Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The conditions obtaining in the Dooars are in many respects similar to those in Assam. The labour force is equally unorganised and the employers are represented by two independent organisations, namely, the Dooars Planters' Association and the Indian Tea Planters' Association. The former, which consists mainly of European planters, represents 128 gardens with an acreage of over 120, 000 or more than 90 per cent of the total acreage under tea cultivation in the Dooars. The other Association represents the interests of Indian planters, mainly in the Dooars, but its membership also includes a few planters in Assam and in the Terai. The total acreage under tea represented by this Association is about 25, 000. Formerly the system of payment was to fix a hazira for the daily task, while the worker, if he desired, could in addition earn overtime, which was known as doubli. With the rapid increase in the cost of living the planter preferred not to increase the rate of wages, but to decrease the task by introducing the system of a second and even a third hazira. The general rate of payment for the hazira is 4 annas for men, and 3 annas for women and children. It was stated that, on an average, a worker now takes about 3 1/2 hours and 2 1/2 hours respectively to complete the first and second hazira; the completion of three haziras normally requires about 8 1/2 hours, but in a few instances workers are said to be able to complete 4 or even 5 haziras in one day. The labourers work in gangs under a sardar who, in addition to a monthly wage, receives from the planter a commission of one piece for each hazira worked by his men. In a number of gardens the wages are paid in a lump sum to the sardar who in turn pays the individual labourer. We were informed that this system had not led to any unauthorised deductions by the sardars, but it is fraught with danger to the labourer, who is frequently in debt to his sardar. For this reason we recommend that the direct method of payment should be universally adopted. The payment for the first hazira is made to the workers monthly, but the extra haziras are paid to them weekly. In the matter of concessions, the policy pursued in the Dooars is similar to that in Assam, and the factors to which we referred in dealing with Assam apply equally here. The representatives of the two planters' associations admitted that there was an understanding among their members not to raise the rates of wages. No limit is imposed on individual earnings and in some cases workers have been able to earn as much as Re. 1 or even Re. 1-4 in a day. No official statistics of average earnings are available, but we were informed by the representatives of the Dooars Planters' Association that the average monthly earnings in 1929 were Rs. 14-4-1 for men, Rs. 10-5-8 for women and Rs. 2-14-5 for children.