Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Before going on to discuss in detail the present system of recruitment and the changes we advocate, it is desirable to say something regarding the character and effects of migration to Assam, particularly as we found evidence in some quarters of a desire to discourage and even to prevent such migration. Reference has already been made to two points of difference between migration to the plantations and migration to the factories, namely the plantations desire to attract women and children as well as men, and the change of work involved is not radical. Both of these features are prominently associated with recruitment for Assam. The planters there have consistently endeavoured to build up a labour force permanently settled in Assam, and this has given an additional impulse to the recruitment of families rather than individuals. Many labourers receive from the tea gardens small plots of land to cultivate their own crops, so that they are not only labourers but. also, in a small way, agriculturalists on their own account. In this and a number of other respects, which we discuss when we deal with conditions on the gardens, the life and environment of the labourer have a closer resemblance to ordinary village conditions than to the life of the big cities. The recruit to an Assam tea garden has in many cases a prospect which is not limited to employment on a garden, for there is the possibility of becoming an independent cultivator in Assam. There has been a steady movement of labour from the tea gardens to the adjoining bastis or villages where labourers have been able to acquire Government land for cultivation. This movement has been assisted by, the Government of Assam which is anxious to promote the colonisation of a sparsely populated province. Over 600, 000 ex-garden labourers are settled on Government land, and in the census report for 1921 it was estimated that the total number of " foreigners " in the province attributable to the tea industry, was 1-1/3 millions, i.e., 1/6th of the whole population of Assam. We shall have occasion later to dwell on the less satisfactory features of tea garden life and their responsibility for the chronic scarcity of labour; but it should be recognised that one of the important causes is far from being a discredit to the industry, namely, the fact that many of those who serve it are able to leave it for a more independent existence.