Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
We received a considerable volume of evidence in respect of the conditions of tannery workers and took occasion to visit a number on the outskirts of the chief industrial cities. As the handling of skins and hides is obnoxious to most castes, the workers in this industry come largely from the depressed classes. In every case (in contrast to some of the larger tanneries which came under the Factories Act) we were struck by the lack of adequate sanitary arrangements, which make the bulk of such places even more offensive than is inevitable from the nature of the industry. Adequate drainage was absent and often the whole earth-floor space, spread over a wide area, was littered with heaps of evil-smelling refuse and sodden with pools of filthy water. There were no washing arrangements and, in the majority of cases, no latrine accommodation. In a number of instances the workers had no alternative but to eat the food they had brought with them in the midst of such surroundings. Hours were long, often 12 and sometimes in excess of 12, and, whereas few women were employed, in the Madras Presidency children of from 8 to 12 years, as well as older boys, were found at work in the vats and elsewhere. Their hours sometimes exceeded those of the adults owing to the necessity of performing certain additional tasks such as water carrying, vat filling, etc., for which they receive no additional cash wages but merely two dhotis a year. We feel that the statutory protection of the workers in this industry is essential because of the nature of the work and the class of worker employed, which from long social tradition is peculiarly powerless to help itself.