Varahagiri Venkata Giri (August 10, 1894 – June 23, 1980), commonly known as V. V. Giri, was the fourth president of the Republic of India (August 24, 1969 – August 23, 1974).
He was born into a Telugu-speaking family, residing in Berhampur in the Ganjam district of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. The town and district are now part of the state of Orissa.
In 1913, he went to University College Dublin to study law, but was expelled from Ireland in 1916 after becoming involved with the Sinn Féin movement. This involvement had brought him into close contact with Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Patrick Pearse, Desmond FitzGerald, Eoin MacNeil, James Connolly and others.
Upon returning to India, he became heavily involved in the labour movement, becoming general secretary and then president of the All-India Railwaymen’s Federation and twice serving as president of the All-India Trade Union Congress.
In the 1936 General Election in Madras, Giri was put up as the Congress candidate in Bobbili against the Raja of Bobbili and he won that election. He became minister of labour and industries in 1937 for the Congress Party government formed by C.Rajagopalachari in the Madras Presidency. When the Congress governments resigned in 1942, he returned to the labour movement as part of the quit India movement and was imprisoned by the British.
After India gained independence, he was first appointed high commissioner to Ceylon and then successfully ran for parliament in 1952, serving as minister of labour until resigning in 1954.
The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE) was founded in 1957 by a distinguished group of academicians and public men engaged in promoting the study of labour and industrial relations. The team was headed by Shri Giri.
He served successfully as governor of Uttar Pradesh (1957-1960), Kerala (1960-1965) and Mysore (1965-1967).
He was elected as Vice-president of India in 1967. Giri became acting president of India in 1969 upon the death in office of Zakir Hussain and decided to run for that position in the ensuing election. The Congress Party led by Indira Gandhi chose to support Neelam Sanjiva Reddy for the position, but he was able to prevail anyway (reportedly due to a last-minute change in the decision by Indira Gandhi), serving until 1974.
He received India’s highest civilian decoration, the Bharat Ratna, in 1975.
He was a prolific writer and a good orator. He has written books on ‘Industrial Relations’ and ‘Labour problems in Indian Industry’.