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Dr. B. R Ambedkar and fight for Labour d

  May 07, 2020

Dr. B. R Ambedkar and fight for Labour dignity

Early Phase:

Ambedkar’s labour activism was carried out through his association with the Bombay Textile Labour Union, which was formed in 1925 by the moderates such as N.M. Joshi and R.R. Bakhale. In the textile mill weaving departments that paid the highest wages, Dalits were excluded from working due to “pollution”. Ambedkar highlighted this issue during the famous 1928 Bombay Textile strike. His demands were accepted.

What Ambedkar learned from the strike?

Ambedkar contended that the 1928 strike had pushed Dalit workers towards indebtedness and extreme indignance. Moreover, unlike the non-Dalit workers, Dalits did not have farmlands to rely upon during long drawn strikes. Therefore, Dalits were not in a position to join yet another long-drawn strike. Ambedkar also opposed the 1934 Bombay textile strike organised by the Communists for similar reasons.

Fight through democratic means

Ambedkar established the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1936 with an agenda to fight the social, economic and political rights of the working class. Following its success in the 1937 provincial elections, the ILP remained at the forefront in opposing the Industrial Disputes Act of 1938. 

Fight in the “den of ignorance”, as referred by Ambedkar for Indian Villages

  1. As much of Communist-led labor politics was urban factory-based, Ambedkar waged a struggle against the Mahar Watan in the countryside and challenged the caste-based occupational order. The Mahar Watan was land granted as an entitlement to the Mahars in the village socio-economic structure. The entitlement was offered in exchange for extensive and exploitative obligatory services from the Mahars. Ambedkar argued that the campaign against untouchability would not be complete without fighting a battle against these structures. In 1928, Ambedkar introduced in a bill to abolish the Mahar Watan in the Bombay Legislative Council.
  2. Ambedkar’s close associate A.V. Chitre founded Shetkari Sangh, which stood for the eradication of the Khoti system — a form of land revenue arrangement prevalent in the Konkan region. The Khoti system exploited small and marginal farmers and perpetuated forced labour by exacting four times more the amount of tax to be paid to the colonial government. Ambedkar organised agitations and conferences in the early 1920s against the Khoti system.
  3. Ambedkar was the first legislator in the provincial assemblies to introduce a bill for the abolition of serfdom of agricultural tenants.