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Labour Day celebrates working women and men: This is how India started celebrating 1 May

International Labour Day is celebrated to honour the contribution of working men and women. It is observed on the first day in the month of May and is celebrated as May Day. In India, the holiday is also celebrated as Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, Uzhaipalar Dinam (Tamil) or Kamgar Din. The theme of Labour Day 2019 is 'Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Advancement.'

The history of the Labour Day dates back to 1 May, 1886. On this day, labour unions in the United States of America decided to go on a strike with the demand that workers should not be allowed to work more than 8 hours a day. The strike was followed by a bomb blast in Chicago's Haymarket Square on the 4 May which led to the death of several citizens and police officers.

Although the protests in the US didn't lead to any immediate result, it helped establish the 8-hour work day norm in India and other parts of the world.

Origins of May Day in India

In India, the first Labour Day, or May Day, was celebrated in 1923 in Chennai. During the second decade of the twentieth century, India was witnessing major political upheavals. The Gandhian mode of nationalist struggle had taken off and the Communist movement too was marking its initial presence in the country, reports Indian Express.

 Labour Day celebrates working women and men: This is how India started celebrating 1 May

Farmers and labourers listen to a speaker during a protest against what they say is anti-people policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, in New Delhi, India, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

On 1 May, 1923, prominent Communist leader Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar raised the red flag in Chennai, marking the beginning of communism in India. The day also symbolises an introduction to the May Day celebrations. Singaravelar arranged two meetings to celebrate this occasion, one at the Triplicane Beach, and the other took place at the beach opposite the Madras High Court. In the meeting, Singaravelar passed a resolution which stated that the government should announce a national holiday on the Labour Day(1 May) in India. He also emphasised the need for non-violence within a political party. This was the first time a red flag was used in India, he also founded his own party- The Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan. Though his party died out in the next two years, the country has continued to celebrate May Day as a means to honour the effort put in by workers.

May Day celebration

May Day is a nationwide bank and public holiday in India. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is officially called Maharashtra Day and Gujarat Day respectively, since it was on this day in 1960 that they attained statehood, after the old Bombay State became divided on linguistic lines.

An official holiday, people chose to mark the occasion by celebrating the accomplishment of workers. International Labour Day is the perfect representation of how workers get together and showcase their strength, indicating how effectively they can struggle to bring in positive reforms for the working class of society.

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Updated Date: May 01, 2019 07:55:55 IST