In memory of the 4th President of India

Anagha Telang

Varahagiri Venkata commonly known as V. V. Giri, was the fourth president of India from 24 August 1969 to 24 August 1974.

Giri was born on 10 August,1894 in Berhampur Odisha to a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Brahmin family. His father, V. V. Jogayya Pantulu, was a successful lawyer and political activist of the Indian National Congress. Giri's mother Subhadramma was active in the national movement in Berhampur during the Non Cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movements and was arrested for leading a strike for prohibition during the Civil Disobedience Movement. He was highly inspired by his parents.
He completed his initial education at the Khallikote College, in Berhampur. In 1913 he went to Ireland to study law which he did at University College Dublin and the Honourable Society of King's Inns, Dublin between 1913–1916. The notable achievemnet of Giri was that he was one among the first crop of thirteen Indian students who sat the obligatory year long course at UCD in 1914–15. This was a requirement for being called to the Irish Bar through study at the King's Inns. In total, 50 Indian students studied at UCD between 1914 and 1917.

During the First World War, Giri travelled from Dublin to London and there he met Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi wanted for Giri to join the Imperial war effort as a Red Cross Volunteer. Giri initially agreed 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 about the abuse of Indians in South Africa. The pamphlet created lot of controversy and resulted in increased police scrutiny of Giri and his fellow students in Dublin.
Giri was suspected of association with prominent ring leaders in the 1916. He was called to the Irish Bar on 21 June 1916 but he did not complete his studies for BA in UCD. Indian students were subjected to police raids following the 1916 Rising and he was served with one month's notice to leave Ireland on 1 June 1916.

Political Career...
On returning to India in 1916 Giri enrolled himself  at the Madras High Court and also became a member of the Congress party. He attended the Lucknow session and joined the Home Rule Movement of Annie Beasant. Giri left a rising legal career in response fot Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920.  He was arrested for the first time for demonstrating against the sale of liquor shops in 1922.

Giri & Labour Movement:
  • Giri was associated with the labour and trade union movement in the country throughout his career. 
  • In the year 1923 All India Railwaymen's association was formed and Giri was a foundinng member and he also served as its general secretary for over a decade. 
  • In 1926 he was elected as the president of the All India Trade Union Congress for the first time. 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.  
  • The Indian Trade Union Federation (ITUF) was formed by Giri in the year 1929.
  • At the International Labour Conference of the ILO in 1927 Giri was the Workers' Delegate of the Indian delegation.

  •  Giri was present as a representative of the industrial workers of India at the Second Round Table Conference.

Career in British India:
  • In 1934 Giri became a member of the Imperial Legislative Assembly and remained its member until 1937 and emerged a spokesman for matters of labour and trade unions in the Assembly.
  • In the General Elections of 1936, Giri defeated the Raja of Bobbili to become a member of the Madras Legislative Assembly. 
  • Between 1937–1939, he was Minister for Labour and Industry in the Congress government headed by C Rajagopalachari.
  • He 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.

  • In 1942 following the launch of the Quit India Movement, Giri was imprisoned again by the colonial government He remained in prison when the AITUC met in Nagpur in 1943 where he was the president elect. 

  • He served his sentence in the Vellore and Amaravathi prisons. Giri remained in prison for three years, his longest sentence, until his release in 1945.

  • 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.

Career in Independent India:
  • From 1947 to 1951, Giri served as India's first High Commissioner to Ceylon. In the General Elections of 1951, he was elected to the 1st Lok Sabha from Pathapatnam Lok Sabha Constituency in the Madras State.

  • Union Minister for Labour from 1952–1954

  • Gubernatorial tenures from 1957–1967

  • Governor of Kerala from 1960–1965

  • Vice president from 1967–1969

  • Acting president of India in 1969

  • President of India from 1967-1974

Work as President:
On 24 August 1969 Giri was sworn in as President of India and held office till 24 August 1974 when he was succeeded by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. On his election, Giri became the only president to have also been an acting president and the only person to be elected president as an independent candidate.

  • As president, In 1971 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. 
  • 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. 

  • His advice to Prime Minister Gandhi against the appointement of A.N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India superseding three judges senior to him was ignored by her as was his warning that a crackdown on striking railwaymen would only exacerbate the situation. 
  • As president, Giri made 14 state visits to 22 countries in South and South East Asia, Europe and Africa.

Giri is regarded as a president who completely subordinated himself to the prime minister and has been described as a "Prime Minister’s President", a loyalist president and a rubber stamp president under whom the independence of the office eroded. In 1974,Giri's term ended .

Awards & Honours...
  • Bharat Ratna in 1975 for his contributions in the area of public affairs.
  • Commemorative Medal of the 2500th Anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire on 14/10/1971
  • King Jigme Singye Investiture Medal 1974 .gif King Jigme Singye Investiture Medal by Kingdom of Bhutan on 02/06/1974

Giri died of a heart attack in Madras on 24 June 1980. He was given a state funeral the next day and a week-long mourning period was declared by the Government of India. Rajya Sabha, of which Giri had been ex-officio chairman as Vice President of India, adjourned for two days as a mark of respect to him.

  • A commemorative postage stamp on V.V Giri was released by the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department in 1974. 
  • The National Labour Institute was renamed in honour of V.V Giri in 1995. 
  • Giri's hometown of Berhampur has a major road, a secondary training school and a market that are named after him.
  • Giri authored Industrial Relations and Labour Problems in Indian Industry, two popular books on issues of labour in India. 
  • His memoirs, published in 1976, are titled My Life and Times.

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