ALL INDIA TRADE UNION CONGRESS (AITUC)
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The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federation in India, founded on 31 October 1920 in Bombay (Mumbai). Among its founders were renowned nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai, ( 1865-1928) who became the first President of AITUC, Joseph Baptista (1864-1930), N.M. Joshi (1879-1955) and Diwan Chaman Lall (1892-1973). Formation of the AITUC led to it being the designated the official representative of the Indian Workers at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) from 1921 onwards.
The first trade unions had come into being from late nineteenth century in India in jute mills, railways, cotton textiles. Bombay (now Mumbai) a textile manufacturing hub had its first trade union in the shape of Bombay Millhands Association headed by Narayan Meghaji Lokhande (1848-1897). The incipient trade union movement had close links with social reform and anti-caste movements. Numerous strikes and other forms of protests by workers have been recorded throughout the 19th century. By the twentieth century the unions extended their work to other sectors including municipal workers, printing press, workers in engineering goods factories etc. The period from 1900 to 1920 also witnessed hundreds of strikes, massive meetings & processions. The period witnessed the closing of ranks of trade unionists with those leading the freedom struggle against colonial rulers. The unions had gone on strike opposing the arrest of popular leader of freedom struggle Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1908 who later on took initiative for hosting the all India congregation of unions to form a national centre.
The stalwarts of Indian freedom struggle like Jawahar Lal Nehru (1889-1964) Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (1897-1945), V.V. Giri (1894-1980) also chaired the sessions of AITUC. At the beginning the AITUC had 64 affiliated unions with 1,40,000 members, and grew to become the largest trade union confederation in India by 1947. It is to be noted that well known trade unionists of time attended the session of international Labour organisation (ILO) and N.M Joshi was a long period member of the Governing body of ILO representing the workers.
In the late 1920s the AITUC became more radical, partly under communist influence of the emerging communist movement. A split followed in 1929, and the Indian Trade Union Federation (ITUF) led by former AITUC president V.V. Giri was founded. AITUC and ITUF merged again in 1939 and since then AITUC continued playing its role as vanguard of working class and played a strong role in the struggle for independence. It also played very important role in the foundation of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), 1945. The AITUC had close association with the Communist Party of India (estd 1925), but was never formally affiliated to it. The principle followed throughout from its foundation conference was “Free from Governments, free from Managements & Free from Political Parties”. Its membership has been given as 14.2 million in 2013, making it the third largest trade union confederation in India. The AITUC has its headquarters in New Delhi.
The collection presented here consists mainly of the documents of the AITUC for the period 1928-1970 that were included in one of the major digitization collection project of trade union documents of "The Archives of Indian Labour", set up in 1998 as a collaborative initiative of the V.V.Giri National Labour Institure(VVGNLI) and the Association of Indian Labour Historians (AILH).