National Commission on Labour (1967)||
29.3 Beyond a mention in the 1946 Policy Statement, Government have hitherto paid inadequate attention to these workers despite the fact that they constitute a fair proportion of those who produce goods and provide services. Even in the organised sector, a section of the total labour force has to be left out of the purview of legislation, because some establishments employ workers less than the minimum number prescribed in the law. In the absence of proper organisation, they are not able to establish their reasonable claims and secure proper working conditions. It is a common complaint that the benefits of labour legislation have not reached rural and unorganised labour. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 was the first attempt at statutory regulation of wages, and to some extent, working conditions of labour employed in the sweated trades. Labour engaged in these employments, being unorganised, had weak bargaining power and had been deprived of reasonable wage and working conditions. Apart from the ineffectively implemented Minimum Wages Act, they do not have any other legislative protection. The Factories Act, 1948 and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, which contain specific and
detailed provisions for items within their purview, were not designed to meet the conditions of and requirements in unorganised industries and employments. In taking cognisance of the plight of such labour, the Third Plan mentioned : "while considerable improvements had occurred in the living and working conditions of employees in large and organised industries, owing both to State activity and trade union action, a great deal of lee-way remained to be made up in respect of the workers engaged in agriculture and unorganised industries and that their conditions should become a matter of special concern to government as well as to labour organisations".1 A reference was also made in the Plan to the building and construction industry in which programmes of expansion called for greater attention to safety standards. The informal meeting of Labour Ministers in August, 1962 endorsed the Plan Statement and called for (i) greater attention to be paid to the conditions of labour in unorganised industries which could not be governed by legislation effectively; (ii) formulation of a separate code for laying down minimum service and working conditions for them; and (iii) appointment of labour officers to assist in "the" proper enforcement of the code in (ii) above in spite of this decision, no satisfactory machinery has been reported to have been set up for taking cognisance of labour disputes in several States. It is against this assessment pf policy that we examine the matters in regard to the specific categories referred to in the Opening paragraph.