National Commission on Labour (1967)||
28.17 The 1916 Programme for the amelioration of labour conditions included as its components, fixation of minimum wages for agricultural workers and a plea for an inquiry into their level of living. The results of the latter were to be used for formulation of measures necessary to protect and improve agricultural wages. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 was passed; agriculture was included as one of the employments in the Schedule appended to the Act. The First Agricultural Labour Enquiry (first ALE) was conducted in 1950-51 in about 800 villages with the object of studying the occupational pattern of rural families, their employment, wage structure, income and expenditure, etc. The findings of the Enquiry gave broad statistical support to the then prevailing notions about the conditions of agricultural labour that it was eking out its existence at the lowest level of incomes, and the primary cause of it was inadequate work and also low payment for whatever work was available. The average per capita national income was Rs. 250 in 1950-51; for agricultural labour families it was Rs. 104. The Enquiry brought out that labour was employed only to the extent of about half its potentiality to work. Better enforcement of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, could have been a partial remedy. When during the years of the First Plan, various forums discussed the problems of agricultural labour and pointed out the inadequacy of the action taken in this regard, it was only this limited issue which was sought to be brought out. Economic development in rural areas through promotion of village industries was but only incidentally referred to.
28.18 The Second Plan (1956-61) viewed the problems of agricultural labour in the wider perspective of rural development programmes. It recognised the limitations of implementing the minimum wage legislation, but reiterated older remedies to reach relief to agricultural labour. Development and diversification of village industries, redistribution of land, provision of housing Facilities, encouragement to labour cooperatives and promotion of scientific agriculture were some of its suggestions. A fresh Agricultural Labour Enquiry (the second ALE) was proposed; its results were expected to provide a firmer base for policies in the Third Plan (1961-66).
28.19 When the results of the second ALE (1956-57) were published, it became obvious that because of the changes in the concepts and definitions used, its conclusions could not be compared with those of the first. A detailed technical examination of the two reports by an expert committee set up by the Planning Commission, reached the conclusions inter alia (i) the second ALE reflected the conditions of agricultural labour in 1956-57 better than the first ALE did for that category in 1950-51; (ii) no improvement or deterioration in the general conditions of agricultural labour over the period 1950-57 could be established; but (iii) in the light of the increase in per capita income in the country and absence of any marked improvement in the conditions of agricultural labour, an objective of planning in the context of the socialist pattern of society viz., improvement in the levels of living of the lowest category of our working class commensurate with the total development of the economy, was far from being achieved.