— Rabi Sen
“Dare to commit errors, be bold to take new initiatives” – that was Pranab da’s advice to the railway comrades at every critical juncture of our work in railways. Being a spirited communist leader, an authority on Marxism, particularly on Mao Tse Tung thought, an unparalleled organiser, and the in-charge of the party’s work in the railway sector, he would always teach us not to fear failure.
We started our work in railways with a handful comrades. There were a few leaders in railway category-based unions. We started our fractional work within the AIRF-affiliated Zonal Unions and also took the task of party building. Due to his guidance and proper attention our fractional work never degenerated into infiltration work or assimilation and a revolutionary political trend emerged in the Railway TU movement. The reformist TU leaders in Railways were frightened and ultimately we were driven out of the AIRF stream. That was a transitory phase of our work. Advised by Comrade Pranab da we joined the category-based unions and played vital role within AIREC and also formed new category-based unions.
Later on, the AIREC faced a division. As a firm defender of struggling working class unity Pranab da did not want this division to continue. Urged by him we prepared an approach paper for unity of the two factions, and distributed the approach paper among the delegates who attended the national conference of AIREC (C.M.Singh faction) at Varanasi. We stood our ground even in the face of opposition (and even physical assault) by non-left forces. That was a great initiative and evoked good response from the Left. Later, there was a positive meeting with prominent CITU leader Com. Kanai Banerjee over unification. At the end of the day the two factions did not unite – but our efforts were welcomed by common workers.
At a time when almost nobody in the Railway Trade Union leadership was talking about restructuring in Railways, it was Pranab da, at a cadre conference held in 1991 at Gonda, who warned at length about restructuring policies in railways. At that time he warned that the composition of workforce in railways is going to be restructured to make a huge contingent of it contract labourers. How farsighted Pranab da was!
In the course of our practice in railways we formed General Unions at Eastern Railway, East Central Railway, North Eastern Railway and Chittaranjan Locomotive Works. We had limited forces within the unions. But still, Pranab da overcame our hesitations and encouraged us to launch a federation – in September, 2017 through a Cadre Conference held at Asansol. In spite of his ill-health Pranab da prepared the “Approach Paper” for the Conference.
A 19-member Preparatory Committee was formed to hold the first conference of the federation. Pranab da included himself in the Committee to lead it directly. The formation of the federation paid dividends immediately, one struggling union at North Central Railway joined the federation. There was a meeting of the Preparatory Committee at Allahabad on 13/05/18. In spite of booking his tickets for Allahabad, Pranab da could not attend the meeting due to his ill health but prepared the “Approach Paper“ for the meeting. Today, I think about how determined and committed he was to prepare that paper in spite of the intense pain he was suffering. It is due to Pranab da’s vision and untiring efforts that we have a Federation in Railways and are going to merge with another railway federation in the near future under the leadership of AICCTU.
Pranab da introduced the concept of forum practice in the concrete situation of Railways and frequently termed it as a “Conveyor Belt” to serve the purpose of Party Building. At initial stage, State Level Railway Study Groups were formed and finally Rail Mazdoor Vichar Manch was formed in 1994 through a well attended Convention at Dhanbad where Comrade Vinod Mishra inaugurated it. Rail Mazdoor Vichar Manch played a vital socio-political role and in advancement of our party base.
It was due to Pranab da that we started Railway Bulletins in Bengali, Hindi and Assamese regularly. In 1987 there was a call for “Rajiv Hatao”. Pranab da inspired us to take the call to Railwaymen with a booklet published by the Rail Bulletin Publication.
Combining the practice of Party and Trade Union in Railway and taking it to a new height will be the true homage to our departed beloved leader Pranab da.