August 26, 2007

Ashis Sen

Com.Ashis Sen is no more.

No words can be more painful, more heart-rending, more devastating to Reserve Bank employees, vast section of bank employees and trade union fraternity than these.

He suffered a massive cerebral attack in the early morning of 22nd August 2007 and was admitted to a city hospital. He breathed his last at 1.30a.m on 24th August 2007. He leaves behind his wife, his silent companion in struggles, Smt.Archana Sen, son and daughters.

Com.Ashis Sen was born in September 1922 – the same year the “Currency Association” was formed in the then Controller of Currency Office at Calcutta, which later became Reserve Bank Employees’ Association. Com.Ashis Sen and the trade union movement of Reserve Bank Employees are thus truly synonymous. Coming from a background of freedom movement and trade union movement – his maternal uncle Bhupati Mazumder was a renowned freedom fighter and his father Ajith Sen was the pioneer and founder of trade union movement in State Bank of India. Com.Sen himself, an activist of anti-imperialist students’ movement of pre-independent India, joined Reserve Bank in 1944.

Imbued by the surging freedom movement of the early forties, Com.Sen with a few other colleagues of his, transformed the then quiet and subdued Reserve Bank Employees Association, into a militant class conscious trade union body and integrated it with the general democratic and workers’ movement. That was a courageous and sustained effort, fraught with risks, but he was undaunted. Reserve Bank Employees and the Association will forever remain indebted to Com.Ashis Sen, who as the organiser of collective effort, led them from the front through trials and tribulations, through stormy situations, brought glories and honour to the movement. He was the Secretary RBEA, Calcutta from 1949 to 1955, its Vice-President and President for long years, General Secretary of All India Reserve Bank Employees’ Association from 1968 to 1990, and then Vice-President and currently he was the advisor.

In late forties and early fifties Com.Sen had a leading role in forming and shaping up the All India Bank Employees’ Association. Along with Coms.Naresh Pal, Pravat Kar, H.L.Parwana, Montu Biswas, Com.Sen had significant contributions for rallying bank employees with AIBEA.

Com.Sen had been the founder General Secretary of Bank Employees’ Federation of India (BEFI), then its President and was currently its advisor. Under the inspiring guidance of Com.Naresh Pal, he laid the foundation of a strong militant, class conscious bank employee’s organisation. He was the pioneer architect of militant unity of bank employees under the banner of UFBU.

He was the founder President of All India Regional Rural Bank Employees Association (AIRRBEA) and guided the Gramin Bank employees till his last days.

Com.Ashis Sen had been the leader of trade union movement as a whole. He has always taught us to look beyond the confines of one’s own trade union and extend fraternal support to others in struggle. Unions of various sectors sought his guidance, his counsels, which he provided amply.

He was arrested twice, on 4th January 1956 on the eve of a countrywide strike call by AIBEA and on 2nd May 1979 while leading anti-computerisation movement in RBI Mumbai.

In the year 1966, RBI management dared to serve him show-cause notice to remove him from trade union movement. The employees rose in total opposition, struck work for 10 days and forced the management to rescind the show-cause notice. It was a memorable event in the annals of trade union.

In recognition of his immense contribution to bank employees and country’s trade union movement, he became a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1987 to 1993 and in that forum he fought for the workers and trade unions.

Com.Sen’s contribution can not be narrated in a few words. Suffice it to say that whatever we are today and whatever we aspire to be are due to Com.Sen. Suffice it to say that we could afford to make mistakes because Com.Sen was there to rectify us. Now he will guide us through the lesson he left for us.

Com.Ashis Sen is no more. However, painful it may be, we have to continue our work for strengthening the trade union movement, the working class movement, the democratic movement for that is what he has done strenuously for more than six decades, till his last days. Age and failing health could not overpower his eagerness to attend any important meeting of RBEA/AIRBEA/BEF/BEFI and other important fora. As always, even in his last days, he guided such meetings with sharpness and vision that was exclusively his, borne out of his vast experience.

As Com.Sen has bequeathed his body for medical science, it will be handed over to NRS Hospital, Kolkota on August 27, 2007.

(Samir Ghosh, General Secretary, AIRBEA)


A tribute to the departed leader

P.Sadasivan Pillai, President, BEFI

My association with Ashis Sen, the legendary leader of Bank employees’ movement started way back in 1977. I heard his name for the first time in 1972 from a cousin of mine who was working as an officer in Reserve Bank of India , Chennai . During a personal discussion, when he was persuading me to take promotion,  I told him that as I’m active in bank employees’ trade union movement I’m not interested in taking promotion. To this, he reacted “If you want to see a trade union leader you should meet Ashis Sen, he is not just a union leader but an institution by himself”. He added that though Ashis Sen himself was an officer, he was not the leader of Officers’ Association, instead  he was the leader of workmen organization. Such is the regard and respect he commanded among RBI officers and employees.

I got the chance to interact with him for the first time during a meeting in 1977. Frankly speaking, I was not very impressed with the thin fragile man clad in white Bengali traditional clothes in our first encounter. Later on, when our acquaintance became closer and deeper I could feel that behind the cool, calm, smiling face there is a raging sea roaring against the enemies of working class.

His contribution to Reserve Bank employees’ movement needs no description. He was the general secretary of All India Reserve Bank Employees Association from 1968. He was also the founder President of All India Regional Rural Bank Employees Association (AIRRBEA). His indomitable spirit to fight and the strenuousefforts he had taken in placing strong arguments and presentations before the ‘Obul Reddy’ commission has helped RRB employees to achieve parity with commercial bank employees.

He was a Rajyasabha member during the period 1987-1993. He was one of the few MP’s who was not having a car. Most of the days he used to walk to the Parliament and back. I had occassions to walk with him to the parliament. His simple way of living , which endeared him to thousands of bank employees, is one thing that has become very rare these days. His mode of conveyance in Kolkata was the crowded buses, most of the times. When he retired from RBI he was not having a residence of his own, to move out of the quarters. Later, his comrades could find a small one bedroom flat for him in which he lived till he left us.

Comrade Ashis Sen was a man with immense humour sense. Despite being a senior leader, he used to mix up with young comrades as equals.  As my cousin had rightly remarked, he was not a leader of Bank employees but a legend and an institution by himself. The only way by which we can pay tribute to him is by following his simple way of  life and by dedicating ourselves for strengthening the working class movement.