Indian government derecognizes leading postal unions over aid to farmers’ struggle, purchase of books

The All India Postal Employees Union and the National Federation of Postal Employees were reportedly derecognized based on complaints by a postal union with ties to the RSS, the parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party

May 01, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
The NFPE organized a countrywide strike in 2022 against the Modi government’s planned corporatization of the postal service. Photo via StaffCorner

A decision by India’s Central Government to de-recognize two prominent unions of postal workers has drawn strong condemnation from workers’ and farmers’ organizations. 

The All India Postal Employees Union (AIPEU) and the National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE) were reportedly de-recognized for making contributions to the 2020-2021 farmers’ struggle and to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), as well as for purchasing books from the office of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) in Delhi. 

The NFPE is the largest federation in the postal sector, with eight workers’ unions affiliated to it, including the AIPEU. Established in 1920, the AIPEU is itself one of the country’s oldest unions. 

Indian news publication The Hindu reported on April 27 that the Union Ministry of Communications had based its decision of derecognition on allegations of “political donations” made by the unions, in contravention of the Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993. It added that it was considering complaints by the Bharatiya Postal Employees Association (BPEA). 

The BPEA is affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh of the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The de-recognition order details payments of Rs. 30,000 to funds for helping the farmers’ movement, Rs. 4,935 to CPI (M), and Rs. 50,000 to CITU from an AIPEU account. 

The order also stated that allegations of “funding a political party” had been raised against the NFPE and AIPEU for supporting the farmers’ protests. 

In its response to the order, the NFPE stated that the donation was made to the Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers to provide aid to the farmers’ struggle, and that the NFPE contributed to the fund each year. As for the payments to the CPI(M), the federation said that it was for the purchase of some books from the party’s headquarters, which has a book shop. 

The NFPEs general secretary, P.K. Muraleedharan told The Hindu that they will be challenging the order organizationally, while warning that the derecognition was an attempt “to end all trade union activities in the sector.” 

The NFPE had led workers in a strike in August 2022 against the Modi government’s plans for the corporatization of the postal service.

The derecognition has come ahead of a referendum in the postal sector in 2024. In a referendum held in 2014, the NFPE secured 75% of votes from the employees, while the BPEA had received less than 5% of the vote share, Muraleedharan told The Hindu. He added that the NFPE had the support of around 300,000 out of the 450,000 employees in the postal department. 

Ahead of next year’s crucial vote, the BPEA is now pushing the Director General of Postal Service to ensure that “these two Unions/Associations do not take part in the procedure of membership verification” which is underway.  

Asking authorities to stop “all activities” of both organizations, the BPEA has also demanded that “no formal/informal meeting is offered/entertained” and “no formal subscription is collected”, on behalf of these two unions. 

Meanwhile, the NFPE and AIPEU have received solidarity from trade unions and farmers’ organizations. “It is nothing but the patently draconian actions of the government to silence the opposition of workers and employees to its destructive and anti-worker policies”, CITU said of the derecognition order. 

The organization also condemned the attacks on the rights of the two unions as an “integral part of the overall onslaughts being carried on by the corporate-communal [sectarian] nexus in governance on the rights and entitlements of the employees and workers and their organizations.” 

This was echoed by the farmers’ organization, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) which said, “The Modi regime’s penchant for helping big corporate houses is creating an objective condition for worker-peasant unity with an unprecedented intensity in independent India.”

In a statement on April 30, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the coalition of farmers’ organizations which led the historic 2020-2021 protest, also condemned the decision.

“SKM expresses solidarity with the unions, demands that the de-recognition be withdrawn, and looks forward to increased worker-peasant unity against the anti-farmer, anti-workers Bharatiya Janata Party government.”