ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India, the ILO and the Quest for Social Justice since 1919

Examining the interactions between the International Labour Organisation and India, one of its founding members since 1919, this paper observes that the strength of the relationship has varied over time, but has often benefited both sides. Looking ahead, it points out that the ILO and India face common challenges arising from the increasing inequalities caused by globalisation, the difficulty of implementing a universal social and labour policy in an economy where the bulk of workers are outside the formal sector, and the need to better integrate social and economic policy across different arms of government. These problems call for improved patterns of organisation, influence and dialogue at the national level, but they also define an international agenda for the ILO.

Thanks are due to Janine Rodgers and J Krishnamurty for helpful comments and valuable references, and to the ILO Archives for assistance with source material. This article does not re ect ILO views. I n October 1947, just two months after India’s independence, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) held its rst Asian Regional Conference in Delhi. It was opened by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Three years earlier, the ILO had adopted the Declaration of Philadelphia, which laid out a framework of social goals and universal rights for the post-war world.1 Nehru endorsed this Declaration, “As I read it, I feel that if the world were governed by the principles laid down in that Declaration there would hardly be any major problems in this world” (ILO 1948: 1-2). And he called on the ILO to shift its attention away from Europe and to address the grave economic problems of development, with a particular focus on agriculture and land, while nding ways to ensure that poor industrial relations did not hinder development.

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