People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 5

February 08, 2009


IWA Completes Seventy Years Defending The Rights Of Indian Workers In Britain

THE Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain) held its national conference in Leicester on January 24-25, 2009 in Harkishan Singh Surjeet hall named after the former general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who passed away on August 1, 2008.The delegates representing the organisation from England and Scotland paid glowing tributes to Comrade Surjeet and other departed leaders of the movement.

The delegates expressed their appreciation of the support and valuable guidance that the IWA received for fifty years from Harkishan Singh Surjeet. Dyal Bagri, national president of the IWA acknowledged that “Surjeet represented NRI interests with the Indian and British governments and it was primarily his persistence in moving forward the IWA demand that finally secured dual nationality for people of Indian origin living in Britain, in the form of Overseas Indian Citizenship.”

The conference received greetings from Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M) recognising the “IWA as a fraternal force which acts as a link between the working class movement in India and that in Britain.”

The conference marks the beginning of the celebration of the seventy year history of the IWA. The IWA was established in 1938 as the first and original broad based NRI organisation to advance and defend the rights of the Indian workers in Britain

The delegates discussed, amended and strengthened the report of the central executive committee presented by the national general secretary Harsev Bains and gave it unanimous approval.

The conference welcomed the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the USA that has raised great expectations for a change in US policies. The IWA does not expect all of these to be realised but a change in the country that until 40 years ago did not provide even the notional democratic right for black people to vote, can not be more profound. In Barack Obama’s very presence as a black man in the White House with a black wife and children is a powerful symbol for ‘the audacity of hope’ and a challenge to the rise of xenophobia.

The delegates gave serious consideration in deliberating the conditions and consequences of the economic crisis in Britain. The conference noted the global impact of the recession and its effect on the migrant population. The IWA resolved to ally itself with the trade unions and other working class organisations, to defend the people and withstand the challenges of the recession.

The conference applauded the stabilising influence of the Left in securing India’s economy for the last four years. The Left’s opposition to the Congress led UPA government’s efforts to privatise the banks, financial services, pension funds and the insurance sector have proven to be crucial in India’s defence against the global crisis of capitalism.


The IWA in completing seventy years has taken a bold decision to expand the basis of its membership by renewing and re-branding the organisation. The IWA will act as catalyst for progress and defence of the rights of workers and promote positive role models of the Indian community in Britain. The IWA while retaining the present characteristics of a workers’ organisation and its membership amongst people of Indian origin, will add a new dimension to the organisation by engaging the million plus British Indians either born or naturalised in Britain. The new brand will initially be launched as a portal of British Indian Workers’ Association and provide a sense of identity and recognition for the emerging generations of ‘British Indians’.

The conference resolved to press for changes in immigration laws seeking indefinite leave to remain for all fiancées at the point of entry and regularisation of migrants with a defined timescale subject to conditions.

Throughout the year the IWA branches will celebrate 50 years of the Cuban revolution and hold a conference on the developments in Palestine.

The conference reaffirmed their faith in the present leadership of the IWA and re elected Dyal Bagri from Leicester as national president and Harsev Bains from Southall as the national general secretary. Other officers elected to the central executive committee are Avtar Sadiq, vice president, Balkar Dhamrait Assistant Secretary, Sarwan Singh, treasurer, Mohinder Singh Welfare and Joginder Kaur as women’s secretary along with an executive consisting of Makhan Sandhu, Avtar Singh, Gurmel Singh, Harbhajan Duley, Raj Malhotra, Joginder Singh, Dr Serjinder Singh, Paramjit Basi and Harbhajan Johal.