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V. O. Chidambaram Pillai

Focus: GS I- Modern History

Why in News?

The Prime Minister has remembered freedom fighter V. O. Chidambaram Pillai on his Jayanti.

About Chidambaram Pillai:

  • Chidambaram Pillai was born on 5 September 1872 to Olaganathan Pillai and Paramyee 
  • Ammai in Ottapidaram, District Tirunelveli in modern Tamil Nadu.
  • He was popularly known by his initials, V O.C. also known as Kappalottiya Tamizhanor “The Tamil Helmsman”,
  • He was an Indian freedom fighter and leader of the Indian National Congress.
Role in the Indian Freedom Struggle
  • VOC entered politics in 1905 following the partition of Bengal.
  • Towards the end of 1905, VOC visited Madras and was drawn closer to the Swadeshi Movement initiated by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai.
  • VOC was drawn towards Ramakrishna Mission and came into contact with Subramania Bharati and the Mandayam family.
  • In response to the British India Steam Navigation Company’s trade monopoly, Chidambaram started an Indian-owned shipping company.
  • Even prior to Gandhiji’s Champaran Satyagraha, VOC took up the cause of the working class in Tamil Nadu, and thus he is a forerunner to Gandhiji in this respect.
  • A turning point in V.O.C’s life came with the Tuticorin Coral Mills strike in 1908.
    • The workers at the British-owned mill were unfairly treated.
    • 59% of the workers were aged 14 – 16. They had to work from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm. In February 1908, they decided to go on a strike demanding better pay and a reduction in the number of working hours.
    • V.O.C took up the workers’ cause and gave many fiery speeches which drew the people’s attention to the plight of the workers. The cause gained widespread sympathy and support.
  • In 1920, Chidambaram withdrew from the Indian National Congress, citing ideological differences with Mahatma Gandhi.
  • He focused his efforts on establishing labor unions in Madras and writing.
  • He rejoined the Congress party in 1927 and presided over the third political conference held at Salem.
  • By 1935, he had written commentary on the first book of the Tirukkural (Book of Virtue) and was published under a different title.

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