Born On: August 10, 1894
Born In: Berhampur, Orissa
Died On: June 23, 1980
Career: Freedom Fighter and Statesman
If the situation in the labor force of India is going from strength to strength, if workers in Indian industries and other sectors are able to exercise their rights today, then the only person responsible for this is the charismatic activist and social reformer V.V Giri. Thanks to him, the labor force found a new voice and it was only through his struggles and leadership, his sympathies and concern for the weaker class that ensured that the rights of workers were not trampled upon. V.V. Giri was built on the socialist mold, but at the same time, he was a pragmatist who believed in the practical and humane approach to all problems. His dream of a career in law was cut short when he came under the influence of Irish nationalists and a chance meeting with Gandhi made him decide to work for his country. He realized that if the labor force of India can be organized then not only can their condition be improved, but they can also become a potent force in the national struggle for freedom from the British rule. His commitment to his cause and his abiding empathy for the weak and the downtrodden had kept him in a league that is far different from any other politician nowadays.
Childhood & Early Life
Varahagiri Venkata Giri was born in a Telugu-speaking Brahmin family in Berhampur in the year 1894. His father, Varahagiri Venkata Jogaiah Pantulu, was an eminent and prosperous lawyer. The young lad completed his primary and secondary education in his hometown. In order to study law, V.V Giri went to the University College Dublin in 1913. The same year, he met Gandhi who influenced Giri deeply and finally made him realize that the freedom struggle is far more important than law. At college, Giri became involved with the Sinn Fein movement which led to his expulsion from Ireland in 1916, leaving him unable to complete his law degree. It was the freedom and workers movement of Ireland and the revolutionary ideas of people like De Valera, Collins, Pearee, Desmond Fitzgerald, MacNeil, and Connolly, whom he met personally, that influenced him further to participate in such movements in India. Subsequently, V.V Giri returned to India and started actively participating in the Labor Movement, later becoming the General Secretary. He was also very active in the Nationalist Movement.
By 1922, Giri became a trusted aide of N.M. Joshi, who worked for the cause of the workers, and with the support of his mentor, Giri aligned himself with the organizations working for the cause of the working class. Later, because of his commitment to the Trade Union Movement, he was elected as the President of the All India Railwaymen's Federation. He also served as the President of the All India Trade Union Congress twice, once in 1926 and again in 1942. He was instrumental in propelling the various trade unions towards the nationalist movement. From 1931 to 1932, as a Worker's Representative, Giri attended the Second Round Table Conference in London. In 1934 he was selected as a member of the Imperial Legislative Assembly. His tryst with politics began when he stood in 1936 General Elections as a Congress candidate. He won the election and the next year his party made him the Minister of Labor and Industries in the Madras Presidency. When the Congress Government resigned in 1942 to protest against the British rule, V.V. Giri returned to the Labor Movement to take part in the Quit India Movement. He was imprisoned and sent to jail. Again, after the General Election of 1946 he was given the labor ministry.
After India got its independence, V.V. Giri was sent to Ceylon as the High Commissioner. After his tenure there, he returned to India and ran for Parliament in 1952, when he was elected for the 1st Lok Sabha and served till 1957. During this time, Giri was made a member of the Union Cabinet heading the Ministry of Labor and served from 1952 until his resignation in 1954. After his stint at the Lok Sabha, he headed a team of distinguished academicians and public men working towards promoting the study of labor and industrial relations. Their efforts bore fruit when in the year 1957 The Indian Society of Labor Economics was established. After union activism and politics, another era for this statesman began when he was appointed as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, where he served from 1957 to 1960 and then as the Governor of Kerala from 1960 to 1965 and finally as the Governor of Mysore from 1965 to 1967.
From 1957, while still occupying the post of Governor, he worked as the President of the Indian Conference of Social Work. Then after a decade long spell of being the Governor of various Indian states, he was elected as the Vice-President of India in 1967. In 1969, when the then President Zakir Hussain passed away V.V Giri became the acting President. He, then, ran the election for the post of the president and after initial opposition from his party members whom he prevailed over he became the fourth President of India and served till 1974. The Government of India recognized his contributions and achievement when he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award in 1975. Throughout his life, V.V Giri was noted for his oratorical skills. He was also a prolific writer who has written books on "Industrial Relations" and "Labor problems in Indian industry".
In 1974, the Government of India's Ministry of Labor established an autonomous institution for "research, training, education, publication and consultancy on labour related issues". This institution was, in 1995, renamed the V.V Giri National Labor Institute in his honor. An outspoken activist of labor rights, Giri will always be remembered for his work towards uplifting the workers and working towards preserving their rights.
Personal Life & Death
V.V Giri married early in life to Saraswati Bai. At the age of 85, Giri passed away in Chennai in the year 1980.
1894: V.V Giri was born in Berhampur.
1913: Joined University College Dublin.
1916: Was expelled from Ireland.
1934: Became a member of the Imperial Legislative Assembly.
1936: Ran for the Madras General Election.
1937: Inducted into the Congress ministry in Madras as the minister of labor.
1942: Joined the Quit India Movement.
1947: Appointed High Commissioner of Ceylon.
1952: Elected to the Lok Sabha and became a member of the Union Cabinet.
1957: Founded the Indian Society of Labor Economics; Appointed the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.
1960: Appointed as the Governor of Kerala.
1965: Appointed as the Governor of Mysore.
1967: Elected as the Vice President of India.
1969: Elected as the President of India.
1975: Recipient of the Bharat Ratna.
1980: Passed away in Chennai.