May Day 2017: Origin & Importance of Labour Day aka International Workers’ Day

Nithya Nair
International Workers' Day was launched in the late 19th century and is today marked as a public holiday in over 80 countries.

May Day which falls on May 1 is marked as International Worker’s Day. The day started to be observed in the late 19th century after the rise of trade unions. Workers who were protesting for an eight-hour day began their strike on May 1. International Workers’ Day was launched in the late 19th century and is today marked as a public holiday in over 80 countries. May 1 date is used because in 1884 the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions demand for an eight-hour work came into effect as of 1 May 1886. While it also resulted in a strike and the Haymarket Riot of 1886, eight-hour workday was eventually sanctioned.

In India, the first formal celebration of Labour Day was initiated by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan in Chennai on 1 May 1923.  It is celebrated as Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas in the country. It is known as Kamgar Din in Hindi, Kamgar Divas in Marathi and Uzhaipalar Dhinam in Tamil. During the protest by workers, bombing killed seven officers and at least four workers and many others were wounded in the blast. The day is promoted by trade unions, labor, socialist and communist groups. Coincidentally Maharashtra Day also falls on the same day which commemorates the making of the state after Bombay State was divided on the basis of language.

In the 20th century, the public holiday was also recognised by the Soviet Union, and it is also celebrated as the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers mostly in some Communist states. Some countries conduct large military parades exhibiting their weapons in support of the government. However, May Day also has roots in pagan Anglo-Saxon customs which marks the beginning of summer with the pagan festival Beltane. Villages and towns across the United Kingdom mark the beginning of springtime. Maharashtra Day: Do you know why it is celebrated on May Day?

The National Mazdoor Conference (NMC) has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the International Workers Day as a gazetted holiday across the country. The NMC has made this move as a tribute to the May Day martyrs and commemorating the contribution of the working class in the country’s development.