Labour is the outcome of the factory system and trade union is the outcome of the emergence of labor. With the development of factory system labor grows as a class, and it happens in the case of India too. The factory system has been established in India only in the middle of the 19th century, with the development of one cotton mill in Bombay and a jute mill in Calcutta in 1851 and 1854 respectively. Industrial Labour has started growing in India in an evolutionary process. We can discuss the emergence of labor through the process of gradual industrial development of India and Bengal as well as laborers. An attempt has been made to depict the growth and development of the trade unions and their fight for legal recognition. They had to fight hard from village panchayat to the formation of all India trade union congress. We will also take up the coming up of labor as a class with the gradual industrial development of the country and their socio-economic conditions.


 In the context of present knowledge, we should note these important economic aspects of the population. First, the quantity and quality of a nation’s population influence the quantity and quality of its labor supply. Second, the quantity and composition of a nation’s population influence the amount and composition of the goods and services which that the nation consumes. Third, important economic thinkers have claimed that the age structure and numerical growth or decline of a nation’s population exert a significant influence on the quantity and composition of its savings and investment. fourth, the population as one of the factors affecting a nation’s per capita output exerts an influence upon the nation’s standard of living. Finally, and of particular interest to American students, immigration policies have exerted a major influence upon population growth and through it upon the development of the American economy.


Labour is a fundamental productive resource. With any given store of natural resources, capital, and technological skill, the limits of production are established by the size of the labor force. Total Productive capacity depends upon the balance and relationship among them. The limit on a nation’s productive capacity is set by the factor which it lacks most. Its ability to utilize its more plentiful productive resources is circumscribed by this limitation. In world war 2, the production of our nation was first checked by a lack of capital for the production of military hardware. This shortage was largely overcome by 1942 or 1943. At that time, full employment was reached and manpower became the scarce factor. The point seems clear: the scarcest productive factor is the critical element in setting the upper limit to real national output.

The development of Railways, coal, cotton and jute industries in the second half of the nineteenth-century witnesses the entry of modern Industry as well as modern Indian working class. But over the time, Indian working class faced the same mode of exploitation that was faced by the European working class during industrialization such as low wages, long working hours, unhygienic and hazardous working conditions, child labor and absence of basic amenities.

The Indian working class movement gave different colors due to the presence of colonialism in India because of the imperialist political regime and economic exploitation by both foreign and native capitalist classes. Hence, the movement of Indian working classes became national emancipation with political struggle.

History of the working-class movement in British India

The chronological order of the working-class movement in British India is discussed below:

1. The early nationalist struggled for the improvement of the economic conditions of the working classes.

2. In 1870, Sasipada Banerjee started a Working Man’s Club and newspaper ‘Bharat Shramjeevi’.

3. In 1878, Sorabjee Shapoorji Bengalee drafted a bill for providing better working conditions to the laborers and tried to pass within the Bombay legislature .

4. Movement In 1880, the Bombay Mill and Millhands Association was set up by Narain Meghajee Lokhanday. He also started the newspaper ‘Deenbandhu’.

5. In 1899, the first strike took place in the Indian Peninsula Railways. Tilak’s newspaper i.e. Kesari and Mahratta supported the strike and launched the campaign for months.

6. Indian working classes came with wider political issues during Swadeshi movement. Ashwini Coomar Banerjee, Prabhat Kumar Roy Chaudhari, Premtosh Bose, and Apurba Kumar Ghosh organized mass level Protest within the government press, railways and therefore the jute industries. The biggest protest was organized when Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested and faced trial.

7. Formation of Trade Union: On October 31, 1920, All India union Congress was founded. Lala Lajpat Rai then became the first president and Dewan Chaman Lal was the first general secretary. Lala Lajpat Rai was the primary one that linked capitalism with imperialism and gave the statement, ‘Imperialism and militarism are the dual children of capitalism’. CR Das, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, CF Andrews, JM Sengupta, Satyamurthy, VV Giri and Sarojini Naidu supported the formation of the trade union.

8. In 1918, the trade Union has emerged as a pressure group in a capitalist society because during this year Gandhi helped to organize the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association and their demand in raise which was arbitrated 35 percent rather than 27.5 percent.

9. In 1926, the British government came with the trade union Act to formalize the trade union as a legal association. It also laid down eligibility criteria for registration and regulation of union activities. This act not only secured the immunity for both civil and criminal from prosecution for the legitimate activities of the union activity but also imposed restrictions on their political activities.

10. In 1928 during Bombay Textile Mills, the strike led by Girni Kamgar Union changed the picture of Trade union politics due to the emergence of Communist. SA Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, PC Joshi, and Sohan Singh Joshi were the famous union leaders of that point . This strike was an alarming situation for British government that laid the formation of the general public Safety Ordinance of 1929 and therefore the Trade Disputes Act of 1929. The appointment of courts of Inquiry and Consultation Boards for settling industrial disputes were made compulsory by these acts . It also made a strike in public utility services like posts, railways, water, and electricity as an illegal activity unless the working class union prior notified the administration a month before.

11. Meerut Conspiracy Case of 1929: British arrested 31 labor leaders and trial of three and a half years resulted within the conviction of working-class leaders like Muzaffar Ahmed, SA Dange, Joglekar, Philip Spratt, Ben Bradley, and Shaukat Usmani. This case received worldwide publicity but weakened the working-class movement in India.

12. After 1930, the working-class union of India fractioned because the communist approach of union and corporatist approach. NM Joshi set up the All India Trade Union Federation in 1931. In 1935, the All India union Congress (AITUC) was reaffirmed by communists, congresses socialist and leftist nationalists like JL Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose.

13. Impact of the Second World War: Initially, the working class opposed the war when Russia joined the war on behalf of the allies supported by the working class. In 1945, dock workers of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata) refused to load ships taking supplies to the warring troops in Indonesia.

The above  timeline reflects the clear picture that the trade union emerged to fight against exploitation without getting polarised based on political ideologies. To improve a low wage situation, long working hours, unhygienic and hazardous working conditions, child labor and improvement in basic amenities these are their main motives.


Labor Movement in India – GK Sharma

India Labor Movement – G Ramanujam