Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Labour in India: Past and Present


This course attempts to introduce students to the study of industrial labour in India from its inception to the present period. The objective is to familiarize students with various categories of work and working lives in India and the history of their development. Drawing from labour history, early industrial sociology and current labour anthropology, the course seeks to interrogate India’s development experience from the perspective of labour. Students will be familiarized with complexities associated with understanding and classifying working lives of various kinds for both academic and policy purposes. The course aims at intensive interaction with a wide range of sources, ranging from colonial administrative documents, policy briefs, NSSO classificatory schemes, legal documents, ethnographic writing and trade union documents. The course will provide an overview of the trajectory of labour in India particularly in the current scenario and locate it within the context of the developing world.

 Course Objectives 

  • To review approaches to the study of industrial labour in India
  • To identify and distinguish between different meanings and classifications of work and labour
  • To translate such understanding into the contemporary relationship between policy and labour in India

 Teaching Methodology 

  • Intensive reading
  • Interactive, discussion oriented
  • Utilisation of visual, literary, archival and media sources  



 Course Outline 

S. No Topic Hours
1 Labour in Colonial India

· Colonialism and Industrialization (4)
· Emergence of Industrial Centres and Cities (4)
· Migration and the Making of the Indian Worker(4)
· Royal Commissions of Labour (4)
· Early History of Labour Organisation(4)

(20 hours)
2 Labour in Post Independence India

· The Worker in a Planned Economy (4)
· Public and Private Sector Industry(4)
· Legal frameworks and Labour(4)
· Labour Organisation in Post-Independence India(4)

(16 Hours)
3 Labour in Contemporary India

· Labour Reforms in Globalised India (4)
· Classifying Workers(4)
· What is Work in Contemporary India? (8)
· Caste, Gender and Labour in India(4)
· Studying Labour in India- Approaches(4)

(24 hours)