ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: "The Story of A Strike"

Weekly Note from Volume X, No 35, August 30, 1958.

The Tata Iron and Steel Co Ltd, has brought out a beautifully printed booklet, entitled, ‘The Story of a Strike (May 1958): The Communist Bid for Power at Jamshedpur’. It gives a resume of events that led to the strike and subsequent lock-out and as the subtitle advertises, it tries to prove that Communist activities at Jamshedpur were part of a predetermined plan to acquire control over the industrial belt of growing steel and heavy engineering enterprises. The Communists revived the Jamshedpur Mazdoor Union, and through it made certain demands on the management. When the management (and incidentally the State Government of Bihar too) refused to recognise the Union as a bargaining agent, a token strike was waged on May 12 last. As the strike was illegal, the Company decided to issue charge-sheets against the leaders. Further trouble followed in the all-too-familiar pattern of stay-in and sit-down strike, intimi-dation, picketing, arson and violence and police and military intervention. The Tata booklet concludes that the net result of the Communist campaign is that the plant, the employees, the shareholders and the country as a whole have suffered while no one has gained. The debt side of the balance sheet shows: 4 lives lost; 114 persons injured; property worth Rs 11.15 lakhs destroyed; 335,000 man-days gone waste...

The other side of the story has been told by the Communists, who have charged the Tatas and the Bihar Government with entering into a conspiracy ‘to dig the grave in Jamshedpur of the national Codes and Conventions’ (‘New Age’, July 6, 1958). The Central Government also comes in for criticism. “One Ministry of the U nion Government, the Labour Ministry, refused to inter vene in what it characterised as ‘primarily the concern of the State Government’. But the other Ministry (of Defence) promptly moved into action by deploying its armed forces to strike awe and terror into the TISCO workers. The Communists claim that their union had a membership of 19,000 out of the total labour force of 33,000, that this membership was veri-fied by the Bihar Government and that, in spite of this conclusive proof, the union was not given a chance to be one of the bargaining agents.

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