CHENNAI-- It was exactly 94 years ago in Madras that May Day was first observed in India to fight for the rights of the working classes.
Led by M Singaravelar, leader of Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan, the day was dedicated to workers, with a function being held at Marina Beach in 1923 to mark the occasion.
A Congress party leader, he later broke ranks with it and aided the setting up of the Communist Party of India in 1925. A staunch supporter of the Self-Respect Movement, he fought especially for the rights of the Backward Classes.
Also, Madras (now Chennai) has the distinction of forming the first organised trade union, the "Madras Labour Union," on April 27, 1918 here to strive for workers' rights.
It led to setting up of several other trade unions, including those of tramway and railway workers, enabling them have the power of collective bargain with managements.
Reminiscing the May Day history, plight of workers and contribution of leaders like Singaravelar, CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP T K Rangarajan told PTI that neo-liberal policies went against the interests of workers.
The amendments being brought by the Centre in labour laws showed that the government wanted to put the working classes at the "mercy" of capitalists, he alleged.
"Struggle is already on against anti-labour measures and it is the only way out," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Labour Day message, has hailed the hard work of countless workers who play a big role in India's progress.
"Today, on Labour Day we salute the determination and hard work of countless workers who play a big role in India's progress. Shrameva Jayate," he said.
May Day was celebrated with zeal in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where the Left parties have a robust organisational structure.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Left Front government was committed to the welfare of workers in all sectors.
In his May Day message, he listed out the various welfare initiates of the government after it assumed office in May last year.
Opening of closed cashew factories, disbursement of welfare pension arrears, revising basic wages of workers in different areas and creation of new job opportunities in traditional industries sector were some of the pro working class initiative of the government, the CPI(M) leader said.
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