REMEMBERING COM. RAJA
Vice President, Confederation of CGE & Workers.
On 14th July, evening at about 7.00 PM my telephone rang. The voice on the other side was of Com. Pijush Roy from Kolkata. He phoned to know whether what has been conveyed to him about Raja was fact or not. It was totally unbelievable and terribly sorrowful when Raja’s death was confirmed by Com. Sreekumar, President of the All India Audit and Accounts Association. Only a few days back I had a telephonic talk with him.. He appeared to be keeping fine. On 14th he had to go to the hospital for he was having some discomfiture. He suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed at the hospital itself. He could not be saved despite the best efforts of the Doctor.
During his long stay at Delhi, he had not suffered any ailments warranting hospitalization. He was however in constant difficulties of back-pain and got some relief from the massaging treatment he took from the Ayurvedic hospital at Trissur. He had no known cardiac problem so long as he was at Delhi. His untimely death was very sorrowful to his friends and his family members. It was really sad that neither his wife nor his son could be near him when he met the death on 14th July, evening..
Com.M.S.Raja took voluntary retirement in November, 2019, a few months before the end of his service career on superannuation. From 2004 to 2019, he was on foreign service on deputation to work as the Secretary General of the All India Audit and Accounts Association, New Delhi, to which position he had been elected continuously in all the triennial conferences held since 2004. He had been staying alone at the Audit Association’s Head quarters at Ghaziabad. Only when his son, on completion of his education and having received employment at Gurgaon, Com. Raja had some solace and company.
Com.Raja came forward to take over the post of Secretary General of AIAAA in 2004 pretty well knowing that he will have to leave his family, (his wife and son )at Mumbai. Ms.Nandini was employed at the Custom Department, Mumbai and she was not able to go over to Delhi, having the responsibility of looking after her aged father. Com.Raja was the natural choice of all the delegates of the all India Conference of the Association.
Com. Raja was fully aware that the position of the Secretary General of AIAAA was a seat of thorns. By 2004, the AIAAA which had been one of the mighty, militant and united organization of the CGEs had begun to slide down . It was a herculean task even for a leader like Com.Raja who had the highest level of conviction, courage, dedication, mass appeal, sense of sacrifice and the capacity to work hard to bring it back to its past glory.
I came in intimate contact with comrade Raja only after his election to the position of the Secretary General of AIAAA, though on many occasions earlier, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with him at Mumbai . He was an extremely straight forward person, a quality perhaps not in demand in the present day world. He never minced words. He had the capacity to tell what he felt without any sophistication, rather bluntly. The very fact that such admirable character will fetch few friends and more foes did not daunt him at all. Nor did he make any attempt to change it. There were many factors that led to the organizational weakness of AIAAA. Some of them were consequences of earlier decisions. But the most important was that the Government and the C & AG administration played an extremely pro-active role to ensure its units are either made defunct or weakened. Its chequered history was full of the life and struggle of quite a number of eminent persons, to be emulated by all those who are connected with the trade union movement.
Maharashtra unit of AIAAA was at Mumbai. It had played a sterling role in the building up of the organization. It is from this unit the leaders like com. E.X. Joseph rose to the eminence. He was one of the founding members of the all India Association. When Com.Raja took over the leadership of the Mumbai Unit, it was a pale shadow of its glorious past. It was the sagacity, courage and leadership qualities of Com.Raja that changed the scenario.. He could bring the movement of the Audit and Accounts employees of Mumbai to its premier position. It emerged under his leadership as one of the best performing units of AIAAA. His sterling personality and unique position made him the natural choice for the post of the General Secretary of the Co-ordination Committee of CGEs, the state unit of the Confederation of CGE & W. Perhaps next to Delhi and Kolkata, Mumbai had the largest number of Central Government employees as most of the GOI departments had their offices at Mumbai. This apart, the biggest unit of Atomic Energy Commission, BARC was located in Mumbai. Being the biggest urban agglomeration in the country, Mumbai had its peculiar problems. In the united struggle of the working class, initially against the LPG and later against the neo-liberal economic policies, the Audit Employees movement under the leadership of Com. Raja had played a vital role. He was closely associated with all the Central Trade Union Centres at Mumbai and had a warm relationship with the movement of State Government employees and Railway workers. He was a well known figure amongst the leaders of all organizations of Mumbai.
It was with that rich experience he landed at Delhi. Within no time, however, he could realize that working from the CHQ , divourced from the exhilarating crowd support, that are ever present at the work spots in the field formations, was a different cup of tea. The demonstration of the sheer strength of the movement often opens the doors of even unwilling authorities at the field formations for a meaningful negotiation. The discussions with an adamant bureaucracy at the apex level were mostly procrastinating and fruitless. As an astute person, he realized that unless the units which are varied both in size and attitude are brought into a minimum level of functioning, insurmountable though, it was difficult to bring the organization to its past glory. It was to accomplish this daunting task he spent most of his time as the Secretary General of the All India Association. He undertook extensive tours to know the reality of the situation obtaining in various Units and mobilize them to ensure that the collective decisions are uniformly carried out. He succeeded to a great extent is borne out of the extensive participation of the employees and officers in the mass casual leave programme organized in 2010.
His tenure as the Secretary General of the Association had been turbulent. The C&AG administration unleashed the worst form of victimization. It appeared that the Govt. and the C& AG Administration had jointly decided to wipe out the organization. Even peaceful demonstration to express resentment of the employees was met with stern, strong and unheard of reprisals. The extensive victimization giving charge sheet to about 12,000 employees must have been an unprecedented action. The utter un-tenabilty of many of the vindictive actions could be seen from the way these cases were got quashed by the courts in the country. But the purpose ostensibly was to create a fear psychosis and terror in the minds of the ordinary employees and thereby weaken the organized functioning of the Association. It must be said to his credit that he could and did withstand the onslaught with conviction, courage and determination. Pretty well knowing that the response from the members and units in the given situation might not be good, he thought it right and need of the hour to commit the organization to the path of struggles while endorsing the call of the Central Trade Unions for strike action against the neo- liberal economic policies of the Government. On a quite number of occasions I was witness to the sheer lack of appreciation for his efforts both from his colleagues and undoubtedly from his permanent critics. That however, did not dither him nor did he waver from the chosen path. The organizational weakness which surfaced especially after the heavy doze of victimization unleashed by the authorities had its adverse impact on the financial stability too. His stay at Delhi leaving his family behind was also beset with financial difficulties and he had not been able to draw his salary every month. That had been the nagging problem till his retirement.
He had been a tower of strength for all of us, especially for me, in the day to day functioning of the confederation. Beset with innumerable problems and financial difficulties, he found time to work for the confederation. The place Com.Vyas was living, some time at Mandir Marg, then at North Avenue and lastly at Feroze Shah Road, was the centre for all of us to meet and discuss the issues concerning the CGE movement. Com.Raja unlike others had to travel quite a distance to reach the city as he was living in Ghaziabad. It used to take not less than 2 hours to traverse the distance. It was only when the Metro was extended to Vaishali, his travel problems eased to some extent. Despite all these problems he used to attend the meetings and contribute immensely to the decision making process.
At the time of preparation of the memorandum to the 7th CPC, the centre of activities was shifted to Manishinath Bhawan, Rajouri Garden, where the ITEF CHQ had been located . Com.Raja stayed there on a number of days as most of the discussions had to be conducted during night sessions. After the death of Com . Vyas, Com.Raja succeeded him to the Standing committee of the Staff Side in the JCM., National Council. His contribution during the preparation and formulation of issues, while tendering evidence before the Commission and later at the negotiation with the Government had all been praiseworthy.
One of the special and sterling qualities, I could notice in him and wanted to imbibe but failed miserably, was his ability to tell what he felt without any sophistication and follow it up with a wonderful laugh to make the ambience normal and jovial. Like his mentor Com.Vyas, Com.Raja was also fond of preparing good food. I do not know whether it was by compulsion of circumstances or really he enjoyed it. I had on innumerable occasions stayed with him at his residence in Ghaziabad. In fact I had found solace in his company and those were really unforgettable days. It is during those days, I could get a fair picture of his life, his family and the ambience in which he spent his childhood. Having born in a feudal landlord family of Kerala, he was supposed to have a wonderful and joyful childhood. That was not the case was the truth. He was a very active participant in student movement of Kerala. From St. Thomas College, Trissur, he was elected as a councillor to the Calicut University. He was also a member of the District Committee of SFI during his college days. His commitment to the ideology, which he realized to be the best for the humanity, had been his forte. He never dithered at any point of time, and also had no hesitation to express his differing opinions and views on contemporary issues quite bluntly.
He had often expressed his wish to settle down at his native village, construct a house on the plot which he had inherited, to be in the midst of his old friends and spend the evening of his life away from the maddening crowd of cities and towns. He was to begin the construction of that dream house. He went over to Trissur with that in mind but got bogged down due to corona Virus . Those remained as mere wishes.
His death has saddened all those with whom he had come in contact and established friendship. It is quite impossible for them to obliterate his image from their minds as he had such a strong and pleasing personality. His immortal and inimitable style of loud laughter to dispel the smog of despair in the ambiance shall linger on as an indelible impression of his personality, perhaps without death. It is only with sorrowful tears I can bid adieu to you, comrade.