Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Before discussing in detail the problems associated with the health and housing of the industrial worker to which we devote this and the following chapter, we desire to explain the attitude we have adopted in considering these difficult questions. The need for great improvements is undeniable, and it is fairly generally recognised. What is not so generally realised is the fact that these great improvements can be secured. The application of the knowledge of preventive medicine which has been acquired in recent years in respect of the existing evils would effect a great transformation. Much of the misery arising from sickness and disease can be prevented by methods which are well known and well tested. We cannot, however, overlook the fact that our proposals, if adopted, will involve a considerable, expenditure and on this aspect we have two observations to make.
In the first place, it is necessary, in respect both of health and housing, to take a long view. We should have been doing a poor service to India if, in this direction, we had limited our outlook to what is possible here and now. Even if the present moment had not been one of great financial stringency, it would have been unwise to confine our recommendations to whet was immediately possible. The proper treatment of problems of public health demands a considered programme; the attempt to deal with them piecemeal too often involves the frittering away of financial resources. It follows that progress in the provision of adequate medical facilities, the development of welfare schemes and the construction of working class houses must inevitably be gradual and that expenditure will be spaced over a considerable period of years. We do not suggest, therefore, that all our recommendations in the next two chapters can be dealt with either immediately or simultaneously, but we have attempted to lay down a policy and a programme ensuring gradual and progressive advance. We believe our proposals to be practicable and they are necessary if the workers' standards of living are to be raised to a reasonable level. It is from this point of view that they should be considered; with energy, goodwill and co-operation we are convinced that they can be successfully carried out.
In the second place, expenditure on public health, besides yielding an immense return in human happiness, is bound to produce great economic advantages. There are few directions offering such great opportunities for profitable investment on the part of the State. The economic loss involved in the birth and rearing of great numbers of children who do not live to make any return to the community, in the sickness and disease which debilitate a large proportion of the workers and in early death, with the consequent reduction of the earning years, is incalculable. Even a small step in the prevention of these ills would have an appreciable effect in increasing the wealth of India; a courageous attack on them might produce a revolution in the standards of life and prosperity.
We feel that the time for inaction and delay is past and that, particularly in regard to housing, it is imperative that an immediate beginning should be made. To those who assert that India cannot afford to spend more on public health, we would reply that she can no longer afford to do otherwise.