration to the crown that no surplus revenue would be derived from the Post Office; but the large savings year after year do not give indication of the promise having been kept.

                 14.  Brothers, we are to thank ourselves for the shabby treatment we have been receiving.  We have been content to be silent workers for ages, for which such eulogium was bestowed on us by Sir Arthur Fanshawe; and this crime of silence brought its retribution in the neglect to which we were relegated so long.  Instead of being silent workers, had we been a little more clamouring for our rights, then the Government would not have sweated us in the manner they have done.  It is time we take lessons from past experience, and carry on our fight for all that makes life worth living.

                 15.  The burning question of the day is the question of bread and decent living.  Are we paid a living wage?  Do we get sufficient wages to nourish our children with healthy and nutritious food, to clothe them decently, to house them in proper and ventilated quarters with sufficient accommodation for purposes of decency and healthy moral development, to give them education, to pay for proper medical help, to meet their marriage expenses and various other social obligations, and provide for the rainy day?  Ah! brothers, we all know to what strait have we been reduced.  We do not live, but we merely exist, and drudge on to sustain life.  Brothers, do you consent to live this life if you can help it?

                 16.   Man is something more than  an animal.  He cannot afford to pass his days in mere animal existence.  He cannot live contented if only his physical needs are satisfied.  His moral nature will rise in rebellion if it is altogether neglected.  It is impossible to live the life of a moral being who exists for a higher end, - viz, to develop into full manhood and bring it into harmony with the universe and its author, - unless he has a mind free from anxiety, and unless he has sufficient leisure for contemplation and introspection.  It is, therefore, necessary that the income should be adequate to dispel domestic cares, and time must be available for the development of the higher nature.

                 17.   But what opportunities have we to live a human life in the Postal Service?  The pay is too low, in consequence of which we are in a constant state of anxiety; the long hours of duty and the hard labour of office are very exhausting.  We are thus reduced to a state of mere animal existence, and even that - not a healthy one.  Brothers, we cannot afford to continue as we are, unless we belie our nature.  We must, therefore, determine to have our pay increased and working hours reduced.  We must fight and fight strenuously to secure what alone can make life worth living.  We must make up our minds at this conference whether we shall continue to live as human cattle or “take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them”.

                 18.  Brothers, again do I reiterate that we are to thank ourselves if we continue to live, this present degraded life.  It is the law of nature that we should receive the treatment we actually deserve.  We have fallen from our high pedestal and we have lost the consciousness of our true self.  We have forgotten that we have a soul which is the essence of God.  Once our hypnotism is gone and once we succeed in overcoming mean terror and low selfishness and abject submission to fate, the soul will manifest in all its glory and it will triumph over whatever obstacles may stand in our way.

                 19.   Brother delegates, you had expected a good deal from the Postal Committee; and the animation and activity displayed by the postal officials throughout India and Burma at the time was an index to the high hopes raised by what then appeared as a genuine desire of the Government to do justice to the long neglected subordinate staff of the Postal Office.  Your hopes have been shattered, your expectations have been cast to the four winds, and you stand to-day in a position hardly better than when the Committee was appointed.  I ask you, brothers, as to whether the disappointment has broken your spirit, or whether it has given you a new impetus to redouble your energy and give no rest to the Government till our legitimate claims are fully satisfied.

                 20.   If you are convinced in your heart that the recommendations of the Postal Committee are humiliating and unsatisfactory, if you feel you have been very shabbily treated and you deserved better, and if you are determined to obtain what you have a right to claim, only one course is open to you, and that is summed up in the one word “Organise”.  Organise if you want real living wages, organise if you want to have your working hours reduced, organise if you desire better treatment from your superior officers, organise if you want that the authorities should consult and consider your opinion on all administrative measures affecting you.

                 21.  Similarly because the Postal workers’ organisation was still in a liquid state that the Postal Committee should dare to characterise the workers as beggars, to openly give expression in their report to the view that the witnesses chosen by the workers were unreliable, to prepare schemes of revision altogether inadequate, is grotesque and ridiculous in the extreme.  Had the Committee found the Postal Organisation as strong as Telegraph Association, they would have changed their tune and sung quite a different song.  We should take lessons from the attitude of the Government towards the telegraphists.  Simply because the Telegraph Association is a very powerful body with strong financial backing, every member of which is alive with class consciousness ready to do in concert whatever circumstances, demanded, the Telegraph Committee, of which the President was the same Mr. Haseltine, who presided over the Postal Committee, recommended almost everything demanded by Mr. Barton of the Telegraph Association and Government accepted the recommendations without demur.  They do not dare to call the Telegraphists beggars, or to characterise the witnesses as unreliable.

                 22.   Take it from me, Brothers, that petitions, and memorials and supplications will count for nothing so long as you do not organise yourselves in a manner to convince the Government that you will no longer stand nonsense.  This organisation when perfected, will be ten times more powerful than the Telegraph Associations.  But there are difficulties in the way.  We have scattered units spread over the length and breadth of the country; and so much the stronger must be our efforts to enthuse them with the spirit of Association, and secure them to the service of the common cause.  The spirit of Association is already in the air, there is a universal awakening in the Post Office, spirit of unrest has captured the entire Postal Service, everyone is eager to contribute his mite for the furtherence of the common cause.  The ground is ready; only some daring spirits are wanted to sow the seed and reap abundant harvest.

                 23.   Organisation to be effective, must be centralised, Scattered Associations with very loose ties to bind them are useless for action, and the authorities know it well.  Unless, therefore, we can concentrate our scattered forces to be set in motion by some one central authority, we may rest assured that our efforts will not be crowned with full success.  The All India (including Burma) Post Office and R.M.S. Union is intended to supply the place of the central authority.  To make the All India Union a reality demands a good deal from us.  We must rise superior to provincialism, we must broaden our outlook, we must cultivate a spirit of trust, we must be identified with the All India Unions, wherever it may be located, we must fully develop class consciousness, we must have implicit faith in the All India Executive; in one word we must strongly feel that we are for the Union, and the Union is for us.  So long as we cannot thus identify ourselves fully, the Union will lack the full strength necessary for our salvation.

                 24.   Brothers, our weakness arises from the fact that we have forgotten our true selves.  From this forgetfulness of the Self are engendered the vices that mar our life.  Flunkeyism, cowardice, selfishness, treachery, supineness and insincerity - these are the tools used by Beelzebub to asphyxiate the soul.  Brothers, beware of them, shun them as viper’s breath, train the mind to be impervious to the devil’s wiles, and there is no power that can deny you the rights and dignities of man.

                 25.   Now comes the question as to what are the requisites to make the organisation successful.  I cannot do better than repeat the advice given by Colonel Wedgwood, one of the labour leaders of England, at a meeting of the Postal employees in Calcutta.  The first requisite, he said was a strong feeling of class consciousness.  The bond of all unions is this feeling of class consciousness, We all belong to the Postal Service, and we are, therefore, brothers. We may come from different provices, we many speak different tongues, we may be separated by wide areas extending over thousands of miles, but all this difference must disappear before our common brotherhood. We may have our private disputes, tempting offers may be in work to seduce particular officials to create divided interest, but we must  rise superior to all these. Private quarrel never so bitter and temptation never so powerful, should not alienate us from our allegiance to brother officials and make us traitors to our cause. This feeling is class-consciousness, without which no organisation worth the name is possible.

                 The second requisite is that on official should stand aloof  from our Union.  Union is strength, and we cannot afford to have  division in our camp.  In the interest of service as much as for individual interest, everyone should join the Uion with heart and soul, so that our demands may have behind them, the  united strength of the entire body of officials.

                 The third requisite is to create a substantial Reserve Fund.  Brother delegates full purse constitutes the sinews of war, and no special emphasis is at all necessary on this point. You all know that without a strong financial backing, satisfactory work cannot be done.

                 The fourth, requisite is to give publicity to our grievances  through the press.  The labour organisations in the west have their own organs for their purpose.  In India we hand, until lately practically no organ for our own entirely devoted to the lately, practically no organ for our own entirely devoted to the interest of postal and R.M.S employees.  This want has now been supplied to a certain extent by the "Labour'. a monthly magazine issued under the auspices of the Provisional Association, Bengal and Assam.  If the All India Union could undertake to issue its own paper, or, failing that, recognised the 'Labour' and gave it sanction to assume the All India  character in name, as it has already done  in its methods, it would be  better still.  The organ of the Union should be very largely subscribed, so that every employee may have the opportunity to acquaint himself with the activities of association, and become familiar with the progress of ideas.

                 The fifth requisite is to influence the members of the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State with a view to bring pressure on the Government. The  value of help in this direction  will, however, depend to great extent on the strength of our organisation.  The members are in a position to render help, no doubt, but their help will not be very effective, unless our organisation becomes powerful.

                 26.   These are the five requisites for a successful organisation. I wish to add one more to the Colonel’s list;  I mean a proper sense of discipline. As I said in my speech at Mymensingh, the Colonel does not appear to have laid emphasis on the point, simply because discipline is so spontaneous in England, although the spirit of discipline is almost moribund in India. Discipline requires  that when you have a duly elected Executive you must abide by their decision in all matters which are within their competence.  If you find the Executive going wrong you have the choice to elect a fresh Executive; but you cannot, consistently with the principles of discipline, keep an Executive body in office and override their action.  Then, discipline demands that when there is a difference of opinion, the minority must abide by the verdict of the majority; there must be no secession, 'I do not agree with you on a particular question and I cannot, therefore act with you' - this spirit is subversive of discipline.  If my view does not find favour with the majority. I must subordinate my view to the views of the majority, and loyally work wholeheartedly  for the common cause. This is discipline.  Brother delegates, the spirit of discipline is still weak in us and it is, therefore, so very necessary always to remember that without discipline no organisation can stand and work with success.

                 27.   The  Government not forget to reiterate, in season and out of season, that a strong committee was appointed to investigate the grievances of Post Office officials.  The Government have accepted their recommendations; what cause of complaint have we then?  We must admit that the committee was strong enough to call workers beggars, strong in their anxiety to recommend as little as possible, strong in declaring the witnesses chosen by the workers as unreliable, strong in rejecting the unanimous demands of the men, strong in accepting whatever was suggested from official quarters, strong in murdering logic and facts, strong in preparing absurd and grotesque schemes.

                 28.   Most of you have, I hope, gone through the memorial submitted to H.E, the viceroy by the Secretary, Provincial Postal and R.M.S. Association , Bengal and Assam Circle, which contains a criticism of the Committee’s report.  The Committee richly deserved the castigation it has received.  After a prolonged sitting, Committee produced a scheme, which contains within itself its own condemnation.  Juniuor men would get higher pay than senior men, a graduate newly appointed would march four years in advance of graduates in service. A graduate paid probationer appointed before December 1919 would be entitled to the initial pay of a Reserve clerk, but a graduate paid probationer appointed after December 1919 would start on an initial pay of four years in advance in the timescale; what greater absurdities could be conceived to discredit the report of the Committee.

                 29.   The distinction made between First class and Second class Head office is based on reasons inconsistent with facts.  Neither it is true that cost of living in places with First class  Head Offices is higher than places with Second class Head Offices, nor it is a fact that work in a First class Head Office is more arduous and more difficult.  Then, a first class Head Office may be reduced to a second class Head Office and Vice versa as is has happened before; and what scale of  pay would then apply is a problem for Gods to solve.  The curious part of the whole affair is that the Committee made this fanciful distinction on their own initiative or on the initiative from official quarters, without caring even to question the worker’s witnesses what they had to say on the subject.  The fact of the matter is that the Committee did not care a jot for the opinion of worker’s witnesses, and the fact of calling these witnesses was a mere form and nothing else.

                 30.   I refrain from giving a full catalogue of the absurdities as they are too numerous.  We are ashamed of the Committee, and the Government should be ashamed of the Committee.  We reject the findings of the Committee, and the Government should do likewise as the only honourable course.

                 31.   Now, brothers, we should consider what we actually want and determine what we should fight for.  To my mind four things are necessary to establish the subordinate service in the Post Office on a correct basis.  The first thing we must have, is adequate and decent wages; the second thing, curtailment of hours of duty; the third thing, good treatment from superior officers and moderation of punishment; and the last thing that we must have a voice in the administration in matters affecting the subordinate staff.

                 32.   At the last conference, held at Delhi, we agreed that the scale of pay for clerks and sorters should be uniform, and we formulated our minimum demands.  I do not know that anything has happened since then to alter our views.  We must fight for the minimum irreducible demands we determine after mature consideration.  I think it was time that we took up the question of irreducible minimum wages for other classes of employees in the subordinate service as well.

                 33.   Brothers, time-scale of pay for the Subordinate Service is meant to give a living wage.  Efficiency bars are out of place where living wage is the question.  Efficiency bars are, therefore, inconsistent and anomalous and out of place in the time-scale of pay in the subordinate service.  In the superior services pay is determined, not by the standard of living but to attract men of superior stamp and to give dignity to high offices, and it is, therefore, in the fitness of things that there should be efficiency bars in the time-scale of pay in the superior services.  Brothers, we cannot, therefore, tolerate any bars in the time-scales of pay in the subordinate service of the Post Office.

                 34.   The reduction in the hours of duty is of equal importance.  Under existing conditions one is required to work very long hours, generally from 10 to 12 hours, daily.  The responsibility of Post Office duty is very heavy.  Hard labour for inordinately long hours with considerable money responsibility reduces the men to a state of physical and mental paralysis; and it should not be allowed to continue for a day to the detriment of the service, if we can help it.  The authorities are, however, altogether callous.  In the year 1919-20 the work of the Post Office increased over 11% and only 1.8% increased staff was sanctioned.  Where is the wonder then that the manipulating staff should be harder pressed year after year.  With the question of reducing hours of duty, is involved the question of revising the Time-Test.  We must press for workers’ representatives in any committee that may be appointed to revise the Time-Test.

                 35.   The question of punishment is another matter which we must take up in earnest.  The superior officers treat their subordinates not as public servants but as public slaves.  One who cares to know can easily find for himself, if one visits an important Post Office at a busy hour, how showers of abuse and insult pour down on the devoted heads of the clerks as a most natural thing.  Even assaults are not a very uncommon occurrence.  But the clerks do not get protection from the Department they serve.  They have to exercise Job’s patience even under extreme provocation, lest their official career be ruined.

                 36.    The postal administration is conducted by working on the terror of the subordinate staff. Circulars and instructions issued by the authorities always carry a sting in the tail and the sting is in the shape of a warning that "mistake or failure to carry out instructions will be severely punished".  This betrays a mentality that has no faith in the sense of duty and loyalty of the workers, but depends entirely on the terror of punishment. Like slave onwners, the Postal Administration always keep the  rod uplifted to get the work done.  What is calculated to demoralise the men more than this ? The authorities do not believe in the innate goodness of man. They appear to hold that man was not created by the good God, but by the forces of Evil; and the evil propensities so inherited can be restrained only by the use of the rod.

                 37.   Draco, the ancient  law giver of athens is not dead. He lives in spirit in the Postal Administration.  Have you missent a letter ? You  must be fined-you must bleed. Have you, through pressure of work, failed to exercise the necessary scrutiny prescribed in the manual rule? - you must bleed, you must pay heavy penalty in fine and you must be degraded. Have you  the hardihood of allowing your manhood to rebel against insults. abuses and assaults? - you must bleed and your career is blighted. Any smallest thing will be on record against you and it will bar your progress beyond the efficiency bars, and your dream of entering the selection grades will vanish into thin air.  The Director General in his book recently published admits, to quote his own words."Every official in the Department is supposed to have the contents of these four volumes of Manual at this finger’s end, but in reality few have ever read them through; and any one who attempted to obey all their instructions would find himself sadly hampered in the exercise of his duties''. But what of that? This frank admission by Mr. Clark does not at all count when punishment is determined, and it goes on merrily as ever.  We must seriously take up this question of punishment and the treatment due from superior officers.  We cannot allow our manhood to be destroyed by such constant terror of punishment hanging like Damocles sword over our head.

                 38.   Brothers, our position will not be quite satisfactory unless we can secure a voice in the Postal administration in matters affecting the subordinate staff.  The authorities have the knack of launching into schemes, husty and defective; and the manipulating staff have to suffer.  You know what happened when the despatch of V.P  Money Order forms to office of destination was abolished, what confusion it caused, what trouble it brought  to the workers, what serious inconvenience it caused to the public, and how at last the old system had to be reintroduced.  The abolition of Savings Bank Ledger maintained in the Audit Office was another instance of serious blunder, which generated endless difficulties and occasioned the ruin of many promising careers.

                 39.   The disintegration of the Calcutta G.P.O and separation of the sorting work to form a separate Sorting Office under the control of Deputy Postmaster General, R.M.S was also a huge blunder.  After a chequered career and various somersaults the Calcutta Sorting has been restored to the control of the Presidency Postmaster.  These blundering experiments have proved unqualified failures.  But they involved a lot of wasteful expenditure and caused endless trouble to the workers.  Such blunders can be easily avoided if the representative Associations of the workers are consulted, and the weight given to their opinion.  For purpose of good administration, for the prevention of wasteful expenditure and for saving the workers from unnecessary troubles, we have a right to claim that in all administrative measures affecting the subordinate staff the All India (including Burma) Post Office and R.M.S Union should be consulted.

                 40.   It may look ungallant, but I shall be failing in my duty if I do not refer to  the invidious preference given to women clerks.  They will start on a higher initial pay much higher even than that of graduates; the rates of annual increment are higher, and there are no efficiency bars for them.  All the world over women clerks still hold a place inferior to male clerks, and only now a movement is going on in England on behalf of women clerks for an equal status with male clerks.  But this natural order has been reversed in the Indian Post Office for reasons best known to the authorities.  Are you going to accept this lower status assigned to male clerks or are you determined to remove to stigma of inferiority thus branded on your forehead?

                 41.   Brothers, the tale of our woes is endless and I have touched only the fringe.  But I have already inflicted on you a long lucubration to tire your patience.  I do not dare to take further advantage of your goodness out of which you have given me so patient a  hearing.  I shall, therefore, conclude by asking you to remember that you are men, and not dumb driven cattle; you have a soul which is the essence of God and which nothing can repress except your own folly and ignorance and supineness.  You have immense potentiality, capable of moving heaven and earth.  Organise this power, organise with a purpose, organise with determination, and I promise you success will knock at your door.

                 Brother delegates, I earnestly hope that you will not only carry the impression of this Conference with you but act up to the deals set forth here. Go and organise the employees in the different provinces so that when we meet next year in Madras we may be able to demonstrate to the authorities that we are not a weak body to be trifled with.  Gentlemen. I cannot  conclude before uttering a few words of warning with regard to recognition.  The rules laid down by Government for recognition are humiliating and if you accept them, your associations will be reduced to officialised bodies without liberty and independence.  Recognition is bound to come from the unwilling Government as soon as you make your association strong.  Government has begun to recognise the Bengal Provincial Association. It replies to the letters addressed by the association to Government; supplies it with all its circulars and publications.  Do try to make your association strong but do not commit the suicidal folly of seeking for recognition.  I would once again thank Bawa Teja Singh, Mr. Swaberry, Volunteers and the delegates, assembled in the conference.