The circumstances in which BHARATIYA MAZDOOR SANGH (BMS) came into existence in the trade union field of India have shaped its significant role in the trade union movement.
BMS was founded on 23rd of July, 1955 – the day being the birth anniversary of Lok Manya Bal Gangadhar Tilak – veteran of Freedom Movement. Two important aspects stand out in connection with this:
(a) Formation of BMS was not the result of split in the existing trade union organisations, unlike in the case of almost all other trade unions. Hence it had the formidable responsibility of building its organisational structure from the grass root level. It started from zero having no trade union, no membership, no activist (karyakarta), no office and no fund.
(b) On the very first day it was visualised as a trade union whose base-sheet anchors – would be Nationalism, would work as a genuine trade union, keeping itself scrupulously away from party politics. This was also unlike other trade unions which were linked to one or the other political party, overtly or otherwise.
Dawn of BMS, therefore, can be truly described as watershed in the course of trade union field.
BMS in 1955 existed only in the minds of a few determined persons who assembled at Bhopal under the guidance of Shri D.B. Thengadi – a thinker and intellectual, who had even earlier dedicated accepting the noble principle of self abnegation, his entire life to social work. He collected a band of determined workers around him to work for the organisation selflessly.
The first task was to build a strong organisational structure on the noble principles already declared. Constant tour of the country by Shri Thengadiji and the local efforts of his then colleagues resulted in setting up of a union here, and a union there. Of course that looked insignificant in the broad canvas of the trade union field like tiny dots on a large map. Most of these unions were in the unorganised sector. With the increase in experience, slowly, BMS unions sprung up in important industries. In a few States, State Committees were formed.
Thus it was only in 1967, twelve years after its formation – that the first all India Conference of BMS was held in Delhi, in which the initial national executive was elected. At the time the number of affiliated unions was 541 and total membership was 2, 46,000. Shri Thengadiji was elected General Secretary and Shri Ram Nareshji as first President.
From then on there was no looking back. In 1967 it had 2, 36,902 members. In 1984 Central Government after membership verification of all major Central Labour Organisations declared BMS as second largest Central Trade Union Organisation with 12,11,355 members and during 1996 it was declared first largest organisation with 31,17,324 membership by the Government of India, Ministry of Labour. The reckoning date of the above verification was 31st December 1989. In the subsequent verification held by Government of India for the year 2002, BMS retained its position of NUMERO UNO in the Country.
Of the 44 industries classified by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India for the purpose of membership verification, BMS has affiliated unions in all industries. BMS has membership of almost 1 crore in all States comprising more than 5000 affiliate unions.
BMS is productivity oriented non-political CTUO. It rejects the idea of State control rather it views it as an evil to be restricted to inevitable sector like defence, but stands firmly for the principle of public accountability of each industry and consequent enunciation of public discipline. It tries to bring consumers as the third and the most important party to industrial relations. For the furtherance and realization of its aims and objects BMS applies all legitimate means consistent with the spirit of nationalism and patriotism.
BMS is significantly represented in most of the bipartite/tripartite labour and industrial committees/Boards constituted by the Central Government including Indian Labour Conference (ILC), Standing Labour Committee, Central Board for Workers Education, ESI, EPF, National Productivity Council, National Safety Council, Negotiation Committees of Public Sector Undertakings like BHEL, NTPC, NHPC, BEL, Coal, Industrial Committees of Jute, Textiles, Engineering, Chemical-Fertilizers, Sugar, Electricity, Transport and the consultative machinery of Government employees and various other Committees / Boards. BMS also leads the delegation of Indian workforce in the Conferences of International Labour Organisation (ILO)