Bishwa Nath Singh:
Let me awake all of us to revive our memories as who was the first Indian High Commissioner to Ceylon after India had got independence and the third Vice-President of India and had honoe to be the Acting President of India after sudden demise of Dr. Zakir Hussain who was occupying that highest office and later had honor to become the Fourth President of Indi that he served as full term and privilege to be awarded with India’s highest Civilian Award “Bharat Ratna “ in 1975! He was none-else than Varahagiri Venkata Giri who had lived for nearly eighty five years on this worldly earth. Let us have glimpse of his life and pay our respectful homage to him!
(Photo of Varahagiri Venkata Giri , the former President of India)
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Bishwa Nath Singh :
Varahagiri Venkata Giri was born on August 10,1894 at Berhampore in Ganjam district at that time in the Madras Presidency and now in Orissa of Our country India He came of a rather well-off Brahmin family. His father V.V. Jogaiah Pantulu ...was a prosperous lawyer at Berhampore and the leader of the local Bar. After his early education in his home-town , he went to University College Dublin in 1913 to study law, but was expelled from Ireland in 1916 after becoming involved with the Sinn Féin movement. Involvement which brought him into close contact with Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Patrick Pearse, Desmond FitzGerald, Eoin MacNeill, James Connolly and others It was here that he came under the spell of the freedom struggle in Ireland and drew his inspiration from De Valera. He became associated with the Sinn Fein Movement and came in close contact with De Valera, Collins, Pearee, Desmond Fitzgerald, MacNeil, Connolly and others.He returned to India not only as a militant nationalist but deeply concerned about the well-being of the working people. The Irish Trade Union Movement had impressed him a good deal and when he returned to India he started taking a keen interest in the labor movement. On his return to India in 1916,, he became heavily involved in the labour movement, becoming general secretary and then president of the All-India Railwaymen's Federation and twice serving as president of the All-India Trade Union Congress. He also took a prominent part in the nationalist movement. In the twenties he joined the Swarajya Party founded by Pandit Motilal Nehru and Chittaranjan Das and was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly from 1927 to 1930. He was also elected to the Madras Legislative Council after the introduction of the Act of 1935. Jogaiah was also interested in the Bengal Nagpur Railway Workers' Union. The example of his father and the family atmosphere naturally influenced the mind and career of V.V. Giri. He was married at an early age with his wife Saraswati Bai. He had started practice in his home-town Berhampore but he also took an active part in the nationalist movement. He joined the Home Rule League and also the Indian National Congress. When Gandhi launched his Non-Cooperation Movement, He gave up his lucrative practice at the Bar and plunged himself into the movement. He was arrested and suffered imprisonment for a short period. As early as 1922 he identified himself closely with the organization of the working classes and became a trusted lieutenant of N.M. Joshi. From that time onwards his main sphere of work was the Trade Union movement. To this day he is proud above all else of being a trade unionist. His identity and deep affinity with the working people is the main-spring of his strength. In 1923 he became one of the founders of the All India Railwaymen's Federation. He was twice elected President of the Trade Union Congress, in 1926 and 1942. As a leading trade unionist he attended many international gatherings. In 1927 he attended the International Labor Conference at Geneva. He also attended the Trade Union Congress at Geneva. In 1931-1932 he attended the Second Round Table Conference in London as the Workers' Representative. During the Civil Disobedience Movement in the early thirties he, as a prominent labor leader, did much to organize trade unions in support of the nationalist movement. He was a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly from 1934 to 1937. In a house dominated by stalwarts like Satyamurty, Bhulabhai Desai, Jinnah, Govind Ballabh Pant, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Asaf Ali and others, He soon made his mark as a forceful speaker, specially on labor questions. In the 1936 General Election in Madras, after the introduction of the Act of 1935, He was put up as the Congress candidate in Bobbili against the Raja of Bobbili, the most powerful political personality in the Madras Presidency. The Raja of Bobbili was the leader of the Justice Party and the Chief Minister of the Province; and the constituency was the traditional family strong-hold. The contest was like David tackling Goliath. In this contest between a feudal leader and a popular leader, the victory of the people's man heralded a decisive turning of the political tide. After the election when C. Rajagopalachari formed the Congress Ministry in Madras in 1937,he was taken into his Cabinet and given the portfolio of Labor. When the Congress governments resigned in 1942, he returned to the labour movement as part of the quit India movement and was imprisoned by the British. He was imprisoned in Rajahmundry jail.Again after the General Election of 1946 in Madras he was inducted into the Cabinet formed by T. Prakasam and given the portfolio of Labor. After India got independence, he was appointed first High Commissioner of India to Ceylon and then successfully ran for parliament in 1952. He was elected for First Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1957 from Pathapatnam Lok Sabha Constituency and served as Union Minister of labor from 1952 to 1954 until resigning in 1954.When an issue arose that involved the interest of labor, he resigned to uphold his cherished principles. Eventually, the Government had to come round to his viewpoint. After 1957 began a long spell of Gubernatorial assignments for him.. He very successively served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh, (1957 to 1960), Kerala (1960 to 1965and Mysore(1965 to1967).He won friends everywhere, initiated new activities and became a mentor for the younger generation. It was during these years that he imparted new depth and dimension to social work as the President of the Indian Conference of Social Work, to which office he was elected in 1958.In 1967, during the period of turmoil, he was invited to be the Vice-President. He was elected as the third Vice President of India and remained in that high office from May 13,1967 to May 3, 1969 He became acting president of India in 1969 upon the death in office of Zakir Hussain and remained as Acting President of India from May 3,1969 to July 20,1969 . He had decided to run for that position in the ensuing election. The Congress Party Official leadership led by Kamraj chose to support Neelam Sanjiva Reddy for the position, but he was able to prevail anyway being the chosen candidate for Indira Gandhi who controlled the government, serving as the fourth President of India from August 24, 1969 to August 24,1974until 1974 and was succeeded by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad.He had honor to receive India's highest civilian decoration, the Bharat Ratna in 1975.,He had passed away on June 23,1980 at the age of eighty five in .Madras in Tamil Nadu State of India. On his passing away, the nation had lost one of its most illustrious sons who had contributed much for the welfare of our nation and might of laborer in particular all over the world that were oppressed and poorly paid! ILet us join to pay our humble obeisance to his lotus feet and seek His bliss for well-being of all living-being of this universe!
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