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Com. N. Sampath

Com. N. Sampath

Com. N. Sampath passed away suddenly on 20th November morning of 2014, in Chennai. He was quite normal and after taking his dinner as usual he went to bed on 19th night.

He suffered from a silent but severe myocardial infraction and passed away while he was asleep in the early hours on 20th. He was aged 89. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, sons- in-law and grandchildren. Born on 26-3-1926 in a very orthodox middle class family, Com. Sampath had his school education in Ramakrishna Mission High School in T. Nagar and later completed his B.A. from Loyola College, Chennai. In his younger days, Com. Sampath was a cricket player and in fact he played for his school team for which Mr. N Vaghul ( who later became the Chairman of Bank of India and IBA) was the Captain. Com. Sampath joined Bank of India in Chennai in 1946, the year in which AIBEA was founded. Though he had taken the job for his livelihood and to make a career, the pathetic working conditions of the bank employees in those days agitated his young mind and it took no time for him to realise that trade union is the only way to ameliorate their conditions. Soon he was in the company of few daring youngsters who decided that a trade union should be formed. Thus he was associated with the formation of the union in Bank of India in Chennai in 1951 and was one of its founder leaders along with leaders like Com. D. Natarajan. He continued as the leader of this Union for 63 long continuous years and at the time of his death, he was the Hon. President of this Union.

In Bank of India, he also took initiative in the formation of all India Federation of Bank of India Staff Unions along with other senior leaders like Com Sushil Ghosh, Com K J Joseph, Com. N.S Purao, etc. and was its leading figure for many years. He rose to the position of President of the Federation. He was also the Workman Director in Bank of India from 1979 till 1986 when he retired from the Bank. Com. Sampath also started to feel that it is difficult to fight unless we have unions in all the Banks. Hence he was involved in the task of forming Unions in other Banks and bringing all bank unions in Tamilnadu under a common umbrella under the banner of AIBEA and was thus part of the formation and foundation of TNBEF (known as Madras Provincial Bank Employees Union in those days) in June 1953. Very soon he became the accredited leader of the Federation and from 1958 onwards he was being continuously elected as the General Secretary of TNBEF in all the Conferences. In those days, TNBEF was a star-studded organisation with galaxy of senior leaders as Office Bearers. Along with Com C.S. Subramaniam of Canara Bank Employees Union, Com. M S Dawood, Com R Parthasarathy, Com. V K Krishnamurthi, Com. Rm Vellayan, Com. U P Shet and many such senior leaders, he built up TNBEF as a very strong, militant, vibrant and disciplined battalion under the banner of AIBEA.

He traversed beyond the Bankwise unions and built up strong unions in various Districts and towns in the State of Tamilnadu. Today, we have an effective network of units in all the Districts and Towns due to which all the programmes of the organisation are successfully undertaken. If there was any let up in the activities of any District, he would personally go to such centres and re-activate the comrades. He always took special care to nurture and nourish small and weak units so that members of these unions are protected from any possible attack from the management. He was himself the President of unions in Oriental Bank of Commerce, New Bank of India, State Bank of Indore, etc. In a pioneering endeavour, keeping the future needs of the organisation in mind, from 1985 itself he started inducting young cadres in the leadership of the Federation. That is how comrades like C H Venkatachalam and Kamaluddin Surany were elected as Offcie Bearers and later many young comrades like E Arunachalam, R Vijayakumar, V Raghuraman, K Vijayan, Michealraj Joseph, Deviprasad, L R Gopalakrishnan, etc. were brought to the leadership team. In 1994, he voluntarily opted to become the President to enable younger leadership to emerge and again in 2010 he chose to become the Chairman of TNBEF.

Today, one can understand and applaud the far-sightedness and vision of Com Sampath in taking these initiatives. He did not confine himself to organising the commercial bank employees. His eyes were also set on the Co-op. Bank employees who were in those days virtually treated as slaves and did not enjoy any trade union rights. He ordained Com. C S Subramaniam to look after the Co-op. banks and by their devoted attention, today, we have very strong trade unions in the Co-op. Banks in Tamilnadu. He was the President of Tamilnadu Co-op. Bank Employees Association from inception and led their struggles from the front. Because of his sustained and personal attention, TNBCEA has developed into a strong organisation due to which we have the pride of having the headquarters of All India Co-op. Bank Employees Federation in Chennai with Com. P Balakrishnan as its General Secretary since inception. Similarly Com. Sampath also realised long ago that given the increasing number of women employees in the Banks, our Unions must create adequate space for them to work in the unions and they must get some platform to discuss their problems. Thus he was a forerunner in giving importance to the women employees in the organisation and organised and set up a Women’s Wing under TNBEF even before a formal decision was taken at AIBEA level in this regard. In the same way, when he observed that of late many of our units were handicapped for want of adequate knowledge on legal-oriented problems, looking to the need to guide our units with proper advisory, he had set up an exclusive Legal Wing under TNBEF drawing experts like Com V S Ekambaram, Com V S Balasubramaniam, Com. Michealraj Joseph and such other comrades and ensured that our unions do not suffer on account of insufficient knowledge to deal with legal issues.

In the earlier days, in Chennai city, banking operations were confined mainly in the George Town area and most of the bank branches were located in that area and mobilising employees for programmes was easier. But with advent of nationalisation and branch expansion, bank branches were getting opened in many parts of the city and employees were working in different parts of the city. During the struggle for 3rd BPS in 1978-79, he understood that mobilising all these employees in one place for rallies, demonstrations, etc. would be difficult and hence he took the initiative to set up Madras City Implementation Committee. Through this Committee, he devised programmes in various parts of the city and ensured that employees participate in the struggle programmes in large number with greater convenience. In another commendable initiative, even as long back as 1977, looking to the burgeoning young employees in the banks and the need to bring them at the altar of mainstream trade union, he launched Parvana Youth League under TNBEF with a view to draw young cadres and this proved very useful in spotting active cadres for the unions in various Banks.

Being a sports-loving person himself, he always organised sports activities on various occasions like Silver jubilee, Golden Jubilee, Diamond Jubilee, etc. but his main intentions were to draw as many sections of members close to the union as was possible. He also encouraged the formation of a Music Choir for TNEBF to utilise the musical talents of the members. In a novel idea, with a view to help the women employees working in the various Banks, he started a Creche under the banner of TNEBF to take care of the children of the women employees and this was very popular step and received wide appreciation. Com. Sampath was also very particular about sharing of knowledge and information to units and cadres. He launched the TNBEF’s monthly Bulletin “TNBEF HERALAD” and was its editor since the last three decades. He personally wrote the editorial every month and ensured the magazine is published without any interruption. Having regard to the need for communications in the local language, he started the monthly Tamil Bulletin “Seidhi Malai” for the benefit of our units. With his vast and authentic knowledge on the service conditions of bank employees and the provisions of various Settlements, he authored “Journey So far”, the Book that contains all the updated details of the Awards and Settlements right from the beginning and in every union office we can find that the book is being used as a Ready Reckoner. This Book has been very popular amongst the Bank managements also as a one-stop reference book. The popularity and usefulness of the Book can be gauged from the fact that it has seen 8 Editions so far. He also authored a Booklet called “Triumphant March” detailing the datewise struggles and important events from the year 1946 for the benefit of our leaders and units. Under his guidance and initiatives, TNBEF brought out very important publications like ‘Legal Guide to Defence’, ‘A Peep into Labour Laws’ and ‘A Hand book on Defence’ for the benefit of the units and those office bearers who are dealing with defence of employees in disciplinary action cases. To perpetuate the memory of his Comrade-in-arm Com. C.S. Subramaniam, the dashing leader of the bank employees in Tamilnadu, he took initiative to create an Memorial Endowment in association with D.G. Vaishnava College in Chennai. Such was his affection and intimacy with Com. C.S. Com Sampath was not only well-known within the compound of our organisation. With a view to recognise the decades of yeomen services rendered by Com. Sampath to the bank employees as its leader, the Department of Commerce of the Loyola College, Chennai has instituted a Rolling Trophy in the name of Com. Sampath so as to remember and perpetuate his memory as an old student of the College.

As the organisation expanded and membership swelled post-nationalisation, he realised that our unions would require more and more cadres to run the unions and hence the unions have to be equipped with knowledge-based cadres. By way of perpetuating the memory of Com. C S Subramaniam after his death, in 1983 he launched the CS Memorial Foundation under which periodical trade union classes were conducted and it goes to the credit of Com Sampath that hundreds of young comrades were graduated with trade union knowledge in these programmes. Many of such trainees are today leading our unions in different Banks. Because of this, when AIBEA decided to launch Prabhat Parvana Trade Union Training Institute, he became the obvious choice to be the Course Director of the Institute and its functioning at Chennai. He used to personally take classes on bank employees movement, banking industry, wages and service conditions, impact of technology, etc. At the national level also, Com Sampath was very active in AIBEA movement from the very beginning. When the 6th Conference of AIBEA was held in Chennai in 1954, he played an active role in hosting the same. In the 8th Conference of AIBEA held in Kolkata in 1956, he was elected to the Central Committee. In the historic Trivandrum Conference of AIBEA held in 1964, he was elected as Asst. Secretary. In 1985 in our Bangalore Conference, he was elected as Secretary. The Conferences of AIBEA hosted by TNBEF in Chennai in 1973 and in 1989 are even today unforgettable for all the participants and are testimony to the meticulous organising skills of Com. Sampath. In the Golden Jubilee Conference in 1996 in Kolkata, he became the President of AIBEA. He could have continued as long as he wanted as he was a popular and accepted leader of our movement. But In 2001 Mumbai Conference he insisted and volunteered to step down to promote younger leaders to come up to positions of responsibility in the organisation. But he remained in the Central Committee of AIBEA since then and till his end.

His contributions to AIBEA were immeasurable and invaluable. His role in the bipartite wage negotiations was unique and outstanding as he was the backbone of all the calculations in Bipartite Settlements upto 7th BPS. In all struggles, campaigns, organisational matters, and in every aspect of AIBEA, his contribution in decision-making was commendable. In dealing with organisational issues, he was very dispassionate and went into the roots of the problems while suggesting solutions. He practiced utmost discipline in the organisation and insisted everyone to be disciplined as he strongly believed that indiscipline in the organisation would weaken the union. He was also insistent on conforming to democratic norms within the organisation and never took any decision unilaterally. He had the remarkable quality of taking notes during any and every meeting. In meetings and conferences, he would not only take notes of the views of the comrades but would reply and clarify to each and every issue raised. In dealing with the finances of the Union, he was extremely calculative to ensure that not a single rupee of the organisation was wasted. Similarly, he was also very punctual and meticulous while claiming the bills and submitting all the details of the expenses incurred by him. Another mentionable quality in him was his sense of punctuality in attending meetings. Never in any meeting could we find him coming late. Com. Sampath never restricted himself to the precincts of bank employees movement. He was also keenly interested in the struggles and problems of the general working class and trade union movement. He was associated with AITUC activities in Tamilnadu for nearly six decades and was the member of its State Council and Working Committee. Due to his deep convictions against exploitation and commitment to struggle thereagainst, he was wedded to leftist ideology and was a member of the Communist Party of India for more than six decades till his death. Com. Sampath had the privilege of close association and guidance from eminent leaders of those days like Com. Mohan Kumaramangalam, V.G. Row, ASK Iyengar, KTK Thangamani, N.K Krishnan, Parvathi Krishnan, M Kalyanasundaram, P Manickam, etc. He was also associated with leaders like Com. Indrajit Gupta, Homi Daji, K L Mahendra, MS Krishnan, Dr. Raj Bahadur Gaur, S.S Thiagarajan, A.M Gopu, TRS Mani, K.M Sundaram and others. Even today, leaders like Com A B Bardhan, Sudhakar Reddy, Gurudas Dasgupta, D Raja, R Nallakannu, Tha Pandian and others hold him in high esteem due to his lifelong contributions to our movement and for his steadfast principles and commitment to the cause of workers. In AIBEA, he was very closely associated with top leaders of AIBEA like Com Prabhat Kar, Com Parvana, Com K.K Mundul, Com. N.S Purao, Tarakeswar Chakraborti, D.P. Chadha, TKV Nair, AVG Nair, P.S Sundaresan, P.K Menon and many others. After the death of Com. Prabhat Kar, Com. Tarakeswar heavily relied on the views and suggestions of Com. Sampath in taking various organisational decisions. He was always concerned that AIBOA should develop into a stronger organisation and frequently he used to discuss with Com R J Sridharan on how to work together with co-ordination.

Com Sampath was a tireless trade union leader who believed in meticulous planning and team-building. One of his unique qualities was his ability to transcend the age barrier and to mingle with younger generation leaders and members with ease. Even at the very old age, he tried to learn the use of computer and was updating himself constantly on use of technology in trade union activities. Due to his impeccable uprightness and steadfastness to principles of AIBEA, he was highly respected by all and various other unions also held him in high esteem. In the negotiations with IBA, Com Sampath commanded a special respect from IBA due to his thoroughness of the service conditions and genuineness of his arguments. Despite his old age, Com Sampath kept himself active in the organisation and did justice to the positions he held. In fact, a few days ago, on the 14th and 15th of this month, he participated in the entire proceedings of the CC meeting of All India Co-op. Bank Employees Federation and guided their deliberations. That came to be his last participation in a trade union programme. It is very rare to see a leader like Com Sampath being so meticulous in every work of the trade union. His simplicity and humbleness was always adored by everyone in our movement. For more than six decades, he was dedicated to the cause of bank employees and AIBEA, and in his death, we have lost a veteran leader who belonged to the generation that built up AIBEA since inception. The entire life of Com Sampath was a saga of sacrifices and struggles for the cause of bank employees in particular and working class in general.

By his outstanding contributions to our Federation, he became the doyen of TNBEF all through. Com Sampath is no more with us today. It is hard to digest that he is no more. The void is also impossible to be filled up. But he has left a rich legacy behind him. He has bequeathed a vibrant organisation to all of us. Let us try to emulate him to take the organisation forward. Death, be not proud that you have snatched away the leader from us. He will live in our hearts forever. We dip our banner in respectful

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The days ahead are riddled with hurdles and innumerable too. We need to keep IBEU moving through our militant and committed activities. We should one and all to rise up to the occasion and squarely meet the challenges. United we stand, Divided we fail. Let us march in shoulder to shoulder and meet the challenges ahead.

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