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Sibnath Banerjee

Kolkata, West Bengal

June 21, 2022

Sibnath Banerjee, a doyen of the Trade Union movement in India, committed himself whole-heartedly to the service of the nation and the Indian people. Born on 11 July 1897 in the village Brahman Rangdia in Khulna District now in Bangladesh, he first got involved in the anti-partition movement in Bengal at the age of eight. He directly joined the non-cooperation movement in 1920 while still a student of M.Sc. at Calcutta University. In 1921, he moved to Indore to serve as a teacher in a high school but gave up the profession, again to participate in the political movement. 

In 1922 he became a Minister of the free Government of India in Afghanistan led by Raja Mahendra Pratap. Between 1925 and 1929 he organised trade Union workers in different industries to voice their demands and after the successful culmination of the Railwaymen’s strike in 1929, he was imprisoned in Dacca jail and implicated in the Meerut Conspiracy case. In 1932, he was elected General Secretary of AITUC and five years later he was elected President of AITUC. He was elected to the Bengal Assembly from the labour constituency of Howrah in 1937 and remained a Member till 1952.

He suffered imprisonment on a number of occasions during the Quit India movement and more than a decade of life was spent behind bars as a consequence of his participation in the national movement.

Besides his leadership of the trade union movement, he pioneered workers' cooperatives and led the demand for rehabilitation of leprosy patients, and organized other useful social services like an eye donation campaign. His wide-ranging social activities and especially the leadership of the industrial workers endeared Sibnath Banerjee to many national leaders including Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Dr. B. C. Roy, Dilip Roy & Dr. Suniti Kr. Chatterjee. Politically he was close to Jayaprakash Narayan, Narendra Dev, Achut Patwardhan, and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia.

Shri Sibnath Banerjee was the founder of many movements and organizations like the Congress Socialist Party, AITUC, and Hind Mazdoor Sabha. In 1978, he participated in the Marichjhapi movement in South 24 Parganas for the settlement of refugees displaced from Dandakaranya. After retiring from trade Union activities he devoted himself to social reconstruction programs and he founded Workers Education Trust. The cause of the working class and the interest of the underprivileged remained dear to Sibnath Banerjee throughout his life. He passed away on 16 February 1932.

Source: Information Brochure of Commemorative Postage Stamp issued by Department of Posts.