On labour’s role

It is not just today’s governments and businesses who think that production or economic growth must precede any consideration along the lines of labour welfare. This thought has remained unchanged since independence. Here’s an excerpt from Nehru’s address at the Nagpur session of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). It was most likely delivered at INTUC’s session in 1955, a little before the second Five Year Plan was introduced.

We have also always to consider the price we have to pay for any step. Thus, though a step may seem in the right direction, it may really have a retrograde effect. Therefore, our immediate objectives should be greater production and more employment. We aim at full employment and till we have that, we cannot talk about a welfare State. But unless we have greater production, we shall neither have fuller employment nor any higher standard for our people. Thus, if by any step our production is checked or lessened, that step is retrograde, however constructive it might seem. 

Indian Labour Movement, G Ramanujam. 1986

He concludes with this – 

I earnestly trust that the workers of India will take this larger view and give their full cooperation in this great adventure of building up India and raising the standard of living of the millions of our people.

Indian Labour Movement, G Ramanujam. 1986

In short, labour’s role is to  ‘give their full cooperation in this great adventure of building up India’ then and now. So thoroughly has this idea been bought in that there there is little support to the idea that labour welfare and economic growth must move simultaneously.

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