Men who matter
Fighting for the lowly and the working class is in his blood. Born in a family of freedom-fighters he took part in the student union right from his pre-university days in C.R. Reddy College, Eluru, when he agitated for the provision of basic amenities in the hostel.
Meet Chalasani Gandhi, the general secretary of the East Coast Railway Shramik Union.
Mr. Gandhi was born in a village near Gudivada in Krishna district. After passing PUC, he completed his diploma in pharmacy from the Government Polytechnic College in Visakhapatnam. Immediately after that he joined the Railways as a pharmacist and within a week thereafter he enrolled himself in the South Eastern Railway Men's Congress in 1968.
Why join the union?
"My father was a Gandhian. He was the only person to be arrested a couple of times from our village for taking part in the freedom movement and raising his voice against the British Government. He was so inspired by Mahatma Gandhi that he named me after him. From my college days I took part in union activities. Later when I joined the Railways I was drawn into the movement inspired by the legendary trade unionists, Ch. Sashibushan Rao and J.M. Biswas," says he.
Immediately after joining SERMC he was elected as its branch secretary at Araku. Thereafter, he quit the Congress to join South Eastern Railway Men's Union (now renamed as ECoR Shramik Union), which was founded by J.M. Biswas and continues to be a top office-bearer of that union till date. He is not only holding the post of general secretary of the union for the last couple of years but is also the assistant general secretary of the All-India Railway Men's Federation, member of the Joint Consultative Machinery of Indian Railways, permanent member of the Negotiating Machinery of the Indian Railways and member of the executive committee of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
Mr. Gandhi was instrumental in getting the sanction and implementation of many policies in favour of the rail employees. He played a major role in regularising over 58,000 casual employees all over India of whom 18,000 belonged to SE Railway when Ram Vilas Paswan was the Railway Minister. He was also instrumental in getting the recommendations of the third and fifth pay commissions, bonus for group `C' employees and bringing women employees into the union.
Apart from these achievements, he created history when he got the training period of the running staff halved to nine months with full wages and arrears after an indefinite hunger-strike.
He received many awards including the Shrama Shakti Award in 2001.
On his success
"I strictly believe in the policy advocated by my mentor Biswas: `Keep political parties away from the union.' Till date our union has got no political affiliation, and that is one of the reasons for my success. Today even after the formation of EcoR, we have over 35,000 members of over 44,000. We were more powerful when it was SE Railway as at that time we had over nine States under our fold compared to two now. Another reason for my success is that I have a balanced outlook. I believe that for the good health of the employees the organization also should be healthy. Take care of the tree and it will take care of you."
On trade union movement
After serving for over 36 years in the trade union movement, he believes that trade unionism is in the downfall, mainly due to lack of dedicated cadres, political interference and personal and trivial issues taking the center-stage. "We have faced the problems and today most of the new employees are enjoying the fruits of our struggle. I was harassed and victimised for taking part in the movement. Today everything comes on a platter, thanks to a few dedicated people. We need more dedicated cadres to keep the movement going."
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