May 03, 2015

Remembering Comrade P K Ganguly

J S Majumdar

IN Comrade P K Ganguly a trade union leader was born out of three currents of the movement – against ideological revisionism and trade union reformism; against drug multinationals and for country’s self-reliance in medicines and for trade union rights of the medical and sales representatives – entwined in a common movement in early 1970s. P K Ganguly was moulded in the fire of struggle and sacrifice under the guidance of Comrade B T Ranadive. Formation of CPI(M) in 1964, Bardhaman plenum in 1968 and formation of CITU in 1970 had had deep impact among young groups in BSSR union, the union of medical and sales representatives in Bihar. The leadership of the union was with CPI. P K Ganguly and two others formed an underground Party unit at Patna, the only one among the medical and sales representatives in the country, except one Party branch in West Bengal, at that time. Quickly, CPI(M) party branches sprang up in different parts in Bihar. An underground Naxalite group also established its base among the medical and sales representatives at Patna, Gaya and Dhanbad including one company-colleague of Com P K Ganguly. Subsequently, police raided the BSSR Union office at Patna, but arrested some CPI(M) supporters instead and sent them to jail. Some in the Naxalite group later joined CPI(M) due to efforts of P K Ganguly and the rest left their hideouts in BSSR union. In 1974 April, a notorious Congress minister of Bihar sent armed gangs to capture BSSR Union during its conference at Laheriasarai to eliminate CPI(M) elements from the leadership and bring back CPI leadership. Some leading functionaries were forced to meet the gangsters at gun points. Yet, determined members of BSSR Union defeated this attempt and a historic rally was held. In the meantime, defeat of Congress in several state elections, including in Bihar, in 1967; formation of UF ministry in West Bengal; heightened strike actions in several drug manufacturing units in West Bengal including 3-month-long strike in Bengal Immunity and its extension among depot workers at Patna involving P K Ganguly and others; hated Dharma Vira governor’s rule and breaking of Bengal Immunity strike in Kolkata and Patna also created impact and had an influence on the political training of the CPI(M) group in Bihar. Immediately after the formation of CITU, the dominant CPI leadership of BSSR Union and of their national federation FMRAI launched virulent campaign against CITU calling it as a trade union disrupter. Articles were published in the union’s journal and widely distributed which was countered by P K Ganguly and others through printed articles. In 1972, CPI leadership was removed from BSSR Union and P K Ganguly became the president of the union. Same year in 1972, a coordination committee of depot workers unions and of medical representatives took out a procession to the then chief minister of Bihar, Kedar Pandey to submit a memorandum demanding nationalisation of all multinational drug companies. Drug MNCs were alarmed and Glaxo Laboratories first transferred and later dismissed the convener of the coordination committee from job. A countrywide movement developed against this attack. Com P K Ganguly travelled extensively from state to state organising the anti-Glaxo/anti-drug-MNCs movement, which reached to an unprecedented scale. In the process, new leadership in the states and Party groups were being developed in different parts of India. All India central committee of Glaxo employees unions also resorted to strike and organised entire pharmaceutical industry-wide strike in Mumbai-Thane region on this issue involving workers of 45 drug companies, mostly well known multinationals. This triggered off another development. All India Chemical and Pharmaceutical Employees Federation (AICAPEF) was formed in 1967 with CPI’s leader Indrajit Gupta being elected as its president. Dange wanted his daughter Roza Deshpande, who was active among pharmaceutical workers in Mumbai, to be the general secretary of AICAPEF. Mumbai delegation from the factory unions instead elected V M Verghese as its general secretary. Since then, the CPI leadership did not allow AICAPEF to function. During anti-Glaxo movement of 1972-73 not only movements of medical representatives throughout the country and factory and office workers of Maharashtra developed; but also factory and office workers in other parts of the country came in contact, some joining the movement. This created congenial conditions and AICAPEF was revived in a conference in Mumbai in February 1974 under the guidance of Com BTR. Com P K Ganguly played a significant role in it. During this period of semi-fascist terror in West Bengal, top leaders of AICAPEF from West Bengal included Niranjan Mukherjee, Sachin Sen, Jnan Sen, Gopal Bhattacharya, Bidyut Ganguly and Jahar Gupta. During emergency, FMRAI’s working committee, under the then CPI-Congress leadership adopted resolution supporting the emergency rule. P K Ganguly along with others launched campaign against this resolution. During emergency, FMRAI conference was held at Nagpur in 1976 with administration’s help and gave affiliation to the West Bengal disruptor’s organisation. Yet, CPI-Congress leadership was defeated in the secret ballot. P K Ganguly was elected as an office bearer. West Bengal unit of FMRAI was affiliated to CITU from the day of its formation. Since 1975, beginning with the BSSR Union, state by state, the FMRAI units took affiliation to the CITU. After the successful advancement of struggle against Glaxo, the movement spread quickly to other companies also for recognition of trade union rights of the medical and sales representatives. Com P K Ganguly led such a movement in Suhrid Geigy, a Sarabhai-Squibb group of company. For this, he was dismissed from the services in 1974. Since then he continued to lead the movement as a trade union whole-timer. After the emergency rule was lifted, another round of movement began in Glaxo followed by an all India month-long dharna at Hutatma Chowk in Mumbai forcing the Maharashtra government to call a state tripartite meeting and later the central government calling a national tripartite meeting on the trade union issues of medical and sales representatives. A separate law was created for the medical and sales representatives known as Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act and the wage ceiling in it for the medical representatives was removed. Maternity Act was amended following AICAPEF’s courting arrest programme in New Delhi in April, 1975. In all these, Com P K Ganguly played significant role. During the entire formative stage, Com BTR personally nurtured the cadres including Com P K Ganguly. It was Com BTR who deputed Com P K Ganguly in CITU centre’s work where he became one of the national secretaries of CITU with responsibility to lead movement of other sections of workers. I pay my humble homage to the departed leader.