24 June 1980
Death of India’s fourth President V V Giri
Former President Varahagiri Venkata Giri, a patriarch of the Indian trade union movement died on 24 June 1980 at Chennai. He remains the only president to have been elected as an independent candidate.
- Born to independence activists in a Telugu-speaking family on 10th August 1894, Giri finished his schooling and initial higher education at his native Berhampur (now in Odisha).
- After that, he went to Ireland to study law.
- In Ireland, Giri took part in politics. He produced a pamphlet that showcased the maltreatment of Indians taking place in South Africa.
- He was suspected to have associations with the leaders of the 1916 Irish Uprising. This led the authorities to serve him a legal notice asking him to leave Ireland.
- Once he came back to India, Giri started his legal practice at Madras.
- He was part of Annie Besant’s Home Rule League and also joined the Indian National Congress.
- The Non-cooperation Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi made him plunge fulltime into politics. He relinquished his law practice in 1922 for this purpose.
- His demonstration against liquor shops led to his arrest in 1922.
- Giri was one of the patriarchs of the Indian labour and the trade union movement.
- In 1923, he co-founded the All India Railwaymen’s Federation, and also served as its General Secretary.
- In 1926, he was appointed the president of the All India Trade Union Congress.
- Other organisations he co-founded include the Bengal Nagpur Railway Association and the Indian Trade Union Federation (ITUF). He was also the president of the ITUF.
- 1927, Giri represented Indian workers in the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
- In 1928, he led a workers’ non-violent agitation for the rights of retrenched employees of the Bengal Nagpur Railway. This incident was a landmark event in the labour movement because the government gave in and conceded to the legitimate demands of the workers.
- Giri also participated in the Second Round Table Conference.
- He was a member of the Madras Legislative Assembly and a member of the Imperial Legislative Council (1934 – 1937).
- In the provincial government formed after the 1937 elections, he became the Labour & Industry Minister of the Madras Presidency.
- For his participation in the Quit India Movement, he was imprisoned for three years.
- After independence, he became the Labour Minister in 1952. He served as the governor of various states including Kerala, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
- From 1967 to 1969, he was the Acting President after the death of Zakir Hussain.
- In 1969, he contested as an independent presidential candidate and won. He served as the president of the country from 1969 till 1974.
- He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award in 1975.
- Giri passed away in Chennai aged 85 in 1980.
Also on this day
1763: Mir Jaffar was crowned the Nawab of Bengal after the Battle of Plassey.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.