Chennai, Mar 26:
Rich tributes were paid to one of India’s greatest Socialist leaders and Former Union Defence Minister George Fernandes at a meeting held at Chennai to pay homage to the leader.
A function held to pay tributes to Mr.Fernandes was held at Jeevanjothi ICSA Auditorium opposite Chennai Museum, Egmore on Sunday evening. The tribute meeting was organised by the Federation of Workers’ Organisations of North Chennai. Among those who paid rich tributes to the Socialist leader included Dr.G.Viswanathan, Founder and Chancellor of Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) and also a former Tamil Nadu Minister and Parliamentarian, Mr. Michael Fernandes, younger brother of Mr. George Fernandes, T.Vellaiyan, President of Forum of Tamil Nadu Merchants Association, Salem K.Balasubramanian, film director PugazhenthiThangaraj, Durai Prithviraj, Convenor of Dr.Lohia Thinkers’ Forum, ThanjaiIlanchingam, President of Socialist Party of Tamil Nadu and writer SavithriKanan.
George Fernandes, it may be recalled, was basically a Trade Unionist and organised several mass movement and struggles to uphold the rights of workers and the downtrodden. It was due to his single minded devotion and sincerity that even now, he continues to occupy a place in the hearts of millions of people in India. It was in 1967 that he organised a massive movement to bring together 30,000 taxi drivers in Mumbai and launched a trade union for them. It was through his efforts that a cooperative bank was started for the welfare of these workers, the first of its such initiative in India.
He drove multi-national giant Coca Cola out of the country and gave voice to the marginalised and down trodden people all over the world, be it the Eelam Tamils, Tibetans, Burma refugees and the people of Nagaland. He struggled hard for the welfare of these people and was their voice of freedom. He had taken part in several meetings for the welfare and rights of the Tamil people and also came forward to organise a meeting on his own for the Tamil people in New Delhi. It was for his contribution to give a voice to the people of Tamils that he was often called as a ‘Tamilian without being born as a Tamil.’
It was very important today to recall his massive railway strike in India he has organised in 1974. During the days of Emergency declared by the then Prime Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, who went underground, remained one of her most formidable foes. He was instrumental and played a key role in mobilising all political parties opposed to the Congress to form the first non-Congress government in India.
Socialist policies might not have faced success in electoral politics, yet they were always relevant and much needed to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and also to improve the quality of life of the poor people in India, Dr. Viswanathan said. Though Mr. George Fernandes worked in several key positions and occupied high posts, his relatives never misused it for their personal benefits. His younger brother Michael Fernandes said that his five brothers upheld the principle of selfless service in public life and considered as their life’s objective.
It was obvious during the meeting that similar meetings to pay tributes to George Fernandes was not held in Tamil Nadu, considering the leader had done so much for the rights and welfare of the Tamil people. P. Kumaraiah presided over the meeting, while Vanthiyathevan welcomed the gathering and Bhaskar Jebakumar, delivered a vote of thanks.