Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The housing problem in mining areas presents features somewhat different from those in other industries. The nature of the mine and its probable length of life have a direct bearing on housing policy. The difficulty of obtaining sites with a solid foundation is a handicap to substantial housing schemes. Subsidences caused by underground workings are constantly encroaching on suitable sites and have resulted in damage TO existing accommodation. In addition, over 400 coal mines have been closed down during the last nine years, and, although the total number of employees has been reduced by nearly 25, 000, the housing problem has been complicated by the movement of labour from the mines which have been closed, to the larger and better organised collieries. The average number of workers has increased from about 200 to over 300 per mine. Housing for all resident labour is generally provided rent-free by the companies, but certain classes of workers prefer to live in their own villages and may walk considerable distances to and from their work. Provided the distance is not too great, this mode of life has many advantages; there can be no comparison between the Santal villages seen by us and some of the depressing lines of dhowrahs built on mine properties. In the Raniganj collieries the owners sometimes provide plots of land adjoining the houses in order to induce the workers to settle permanently. In both the Raniganj and the Jharia coalfields, all housing construction is governed by regulations laid down by the Jharia and Asansol Mines Boards of Health, which were constituted in 1913 and 1915 respectively and have been able to effect considerable improvements. In the Jharia area, the common type of house is the " arched dhow-rah" built of brick and cement concrete; in Asansol a large number of the recently constructed houses have tiled roofs, and two-storeyed buildings are also found in a few instances. Many of the lines leave much room for improvement. The arched dhowrahs, although possibly cool in the hot weather, are often dark and ill-ventilated, and few are fitted with windows. The single room, 10' X 10', serves as kitchen, store room, living and sleeping room. As cooking must be done either in the room or in the arched verandah in front and ventilation is usually defective, the inner walls quickly become coated with smoke and soot. When dhowrahs are erected back to hack, as is sometimes the case, these defects are further aggravated. The classes from which the miners are drawn are accustomed to build their village homes neither in long lines nor in, rows of rooms arranged back to back: on the contrary each family has its individual hut with a small enclosed space which ensures some degree of privacy. In some of the newer types of colliery houses we saw, ventilation and lighting were reasonably satisfactory, but windows were seldom provided. We consider that in all new houses both a window and roof ventilation should be provided. On one colliery small blocks of two to four houses have been recently constructed; each house has its compound wall and courtyard or private verandah. These partitioned units are not only more in conformity with the customs and desires of the miners but secure good natural light and ventilation, and we recommend a more extended use of this and similar types.
It should be easier to find the lesser sites sufficient to accommodate these small blocks of houses than the larger sites required for long barrack lines. As electric power is available on most of the collieries, it might be possible, without undue expenditure, to erect standard lights in and around the house lines.