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Sansad TV: Our Presidents- Shri Varahagiri Venkata Giri




  • VV Giri served as the 4th president of India from 24 August 1969 to 24 August 1974 and 3rd vice president of India from 13 May 1967 to 3 May 1969. He is the first president to be elected as an independent candidate.
  • He was succeeded by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed as president in 1974. After the end of his full term, Giri was honoured by the Government of India with the Bharat Ratna in 1975. Giri died on 24 June 1980.
  • During the First World War, Giri travelled from Dublin to London and met Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi wanted for Giri to join the Imperial war effort as a Red Cross Volunteer. Giri initially acceded to Gandhi’s request but later regretted his decision.
  • Giri was active in both Indian and Irish politics during his studies. Along with fellow Indian students he produced a pamphlet documenting the abuse of Indians in South Africa.
  • The pamphlet was intercepted by Indian Political Intelligence and resulted in increased police scrutiny of Giri and his fellow students in Dublin.

Role in the labour movement:

  • Giri was closely associated with the labour and trade union movement in India throughout his career.
  • Giri was a founding member of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation which was formed in 1923 and served as its general secretary for over a decade.
  • He was elected president of the All India Trade Union Congressfor the first time in 1926.
  • Giri also founded the Bengal Nagpur Railway Association and in 1928 led the workers of the Bengal Nagpur Railway in a non violent strike for the rights of retrenched workers.
  • The strike succeeded in forcing the British Indian government and the management of the railway company to concede the workers’ demands and is regarded as a milestone in the labour movement in India.
  • In 1929, the Indian Trade Union Federation (ITUF) was formed by Giri, N. M. Joshi and others with Giri as the president.
  • The split with the AITUC came about over the issue of cooperating with the Royal Commission on Labour.
  • Giri and the ITUF leadership of liberals decided to cooperate with the Commission while the AITUC decided to boycott it. The ITUF merged with the AITUC in 1939 and Giri became president of the AITUC for a second time in 1942.
  • Giri was the Workers’ Delegate of the Indian delegation at the International Labour Conference of the ILO in 1927.
  • At the Second Round Table Conference, Giri was present as a representative of the industrial workers of India.
  • Giri worked towards getting the trade unions to support the freedom movement in India and was twice president of the AITUC which was closely allied with the Indian National Congress.

Electoral career in British India

  • Giri became a member of the Imperial Legislative Assembly in 1934. He remained its member until 1937 and emerged a spokesman for matters of labour and trade unions in the Assembly.
  • Between 1937–1939, he was Minister for Labour and Industry in the Congress government headed by C Rajagopalachari.
  • Giri was appointed Governor of the National Planning Committee of the Indian National Congress in 1938.
  • In 1939, the Congress ministries resigned in protest against the British decision to make India a party in the Second World War. Having returned to the labour movement, Giri was arrested and spent 15 months in prison till March 1941.
  • Following the launch of the Quit India Movement, Giri was imprisoned again by the colonial government in 1942.
  • In the General Elections of 1946, Giri was reelected to the Madras Legislative Assembly and became a minister again in charge of the labour portfolio under T. Prakasam

President of India:

  • As President of India Giri led 14 state visits to countries in South and South East Asia, the Soviet bloc and Africa.
  • As president, Giri unquestioningly accepted Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s decision to sack the Charan Singh ministry in Uttar Pradesh and advised her to go in for early elections in 1971.
  • The ordinance abolishing privy purses and privileges of the erstwhile rulers of India’s princely states was promulgated by Giri after the government’s original amendment was defeated in the Rajya Sabha.