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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF TAMILNADU TEACHERS TRADE UNION MOVEMENT (1977- 2004) PROF. SIVAKUMAR

Rights and Responsibilities in teacher – student relations : Historical context of Tamil Nadu Teachers Trade Union Movement (1977- 2004)
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(Thanks to Thokzhar Kudam for transcription from  Tamil to English  in  Unwritten History of TamilNadu YouTube Videos )

PROF. SIVAKUMAR: Worked as principal in Gudiyatham College and would participate in protests along with teachers and students. Teachers looked at their own protests as legitimate and the protests by students as unjustified. Even the militant teachers felt this. Only those teachers with political ideologies and interest in socio political conditions were interested in forging solidarity with students. The teachers would take medical leave for various personal reasons. When a student gives a medical leave, then it is scrutinized much further by teacher even when they know that the student could lose their attendance. When Kesavan was working in vyasarpadi, Radhakrishnan from Mannarkudi was in english department, Prof Annadurai was in tamil department. They would conduct political seminars among Ambedkar College students. One such student was Balasundaram in CPIML(L). Similarly Prof. Sudhanthira Muthu in Government College would conduct a poetry session called Neithal.In that college, students had issues with a professor from Tamil Department and published a pamphlet on these issues. There were also issues and protests emerging in hostels and students themselves organized around these issues. When we took up these issues in solidarity with the students, it was said that we were terrorists and were creating propaganda among students. Gangadharan, currently a municipality teacher, when he was a student and published a pamphlet, we were accused of writing the pamphlet for the students. Because we should not take up students' issues was the general opinion. One student called Sundar Rajan in Progressive Students Union was accused of making a bomb using the sulphur tips of matchsticks in Dharmapuri and was arrested under NSA (national securities act). I appeared on their behalf. When we including Marx, Kalyani, Kochadayan and Thirumavalavan interceded for the students, the rest of the teachers looked at us differently. They thought we were taking up unnecessary tasks. They did not want to identify with us in the union. Even if some teachers thought we were the ones who took up issues democratically for others, they were still intimated by the other teachers. All these had an impact in union elections when our comrades participated and were defeated in the elections. We are seeing the harvest of the integration of teacher and student politics today. If you look at the teacher-student struggles by CPI, CPM and CPML parties and progressive forces then and now, there was a protest by teachers in Queen Marys college against the move by government to make the  college a member of University. Government College Teachers Council had Santharam and Sankarasubramaniam as leaders. The protest was conducted by Government College Teachers Association. Both Association and Council participated in the negotiation infront of then Chief Minister Jayalalitha. There was a big protest by both teachers including Saraswati and Lalitham and students. The move was abandoned by the government. In that protest, Sankarasubramaniam tried to coordinate various student movements including Progressive Students Union, Student Federation of India, Ma.Ka.I.Ka's student wing and AISF to protest with the students. But the Association leaders objected to it. Even though the leadership was from CPI, they did not see the importance of supporting student struggles. For ex, they were outspoken against student elections, at the same time when the teachers union elections were deemed important.




Part II

The reasons for 77 protests were special was because there was no guarantee of pay rise for teachers in private institutions. There was no regulation of private institutes through any act. There was a need for it. In addition the pre university classes were being moved from colleges to schools. There was a fear among college teachers that their employment would be terminated. There were questions on why this move was being done. So the demands that were raised included that PUC not be removed and guaranteed employment, payment and leave for govt aided college teachers, enactment of legislation for regulation for private institutions. proper wages for trainee teachers, permanent employment for temporary teachers in government colleges. These demands became the platform for creation of JACTO(Joint Action Commitee for Teachers Organizations).

A mass action with leave by all teachers and a letter writing campaign were thought of but were withdrawn. Later this became a mass strike protest. In this background, Prof. Kesavan became known to us. We were unhappy with the functioning of the leaders including Nannan and Sundaram and I and Prof. Gurunathan from Math Department. discussed with Prof. Ilayarasu. Kesavan and Prof. Radhakrishnan were part of ML movement at that time. They all became instrumental in forming a branch in Government College.  That is how I become a functionary of a union. The protest becomes very militant and we get arrested. Teachers from various colleges including government, goverment aided and private colleges become arrested.

Aranganayagam was the education minister. Only after that, the Government took over direct pay for government aided college teachers. The government set up subsidies for these colleges and provides leave pay for the teachers. All the benefits for the government teachers were given to aided teachers. All of this because of the long struggle of JACTO.

Interviewer: What kinds of protests were done?

Several including road roko.  We will start from Government College and then proceed to Napier Bridge. We conducted hunger protests on the beach. As an aside, when I was a student and Congress was in power, DMK conducted a protest against price rise and that protest was done right in front of the fort secretariat. After DMK came to power, the protest was restricted to Napier bridge. Now, the protests are allowed only in places where there are no people. When the government college teachers were taking a rally to Napier bridge, they were unaccustomed to shouting slogans. It was comrades such as Varadarajan from Reseve Bank, a member of CPM and Jagan from Telephone Department, R. Geetha who has been working as temporary teacher in Queen Mary's college and had gone to mobilize construction workers under a union along with her partner Subbu and her friend Jayaprakash who taught us on sloganeering. We all got arrested at the end of those protests.

Interviewer: Did you go to prison?

Teachers from some parts went to prison. But i did not go to prison. Then the state convention of Government College Teachers Association is convened in Ooty and new members are to be elected. Subramaniam and Muthuvelandi and Dhiraviyam from Chennai are contesting for general secretary. Kesavan was contesting as treasurer. Prof. Narasingam was elected unopposed as president. There was a debate on the general secretary position. Both Subramaniam and Dhiraviyam were also impacted in the teacher trainee issues. We also did not know much about Muthuvelandi or Subramaniam. That is when I met Prof. Kalyani from Physics Department. Kesavan was instrumental in analysing the various contestants' ideologies and recommended Subramaniam as the candidate to support. I was impressed with Kesavan's articulations and started interacting with them after that.

This election happens before the road roko and a new member team started operating in the association. They started providing different dynamics to the functioning of the association and Kesavan was instrumental in that. When Narayanasamy was General Secretary, a pamphlet in which there was a sentence 'one cannot package fire'. We were all attracted by that sentence and later we came to know that Kesavan was behind this. Several protests happened after this group assumed office, some of which I am recounting here.

The State Executive Committee meeting was held in Trichi Jamal Mohammed National College. At that time, Annamalai University teachers were demanding employment guarantee and that Government should take over the functioning of the university(Today it is the reality), had gone to prison after a major protest. MGR was the president and Aranganayakam was the education minister. The teachers were not being released from prison and there was an attempt to repress the struggle. JACTO committee discusses on ways to support the struggle. Each individual organization's(AUT,TNGCTA, MUTA,) executive meeting is conducted.

The JACTO decides that TNGCTA members will also do a solidarity strike on behalf of Annamalai university teachers. Kesavan and other progressive members' address to the meeting was instrumental in this decision. Due to this, the Government College Teachers did a 7 day strike to release the annamalai teachers from prison.  When we went to mobilize among college teachers, we faced opposition on why they should fight for annamalai teachers not only among Chennai college teachers but through out Tamil Nadu. So we had to conduct meetings in every college to convince the teachers. It is remarkable because this was an extension of comrardrie beyond self motivated economic reasons. Various groups and individuals including MUTA, TNGCTA and Kesavan who took this struggle politically, played its part in this achievement.

While you may know Kesavan, Kochadai and Kalyani, you may not know Comrade Jayachandran, who was a librarian. He was supportive of ML movement. Thangavelsami from Madurai is another comrade. Sangaralingam from Madurai was also supportive of our struggles. Sangarasubramaniam was also a ML supporter. All of these people from various ML movements and CPM via MUTA provided impetus in taking up such struggles. JACTO started to achieve its aims in employment protection, regulation of private institutions and permanency for temporary teachers. For practical lecturers, it was partially successful. The rest of the success came after 10 years. JACTO also became a fore runner for other such initiatives among school teachers.

It is important to document the struggle of the college teachers. Treasurer of AUT Purushotaman and I would finish all the meetings and at night go to Marina beach and other colleges to put up posters. TN College Teachers Association District Secretary Govindaraj would also accompany us. Purushothaman would bring his bike. Govindarajan and I would spread gum and hand it to Purushothaman. Purushotaman was a professor in Pachiappas college. He was tall, so he would stand on the bike and stick the poster in the bus stands. We need to tell college teachers about this struggle. Not only did we participate in struggle, it was teachers and professors who put up posters. Today we may give someone money and ask someone to do the same thing. But we must understand that it was because of direct struggle and even going to jail, that we have gained many things.

1983-84
I became general secretary in JACTO during 83–84 with Narasingam as president, KR Sekaran as treasurer, Palaniammal as Associate Secretary and Eshwaran as Vice President after an election in Vilupuram. KR Sekaran was a CPM supporter. We were ML supporters.  I had had an opportunity to meet with various ML activists and read left materials. I was starting to engage with definition of imperialism from soviet russia. I did not get into CPM. We started two day executive meetings and have training for local representatives. The training meeting was conducted by ML activists and other left activists. So an opposition rises accusing me of bringing outsiders to these meetings. This created certain rifts between CPM and CPML supporters.

Eelam protests were going on against the burning of Yaalpanam library and the murder of Kuthumani and Jagan. There was a mass mobilization in Tamil Nadu with students participating in the strike. There was a spontaneous strike without much conscious mass mobilization during that bandh. Indian Government was ready to send its own committees to articulate their own political agenda.  There was a meeting in Ilavarasu's home which took a position to show solidarity to the ongoing struggle in Eelam without showing support to any single group on the ground. I wanted to show this as an example of our involvement in such social causes outside the purview of normal union activities. Also, we had a standing that we will talk about education issues in both outside forums and union meetings. In this our standing was different from CPI, CPM which tried to separate the teachers unions from other mass movements. Even when Prabakaran invited IPKF, I remember Prof Inquilab opposing such moves. I believe this came from his deep understanding of marxism. In this sense, we did not hesitate to take up social issues.

We conducted a training meeting near Ambattur. We invited CPML Trade Union representative Ramamurthy, Comrade Ajitha, Jayaprakasam. Again there was an opposition on our interaction and engagement with other mass movements. We were deal with such issues while trying to solve the larger problems. When there was an issue involving principal in Ambedkar college Kesavan took the lead and solved the issue. At the same time, he was also attending meetings with Thirumavalavan(before VCK was formed). We were also engaged in opposition to POTA at these times.

We were very open about our activities whether it was working with mass movements or conducting trade union activities or integrating these activities. We faced issues in the committees due to these activities. At one stage, Prof. Kalyani is removed from the union but the mass movement forces stood with him and asked to bring him back into the union.The JACTI protests was very important in 1985 to 88. MGR was chief minister. Subramaniam was in JACTI committee.

At that time, there was mass protest and a road roko in Chennai. In other parts of the state, teachers had been arrested for protesting. We were courting arrest and met to put together a list for courting arrest. No Government college teachers in Chennai were willing to put their name.I put up my name. The demand was pay and dearness allowance equivalent to Central Government staff. JACTE has asked all teachers to come out on protest on these demands. Even Government officials were involved. So 13 of us were arrested in Chennai and that was my first prison experience. Thirumalai from Private College Teachers Union and some comrades from Thiruthani were there too. Eventually the number of arrested started increasing. We were imprisoned in a cell which can hold upto 100 people with only one toilet for the night. In the day, they would open more toilets but for the night, there is only one.

One comrade from Private Colleges was also there. The first demand we asked was to open all the toilets for the prisoners. They did not do it first time but we complained to jailor and it took 2-3 days for the toilets to be opened. They asked us to be seated while taking attendance. We refused and gave attendance only standing up.  The comrade from private college had a heart attack in the night while this was all going on. There is a medical hospital but we could not get the guards who were circling outside. to So we decided to bang our plates together. They came running to see the commotion and said they would take him in the morning but we protested loudly and then they took him to the hospital.

Leaders including J.S Raj were being arrested and thousands of teachers were imprisoned in Chennai. There were altogether 10000 women in Tamil Nadu who went to jail during this time in 1985. This included from primary school to college teachers. One of the prisoners called Karuppannan died in prison. Thats when the protest became so powerful. We only got a promise at the end of this protest. We had to carry other protest to ensure the demands were met. But the protest was crucial in organizing the teachers and taking it further.

While we were in prison, we will be taken before the magistrate every 15 days for remanding. Kesavan and Thirumavalavan were all outside organizing the teachers. Saraswathi, Rani Senthamarai were all arrested. The teachers started cooking for themselves and started organizing their life in the prison.JS Raj had gone for getting remanded. Suddenly we hear lots of noises. We saw that they had suddenly sat outside to protest. It turned out that one of the members who had gone out, a Brahmin, had bought some food to eat. The then DSP snatched and threw the food away. So we all decided to protest outside and decided not to go inside the cell. We demanded that the DSP apologize to the teacher and sat in the ground outside the cell. We started addressing those. People were afraid that we will be beaten up but we held.We went back only after they came and apologized.

We used to talk to other criminals. My family would come and visit me in the cell. My father did not as he did not approve of these activities.  We hardly spent time with our own families during our unionizing days. Even today, my kids ask me if I ever spent time with them as other parents did. Only my spouse and my father were instrumental in bringing up the kids. My son would wait for me till 11AM to ask math doubts. I would get up at 5AM in the morning because there will be people to meet and activities to be done. My spouse was supportive of my activities.

When I am doing such activities, the understanding is that the image of middle class is gone?? When you are in prison, you sometimes think when will you get out. Some comrades even did hunger fast in Trichy. When these comrades were in prisons, they also took up issues that they and others faced in prison. Geetha Pachiyappan from Private College was also there so we would have dramas in the night. Even when we did not want to enforce any ideological barriers with comrades from CPI and CPM, there were such oppositions due to different positions. Particularly, what I saw was that we always felt that there could be common grounds on which we all could work together inspite of our ideological differences, but I felt that these outreaches were not reciprocated in many instances. The approach by CPI and CPM in trying to capture the union positions eventually led to the shrinking of trade union activities into only economic demands in my opinion. Even when asked to address some gathering, they always seem to evaluate if our ideology and political standing will support them and will not go beyond their own party positions. Even today, I feel that may be the approach. I felt that our comrades did not take this approach. We would keep our criticisms in the open.

When we were in prison, CPI and CPM comrades were there with us. Ramamuni was the first comrade who would in cycle everywhere to organize primary school teachers. Eventually the union broke into several unions under various leaderships. When a protest is organized, we want to build a platform for solidarity among varioud left parties whether its CPI and CPM on common minimum demands. Even when we work with DMK or ADMK union, we feel that the left solidarity has to be there in interacting with these unions. But we have faced problems where they have said that the convenor has to be from their own party. So eventually the arguments came from which party had representation as convenor rather than about choosing an individual with capacity to work towards these goals. There may be instances where these groups combine to take up an issue on political level but the intention to come only along those points and to act to take over the unions at other points seem problematic to me. We felt that is not how we approach work. I feel even today, this continues to haunt trade unionism I feel. Why should one person be a president for life? The politburo should not be the one deciding the outcome of a union election. In IFECTO, we saw that there was no direct election, only nominations were there. We even protested against this. When this happens, it becomes a wedge for non political democratic forces or even RSS/BJP forces to use and push their own agenda.

In IFECTO, comrade Parthasarathy of MUTA whom we all admire was nominated but it was denied for Narasingam and Subramaniam. When we demanded direct elections in IFECTO, there was heated arguments in JAC. When we made these demands, they were willing to engage with other agencies to defeat us. Even comrades who taught us sloganeering started seeing us as troublemakers. These kind of tactics inevitably led to trade unionism at a narrow sense. If May day is to be celebrated, then every union and party does it in its own way focusing on showing its strength? How long it has been that there was coordinated may day celebration in chennai? Similarly why are BEFI and AIBEA not working together? Today globalization liberalization are creating casual workforce, casual workers and casual IT sector, a broader outlook that creates coordinated integrated struggles and places workers ahead of party is not there then we will not lead the workers. When Nokia workers protested, did Chennai unions conduct a bandh? Chennai trade union history is important in Tamil Nadu history. It has a long history. If you take the work of Kuselan, AM Kothandaraman, VP Chinthan, whether its Simpson or B&C struggles, we cannot ignore that history. Coming from that tradition, what happened in Nokia show how far back we have gone. When thousands of workers lost their employment in Nokia, are we not responsible for the fact that transport workers, bank employees, teachers did not descend into streets.Even a protest was not done by these workers. The reason was that when it came to coordinated struggles, criticisms were used as opportunities to veer away from other left forces even forging ahead with careerist union leaders. Today CITU has the biggest strength and AITUC has come after that. ML trade unions may have lesser strength or even no presence among trade union movement but still if all these forces do not come together, how can the struggles be taken forward? What are the reasons on why even this level of coordination is not emerging among left movements? Because we wanted direct elections in IFECTO, in a conference held in Mumbai, I contested an election so that elections would be held even knowing that others can win the election. We did this as an organizational activity. Prof Marx brought a pamphlet on this. Prof. Kalyani published a pamphlet on direct elections in unions in Madurai. We did this as part of IFECTO. Because it was a conscious effort by several individuals, it had an impact on national level in IFECTO. They saw Eelam issue different from other nationalistic struggles such as Afghan or Palestine. We broguht a resolution condemning Soviet Russia's involvement in Afghanisthan but could not do it. But atleast issues ranging global and local would be discussed in such forums. But political differences were there between various factions in such groups. So they started contesting in posts opposing our comrades.



History of College Teachers Trade Union Movement (1977-2004)
Professor Sivakumar
There was an important protest that took place when MGR was the Chief Minister, which needs to be recorded. Professor Nalasingam was the President/Leader of the Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers Union, Professor Shanmuga Sundaram was the Leader/President of MUTA (Madurai Kamaraj, Manonmaniam Sundaranar, Mother Teresa and Alagappa University Teachers' Association), Professor Nagarajan was the leader of AUT (Association of University Teachers).
Despite several protests since 1977, demands were not met – this was the situation. The struggle began in this context.

These three leaders began an indefinite hunger strike.  They put a pandal on Marina Beach, opposite Madras University, and the indefinite hunger strike takes place. Nowadays, permission for protest is given in some small street, but then the protest took place in marina beach itself. All the college professors were on strike in support of this protest. After the indefinite hunger strike began, eventually they become unconscious; it had been 10-11 days. They were admitted in the hospital.
I remember AUT Nagarajan pulling out his IV drips and throwing it away. Nalasingam and Shanmugasundaram were unconscious at that time. I am talking about Shanmugasundaram and Nalasingam here,  because Nalasingam was the Principal of a government college and later on went on to head the Government College Teachers Association. When Aranganayagam was the Education Minister, the government took many actions to victimise him for taking part in struggles. He was given a transfer order. He was given many memos.  (2:14-2:16) Shanmugasundaram was an importantactivist. Afterwards, Shanmugasundaram took up many struggles of MUTA.
In 1983-84 when there was a gathering in Trichy to talk about the boycott of examinations, there was also a discussion on the struggle at SIET college. This was a big struggle against the management of SIET College in Teynampet. After the JAC meeting, I remember at 10pm or 11pm that night, he spoke to me sadly wondering if the struggle of teachers was not as strong as before as he puffed a cigarette.
Interviewer:Who?
PROF. SIVAKUMAR:
MUTA Shanmugasundaram.
Shanmugasundaram also fought for private school teachers in Madurai region who were victimised for their participatation struggles. Once when he was riding in a bus his dhoti was stained with blood due to liver damage, he had not even noticed  that he was bleeding. We were able to admit him in Government Hospital and a doctor called Madura Gopal was able to save his life. But he was very upset about this (his illness) and later died. In fact in the TN College Teachers Association, we passed a resolution to open a library in honor of his memory. In the following years, there were some changes in the association and we were not able to run it, the leaders who came later abandoned the idea.  But the MUTA conducted several meetings in his honor. There are still some auditoriums in his honor. (4:00)

Today college professors are earning a salary of Rs.80000-90000 per month, and are living a comfortable life  but many who came into the profession after 2006 do not know this history. In case of teachers who were employed on contract too after 1986-87, many would not know this history. However, the teachers who were appointed on a temporary basis up to 1986-87, most of whom are now principals of college, would possibly know this history.
It is important to document the struggle of the college teachers. Treasurer of AUT Purushotaman and I would finish all the meetings and at night go to Marina beach and other colleges to put up posters. TN College Teachers Association District Secretary Govindaraj would also accompany us. Purushothaman would bring his bike. Govindarajan and I would spread gum and hand it to Purushothaman. Purushotaman was a professor in Pachiappas college. He was tall, so he would stand on the bike and stick the poster in the bus stands. We need to tell college teachers about this struggle. Not only did we participate in struggle, it was teachers and professors who put up posters. Today we may give someone money and ask someone to do the same thing. But we must understand that it was because of direct struggle and even going to jail, that we have gained many things.
5:48 Secondly, we also formed a Kootam/Joint Action Committee consisting of AUT, MUTA and TNGCTA and it was this joint struggle that led to growth of JACT. Later JACTIGO became a big organisation of school teachers, college teachers and even government employees. I must also say that during Governor's Rule, when Alexander was the Governor and later when Jayalalitha was the Chief Minister and many of the employees were terminated, this JACT-GO was able to achieve a lot through its struggle and this JAC provided a push to the struggle.
Interviewer: So it was unity that succeeded.

PROF. SIVAKUMAR: It was unity that really led to the victory. It was the joint action.

**Joint action was not possible for many years because there were too many organisations. If you take primary education, there was primary school teachers federation, primary school teachers association, teachers assocations... almost 6-7 organisations were there. They are still there. 
Interviewer: There was always a slogan of long live trade union unity
7:05 Yes, yes that is true. Long Live Trade Unity. We would also raise slogans such as authority/oppression will break, if we are united.

But when we raise these slogans, it was always politicised... is he I, M or ML or has he not joined any of these parties. So when there are meetings, there would always be discussion about who could be given leadership...these kind of discussion influenced by outsiders can affect the unity. As people who have left politics and facing a lot of problems in order to consolidate, this is something we have to understand today.

This is something we need to understand. Is it important for a party to have one of its members head an organisation or should we give priority to working politically within the organisation and give it a certain direction , this is something that we need to talk about even today. We have to look at this.

In 1987, there was a struggle of IFETO. I was the President. Professor Shantaram, from Trichy was working in a college, he was the General Secretary. Prof Marx was working in Thanjavur. He had been victimised by being transferred several times to Mannarkudi and then to Gudiyattam and Thanjavur. Professor Marx was the Vice President. Azha Nityanandam was the treasurer and Dr.Vasanthi Devi was working in a college in Dingigul. She was the Joint Secretary. We were operating as a team... Professor Marx, Dr.Vasanthi Devi and I, the three of us were in the Governing Committee.  Shantaram was also supporting us. I can never forget the kind of challenges and the struggles we led during that time.

In 87-88, all teachers unions faced severe oppression. Jannaki Ammayer was the Chief Minister and Ponnaiyan was the Education Minister. When you go to meet the Education Minister, he will be seated on a sofa. All the files would be on the chairs and he would sit on a small stool, like the one used by an accountant(typically in a jamindari system). Since the files were on the chairs, if any official goes to meet him, they will have to stand. Even if union leaders go, they can not sit. Even if Shantaram goes, he would have to stand and talk to him. We have never faced a situation like this with any Minister. When we saw Aranganayakam... or when we met many of the Ministers we met during the ADMK period. Even later we met Anbazhagan in the DMK period. But when we met Ponnaiyan, he would be seated and we have to bend down before him and give him the petition. He used to exemplify the feudal slavery status.

Interviewer - Todays practice of falling on Jayalalitha's feet, began then.
In fact there were people who said that if we fall on his feet, our demands would be met.
10:18 Muthusamy instigated the formation of a Welfare Society (Nalakazhagam).
I had mentioned before that Kesavan and I took some action to ensure that Muthuvelandi who contested the elections in Ootacamund against C.Subramaniam, loses the election.
That Muthuvelandi, D.Muthusamy and Prof.Ponnusamy(later, ADMK minister) they started this Nalakazhaga organization. It was started specifically to promote the concept that if people who were left leaning with leprogressive thoughts, specifically  those who could instigate struggle and protests, were singled out and transferred, the union could be broken. You know even today it is because of transfers of government officers that we are unable to build a union.

In fact I have participated in the struggle of the Doordarshan workers which took place at an all india level.  Be it the All India Radio, Doordarshan, Railways or even  bank employees... if they do not like him they will transfer him to some remote location near a forest or hilly area. In case of TN, the practice of transferring teachers to Ariyalur, Pullankuruchi , Gudiyattam or Ooty were used.
11:54 In 1977, All india pazhgalai kalagal asiriyar sangam federation (AIFECTO), Mridonmoy Bhattacharya was the General Secretary. Prof Thakarat was the President. Prof Thakarat was in CPIM and Prof. Bhattacharya was from CPI. Under their leadership, a meeting was held In Delhi and a decision was taken to conduct protests throughout India. These included demonstration, courting arrest, etc. In order to carry out these things, Professor Marx and I, along with Shantaram went to different cities, campaigned and organised. At that time, we faced a lot of difficulty due to transfers. In Chennai, entire families were transferred. Husband and wife would be sent to different places. Some were sent to the same city... one to the boys,college and other to the women's college. So when transfers take place... what will happen. People who come to the struggle will become afraid. They emerged victorious in this (they achieved this). In the case of colleges in Chennai, people though Chennai has the HRACC, there are lots of facilities... so they were afraid that once if they are transferred from Chennai, they will be unable to come back. Actually this need not have been done in the rural areas. But they transferred many people in those areas too... but they were all on a strike. 
In Chennai, we had a bitter experience. An example during the 1987 protests, in the State Government colleges when Kavignar Mehta was in the Tamil Department and Professor Illakumar's son, Professor Maraimalai was working there. They were all comrades who have been with us during the previous struggles, they participated in some protests later on as well. But during this protest, they did not come out of the college and participate in the strike. Professor Inquilab went to call them and shouted them, but they did not come.

So in the struggle that I am leading, in the Government College in Chennai there is a weakness, a very big weakness. In other places, everyone participated in the struggle. There is strong criticism against me in the Executive Council. I heard that at some point Ponnaiyan said that Sivakumar's wings have been cut. It was that kind of a concerted struggle. 

14:20 At this time if we wanted to meet someone to put forward our demands, they would not meet us. If they met us, they would humiliate us. So we decided that we would not meet Ponnaiyan. So the Executive Council of TN College Professors Association took a decision to protest the transfers and we, along with our entire families, sat on a hunger strike opposite Ezhilagam. During this hunger strike, my daughter sat in the pandal in the first row. Those photographs were printed in Dinakaran and other Government Employee newspapers. On seeing these pictures, Karunanidhi wrote a letter in his newspaper Murosali titled "Who are they asking, and what are they asking for" He wrote strongly in favour of our protest and criticised the government.

**15:10  Sinna kuthoosi wrote an editorial in the Dinakaran paper. Many professors were transferred to places without any facilities. Professor Vasanthi Devi was transferred. This case was fought by (Retired Justice, then lawyer) Chandru, they won the cases and Prof Vasanthi Devi went back. 
In case of Prof.Rani Chintamai, Chandru could not conduct make it to the Court. He was suffering from severe stomach pain due to a kidney stone and so we lost the case.
But I am talking about these because it is important to know what obstacles we had to overcome.
15:41 Interview: What were the demands at that time?

University Grants Commission recommended salary  must be implemented for all professors of government colleges and private colleges. This was the demand for entire country.
In case of government colleges, there were many professors under 10A1(contractual position), they are all now working as principal of colleges in 2014. We demanded that all their jobs become permanent.

There was a big discussion about whether to involve the temporary professors in the strike but Shantaram, Marx, Vasanthi Devi and I convinced the Executive Committee and we involved all the 10A1 teachers in the struggle. It was never done before. But we involved all of them in our struggle... there must have been more than 400-500 temporary teachers. All of them were terminated by Ponnaiyan.

16:40 The struggle continued. We were on our way to Delhi by train for the IFETO executive meeting. As soon we reached Delhi, we received a letter saying all the 10A1 teachers are terminated. I remember at that time, General Secretary Shantaram was almost in tears wondering how we were going to save them. I remembered telling them, let us not worry, we will ensure their re-instatement. AUT Thomas was also there. We decided to take this problem to a national level.
17:15 During this time, Ponnaiyan thought that all the terminated teachers would eventually sign an apology letter and go back to work. The nalakazhagam transferred many of the professors and victimised them. There was even a point of view (like water flow) that the group headed by Marx, Sivakumar and Vasanthidevi were going aggresively  but they continued to be united with us.
The leadership of IFETO including Bhattacharya came as a group and took part in a demonstration and road roko in Chepauk , against the termination and transfers. I would like to register this important incident in the history of the trade union movement, the history of teachers trade union struggles... that in order to protest the termination and transfer of government teachers, many who were working in Telephone Department like Jagan, Lily, and Central Government Office Mahasammelan's Venkatraman(I think), who was working in AGS office were all comrades who protested at DMS in support of us and were arrested.

Later, even cases against us were withdrawn. But the government did not withdraw cases against Lily and Jagan. I am saying this because for the Annamalai University Teachers, we did a 7 day strike in support in 1981. In support of us Chennai trade union leaders from CITU, AITUC, AICCTU Liberation comrades were all arrested. I want to say that these are unforgettable moments.
19:09 Bhattacharya came here with a team and were arrested when they supported us. On the very next day, the government gave us the opportunity to meet CM Janaki. They said they would reinstate all the terminated teachers and an order to that effect also came. This happened only because of the unity of trade unions at the national level and at the state and united struggle. All the temporary teachers were later confirmed without any examinations because of this. Today all the temporary teachers are now principals of colleges; it is because of the protests in 1987. Today many are working as guest lecturers, we are unable to get them confirmation, is a situation which requires a strong struggle. The unions are splintered andwithin the unions, there are many questions about whether they can become members. I am saying this because it is history that teaches us lessons for struggles in the future. In 1987 it was an unforgettable event.

20:33 During this time 1987-88, I was elected by the College Teachers Union to be a part of the Chennai Governing Council/Syndicate. Along with me, Prof Govindan who worked in the Botany Department of Vivekananda College from the AUT, which is an organisation of private college teachers. We were the two representatives of the teachers. Rahman Khan who was a former DMK Minister was a member of the Senate and was also in the Syndicate along with me.
B.Ramamootrthy, Lalitha Kameswaran, were also members. Many times when there were serious discussions, Ramamoorthy would ask me "What do you think, do you this is a communist country?" I remember Ramamoorthy fighting with me. This is because when we were Syndicate member, Self Financing Colleges were started. It was the time when Aranganayam began the sale of colleges/education. There were many articles which exposed this is in Manaosai.  Professor Srinivasan who worked in the Economics Department in Nandanam College, and was later transferred to Gudiyattam(as an oppressive tactic), wrote about this in the name of Suresh. I have also written about these things.

At that time, JPR who is the head of Sathyabama University, was chairman of the TN Water Board. I was taking class for MSc students and the peon told me that the Principal was calling me. I told the peon I will finish the class and come, he says there the Principal is calling me because someone wanted to meet me. I finished the class, it took about 10 minutes and then I went. I went there and I see JPR sitting in the Principal's room. The week before, during the syndicate meeting, VIT Vishwanathan, (who was also a Senate member) and we have had heated arguments about self financing colleges. JPR was sitting there. He said you and Govindan and always writing dissent notes. At that time, there was some respect even for a dissent note. Teachers unions were strong. It was time when there was some hesitation in selling education. It was a time when we were in the midst of a sustained struggle against the new education policy and we had to face many hurdles put forth by the TN Government.

23;21 In this context, since we wrote dissent notes, it would never get passed. Vice Chancellor Sundaresan also supported it saying we must not permit this. "We will not permit self financing colleges. They are grabbing lands belonging to the government and porambokk(Wasteland) lands and doing this. We will not permit this....

Interviewer:  Lakes(eris) also...

PROF. SIVAKUMAR: Yes Eri land also. So this was stopped temporarily.
So JPR told me next time when there is a meeting, please don’t put a dissent note. I told him that this is our union's philosophy/decision and I cannot do anything in contradiction. I disagreed and came away. Punjab Association President Dhawan who was running Anna Adarsh College, came to meet me. I am saying this because at that time, the union made the Senate also as a platform for struggle. The Union made even the syndicate a platform for protest. So we don’t discuss only teacher's issues, we also discuss problems of the students, debate issues on education.
But later, syndicate became a power by itself. Within the leadership of the union, a group was formed which would control who goes to the syndicate, and only those favourable to the leadership would be sent. Later it became a caucus and a power center.  So we had face this head on and compete for a position on idealogical principle. But this situation happened later.
But Shantaram, who was a syndicate member in Bharatiar University has led a struggle.  AUT Senthamarai led a struggle. MUTA Williams and  Ponnuraj led a struggle in Manoniam Sundaram University. Professor Kesavan was Curriculum committee member in Bharatidasan University when the suttuviral kavidhai(Poem titled tiny finger) was removed from the curriculum, he staged a walk out in protest.

When we were syndicate members, there are two more important things related to students and education that came up. In the Government Fine Arts College in Egmore, till 1987, all the students who studied there would get only a diploma, it was not a under graduate degree. So if one had to pursue higher studies or even go to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad you would need a degree. Secondly, all the teachers who taught there were not receiving salary as per the UGC. In Kerala, those who were working Trivandram, were being given. These were all issues at that time. The students led a struggle to change the diploma into a degree. I met a comrade who was organising this struggle, his name is Vivek. I think he was studying in a polytechnic; he was from a progressive organisation. Natarajan, you also were introduced to me at that time.

So these students led a struggle...in a very different/innovative way. They would draw pictures near the beach and through these they would let the public know about their issues. So it was also decided that at the Syndicate meeting I would raise this issue and at the Sentate meeting also... it is the Senate that must actually decide. The Senate has to pass a resolution to convert the diploma into a degree, only then it can become a law within the University. So we brought the students into the university campus and a protest was conducted.  The issue was solved by the joint efforts of the teachers unions and progressive unions... it was a big struggle which happened in Chennai.

27:15 Like this there were several protests that happened in Tamil Nadu involving people who were progressive and left leaning. MUTA comrades also were involved. It was a time when even many comrades who had democratic strength/ideals were involved. It was only after this, that they were corrupted... they say it is academic corruption. Power corrupts absolutely. This situation happened in syndicate membership.  Today if you need to meet JPR and if you want to buy four seats, you can make money.

Syndicate members became as corrupt as MLAs. When teachers who were syndicate members go for affiliations, they would be given silver tumblers as mementos. There was even one person, a treasurer of the union at a state level, who said a silver tumbler alone is not enough, don’t you have to give it on a silver plate. Later he went on to become a member of the National Institute of Teachers Education and was in charge in Bangalore. He earned lots of money in BEd colleges.
The history is such that when union changes into a power centre, there is a situation where the union is getting destroyed. All unions would have faced such a problem. If there is no politics/political direction, a union is destined to be destroyed. The syndicate issue is a perfect example of this.
28:46: Another issue that Kesavan and I dealt with together was the Iranian exam scandal. A very important issue. At that time, news of this appeared in the  Indian Express and Hindu. G. Ananthakrishnan who was a young reporter then, he is now in a senior position. Then he was a young person who had just joined the paper. Together with him, we exposed the Iranian exam scandal.
Kesavan was working in Nandanam College in Chennai. At that time Rajkumar was the Principal of the college. Professor Kattimuthu is an important person, and was also a part of this corruption. He was working in Commerce Department. Many Iranian students were studying in New College and would come to Nandanam Arts college to attend exam.  They (Prof Kattimuthu and Principal Raajkumar) would make the students sit in the canteen near New College after the exams get over, and they would give them a new answer sheet and ask them to write and insert this. They would make money for this.

We came to know about this incident through Kesavan.  We took up this issue at the Syndicate, asked them to re-examine these answer sheets and all these teachers were transferred. George Kumar, who was the principal retired and could not even get his pension since we took this issue. This person called Kattimuthu later got arrested for leaking all india medical entrance exam paper.
There was a group which was lobbying against us for Kattimuthu to become a member or the teachers union. We removed Kattimuthu from the union. There were people to who opposed our move saying why this action was taken against a member of the union. So if you are union member, you allow students to copy. If you are union member you don’t have to take class. A union member need not drive the bus. If you are union member, you can adulterate the aavin milk. Union members in the railway can get away with not doing their duty. If you are union member, you need not do your LIC job.

If you don’t prevent these kinds of situations, you can see the gap growing between the trade union and the public. In a trade union, if the leader of the workers in not politicised and does not lead by example you can see the gap developing between the trade union and people.  If there is no sustained politicisation and we don’t take up peoples issues, we will have to face many problems.
31:40 Professor Kalyani is in the Physics department, Kocahdai is also from Physics.  Professor Marx is also in Physics department, so is Thangavel Sami. People would ask us - you are all in physics, but you support the ML movement. You can either consider this as a coincidence or something that has happened because of understanding of the Materialist philosophy through Physics. But this is how it is. Professor Kalyani will never miss a class.

He was transferred because, Natarajan, a professor who was working in the Commerce Department in Tindivanam used to take lessons in his house in the morning. Then he would come to college and then take class at 10am. He will ask "Shall we begin the class?" and the student would ask why should we study, we already finished in the morning. Only those who were not going to tuition would be there waiting for the lesson.

Professor Kalyani staged a protest against this private tuition in Tindivanam. He was actually victimised by the union itself, he was dismissed from the union. Then a big protest to reinstate him as a union member was led by Palamalai and Lohia in Villipuram and Cuddalore district. Later only after a lot of pressure, when Professor Illavarasan was the President, he came back into the union. He faced a lot of problems. But he had the support of the students.
When Professor Marx was in Mannarkudi, he protested for a hostel for the backward students.
Interviewer: was it for Dalit students?

 No it was for the backward caste students. There was no hostel at that time.  They reasoned that if a hostel was kept for backward caste students, people from outside would use it. All the local politicians were present. A very sad thing was that during meetings, even members of the CPI party spoke against Marx saying he was a terrorist and that he is not a good person. They would conduct such meetings... these kind of incidents took place. There was a big struggle and he was transferred from Mannakudi to Gudiyattam. When Marx was working, he spent very little time with his family. Throughout his working life, he was transferred many times.

He was given 17A  memo. About this 17A memo, I will tell you an incident. Professor Saraswati was working in Queen Mary's College. She joined Women Rights Forum (Penn Urimai Iyakkam) in a struggle to tear down posters that depicted women in a vulgar manner. For this she was given a 17B memo asking how she can take part in this action being a government teacher. We had to protest this to MGR. At that time, I think Ramani was a CPM MLA, he asked MGR "so does the government support posters with vulgar depiction of women?" We also took up this struggle. We protested demanding that the memo must be revoked. So she was given a memo for this.
When Marx was involved in various students issues, he took part in a struggle in Tanjavur Womens College and he was a given a memo saying he broke the rules. So Marx retired, even his salary increments were affected. Kochadai protested against copying   in Athur College. Thangavelsami exposed many illegal activities in Melur College near Madurai. Professor Shankarsubbu was involved in a struggle in colleges in rural Thiruthani.

Be it Thirumalvalavan, Kesavan, Shankarsubramaniamm, Kochadai, Kalyani Thangavelsami, they were all left leaning but they never compromised on their teaching and classes saying they would take up trade union work. They were close to students; they took up their issues and also struggled for teachers issues. They also openly fought for people's issues. There was a time when such people were present; there may still be people like that. But since it remains a question whether most college teachers are like this, I feel the need to say this.

36:03 These are examples of how professors took part in public issues, or in political causes, were given memos with false charges and victimised. Professor Kalyani was transferred. Kayani did not receive pension and Advocate Chandru fought the case. I introduced Kalyani to Chandru and requested him to argue the case.
Because at that time Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, the situation was that we had to fight the cases under tribunal.

Shanmugan was a judge in the tribunal,he is from judiciary and there are other judges in the tribunal as well. At that time when there was a discussion, they said there is a Q branch report on Professor Kalyani. Chandru said "Q branch report is a questionable report." I can’t forget these remarks. It was only through these strong arguments, that later Prof Kalyani was able to get his pension.
There were many issues like this. Just like how a memo was given for tearing vulgar posters, I was also given a memo. You know about Article 311 (2)A,B,C(Of constitution) under which a Central Government or State Government employee can be dismissed without an enquiry. Britto was a person who organised all those working in the police department. MGR dismissed him under this provision
Interviewer - When was this?
IPROF. SIVAKUMAR:t was during MGR's period.. in the 80s. On Britto's issue, the Secretariat Employees Union including Namachivayam, Raiyyam and all of us took up this issue and we were able to solve it most importantly because of the strike of the Secretariat Employees Union.

Till date there is no union for police. The person who began organising them, Britto, was victimised. Because of 311 (2)A,B,C. In protest of this, the government employees union conducted a hunger fast. At that time Thirumavalavan was the state vice president and I was the member of the JAC. We both addressed the meeting. The funny part is, I was given a memo under 17b, stating how can I, as a government employee criticise 311(2)abc. So because of that I could not cross the efficiency bar and was unable to get a salary increment, I also got a professor posting very late. I am saying all this because whenever we took up public or general issues for struggle, the government would always create some troubles for us. When this was the situation, many union members thought that they should follow the lead of careerists. Divisions were created amongst some of the affected members. So within the union there were problems.

After 1988, everything that happened was connected to this. During Ponnaiyan's period when there were transfers and problems like this, members believed that supporting us would create problems. But on the face of it, there was a campaign saying that these are all communists and they would only bring those that they favoured. I would not like to talk about the debates within the union. In 88, the struggle happened during Governor's rule. AIFECTO got this order, but in implementation of this order there were problems in TN and struggles in this regard.

The University Grants Commission order on salaries was not acceptable and we conducted a protest asking for it to be revoked. There has never been an instance in history where a trade union rejects a salary increment. Usually the union will take what we get and go in, thinking the rest can be fought for later. I would like to say that the debate started by Kesavan is an important reason for this decision within the JAC.

There was some hesitation within the AUT and MUTA, even in the GCTL everyone did not agree. It was the time when Dr.Subramaniam was the Director, the Governor's rule was continuing during Ponnaiyan's period, after Kesavan and I spoke to everyone, we rejected the order/notification.  As soon as we rejected it, the government was shaken wondering why they rejected the order and claimed that the order was correct. College teachers think that they should take what they get. If we had not rejected the order that day, college teachers today could not have reached pay band 4 without obstacles. So we rejected it

We said that if the teachers in south India are not given permanency, we will not go back on our decision. All this became possible, that is a proper UGC came about only after a joint struggle of teachers and government employees through JACTU- GO Federation
Mayilsami was the convenor of this body. He is a leader of the school teachers union Professor Mayilsami was the convenor, Comrade Appan and Comrade Gangadharan came from the government employees union. Thiru Narayan Rao and Soundarapandian came from the Government Workers Union , Rahim, Namachivayam from the Secretariat Union were from the different organisations; we all joined the protest. Wherever people spoke, they were taken and arrested. Namachivayam was arrested from the railway station and put in Central Jail. When Shantaram spoke in Ezhilalagam, he was arrested and taken. It was a time when we were in hiding and conducted our trade union activities.

Interviewer: When?

PROF. SIVAKUMAR:In 1988. It was the time when Alexander was the governor. At the height of the struggle, when many of the teachers were in jail we formed a shadow committee.  In the shadow committee, those of us who were not put in jail were present. Me  on behalf on the government teachers union, Comrade Sundaresan on behalf of the government employees union, Comrade Soundarapandian from Government Workers Union, Nanjappan from Tamil Nadu Teachers union, we all worked together.  Rahim was in hiding, he was not at home he was living outside.
This was a protest where government employees, teachers and corporation employees participated. There was complete black out for a day because all the municipality workers decided to strike, they decided to switch off electricity for an entire day and the city was in darkness. We gave such an impact to the government. As the struggle was going on, we were wondering what to do.
So Kesavan suggested to me that we meet Nallasivam. We met Nallasivam, and we met Srinivasan who was part of the liberation movement. We met several comrades. There were discussions about how to overcome obstacles to take the struggle to the next level. I remember Srinivasan telling me that when government employees in Bihar were protesting, tribal people came with bows and arrows in support of them and gherarroed secretariat just when their struggle looked like it was becoming dull.

Rahim suggested in the meeting of the shadow committee that we should gherrao fort st george. We announced the fort gherrao portest. All the leaders were in jail. Durai who was the Commissioner of Police. Thousands and lakhs of teachers and government employees from all over Tamil Nadu came to Chennai and blocked the entire stretch of Anna Salai from TVS bus stop to Walajah Road. Did you see that, they blocked it.

They began at 8 in the morning, buses were blocked at Tambaram, no buses were allowed to enter. People came in trains, they walked and blocked the roads. The challenge that Durai faced was that after 10am, no vehicles could ply, buses could not move. If the traffic chokes like this what will happen, entire Chennai had a problem. Durai had to bring this to some conclusion. Only if there is some decision, it can be solved. So the police came in horses and beat all the teachers. Despite that, the teachers conducted a mariyal. The struggle continued. Because of this, on the next day they released some of the leaders.

Ramakrishna was the Governor and team went to have a discussion with him. All the teachers were told "go to nehru stadium, we are coming to address you.” The leaders told us to give up the protest and to come there. The protest went on like this, a negotiation was going on. In the discussion, it was decided that all the government teachers, including teachers of aided schools and colleges, permanence of the temporary teachers and all benefits for them would be given on par with University Grants Commission and Central Government teachers. 
But they said they will not talk about the College Teachers Union, that is different, that is IFECTO. It is related to the University Grants Commission, it is a different issue. It is an issue that does not concern our State Government. Mayilsami walked out of the discussion saying that they will not take part if the issue of college teachers is not taken up.

Part IV

In 1987-88, making temporary teachers permanent was ensured after the struggle of the federation.  The Government teachers were being paid according to UGC scale. As the Government was forced to make temporary teachers permanent, they started introducing contract system providing contracts over a certain period. A GO was also put up on this. Those under this would not have employment nor wage during summer vacation. They may not be assured of a contract when the school reopens.

There were different opinions among the leadership in Tamil Nadu Government Teachers Association on admitting them to union membership. We including Prof. Marx argued for including them in the union and fighting for their rights. The careerist union representatives were of the opinion that the contract workers should not be part of the union and they can have separate union. We fought for their representation and their right to vote in union elections. We ensured that these teachers will be part of the union.

There was factioning among the union. Some representatives including subramaniam, ilavarasu had the backing of CPI and opposed us in elections. In that election, Sankarasubramaniam was elected from our faction and the rest were from the other faction.  During this period, both permanency for temporary and contract workers were taken up and resolved. In 2014, there was a GO which took their working years as contract teachers in calcuation of their pension. All this could not have been achieved if several people including Marx, Vasanthi Devi, Sivaraman and Santharam was crucial in ensuring this. Now they are now appointed as guest lecturers who can be appointed directly by college principals based on reservation. 

Today there are about 1500 guest lecturers in shift 1 and 1500 guest lecturers in shift 2 working in contract mode. The government has moved from permanency, to temporary, to contract to guest lecturer. The guest lectuers are only paid Rs 10000 per month. They have not been paid for 5 months since the college started. The reason for this is the New Education Policy and New Economic Policy  which has impacted all the facets of higher education including employment confirmation.

Given this, the historical organizing has to be reviewed and studied so that we can understand what we failed to do and what we need to do to resist this. If not, then it will get worse in terms of pension – already pension scheme has been changed – the job security of guest lecturers is in question, teachers in private education have increased many fold. The need and responsibility for organizing private institute teachers rests with MUTA and AUT. The responsibility to bring all these groups together is with JAC for GCT.

Meanwhile, in TNGCTA, there was fighting between left party backed groups and careerist union representatives and our faction representatives where targeted when Prof. Ponnusamy was education minister. Prof. Mavadian, one of the dalit representatives from Nandanam College was one of the targeted. He was part of education committee in Nandanam College and should have been promoted to syndicate in the university. He was transferred out of Nandanam College as punishment. So the union started having internal rifes. When we see this, the basic question arises on why anyone will be part of the union. We met and discussed how to proceed. We sent an open letter to members for forcing open debates on this issue. We started College Teachers Council.

Now there are two groups which are operating: College Teachers Association and College Teachers Council. We also started a new magazine called 'Oli' under Kesavan but it did not go beyond one publication. Today, there are two groups which are operating but people are willing to work together when it comes to issues. This needs to be the understanding of all unions. Whether its assault on pension or new wage schemes and more importantly on the working conditions - given that after 2006, the working conditions are integrated into the new economic policies – and other assaults that we are going to face from the state, there is a need to come under a joint action committee.

9:38: In the meantime, I need to register a big protest and its impact here.  In 2002, when Jayalalitha was chief minister, from college teachers and government employees until the lowest level went on a struggle under JACTO-GO . Lakhs of employees were dismissed. The demands were that the dearness allowance that was paid until then was stopped. Surrender leave was also cancelled. Teachers were upset as the rights that were hard won are now being removed one after another. So they were militant about it.   From the secretariat to the panchayat level worker, everyone came to the streets. Even tahsildars and revenue officers and block officers went into protest. All of there were summarily dismissed.

I was working as a college principal in Gudiyattham. Prof. Thirumavalavan was working in Ambedkar college. Only few months were there for us to retire. EP Perumal was working in Dharmapuri college. Dismissed include government college teachers, private college teachers, school teachers, government employees, lowest grade workers etc. It brought down Government machinery.

Interviewer: Can such a drastic decision be taken by a chief minister?

PROF. SIVAKUMAR:Not only were the teachers dismissed, they were also imprisoned. A debate is called for by Judge Dinakaran which is made into a negotiation. Through that negotiation, the teachers dismissal is withdrawn and the protest comes to a close.

Interviewer: Isnt this a fascist tool?

PROF. SIVAKUMAR: Yes it is a fascist tool. It had a big impact in the next election when she lost the election. The demands of wage etc were then taken care of in the next DMK peiod. Three of us who were soon to be retired participated. The union's understanding is that those who are soon to retire do not have to take part in union activities and are exempted from these. But we participated in spite of the fear that there could be repercussions but there were none.

Interviewer: Why do you think that is relevant?

PROF. SIVAKUMAR:I think its relevant because we should have politicized our issues much further and taken our struggles much further. When the union split, there were debates even Kesavan and Marx said that we should not leave the union but they also followed suit. Even I felt that we should have stood firm and fought inside the union but now I feel that having two unions means different more creative activities with in the union can be taken forward. The council is now going fine under the responsibility of Prof. Moorthy and Prof. Sivaraman. They are taking the issue of contract teachers and are approaching it politically.

However the TNGCTA is the majority union and teachers also follow it because it is majority union. Only as time goes on, this has potential change as time goes. For ex, there is a building worth crores near Wallajah Road for TNGCTA and there is a history behind it. In 1983 when I was general secretary and Narasingam was the president, Eswaran was vice president and Palaniammal was associate secretary. At that time Narasingam was retiring. The careerist group brings a motion to facilitate him. We opposed in the public meeting saying that such action should not be performed. Instead we proposed that a donation be collected and a building be constructed in his name.

Initially we solicited a donation of Rs 10. In 87, when we got interim relief, we decided to get donations of Rs 100 and constructed the building and named it Narasinga Nilayam. Later those who did not give donations were not given voting rights. The reason I am stating this is because when it came to property, wealth, joint action committee, membership, then the union becomes a power centre. Then few people want to be in the union permanently. All these became issues in the union. The union's direction is determined by who the democratic forces are and the mechanism of institutionalizing an union. If these are not taken with right politics, then it will eventually be a problem.

When I look at what we have done, how much we have solved students issues, how much interaction we had with students, our comrades were always integrating with the student movements. Our comrades never shunned college responsibilities but these came from a certain political and democratic understanding. Now only wage related issues are taken up. The external political conditions are also a factor in this.Without resisting this, can this middle class organization go to the next political level is doubtful.

Now every college teacher has one or two flats. They have AC cars. Will these people do what we did when we went on streets and put up posters. I dont think so. If they face issues, the possibilities of them coming to fight is there. Even today, there are individuals who are able to look at the issues of teachers politically. But they are all fragmented today. Dalit teachers are operating as a separate union. But they are also part of TNGCTA. All of these came about after 2000. One needs to introspect on these as well.There are dalit individuals who are articulating on general issues. But the ir numerical strength is not big. These are individuals who were students when we were teachers. This is our contribution – the community that fought in 79's 86 and and 88s – shows how much we were also able to influence the student community. The left movements (CPI,CPM and ML) and progressive forces which fought along with student communities earlier.

When Queen Mary's protest was happening, Sankarasubramaniam was general secretary of  Council and Santharam was president of Council. The protest was organized by Association. In the negotiation meeting before Jayalalitha,  both organizations were represented and after the meeting the process of making Queen Marys as a member institute is abandoned(this would have caused it lose the status of Government College). In that protest Saraswathi and Lalitha participate. In that protest, Sankarasubramaniam triies to bring Student Federation of India, AISF, MakaIeKa Student Wing and other progressive student forces into the fold of the protest. (Repetition..). EP Perumal was representing the Association then. He did not agree to it because he said that they do not have the understanding to handle this. I am not singling him out but rather pointing out that how even though the leadership was from CPI, they did not see the importance of supporting student struggles. For ex, they were outspoken against student elections, at the same time when the teachers union elections were deemed important. These attitudes were impediments to the progress of the union.  However some CPI comrades from MUTA were more appreciative of bringing student groups into union activities. So it cannot be said that all representatives tried to bring the different party ideologies all the time. We have worked together as teachers in various struggles.

Now we all know Inquilab the poet. When we were representatives, we published his poem in a magazine called College Teacher's voice. That magazine was started in 86 and editorial team including Meera and Marx did excellent job in running this magazine. The magazine will have one poem in each magazine and Inquilab's poem was one such published. It energized the teaching community. During the struggles in 87, one of the struggles we took was to tie a black cloth around our mouth and are doing a rally from Income Tax Department Office. Police started filming us. Immediately teachers started shouting Inquilab slogan meaning Police Snakes Dont attack us.

When Stella Soundararajan started anti teacher attitude and Aranganmayakam was supporting her, there is a vigorous protest against her attitude. As instructed by Kesavan, the teachers crossed Kooum river and started lying on the streets to do a road roko. Oliver John and Varadarajan from Madras Christian College and Prof. Narayanasamy, ex president of AUT were there. The police had to lift us and throw into lorries to evacuate us from protest site. These are unforgettable memories.

Another struggle was in Madras Christian College when Oliver John, Brinda Moses and another teacher are dismissed. MUTA, AUT and GCTA all went on a strike to reinstate the teachers. After negotiation in front of Jayalalitha, all three teachers were reinstated. This is the history of Government College Teachers fighting for private college teachers. These are important struggle like Annamalai University. So we have taken various protests other than wage struggles.

In terms of outside meetings, we have conducted hall meetings on New Education Policy. Kalyani had initiated People Education Movement and through that we conducted meetings on education via local language during Manal Commission visits. We have given voices against Indian Peace Keeping Force.  We have participated in meetings on Eelam and against POTA in joint action committee events against POTA. But we did not concentrate only on such events ignoring the union activities.

Between 1977 and 2002, through TNGCTA and TNGCTC, I had opportunity to continuously work on trade union activities, The Association was successful in many fronts. One cannot say that only our activities were important in this. Many democratic forces, representatives at various times,  coordinated fronts with MUTA and AUT. Because there were both unities and contradictions that emerged during such interactions. By approaching them in right spirit, we were not only able to take many activities but also approach them creatively.

Then, there was not a employment guarantee for government aided college(private) teachers. That was achieved. In Government colleges, temporary teachers were made permanent. Today, the teachers are able to get an excellent salary and a pension of upto  Rs 40000. However, a guest lecturer is able to get only Rs 10000. This shows from where the struggles were to where conditions are. Why is the union unable to make guest lecturers permanent today. Why have we failed to control self financed colleges. Can we do this alone with out working with student movements? We need to look at how to get students to take up such issues in coordination with teachers union.

After new economic policies and new education policies are in place, the Government has put administrative structures that would enable contractualization of teachers. In addition, the college has outsourced the grade 4 category of employment i.e sweepers etc. There are no sanitation worker in Government College or schools. Because of this, thousands have lost secure employment. There is no security guard in many government colleges. This comes in the context of enabling private sector in education. In future, this may even take the shape of private public partnership.  This was already discussed recently for a corporation school.

This political economy needs to be understood by the union representatives of MUTA, TNGCTA, TNGCTC and AUT which needs to take this issue politically. When I am talking about politicizing the issue, I am not talking about party politics. I am talking about the politics surrounding the education, economy and society. With out doing this, I am doubtful if this this issue can be resolved structurally. To do this, one needs to start think how to organize ten thousands of precarious teaching force in private colleges. With out doing this, permanent teachers cannot solve any issue. Because if you go on strike, the institute will still function. The Government will use them to conduct elections if you refuse to perform exams. So how can we even start any action without organizing them. This is the same condition in other sectors too such as postal service or transport workers. Today transport service may not be very much privatized but one needs to work towards reducing the threat. Instead just fighting for bonus and wage increment will not stop the eventual slide. Same goes for banking sector which has so many private banks.

We opposed automation of activites. Still automation came and now we have made our peace with automation. But even if automation decreases the no of workers, can we atleast stop the precariousness of the workers? This is the question today. Today. the teachers must start teaching the students and again integrate with students. Just because a revenue officer employee attends a protest, can he be termed as a revolutionary, if they dont deal with corruption that prevents public from accessing services in his office. Responsibility should become a point of debate. As organized sector is dwindling, if one does not ask these questions, having a union alone will not be enough. Today, unionism should focus on self financed colleges, unorganized sector, IT sector and manufacturing sector. Today IT sector is not even at a point to make demands on its own issues. We need to understand the objective factors and also understand our political perspective in these issues, how are we placed to address such issues, Are issues that we saw in 80s the same as today's issues? A sectarian approach to these will only get some minor benefits as and when the state deems necessary. However the likelihood of such approach can lead to failure. From these failures, they will be reemerging. How are we going to get a teacher who earns Rs90000 per month to come and do every day activities of unionizing and protesting whether its putting up posters etc...


Pension is becoming a question. If we all come together, there is a chance to succeed. However, this is also highly integrated into the political economy of globalization. To take this up, we need to do much more than what was done then and we need to politicize the issue. Specifically, left leaning parties should not take up issues on individual or party basis but rather should coordinate the struggles with all left leaning forces. 

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