Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
We have had in view hitherto the protection of the worker from the temptation to incur substantial and unproductive debts. We deal in conclusion with certain features associated with important sections of Indian industry which, while not responsible for the bulk of indebtedness, tend to enhance the burden on a number of workers. The first of these is the practice of making the worker pay for the cost of his own recruitment. An advance is paid by the employer or his agent partly as an inducement to enter employment, partly to cover the actual travelling expenses and partly, in some cases, to secure a hold over the worker after he has been recruited. This practice is very rare among factory owners, but it is common elsewhere, especially where labour is engaged through contractors. The result is to saddle the worker with an additional burden of debt at the outset of his industrial career, if not on each occasion when necessity drives him back from the village to industry. We consider that if an employer or his agent finds it necessary to advance travelling expenses to secure labour, he should pay these himself. The practice of giving an advance in addition to travelling expenses is one that lends itself to abuse; few workers can resist the prospect of cash in hand, which is often unwisely spent and which may secure their being bound to serve an employer under hard conditions. We recommend, therefore, that the recovery of any amount advanced to meet the expenses of recruitment of labour should be illegal, and that, so far as other advances are concerned, no amount advanced before actual employment begins should be recoverable except from the first wage payment. This will not preclude an employer or his agent advancing the first wage that the employee will earn, but it will make it possible for the employee to start on his second wage period unencumbered by debt to his employer. In those establishments to which our proposals relating to the control of deductions are applied, the deduction of advances other than those which we have treated as legitimate can be dealt with by the law which we have recommended in the preceding chapter. Elsewhere, illegal advances will merely be irrecoverable at law.