Indian Labour Movement

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The Indian labor movement is more than 150 years old, with its origin in the 1850s and 1870s. But it gained momentum in 1918 when the Madras labor union was formed with mill workers as members. The formation of the All India Trade Union congress (AITUC) in 1920 gave a fillip to the organized labor movement in India. A series of agitations and strikes happened during the early years of unionization in different parts of the country. The focus of the unions was to end exploitation of workers in factories and other workplaces like mines, Trade union also participated in the freedom struggle against the colonial rule. National leaders like Mahatma Gandhi were active in the trade union movement. The introduction of the Trade Union Act of 1926 provided the required legal framework for unions. The changes in the political landscape of India resulted in the AITUC splitting into the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) in 1947 followed by the formation of the Hindustan Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) in 1948. Later political events like the split in the Indian National Congress and the communist party also resulted in formation of corresponding unions. Thus, in India, politically connected unions became a regular feature. The election of communist government in states like Kerala and West Bengal gave a flip to the labor movement in the states. With the support of political parties and the elected governments, the public sector companies and many private companies became heavily unionized. What followed in the 1960s and 1970s was a rise in trade union activity leading to strikes and lockouts. Though the imposition of emergency in 1975 led to the suspension of trade union rights and a sudden fall in trade union activity (many prominent opposition trade union leaders were jailed during the emergency period), post emergency the activities picked up. Under pressure from trade unions, in 1976 the Industrial Disputes Act was amended making it mandatory for firms employing more than...
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