Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Before we deal in detail with the provisions of Act VI of 1901, and the question of its revision, it would be convenient to describe briefly the working of the present system of recruitment. Under the Act the only recognised method of recruitment is through the agency of garden sardars. The manager of a tea garden in Assam appoints as a sardar a worker who is willing to return to his home to bring up other members of his family or fresh recruit's and gives him a sardar's certificate on which is shown the area in which he may recruit labour for the garden and the local agent to whom he is accredited. The certificate is countersigned by the magistrate of the district in which the garden is situated and is kept by the sardar in a tin cover which is suspended round his neck.
The manager pays the sardar his rail fare and other necessary expenses to the nearest forwarding station of the Tea Districts Labour Association, namely, Gauhatior Goalundo. On arrival there, the sardar is met by the agent of the Association and escorted to the transit depot, where he is fed and his papers are verified. He is then given a rail ticket and travelling expenses to the local agent's depot which is nearest to his village. The sardar in due course reports himself to the local agent who, after checking his papers, gives him a cash advance sufficient for the journey to his village and for his maintenance for a month or so. The sardar now departs and, if and when he returns to the local agent's office, he reports the prospects of recruitment and asks for a further advance. He may even bring a recruit or two with him in order to satisfy the local agent that he means business, for the number of recruits he is likely to secure determines the amount of the second advance. The recruit produced by the sardar is questioned by the local agent who, if satisfied that there is no valid objection to his being sent to Assam, enters in a register his name and other particulars as prescribed by the local Government. If so required, he also sends a copy of this register to the District Magistrate. The recruit is fed whilst he is kept at the local agent's depot and is given a first payment of five rupees, a few utensils, one or two blankets and some clothing. He is sent with the sardar or, if the sardar sees a prospect of further recruits, in charge of a peon to Goalundo or Gauhati where he is received in the transit depot. The Agent of the Tea Districts Labour Association then arranges for the final stage of his journey to the garden to which he has been recruited. Neither the sardar nor the local agent requires the recruit to sign any agreement, and his engagement is purely oral. The conditions of employment are explained to the recruit by the sardar, but it is the local agent's duty, by examining the recruit, to satisfy himself, so far as his knowledge allows, that there has been no material misrepresentation by the sardar. On his return to the garden the sardar is paid a commission which is generally stated to be ten rupees in the Surma valley and twenty rupees in the Assam valley for each recruit but, as there is no recognised limit, the amount paid by some gardens is considerably higher.