Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The composition of the Assam Labour Board has given rise to some criticism. It consists of 15 members, all of whom are representatives of the tea industry, and an official chairman appointed by the Government of India. The Board is required by law to meet at least twice a year, once to pass the budget and again to pass the annual report; very rarely does it meet more frequently. The ordinary business of the Board is entrusted to an Executive Committee consisting of the Chairman and four members, which also meets infrequently, much of its work being done by the circulation of papers. The industry has cast its net far and wide in its search for labour, and the activities of the Board extend to five different provinces and a number of small feudatory states. Under the Chairman are three supervisors whose main function is to supervise the work of local agents whose depots are scattered over this wide area. Almost the entire expenses of the Board and its supervisors are met out of a cess payable by the owners of gardens in respect of emigrants and sardars, Government bearing only a small proportion of the salary of the official Chairman together with his leave and pensionary charges. The main feature of the Board is that it is predominantly an employers' organisation and the Chairman, while acting as the chief executive officer of the Board, has also to represent on it essentially different, and sometimes opposing, interests. Further, although Act VI of 1901 applies to labour recruited for all industries in Assam, representation on the Board is confined to the tea industry. It is not, therefore, surprising that in some quarters an impression exists that the Board is a recruiting organisation of the tea industry. The successful working of the Board depends on the close co-operation of the industry, as the local agents are not its servants but employed under a separate and independent organisation. The Board itself has little or no authority, and all it can do is to make recommendations to the industry or to Governments. Further, with the exception of the Chairman, the Board represents substantially the same interests as the principal recruiting organisation, the Tea Districts Labour Association. We were informed that the Board discouraged attempts to form other recruiting organisations, and, while we recognise that an increase of competition in recruiting is fraught with danger, it is hardly possible to expect employers, who are not members of the Tea Districts Labour Association or who differ from its policy, to feel complete confidence in the impartiality of the Board as at present constituted.