is but a few who acquire the status of the mythical
Prometheus, who is fabled to have stolen fire from
the gods and brought it down to earth for the benefit
of mankind. Com. Prabhat can only be described as
the Prometheus of the bank employees' movement, the
Commander Par Excellence who 'found it mud and left
it marble'. A major portion of his seventy four years
on this planet was lived in searing dedication to
the cause of bank employees. He was so much the architect,
the high priest, the life-breath of the bank employees'
movement going under the name of AIBEA, such an integral,
intricate part of it, that it is difficult to speak
of the one without referring to the other. He finally
died with his boots on, his last breath being rasped
out in the cause of bank employees.
Com. Prabhat was born on 13th October, 1910 in Calcutta
in a middle class family not very different from the
ones from which today's bank employees hail. In 1928
as a youth of 18 he had his first taste of the freedom
struggle when he joined as a volunteer in the Calcutta
Congress Session. After graduating from the Presidency
College in Calcutta in 1931 he joined the services
of Lloyds Bank Ltd., as a clerk in 1933. It is here
that he first witnessed and experienced the rampant
and inhuman conditions to which this section of the
working class was subjected. The situation obtaining
then is beyond our imagination today. The right of
hire and fire prevailed and employees were often hired
only to be fired. Service conditions were non-existent
and the word 'union' was an unutterable blasphemy.
The hold of the pay master on his workers was complete
and total. Destinies were made and broken at the mere
whim of the 'Employer' which was only a euphemism
to describe the lord and master.
It is in such an hostile environment that Com. Prabhat
had his baptism in the Trade Union Movement. From
1933, the year in which he joined the bank, till 1946
he was fully immersed in organising bank employees
against these sub- human conditions.
Right from the beginning Com. Prabhat was clear as
to the cause underlying this primitive exploitation.
He was aware that what he witnessed in the banks was
only the expression of a larger callous system which
continuously endeavoured to keep the worker oppressed
and harassed. Hence from the very day he joined the
bank he was conscious that this situation could be
battled only by a workers' organisation of comparable
size and strength. Envisaging the broadest platform
of unity possible in the then prevailing situation
and circumstances, Com. Prabhat made the organising
of the entire lot of bank employees in the banking
industry his prime target.
With the characteristic courage of his convictions
and vision which in later years came to be reckoned
as his hall mark, Com. Prabhat, along with a group
of young, angry but dedicated comrades took the historic
decision on 9th April, 1941 to form an all India organisation
for bank employees. On 20th April, 1946 this vision
stood translated into reality as the AIBEA took formal
shape on the banks of the Hooghly.
At the time when the AIBEA was founded, in certain
pockets in some of the banks, there were a few fledgling
organisatlons. But all these were struggling against
immense odds even for survival. There was nothing
present on the Trade Union scene in the banking industry
to encourage the formation of an all-embracing industry-Ievel
Yet from the day the AIBEA was founded Com. Prabhat
started a ceaseless and unremitting struggle to unify
all banks employees under a single banner. "One
industry, one union" had become his immediate
lodestar. In the meantime he was already shouldering
the responsibility of being the General Secretary
of the Bengal Provincial Bank Employees' Association.
On 17th August 1948, Com. Prabhat, as General Secretary
of BPBEA, led the sympathy strike in support of the
19 days' strike by the employees of the Central Bank.
Lloyds Bank declared a lock out for 26 days because
the employees of Lloyds Bank had also participated
in the strike under the leadership of Com. Prabhat.
In the after- math of this strike, 51 employees including
Com. Prabhat, were dismissed from Lloyds Bank. Subsequently
Com. Kar and 11 others from Lloyds Bank were convicted
under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 for having
participated in the .'illegal" strike. The dismissal
issue was later on brought before the Sen Tribunal
which ordered reinstatement of 40 of the dismissed
employees but excluded Com. Prabhat and 10 others
from reinstatement. However the vindictive management
of Lloyds Bank went on appeal , against these reinstatements.
After 9 years of protracted and attritional legal
battle, the Supreme Court reinstated these 40 comrades
in June, 1958.
Two things are noteworthy here. The first is that
it is possible that the management of Lloyds Bank,
given its class bias, foresaw in Prabhat Kar the awakening
titan of the bank employees movement and decided to
ruthlessly crush him to obviate such a possibility.
Their persistent vindictive attitude towards him betrays
as much. The fact that the Sen Tribunal also deemed
it fit to exclude him from reinstatement perhaps indicated
the first recognition, albeit negative, by the powers
that be of the emerging status of Prabhat.
The second noteworthy point is that amongst the 51
initially dismissed from Lloyds Bank was Shri Sen
Gupta who subsequently became the Chairman of the
United Bank of India. Had Com. Prabhat also chosen
a similar path, perhaps
Had this been
the case, the bank employees movement would certainly
have been the poorer.
It certainly must have been crucifying for an individual
of 38 years age to stand dismissed from service and
to be confronted with the prospect of further gruelling
struggle in the years to come.
The period 1953 to 1966 was a period of incessant,
relentless and prolonged struggles for both Com. Prabhat
and the AIBEA which he had come to represent as its
General Secretary since his election to that post
at the 5th Conference of the AIBEA held at Lucknow
in 1953. It was during this period that the sweep
of the organisation came to acquire an unprecedented
magnitude. The AIBEA fought bitter battles inside
the portals of tribunals and outside in the streets
under the stewardship of Com. Prabhat.
During this period, in 1957, Com. Prabhat was elected
to the Parliament from the Hooghly constituency. During
his tenure in Parliament Com. Prabhat Kar took up
the issue of bigger banks' taking over small banks
that went into liquidation and saw to it that an amendment
was made to the Banking Company's Act to that effect,
while also endeavouring to ensure that the employees
of the liquidated banks' were absorbed into the new
banks. The first bank to be taken over was the Indo-
Commercial by the Punjab National Bank.
In 1961 Com. Prabhat Kar participated as a member
of the Bonus subcommittee at the Indian Labour Conference
at Bangalore, where it was decided that the entire
Banking Industry, both private and public sectors,
excluding the RBI, would come under the purview of
the Bonus Commission.
The phase of tribunalisation and third party intervention
came to a decisive end with the signing of the historic
first ever industry level Bipartite Settlement under
the captaincy of Com. Prabhat in 1966. In bringing
about this unique settlement Com. Prabhat, along with
Com. Parvana, had toiled ceaselessly. The dream and
slogan of " One union, one industry " had
now assumed formal shape and begun the process of
fleshing out with the signing of this settlement.
Here again it was Com. Prabhat's strong conviction
that the signing of such an industry level settlement
which would include under the comprehensive sweep
of its umbrella virtually the entire banking industry,
would also resultantly strengthen and streamline the
growing unity of bank employees under the banner of
AIBEA. The dialectics of uniform wage structure and
service conditions would produce dynamics that would
strengthen the, environment for bank employees' unity.
The Signing of this First Bipartite Settlement metamorphosed
the status of both the AIBEA and the bank employees.
It constitutes a decisive watershed in the history
of the movement since the period of definite consolidation
of the movement and advancement commences from this
point. The AIBEA has never looked back after this.
It was also during this period that yet another aspect
of this multifaceted genius stood demonstrated- his
mastery of the art of negotiation. This mastery was
to acquire legendary proportions through the authoring
of the succeeding Bipartite Settlements. The quality
that was peculiarly his own at the negotiating table
was that while Com. Prabhat was never aggressive,
always persuasive, yet without yielding any quarter
to the management, he carried them along with him.
The most strident of antagonists came around to accept
his view point slowly but surely.
While this acme of his genius stood displayed in one
form at the negotiating table, yet another side to
it was displayed in the reinstatement of 135 comrades
of Syndicate Bank. In the year 1965, the management
of Syndicate Bank dismissed 135 of its employees following
an agitation, and mulishly persisted in its refusal
to reinstate them despite persistent attempts. Com.
Prabhat stepped onto the scene and a series of negotiations
commenced with the management, spread over a period
of two years at different centres. It was virtually
a war of attrition across the table. As the talks
continued without any apparent breakthrough many began
to lose confidence. Some began to have misgivings.
But Com. Prabhat persisted with paramount, unbounded
patience. The management unable to with- stand the
gentle onslaught of this dogged persistence, finally
cried a halt and reinstated all the dismissed comrades.
Com, Prabhat had once again achieved the impossible.
The period that followed was an era of bipartism.
AIBEA grew from strength to strength under the stewardship
of Com. Prabhat Kar. In 1967 he was elected to the
Parliament for the second time. In 1969 when 14 major
banks were nationalised Com. Prabhat Kar along with
Com. Parvana met the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira
Gandhi and suggested improvements in the structure
of the Banks.
Having thus far devoted his attention to aspects of
wages and service conditions, in the 17th Conference
of the AIBEA held at Madras in 1973, Com. Prabhat
made a bold departure by laying more emphasis on national
problems and called for a change in the credit policies
of the government. This concern for the nation, the
role the banking industry played in the growth of
the nation, and the potential of the bank employees
to influence this role played by the industry in the
nation's growth, increased over the years. In successive
conferences Com. Prabhat's emphasis on this sphere
of activity also increased as this conviction grew,
A personal and organisational set back for Com. Prabhat
was the passing away of Com. Parvana in 1975. His
responsibilities increased as a result of this sad
loss. In the period that followed, the securing of
the III Bipartite settlement formed one of the sternest
of organisational challenges faced by Com. Prabhat
in his long tenure as pilot of the movement. The government
at the helm of affairs was the Janata Government which
had triumphed at the hustings with a massive mandate
from the electorate in the aftermath of the emergency.
And the Government was headed by Morarji Desai as
the Prime Minister. When the AIBEA proposed the long
overdue wage revision for bank employees it was the
Prime Minister himself who thundered that bank employees
enjoyed best of both the worlds and therefore there
was no question of any wage increase for them. Not
only did the government rule out any wage revision
but also simultaneously attempted to foist the obnoxious
Boothalingam Committee D. A, formula on the bank employees.
The resistance to imposition of this formula in other
industries was tepid.
A battle royal ensued therefore between the AIBEA
and the government in which Com. Prabhat directed
the use of every known item of weaponry from work-to-
rule and other forms of agitation to novel methods
like short duration strikes at different centres.
The government had to finally bow before the combined
might of the bank employees and Com. Prabhat once
again achieved the impossible by signing the III Bipartite
The Fourth Bipartite Settlement, came to the Bank
employees virtually on a silver platter as it was
achieved with comparatively less struggle. The movement
had come full circle under the stewardship of Com.
Prabhat. It has progressed from the situation of protracted
battles for small gains to that of limited struggles
for major gains. The subsequent period witnessed Com.
Prabhat busily engaged in the task of organising the
officers under the banner of the AIBOA of which he
was the Founder President.
In the midst of these activities Com. Prabhat travelled
to Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh on 24-11-1984 to inaugurate
the Conference of State Bank of Hyderabad Staff Association.
While on his way back to Hyderabad from this Conference,
he collapsed in the car in which he was travelling.
It was 9-30 p.m. of 27th November 1984.
Thus he passed on to the ages, serving the cause for
which he lived upto the last breath of his life. There
are only a few who continue to live beyond the grave,
for whom death signifies nothing more than the mere
consignment of mortal remains to dust. That immortality
is truly noble which is achieved in the cause of organising
the masses. That immortality is uniquely Prabhat's.
H. L. Parvana was born in a poor middle class family
on 3-11-1923 in a remote village in Punjab. His name
was Harbanslal. He studied in Rajpore Bhaiti upto
middle school. He did his High School education at
Badden-a place 10 kms. away. He used to walk daily
to go to the school.
The sweep of the freedom movement, the Jallianwala
Bagh incident, the inspiration from Lala Lajpat Rai
and Baghat Singh, -all had their natural impact on
the young and sensitive Parvana. His instincts were
pushing him away from routine studies and towards
active public life. The seed had been sown in him.
Alongside, he took keen interest in literature.
He was especially attracted to Urdu literature due
to its realistic depiction of the commoner's plight
and the naked exposure of the exploitation existing
in the social set up. He began writing small Urdu
couplets and adopted the pen-name Parvana. Though
he completed Matriculation with very high marks, his
family could not afford his further higher education.
Corn. Parvana, volunteered to seek a job to support
the family suppressing his desire and urge to prosecute
higher education. This was the beginning of the era
of sacrifice for Corn. Parvana.
At the age of 16, he started to hunt for a job and
after lot of difficulties, through the introduction
of a friend, he got a job in Punjab National Bank.
But he was posted as a Daftary even though he was
a first class matriculate. After about 3 months, he
was put on probation as a clerk with a salary of Rs.
16 per month.
After joining the job, he continued his studies in
an evening College and passed B.A. with honours in
Urdu from Punjab University. Every week end, Com.
Parvana used to visit his elder brother who was employed
in a textile mill. His brother was a Trade Union worker
of that Mill and Corn. Parvana found that through
the efforts of the Unions, the problems of the workers
were being mitigated and resolved. Corn. Parvana took
no time to found a Union in Punjab National Bank at
Lahore. But as a consequence of this' crime "
he was dismissed by the Bank in 1944.
Then Com. Parvana came to Delhi in search of job again.
With the help of his friend, he got a job in Bharat
Bank Limited as an unpaid apprentice. Due to his efficiency
and hard work, he was soon promoted as a supervisor
and again as Superintendent. Undeterred by the bitter
experience of victimisation by the previous employer
, Corn. Parvana, as a result of his deep convictions,
soon formed a Union in Bharat Bank, Delhi. He organised
strike actions in 1946, 1947 and 1948 and the Union
made spectacular achievements including recognition
of the Union by the Management.
Later, he organised a day's strike on 8th March 1949
in support of the Railway employees, setting example
for fraternity and solidarity of workers. But the
Management reacted sharply by getting 450 out of its
527 employees arrested by police. Com. Parvana fought
back against these repressions and there was a strike
for 21 days. Management terminated 35 activists of
the Union including their leader Com. Parvana. Com.
Parvana was again on the streets and underwent sufferings.
When the Sen Tribunal was appointed, it also heard
the dismissal of the 35 employees of Bharat Bank.
Com. Parvana himself argued the case on behalf of
the victimised employees. The Bank's side was represented
by the eminent lawyer Setalvad.
The Tribunal awarded reinstatement of all the 35 employees
but the Bank went on appeal to Supreme Court and obtained
a stay. But in the final hearing, the Supreme Court
confirmed the reinstatement of these employees including
Com. Parvana. But that was not the end of the tribulations.
The Bharat Bank decided to purchase the Punjab National
Bank but cunningly dissolved the Bharat Bank rendering
the 1,300 employees jobless. It was March 1951. Com.
Parvana had organised a Union in Punjab National Bank
with the help of Com. P. L. Syal (now Vice President
of AIBEA). The Punjab National Bank Union went on
strike against the Bharat Bank's decision to throw
out its employees. Punjab National Bank Management
dismissed 159 of its employees for this.
The issue was referred to a Tribunal which ordered
absorption of all the Bharat Bank employees in Punjab
National Bank. But the Management went on appeal to
the Supreme Court. After 12 years of legal battle,
in 1963 the employees won the reinstatement of all
the employees including Com. Parvana. By then, Com.
Parvana had immersed in the movement so much that
he decided not to accept the reinstatement and continued
to work for the Trade Union whole-time. This was the
ripening of Com. Parvana into a Leader of unparalleled
Com. Parvana had become the centre of activities of
the Bank employees' movement in and around Delhi and
was responsible in forming Trade Unions in different
Banks during the 1950s. In 1951, he was elected as
Vice-President of AIBEA and in 1954 as Assistant Secretary.
In 1962, he was elected as Secretary of AIBEA which
position he held till he died in 1975.
Com. Parvana was always known for his hard work. The
more the AIBEA movement grew, the harder and longer
he worked. Whether it was the fight before the Sastri
and Desai Tribunals in 1950s and 60s, whether it was
the fight to achieve Bipartite Settlement in 1965-66
or the sustained struggle for nationalisation of the
Banks from 1960, Com. Parvana was straining every
nerve to gear up the rank and file to back up the
organisation's demands for their eventual accomplishment.
This tremendous strain had a disastrous effect on
his health and he suffered from heart attack in 1966.
But much against the advice of the doctors, he freed
himself from the hospital and resumed work in AIBEA
The hectic activities during the First Bipartite struggle
and negotiations further affected his health. But
he refused to take rest. He suffered a second attack
in 1970. After a slight recovery, he plunged into
his routine work again. He got a third attack in 1973.
Doctors told him that his health had deteriorated
and advised him to be very careful. But with some
little improvement in his health, he was back to his
normal work and frequent tours and meetings. His health
had become so bad, that he could not climb the staircase
of his house. So he shifted to the house of Com. Prabhat
Kar who took care of him as his younger brother. Com.
Parvana was managing to live with heavy doses of tablets
daily. But this was not to be a permanent solution.
On 13th April, 1975, he took seriously ill and was
admitted into a hospital. Despite best medical attention
by eminent doctors, the precious life of this hero
could not be prolonged any further. At about 10-45
a.m. on 18th April 1975, Com. Parvana passed away.
Volumes can be written about Com. Parvana about his
sterling qualities of leadership, about, his outstanding
contribution to our movement at every point of time
and about the multi-dimensional activities of this
gentle colossus. In short, he personified AIBEA. There
cannot be a better acknowledgement of his services
than through the following words of Com. Prabhat Kar,
the father of our movement who wrote in his General
Secretary's report in the Amritsar Conference of AIBEA
am placing this report in a Conference where Com.
Parvana is not present. For me, this situation is
almost unbelievable. Days in and days out, throughout
all these years he was a comrade who helped me in
discharging my responsibilities. He was the life and
soul of the AIBEA centre. His dedication to the cause
and thoroughness of minutest details are unparalleled.
In every dimension of work of AIBEA, he was indispensable.
In movement, in agitation, in campaign, in negotiations,
in settling differences and solving problems his unique
contribution was visible. As an agitator, organiser,
as a leader conversant with every sphere of Trade
Union movement, his imprint was distinct. He was a
comrade with clarity, with vision and a comrade who
never knew tiredness. It is almost impossible to think
of Central Office of AIBEA minus Com. Parvana. His
amiable disposition brought everybody near him and
he became the closest friend, philosopher and guide
of each and every bank employee. He was a man of the
masses. He was a man of the Trade Union movement.
He was a leader of the working class. He was a comrade
who cannot be replaced. The movement is indebted to
him which cannot be repaid. I only wish to put on
record our great gratitude for his able, mature advice,
dedicated service and unparalleled comradeship manifested
all the years he lived."