History of Trade union Movement in India and BMS

History of Trade union Movement in India and BMS

BMS is today not only the largest central trade union in India, but also the largest independent national trade union of the world. Even though China has a larger and sole trade union, it is under government control and is not independent. Both the Communist and Congress oriented Trade Union Historians in India have not given a real picture or the reasons regarding the growth and fall of different Trade Unions in India. That is squarely the main reason for their failure to give a proper analysis of the miraculous growth of B.M.S., which had entered the fray very late or probably, as the last one. The ideological pre conceptions and study methods of the said Historians are not sufficient to analyse the growth of BMS. It is a paradox that none of the documents about the recent History of Trade Union Movement have the details about the growth of BMS to the number one position.   

 

Growth of BMS in recent Trade Union Movement can be correctly understood only if we go through the previous history of the trade union movement, the success and failure of different Unions, political splits and the reasons that led to the formation of BMS. BMS had hitherto adopted a different methodology, which had proved to be successful in spite of the absence of an array of projected leaders.

The History of Trade Union Movement in India shows three different movements capturing the Trade Union Scenario in three different periods of time. The first phase of the Trade Union History up to 1947 is characterised by the birth of the main Trade Union i.e. AITUC and capturing of it by the Communists. The second phase shows the consequent birth of INTUC and its domination of Trade Union field. The third phase of the History until today shows BMS, the last movement that entered the scene emerging as the largest Trade Union of the Country. Others are only unions split up either from the Congress or Communist trade unions mainly for political reasons.

Our country has culturally different labour ideals

Till 19th century, the employer employee relations in the west were dominated by master servant concept which is developed from the slavery and feudal concepts prevalent there. In USA, law prohibited slavery only in the year 1862. England put an end to slavery only half a century back from that of USA. Till then slavery was an important feature of their social life in which there was wide spread sale or trafficking of human beings in markets like cattle. In India through out its History we do not find such system of slavery. On the contrary we find from time immemorial, workers were given dignified position in the society. Ancient Indians worshiped Viswakarma who was supposed to be the inventor of many vocations. There was a society in India, which believed in theory as well as in practice the principle of “work is worship”. There were job-oriented family groups in our country for a long period of history, which later on developed in to different castes. 

Birth of Trade Unions in the West 

In England, laws like The Combination Act of 1799 etc. which prohibited workers organising themselves, made it difficult for the formation of trade unions. Finally for the first time, an employer by name Robert Oven who owned a textile mill in Manchester had to take the initiative to start trade union movement in England. Still the first trade union formed in the West is said to be the Mechanics’ Union formed in the year 1827 in Philadelphia. 

Social reformers initiating Trade Union Movement in modern India  

In the modern India, trade union activity was started by social reformers and socio-cultural workers. In 1870, Sasipada Banerji who was a leader of Brahmo Samaj formed an organisation by name “Working men’s Club” in Calcutta. They published the first labour magazine by name “Bharath Sromajeebi”. 

Many trade union historians describe N.M. Lokhande as the father of modern trade union movement. He was a disciple of Mahatma Phoole who was a social reformer and who worked for the development of backward section of the society in Maharashtra. During 1884, Lokhande organised the workers of Bombay and made many efforts to establish their rights. Workers went on agitation against the division of Bengal in the year 1905 and against transportation of Lok manya Tilak. 

Communist trade union historians point to May Day to denote the historical incident of the first agitation in the world demanding 8 hours working time by the workers of Chicago. But it is interesting to note that even 24 years prior to that incident, during April-May period of 1862, about 1200 railway workers of Howrah (Calcutta) went on strike demanding the same. Trade union history of the world is slow in accepting this historical truth. 

Role of Gandhiji

Mahatma Gandhi had successfully fought for the Indian workers in South Africa and against the exploitation of the indigo cultivators of Champaran village by the zamindars. It was in Ahemadabad that the strike of workers in India for the first time ended in success, which was guided by Gandhiji. Gandhiji’s upavasa satyagraha was also experimented for the first time in Ahmedabad at that time. On the other side Gandhiji brought the workers there to the political activities of Indian National Congress even though as a part of National struggle.  

Congress trade union formed defying Gandhiji  

Even though in this way Gandhiji displayed his effective presence in the labour field, Congress historians say that Congress disobeyed him through the formation of AITUC. For sending an Indian representative to ILO, the AICC conference of 1919 constituted a subcommittee for the formation of a trade union of Congress. Gandhiji was unhappy about it and he opposed this move saying that the time has not come for the Congress to form a trade union at the National level. The trade union of Ahmedabad who had allegiance to Gandhiji kept away from the formation of the National level Trade union. In spite of Gandhiji’s opposition, AICC gave birth to a new trade union by name AITUC. Congressmen were mostly interested in National political movement and could not devote much of their time to trade union work. So gradually the Socialist-Communist groups in Congress captured the leadership of AITUC. Communist organisers from Britain came to India and worked for that purpose. 

Betrayal of workers by Communists 

Gandhiji’s approach was not to mix worker’s interest with political interest. But the Socialist group in Congress considered trade union work as means to political power. Throughout the history of AITUC, the Communists used trade union work and worker’s agitation for political purposes. At the same time when workers needed strike, they refrained from going to strike only for political reasons. 

Madhu Limaye has written that the Communists in India justified the killing of lakhs of agricultural workers in Russia by Stalin. In Kerala, Congress leaders like Kelappan have opposed in public the Communist elements in Congress using trade unions for political purposes. On the contrary Communists accused Congress for not thinking about workers and peasants.  

Communist Unions made instrumental to work against Quit India movement

When Quit India movement was wide spread through out the country, the Communists used Trade Unions as their most powerful weapon to torpedo it. At the beginning of Second World War period, Stalin who was the world Communist leader and Hitler who was the cruellest politician of the history stood hand in hand at the war front. These two leaders together attacked many smaller countries. At that time Stalin told the communists of the world that it is an “imperialist war”. Communists in India also repeated this slogan of “imperialist war” and opposed the British who were fighting the war against the Hitler-Stalin alliance. Later on when Hitler turned against Stalin, the Communists renamed the war as “people’s war” and the Communists in India changed their stand and started helping the British in their war efforts. For the purpose, they betrayed the innocent and uneducated workers in the trade unions by inducing them to support the British Government and keep away from Quit India movement. 

During 1942-1944 even when there was acute price rise, Communist trade union leaders were indulging in asking the workers not to strike and requesting them to “increase production” to assist the war efforts of the British Government. Communist trade union leaders worked hand in hand with the industrialists and estate owners and showed their ‘class co-operation’. 

Birth of INTUC 

Such anti-National and political activities of Communists invited opposition from different corners of the country. Many new unions came into being claiming themselves to be Nationalist unions. There were widespread resignations from unions controlled by Communists. This ultimately led, after some period, to the formation of a new central trade union by name INTUC, to serve the political interests of Congress. 

Hindustan Mazdoorseva Kendra was a forum formed in 1938 for the study of Gandhian thought. In 1945 the Congress Working Committee through a resolution decided that, in future trade union workers who are sympathisers of Congress should work according to the directions given by the said HMK. Finally in 1947 Congress leaders met together and formed INTUC. Even at the inception INTUC had a backing of about 200 unions. The main job of INTUC was to assist the ruling Congress party and trade union work was only ancillary. 

HMS, UTUC and CITU 

In 1941 M.N. Roy, the propounder of Communist movement in India resigned from AITUC and formed a new trade union called IFL (Indian Federation of Labour). But majority of the workers in it was pro-Pakistan Muslims who later left India in the year 1947. The Socialists in Congress formed a trade union called HMP (Hind Mazdoor Panchayat) in 1948. Both these HMP and IFL merged together and formed HMS. Those Congress Socialists, who did not join HMS due to political difference of opinion, gave birth to the trade union called UTUC in 1949. 

During the Indo-China war in 1962, Communists and AITUC openly came out with their anti-National stand of allegiance to China. During the later 1960s, Communists in Soviet Union and China blamed each other and went apart. Consequential division took place in the Communist Party of India also. Indian Communists who showed allegiance to China came out of CPI and formed CPM in 1964. This split reflected in AITUC also. Under the political direction of CPM, a new central trade union was formed in 1970 by name CITU. The reason for forming the new trade union as declared was that, AITUC has surrendered to the Capitalist class. 

Thus the first and second phase of modern trade union history shows that all other major trade unions were formed by different unions splitting and merging at different point of time only due to political reasons. The only exception was the formation of BMS. 

Guruji deputes Thengadiji to study Trade Union Work

It was Dattopanth Thengadiji who was entrusted with the task of building up an organisation in labour field on the basis of Bharathiya thought process by Guruji Golwalkar who was the then Sar Sanghchalak of RSS. Thengadiji who was an RSS pracharak started RSS work in Kerala and worked there from 1942 onwards. From 1945 onwards till 1948, he was working as RSS Prantha Pracharak of Bengal. It was in 1949 that Guruji sent him to study labour field. As per the directions of Guruji and for the purpose of studying trade union work, Thengadiji worked in both Congress and Communist trade unions. Gradually he got elevated to the top positions of those organisations. 

With in a short period of joining INTUC, he became office bearer of about 10 unions affiliated to INTUC. In October 1950 he became the National Executive Committee member of INTUC. Besides he became the State Secretary of INTUC of the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh. From 1952 onwards he was working as the State organising secretary of the Communist Bank employees’ organisation called AIBEA. During the period of 1954-1955, Thengadiji was the President of Central circle (Consisting of erstwhile Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Rajasthan) of RMS Employees Union (Postal). He was the President of various unions affiliated to INTUC in LIC, Railway, Textiles, Coal etc. Thus he had first hand experience about the different aspects of trade union activities and strikes. These opportunities helped Thengadiji to study deeply Communist ideology and communist working methods. Thengadiji successfully completed the mission entrusted to him “single handed” (according to Guruji’s own words). Thereafter he was asked to start a new central trade union. Guruji also made it clear that such a trade union can seek inspiration from RSS ideals, but not commands from it.

The Founding of BMS 

When Thengadiji convened the all India meeting for the formation of BMS in Bhopal on 23rd of July 1955, only 35 workers attended it from various States. Those who assembled on that day were not trade union leaders; but were RSS workers who came there because of their interest in social work. In contrast to the formation of other central trade unions, BMS was formed without even a single union or membership to back it. Other central trade unions generally formed their all India committee first, then formed their state committees and thereafter formed their lower committees. This was the progression of their organisational set up. Contrary to this in BMS work organisational set up was developed from below. At first, unions were started, then district committees were formed and thereafter state committees were formed.

In the initial days the result of trade union work was highly discouraging and full of difficulties. Government, employers as well as other established Central Trade Unions treated them with hostility. There was no money, office, public support or legal expertise with the workers. They had to work many a time even without food. Still they continued trade union work out of their dedication and without losing self-confidence. During those days workers meetings were conducted in places of public worship and public parks. 

During the first decade of BMS growth, all India federations (Maha Sangh) were formed in seven sectors. They are textile, coal, engineering, defence, railway, sugar and electricity. Even though in the banking sector NOBW was formed in 1964, it was not affiliated to BMS till 1967. Before the all India conference of 1967, there were 7 all India federations, 541 unions and 2,45,902 members in BMS. 

BMS-a Trade Union with difference

Thengadiji the founder of BMS built up the ideological basis of it right from its inception. When political trade unions misused workers of our country for their power politics, BMS was formed with the slogan “apolitical trade union” (above politics). It believed in genuine trade union activity inculcating National spirit in the minds of workers. Instead of the Communist theory of class conflict it believed in the concept of industrial family. Hence instead of the Communist slogan “workers of the world unite” it said- “workers, unite the world”. The cyclic concept of “Nationalise the labour, labourise the industry, industrialise the Nation” gives the idea of what BMS is striving for in the labour sector. Viswakarma Jayanthi day was decided to be celebrated as National Labour Day. The apolitical character of the organisation was kept on from its inception till now with out dilution.    

In many issues it displayed its own ideological and organisational identity in its approach. The reason for its miraculous growth was its distinctive peculiarities. If we examine the formative background of the organisation we will recognise two of its specialities which led to its historical success. They are: 1. The inspiration and organisational culture derived from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, 2. The guidance given by Thengadiji who is non-compromising on fundamental ideals.

BMS approach to various issues

It was BMS that for the first time in the Country started agitation for removing the anomalies in fixing consumer price index (CPI- the basis of Dearness Allowance paid to workers). Other organisations like INTUC & AITUC opposed this in the beginning. Slowly organisations like HMS, HMP joined it. Later on all other organisations also joined the agitation. Soon the demand gathered momentum and culminated in a Mumbai Bandh on 20th August, 1963. The Bandh was a great success. The Lakdawala Committee was constituted to look into the calculation of CPI Index and recommend necessary rectification. 

During this time, BMS demanded “Bonus To All” and effectively argued that Bonus is a “deferred wage”. The legal world and others later accepted this view.      

During the Chinese attack of 1962 and the Pakistan attack of 1965 BMS served the Nation in its defence activities by forming “Rashtriya Mazdoor Morcha”. Through this forum BMS gave all possible help to the Government as well as to the Jawans. Again during the Bangladesh liberation war also this “Rashtriya Mazdoor Morcha” was formed to assist the war efforts of India. 

First All India Conference 

After hard work for about 12 years, an all India conference was convened on 12th and 13th of August 1967 in Delhi. It was in this conference that the first all India committee was formed for BMS. Till then BMS work was discussed and looked after by a five member informal committee and Thengadiji was named as the General Secretary of BMS for trade union purposes. Shri Dadasaheb Gaikwad, who was a leader of the downtrodden and who had worked as the right hand of Dr. Ambedkar, inaugurated the first conference. By this time BMS has obtained recognition in states like UP and Delhi. In Punjab, BMS representative was included in the State Labour Advisory Board. 

By the time of all India conference at Kanpur in 1970, BMS obtained recognition in states like Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, MP, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In Andaman and Nicobar islands, all the employees of Nationalised banks became members of BMS. 

Various facets of BMS work 

In the All India Strike of Central Govt. Employees on the 19th September, 1968, Bharateeya Railway Mazdoor Sangh and Bharateeya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh actively participated.  As a result many employees were suspended, terminated and many were put in jail. Many of them lost their job. In January, 1969, in the Joint meetings of all Central Trade Unions, BMS proposed to complain to the ILO of the high handedness of the government in crushing the All India Strike.  The proposal was welcomed by all other Central Trade Unions.

BMS gave a detailed submission to the 1st National Commission on Labour under the Chairmanship of Justice Gajendragadkar appointed by the Central Government in 1969. This submission was published as book by name “Labour Policy” (Sramneeti).  It is an excellent and comprehensive study on the views of BMS on different aspects of labour. 

On 22nd September, 1969, BMS in a delegation of around 50,000 workers, placed a National Charter of Demands, to the then President Shri V V Giri. The National Charter of Demands given to Shri. V.V. Giri on 22nd September 1969 is also an authentic document on the views of BMS on different socio-economic and labour issues. It contained thoughts not only on labour but also on the entire manpower in the society. 

During 1971, it was a novel experience when BMS started work among the unorganised domestic servants in Mumbai and formed a separate union for them by name “Kharelu Kamgar Sangh”. Their speciality is that, contrary to the conventional employments, one domestic servant works with more than one employer, sometimes upto eight to ten different employers. They did not have any legal recognition or protection of any of the labour laws. Their only asylum was the union. Instead of the methods of strike and other agitations this union adopted the method of peaceful satyagraha. A big rally of around 60,000 Gharelu Kamgar was taken out in the streets of Mumbai on 22nd and 23rd May, 1972 on the third conference of BMS held there.

In 1973 BMS decided to give more attention to spread its work among unorganised and insecure workers. In 1974 Bharatiya Railway Mazdoor Sangh also actively participated in the strike of railway employees. But BMS was very particular that there will not be any destruction to National property. In the same way BMS union actively participated in the joint strike by LIC employees. 

Proclamation of Emergency

During the all India conference at Amritsar in April 1976, Thengadiji cautioned about the coming menace to the Nation. He opposed the policy of oppression. As cautioned, on June 26th, Indira Gandhi declared emergency in the country for protecting her personal power position. RSS was banned on 4th July, 1975. When people’s fundamental rights including right to speech and right to organise were taken away there was continuous agitation by Nationalist forces in which BMS also was in the forefront. INTUC owing to its allegiance to ruling congress supported the autocracy. Since CPI was supporting Congress, AITUC also took the same stand. Other Communist and Socialist trade union leaders were frightened and most of them withdrew from the scene. The Lok Sangharsh Samiti was formed and a joint circular by BMS, CITU, HMS and HMKP was issued. But BMS was the main organisation that worked openly among the workers for the protection of the Nation. When the workers’ right to Bonus was taken away during emergency, both AITUC and INTUC supported it. Other trade unions except BMS displayed their helplessness and made only token protest. They forgot all their traditions of going on strike even for trifle matters. For agitating against emergency, thousands of BMS workers were jailed and many were brutally tortured. Most others have to work underground. Before the emergency period ended in March 1977, more than 70,000 BMS workers had participated in Satyagraha. More than 5000 workers of BMS were arrested and many were jailed. Around 111 were jailed under MISA alone. The Nation had a first hand experience about the efficiency, sacrifice and patriotism of BMS in contrast to other trade unions. 

Apolitical ideal of BMS 

The Janatha Party, which came to power at the centre in 1977, made repeated requests to BMS to become an affiliate of that party. But BMS stood firmly on its ideal of keeping away from power politics. Even though many leaders and intellectuals said it is foolish to spoil the golden opportunity, test of time proved that the decision was an apt one. By the end of 1979, Janatha party was divided into pieces because of its run for power politics. Due to the tragedy of Janatha Party, again Indira Gandhi was elected to power with landslide victory after 1980. 

When right to Bonus was taken away in emergency period, INTUC and AITUC did not oppose it. But when Janatha Party came to power they started making noise. At that time Janatha Party’s trade unions like HMS and HMP supported the policy of the Government and kept mum. Again when Congress came to power, INTUC and AITUC became silent, where as HMS and HMP started opposing the Government. Thus it is the political affinity or hostility towards the ruling party both at the centre and the states, that decided the policy of all the trade unions except BMS.

 

But during the period of Janatha Party’s rule, BMS stood on the side of workers without any political affinity in issues like bonus, railway employees’ strike, industrial relations bill etc. At that time it was a widely discussed news that due to the strike of BMS workers the supply of water to the Parliament area was stopped.                               

Thus BMS always took the policy of “responsive co-operation” towards Governments irrespective of its political colour. Responsive co-operation means that the co-operation or hostility of BMS towards the Government or the employer depends on the attitude taken by them towards the workers. The ideal of apolitical trade union activity followed by BMS from its very inception is reflected in every one of its actions. 

Because of the confidence so obtained, BMS had a record growth after that period. During 1975 the total membership of BMS was over 8 lakhs, which increased to over 18 lakhs by 1981. In 1980 which was the silver jubilee year of BMS, the Viswakarma Jayanthi day was celebrated throughout the country as National Labour Day. In 1984 as a part of the programme of 60th birthday of Thengadiji, rupees 24 lakhs were collected for the day to day organisational work of BMS.

BMS continuing its Pursuit

On 4th June, 1981, a National Campaign Committee comprising of 8 Central Trade Unions and National Industrial Federations, including BMS was formed at Mumbai to counter the faulty anti-labour policies of the government. BMS worked actively in NCC. During 1986, ten central trade unions joined together to form a common platform to address issues like national unity, disarmament, and racial discrimination.  

BMS welcomed all labour aiding devices and rejected all labour displacing devices.  In the all India conference at Hyderabad in 1984, BMS decided to observe 1984 as “Anti Computerisation Year” to oppose labour displacing computerisation. It was a time when in industrial and banking sector computerisation was spreading. Instead of assisting labour, it was displacing labour and capturing its place. What Indian situation required was not labour displacing technology, but labour intensive technology to accommodate the ever-growing army of unemployed people waiting for job. At the same time BMS said that computerisation can be there in inevitable areas like research, defence, atmospheric study, oceanography etc. BMS accepted computer and opposed computerisation, just as Gandhiji accepted capital and opposed capitalism. 

Role in ILO

Since the installation of Janata Govt. at centre in year 1977, BMS was recognised as a responsible central trade union to represent in ILO along with the Indian delegation. Shri Thengdiji attended the 63rd session of International Labour Conference at Geneva in 1977.  Immediately after declaring BMS as the second largest trade union in the country in 1984, BMS was officially included in every Indian Trade union delegation for representation at international forums. From 1996 onwards BMS was designated to represent India in ILO as labour delegate, with the other Trade Unions accompanying as advisors. Only in the year 2005, Ministry of labour arbitrarily superseded the right of BMS as the ‘most representative workers’ organization’ to have the delegate status, and conferred their political trade union INTUC the status of delegate. BMS raised complaint before the Credential Committee of ILO and they warned in its own way the Government of India not to repeat it in future (See appendix). In the next time onwards the Government restored delegate status to BMS.

Solidarity with International Trade Unions begins

In April 1985, at the invitation of All China Trade Union Federation, the only trade union of China, a BMS team led by Shri Thengadiji visited China. There the ACFTU leaders showed much interest in studying the special working method and views on labour relations of BMS. The Beijing Radio broadcast Shri Thengdiji’s address to China and the Chinese workers.

During November 1990 at the World Conference of WFTU, in Moscow, BMS was invited as a Special Invitee.

At the international level there are three different trade union federations, viz. 1. Pro capitalist ICFTU now called ITUC, 2. Pro-leftist WFTU and 3. WCL claiming to be independent which has now merged with ICFTU (to become ITUC). Since BMS could not ideologically identify itself with their political stands and established interests, BMS did not get affiliated with any of them. Still our direct international relations with the trade unions of other countries are getting strengthened. BMS had been participating in various international labour conferences of ILO and others. BMS has participated in the Government level labour conference in USA and many other countries. ILO officials as well as trade union representatives from various countries of the world have visited BMS central office.  

BMS opposes Social Clause in ILO

During the ILO conference of 1994, BMS representative Shri R. Venugopal opposed the implementation of “social clause”. The representatives from many other countries welcomed this. In the subsequent years also the same resistance was continued by BMS. In 1997 under the pressure from WTO, the same idea came up in ILO in a new name, “social labelling”. BMS opposed this also. Again in the ILO conference of 1998 when the same was presented in a new name, BMS representative R. Venugopal organised trade unions from 12 different countries and opposed it. Federations like ICFTU took a stand in favour of WTO. Thus at the international level BMS is endeavouring to liberate the poor countries from the exploitative clutches of Capitalist countries, which was an objective put forward by the RSS founder Dr. Hedgevar. It is historical task of BMS to take up the leadership that can give confidence and direction to the trade unions of third world countries.

BMS grows to top position

In the 5th all India conference at Jaipur in 1978, the membership of BMS exceeded 10 lakhs. This again grew to 20 lakhs by the time of the 7th conference in 1984. Central Government conducted a membership verification of the entire central trade unions based on the cut off date of 31-12-1980. The result was published only in 1984 by the Government according to which, INTUC came to the first position and BMS came to the second position. Even though BMS had over 20 lakhs membership in 1984, in the eye of Government BMS had to satisfy itself with 2nd position. 

During the next membership verification with 31st December 1989 as the cut off date, the Central Government under the congress rule had to declare in 1994, that BMS is the largest Central Trade Union in the country with an approved membership of 31,17,324 members. Right from 1948, INTUC was holding the top position. But for the first time they were pushed to the second position behind BMS. Thus BMS created history. The combined membership of both AITUC (the first central trade union of the country) and CITU was only far below than that of BMS. 

In 1987 the actual membership of BMS was about 33 lakhs. It increased to 39 lakhs in 1991, 45lakhs in 1994 and 47 lakhs in the 11th conference at Bhopal in 1996.

The long drawn legal process on membership claim finally culminated into Honourable High Court of Delhi directing the Central Government to hold verification on the basis of the membership as on 31st December 2002. Thereafter a nation wide verification was undertaken by the Ministry of Labour in which again BMS was declared as the No. 1 CTUO of the country with an approved membership of 62,15,797. INTUC came to the second position with a membership of 38,92,011 only, AITUC third with 33,42,213, HMS fourth with 32,22,532 and CITU fifth with a membership of 26,77,979. BMS is active in 44 industries and in new areas of unorganised sectors.

Other forums of BMS

At a conference at Calcutta in 1981, a separate wing for women was formed by BMS.  

The Hyderabad conference of 1984 declared war against the unholy alliance of multinational companies, Indian monopolies and the Government.  In 1989 USSR disintegrated and world Communism collapsed in the east European countries, resulting in the world becoming uni-polar. By 1990 New Economic Policies like LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation) and Open Market Policy came into being. On 3rd July 1991, Narsimha Rao Govt announced the New Economic Policy (NEP) and New Industrial Policy (NIP) in India, which opened all her doors for foreign investment, first by Institutions and later by FDI. After 1990s when developed countries spread their economic empire, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch was formed and BMS participated in many of its agitational programmes. The Tenth National Conference of BMS held at Dhanbad between 18th and 20th march 1994 declared a ‘War of Economic Independence against the Western Imperialism’. 

For the purpose of encouraging different religious groups to live like a family, work together for National interest and to inculcate BMS ideals in them, BMS formed “Sarva Panth Samadar Manch” in April 1994. BMS has formed a “Paryavaran Manch” (Environment forum) also in 1995. Every year BMS celebrates security week from March 4 to 11. 

Responsive Co-operation and NDA Government

Subsequent to 1990s even though various Governments led or supported by different political parties including leftists came to power, the labour policy as well as economic policy remained the same. BMS protested against the anti labour policies of Narasinha Rao Government of the Congress, leftists supported Deva Gowda Government and Gujral Government. During the tenure of the NDA Government also which had “friends” of BMS in it, BMS had to oppose the anti-labour policies. 

On 16th April 2001 BMS organised a very big rally of over 2 lacs workers and mammoth gathering of workers at the Ram Lila Grounds at New Delhi to protest against the Government’s policies. It also wanted to draw the attention of the Government towards the impending perils of towing the WTO way. “WTO MODO, TODO, YA CHODO” was the slogan.  BMS urged to take the War of Economic Independence to its logical conclusion by taking lead in forming an alternate to WTO and by bringing together the so called third world countries. The programme attracted the attention of the Nation. After that programme, trade unions of the country felt confidence in BMS and under the leadership of BMS they made various protests against the Government. 

Recent Major Agitations

BMS gave a call to observe ‘Public Sector Bundh’ on 16th April 2002 against Govt. s attempt to introduce changes in Basic structure. It was coordinated by other Central Trade Unions as well. BMS Federations in these industries held 2840 meetings and tens of thousands of employees participated. This Industrial Strike of Public sector and financial institutions commemorated a historic event.

A week long Jan Chetana Abhiyan was undertaken between 25th September and 2nd October, 2002 at over 40 state level places in the country when the workers, farmers and public at large were educated about the exploitation mechanism of WTO. As a forerunner to the WTO Ministerial Meet at Cancun, Mexico, a Jan Jagaran Abhiyan was undertaken between 23rd July and 9th August 2003 at all taluka level places in the country where around 4 lac workers participated. This was followed by a Maha Dharna at Ram Lila Grounds, New Delhi along with Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch.  

Dissenting Note to the Report of 2nd National Commission on Labour

The 2nd Commission under the Chairmanship of Shri Ravindra Varma was appointed by the Central Government after a gap of 30 years since the 1st Commission submitted its report in 1969. The 10 member Commission included only two trade union representatives, Saji Naryanan C.K. of BMS and Sanjeeva Reddy of INTUC. Communist trade unions as usual kept away from the working of the Commission and failed to make any contribution to this historic task. During June 2001 BMS made its submissions to the Commission. The final report of the Commission contained both pro labour as well as anti labour recommendations. Against the anti-labour recommendations, a detailed Note of Dissent was submitted by the BMS representative. This historic Note of Dissent became part of the Commission’s Report. It was a sad thing for the workers of the country that the INTUC representative has endorsed fully the anti-labour proposals in the report. There were mainly 8 issues on which BMS had submitted its Dissenting Note.

National Conferences

BMS has so far held fourteen National Conferences. The first Conference of BMS was held at Delhi on the 12th and 13th August, 1967. Then it continued as:-  Vadodara– Dhanbad– Nagpur– Bhopal– Thiruvananthapuram- New Delhi and Cuttack again. From Delhi to Amritsar, Thengadiji was the General Secretary. For Kolkata and Hyderabad Late Bade Bhai held the responsibility as the General Secretary. Later on for a decade Shri G.Prabhakar was the guiding light. Later R.K. Bhaktji took over in Bangalore and Vadodara. From Dhanbad to Thiruvananthapuram, Hasubhai Daveji was the General Secretary. There after from Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi, Shri. Uday Patwardhan held that responsibility.

Conclusion

Thus BMS that has made a new turning point in Indian trade union history is also making its un-erasable imprints in the world trade union history. In this historical Aswamedha Yajna, every worker of BMS has to play his vital role.  

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Shri C K. Saji Narayanan

Appendix

Misstatement of Indian Ministry of Labour made before the Credential Committee of ILO as stated in its Third Report dt. 15 June 2005:-   

“Para. 30. In a written communication addressed to the Committee in response to its request, the Ministry of Labour advised that, according to the latest general verification of trade union membership in 1996, the difference in membership between the BMS and the INTUC was marginal. The next general verification had been delayed for five years by the BMS legal challenges. Other verifications, however, had taken place at the level of industrial units and showed that the BMS had been losing ground since 1996. The Government further indicated that the individual who had been appointed Workers’ delegate was a widely accepted leader, even amongst organizations not affiliated to the INTUC and that its designation was therefore “judicious and equitable””. 

But the next verification results which came out in 2007 showed that the politically motivated shameful misstatement of Ministry of Labour was an utter falsehood, when the verified membership of INTUC is only almost half of that of BMS. The statement that the difference between the membership of BMS and INTUC is marginal and that general verification was delayed due to the challenge of BMS is also an utter falsehood. Subsequent to the signing of the anti labour recommendations of 2nd National Commission of Labour, Mr. Sanjeeva Reddy had been very unpopular among trade unions. Only criterion was that he belongs to the party of the ruling Government. The Credential committee reprimanding the Ministry of Labour concluded (in para.31) by saying:- “The Committee hopes that the Government will ensure the establishment of objective and transparent criteria for determining the most representative organizations and that the process of nominating the Workers’ delegation to the next session of the Conference will be engaged in a spirit of cooperation by all the parties involved.”

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