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International Labour Day 2020: Socio-economic Condition of Agricultural Labourers in India

Pronami Chetia
Pronami Chetia

To celebrate and honour the struggles and achievement of working-class, Labor Day is observed globally on the first day of May each year. The day, also called as 'May Day', is also observed as a public holiday in many countries and regarded as the most important day. Moreover, Labour Day is a public holiday in India as well, where it is celebrated as Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas (International Labour Day). And as everybody works for livelihood in this world, so this day is dedicated to all...

When did Labor Day Begin? 

International Labor Day began in Chicago in the US in May 1886. Gradually, it spread to many countries of the world. India also adopted it. For the first time in India, Labor Day i.e. Labor Day was celebrated on 1 May 1923. 

Labor Day is known as Workers’ Day, Workers’ Day, International Workers’ Day. At the same time, Labor Day is officially celebrated in the US on the first Monday of September. However, May Day started in the US. 

Labour Day in India 

The first Labour Day was observed on 1 May 1923, in present-day Chennai in India. The day was celebrated by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan. 

The red flag, which symbolises Labour Day, was used for the first time in India. Prominent communist leader Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar raised the flag and arranged meetings to celebrate the occasion. 

Chettiar passed a resolution stating that the government should announce a national holiday on Labour Day in India and since then India has been celebrating May Day. 

Agricultural Labor in India 

India is an agrarian county with the highest number of farmers in the world. Amid this nationwide lockdown farmers and agriculture, labourers are the one who is suffering the most in this crisis. Farm labourers constituting about 23% of the whole rural population have existed in sub-human conditions for centuries, say reports. 

 Agricultural labour may be divided into two categories: 

(i) Landless labourers, working for others; 

(ii) Small peasants with very little land but who devote much time working for others. 

Economic Conditions of Agricultural Labour: 

The economic conditions of agricultural labour are indeed pitiable. They have been getting low wages and leading an extremely miserable life. (Take from one research report).

Low Social Status: 

Most agricultural workers belong to the depressed classes which have been neglected for ages. The low caste and the depressed classes have been socially handicapped and they had never the courage to assert themselves. They have been like dumb-driven cattle. 

Unemployment and under-employment: 

Unemployment and underemployment are two important factors responsible for low income and consequently low economic position of the agricultural labour in our country. The farmworkers do not have continuous work. 

It has been estimated by the Second Agricultural Labour Enquiry that on an average an agricultural labourer finds employment for about 197 days in a year and for the rest of the year he is idle. Apart from under-employment, there is also unemployment in rural areas. Lack of continuous work is responsible for low income and consequently the low living standard of farmworkers. 

The paucity of Non-agricultural occupation: 

Another important factor for the low wages and poor economic condition of the farm labourers is paucity of non-agricultural occupation in rural areas. For one thing, the growing population pressure is increasingly felt in rural areas and the number of landless labourers is steadily on increase. 

 Indebtedness Farmworkers are heavily indebted: 

Normally, the agricultural labourers borrow from the landowners under whom they work. Naturally, they are forced to accept lower wages from them. 


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