He was born on July 4, 1898, in Sialkot in the Undivided Punjab, now in Pakistan. He was educated at Lahore, Agra and Allahabad. He worked as a research scholar on labour problems at Allahabad University from 1920 to1921. He became Professor of Economics at the National College in Bombay in 1921. He joined the Non-Cooperation Movement during the same year. In 1922, he become Secretary of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association in which he worked until 1946. He was imprisoned for Satyagraha in 1932, and again from 1942 to 1944.
He was also a Member of the National Planning Committee. He was largely influential in organising the Indian National Trade Union Congress and later became its President. In 1947, he went to Geneva as a Government delegate to the International Labour Conference. In March 1950, he joined the Planning Commission as its Vice-Chairman. In September the succeeding year, he was appointed Planning Minister in the Indian Government. In addition, he was also given charge of the portfolios of Irrigation and Power. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay in the general elections of 1952 and was re-appointed Minister for Planning, Irrigation and Power.
He headed the Indian Delegation to the Plan Consultative Committee held at Singapore in 1955, and the International Labour Conference held at Geneva in 1959. Shri Nanda was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1957 general elections, and was appointed Union Minister for Labour and Employment and Planning and, later, as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1962 general elections from Sabarkantha Constituency in Gujarat. He initiated the Congress Forum for Socialist Action in 1962. He was Union Minister for Labour and Employment in 1962 and 1963 and Minister for Home Affairs from 1963 to 1966. Before 1947 he was known as a Transporter of " Nanda Bus Service " with the partnership of Well known transporter Ahmed Din, the chairman of " District Transport " Lahore & Amritsar.
Following the death of Pandit Nehru, Cabinet Ministers agreed to have Gulzarilal Nanda as the acting Prime Minister, until the party chose a new leader. This process was undertaken again when Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent in 1966. Nanda's role, though uneventful, was critical in importance owing to the nearness of grave national dangers as Nehru's death had come just after a war with China in 1962, and Shastri died after the 1965 war with Pakistan. Gulzarilal Nanda was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
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