In Memory: Umraomal Purohit

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Paddy Crumlin with Umraomal Purohit

Umraomal Purohit  was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan State, India. He started his career in the railways and was involved in union work from the beginning. At the age of 30 he became the general secretary of the Western Railway Employees Union. In 1962 he was elected as the assistant general secretary of the All India Railway men's Federation (AIRF) and became its president in 1980, a post he held until his death. Purohit was general secretary of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), a leading national trade union centre, from 1985. He also represented the nearly five million central government employees of India at the dispute resolution body the joint consultative machinery.

Purohit was associated with the ITF for over 40 years and was elected president of the organisation at its 39th congress, held in New Delhi in 1998. He was re-elected for a further four years at the ITF Vancouver congress in 2002, before retiring from the post in 2006.

MUA national secretary and ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: "Umraomal Purohit was a giant of Indian trade unionism, a national figure. But it's as an internationalist and as an ITF president that many of us will remember him best. He took up that role at the ITF's New Delhi congress in 1998, the first one held in the Asia Pacific region, which committed the organisation to the mobilising solidarity programme. Umraomal's re-election four years later in Vancouver reflected how groundbreaking that programme was, and how valued his role was as president of this organisation.

"Umraomal Purohit was not just a defender of Indian workers' rights but a defender of all workers' rights and will be greatly missed. He was a gentle and humble leader who dedicated the whole of his long working life right to his passing to furthering the interests of his members and the wider trade union and labour movement.

"His wisdom, courage and constant activism shaped and influenced generations of labour activists  including myself. On behalf of the officers members and staff of the ITF and our affiliates I extend our sincerest sympathies and deepest condolences  to his family, to the officers staff and members of his union and to his many friends and comrades in India and around the world." Crumlin added.  

Vale Brother Purohit, a great fighter for peace, labour rights and social justice, now at rest.