Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
In a number of factories the manufacturing processes disseminate large amounts of dust, arrangements for the elimination of which are frequently defective. Mechanical systems which result in a constant flow of fresh air would add greatly to the comfort of the operative, and would in some cases improve his output. More important is the conservation of the workers' health, for the prevalence of dust may result in pulmonary disease. In certain manufacturing processes, particularly connected with cotton, jute and wool, the reduction of dust to a minimum should be made obligatory. Section 10 of the Factories Act confers ample powers on Inspectors of Factories in this respect and these should be more extensively used. More attention should also be paid to the general cleanliness of factories. Where quantities of dust and fluff are produced, it is important that floors and walls should be regularly cleaned. Periodic white-washing of the interior walls and roofs not only removes collected dust, but helps to improve the lighting. It is difficult to associate efficiency with the grime to be found in some factories. We recommend that. where the rules made by the local Government under Section 37 of the Act do not require the cleaning of factories annually, they should be supplemented in this direction, and that in all cases such rules should be strictly enforced.
Under the Factories Act, the provision of sufficient and suitable latrine accommodation is compulsory and local Governments have drawn up scales for latrines varying with the number of operatives. Latrine accommodation is not always adequate, and its quality often leaves much to be desired. It is commonly asserted that the Indian labourer, coming as he often does from a village, is unwilling to use unitary conveniences. Our observations have convinced us that he can be brought to use them without serious difficulty, provided that they are kept in decent order. He rightly refuses to use a latrine whose condition, by the very nature of its construction and supervision, is always filthy. The popularity of the efficient septic tanks, which are a feature of the Bengal jute mills, is only one item of evidence in this direction. This system is to be recommended for areas where the water supply is sufficient. Where the supply cannot be made adequate, recourse must be had to other methods; but every factory should be compelled to maintain separate and sufficient accommodation for males and females, and a staff adequate to maintain the latrines in a state of cleanliness during working hours.
In nearly every part of India there are long periods when the climatic conditions render physical toil particularly difficult and unpleasant. This is especially true of factory work. In many factories the temperature in the hot weather is higher than that of the air outside, and the air movement is less; in a number of factories the difference is marked. A large number, probably the majority, of factory owners make no endeavour to mitigate the discomfort, to use a mild word, which the hot weather brings to their operatives. Some factories, indeed, suggest that they might have been constructed by cold weather visitors, for they show little respect for the sun in their orientation and elevation. Apart from the regulations relating to humidification and cooling power in cotton textile mills there is no official control of temperatures, nor is any such control possible under the present law. Recent experience has indicated that the reduction of excessive temperatures, or the minimising of their effect, is in many cases easier than is generally supposed. Mr T. Maloney in his official report on Humidification in Indian Cotton Mills- pointed out in 1923 that appreciable educations could be effected by comparatively inexpensive means, and suggested that reductions would prove profitable to the industry as well as advantageous to the operatives. The white-washing of roofs, the spraying of roofs with water, and the provision of electric fans, or even small devices attached to the shaft can often be made without undue expense. Some employers have found that these methods have brought a reward not merely in the greater contentment of the operatives, but in improved1 attention to work and increased production. We consider that there is room for much more work in this direction and recommend to employers a study of what has been done already. We do not, of course, suggest that improvements of this character should be regarded solely in the light of their financial results; in many cases the operatives have a right to demand that the present conditions should not continue, even if improvements are not likely to be remunerative.
It is desirable that, where employers are unwilling to do so of their own accord, there should be power to insist on reasonable measures being taken to reduce excessive temperatures. This has been generally recognised for some time past. but the proposals made by Government have tailed to secure approval. In a Bill introduced in 1925 to amend the Factories Act. the Government of India proposed to follow the principle of the British Factories and Workshops Act, and to lay down that a " reasonable " temperature must be maintained in all factories. Inspectors were to be empowered to specify the measures necessary to reduce the temperature to reasonable limits and to enforce the adoption of these methods. This proposal was rejected during the passage of the Bill through' the Legislative Assembly; and it seems to us to be open to criticism on the ground that the expense of reducing temperature to a standard which might be regarded as reasonable for manual work might be out of all proportion to the benefit conferred on the workers. In 1926 the Government of India introduced another Bill in which it was proposed to prescribe that the temperature should not be injurious to health, and to vest local Governments with the power of prescribing temperature standards. This also met with adverse criticism, and the Government of India accordingly postponed a decision and has so far taken no action.
We do not think that any satisfactory solution can be found which depends on the prescription of standards of temperature and their general enforcement irrespective of the circumstances of particular factories. There are factories where a substantial reduction is possible at a profit to the owner; there are others where the cost of even a trifling reduction might be ruinous. It seems legitimate and reasonable that in most cases regard should be had, not merely to the height of the temperature or of the cooling power (which is the better measure, as it takes account of air movement), but also to both the cost of the measures which can be adopted to improve conditions and the extent of the improvement likely to result from these measures. The aim should be to ensure that, when cooling power is deficient, reasonable measures of improvement shall not be neglected. We think that this can be secured by the following means. Where a Chief Inspector is of opinion that (1) the cooling power in a factory is so deficient as to cause serious discomfort or danger to the health of operatives, and (2) it can be appreciably increased by methods which do not involve an amount of expense which is unreasonable in the circumstances, he should be able to serve on the owner an order requiring the adoption of specified measures within a given time. Against such an order we would provide for an appeal to a tribunal of three appointed by the local Government, the intention being that the Chairman of the tribunal should be an impartial official and the other members representative of employers and employed with a knowledge of the industry. We think it is most unlikely that an experienced inspector would make any unreasonable demand. But an adequate safeguard should be found in the presence of a tribunal which would be able to decide if the order was reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
We have been dealing above primarily with factories where the nature of the processes does not necessitate any modification of the natural atmosphere or climate. The case is different where the employer artificially alters the atmospheric conditions. Humidification is employed in India in cotton textile factories and a few cigarette-making factories. In the latter, it does not appear to be carried to an extent which produces discomfort. In the former a high degree of humidity is necessary, and, in securing this, it is possible to cause acute discomfort to the operative. On the other hand, it is possible to raise the humidity and add to the comfort of the operative.
The effect depends largely on the system of humidification employed, and here there has been an encouraging improvement in recent years. Some of the cotton mills which we visited are, in the hot weather, much pleasanter than the outside atmosphere and we understand that those employers who have spent large sums in installing the best cooling and humidifying plants have had gratifying results in production. This improvement has followed, and is to some extent traceable to, the investigation conducted for the Government of India by Mr Maloney. The main object of the enquiry was to devise a reasonable method of controlling the use of humidification, and Mr. Maloney suggested a basis, which is being gradually, if lowly, adopted. We received no serious criticism of the solution suggested in the report, and we consider that rigorous action should be taken against those factories where conditions are worst. Side by side with the advanced mills, there are others where the atmosphere in the weaving shed-is almost unendurable, even in the cold weather. There is no justification, except possibly defects in the law, for permitting the continuance of the conditions that prevail in the worst sheds. It was suggested to us in Bombay that the provisions of the Factories Act are not sufficiently elastic to permit of the framing of all the rules that are desirable. This point deserves attention. In particular we note that section 9 appears to contemplate only the prevention of practices definitely injurious to health; it should also protect the operative from serious discomfort, even where injury to health is not a necessary result.