Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
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The demand for dock labour is intermittent; it depends upon the arrival and departure of vessels and the size and nature of their cargo as well as on seasonal and cyclical fluctuations. In India, the monsoon is an additional factor affecting both shipping arrangements and the amount of produce available for export. In all ports, therefore, there is usually labour in excess of immediate requirements, and the tendency is for employers to encourage larger reserves than necessary in order to provide ample margins against emergencies. We visited the leading ports and received both written and oral evidence regarding the conditions of employment. Usually the port authorities maintain a permanent establishment under their direct control, but the bulk of the labour engaged in loading and unloading is casual and is employed indirectly through stevedores or other contractors. In regard to the latter, there is no uniform system of employment in the different ports. In Karachi, the loading and unloading on the docks is entrusted to stevedores who employ jemadars or headmen to provide the necessary labour. The jemadar receives payment from the stevedore for the work done by his gang, the members of which are in turn paid by him. At Bombay the casual dock labourers are employed through toliwalas, who are paid by the Port Trust at piece-work rates on the tonnage handled. The toliwalas pay their men sometimes on tonnage and sometimes at daily rates, according to the nature of the cargo. Some of the bigger toliwalas may have 10 to 15 gangs working under them, while the smaller ones control two or three gangs; the average size of each gang is 15 to 18. The Port Trust have about 40 or 50 toliwalas on their register. In Calcutta, most of the dock labour is supplied by one firm of contractors and is not directly employed by the Port Commissioners.
The establishments maintained by the latter at the coal berths and tea warehouses are recruited after personal inspection by the Deputy Jetty Superintendent. The labour supplied by the contractor is recruited chiefly from Bihar and the United Provinces through sardars. For handling heavy cargo and certain other classes of work the contractors employ monthly paid labour working in gangs of 20 men each under a sardar but paid individually by the firm. Most of the work is paid on the piece-work system through sardars, who maintain gangs of from 40 to 100 men each and who are paid according to the tonnage handled by their gangs. The earnings of each. gang are distributed among the men by the sardar who deducts half an anna in the rupee as his share, except where he himself is a working member in the gang, in which case he retains two shares, one for his work and the other as his commission. The representatives of the firm of contractors stated in evidence that their agents maintain personal touch with the men to prevent unauthorised deductions by the sardar. In Rangoon, with the exception of 30 labourers employed in the warehouses who are on monthly wages, no dock labourers are employed on the staff of the Port Commissioners. The work of loading and unloading ships at wharves and jetties is given out on contract for which tenders are invited. The present firm of contractors are paid on the basis of tonnage loaded and shipped. They maintain a permanent establishment of 250 men who are paid monthly wages, but in addition engage casual labour at daily rates as required. The maistries or sardars and labourers are paid separately by the contractors. In Madras, the Port Trust employ a small departmental staff of two or three hundred men in their sheds, but most of the handling of cargo is done by contract labour. Besides the labour employed by or on behalf of the Port Trusts, there is the labour employed by shipping companies or stevedores. Here, too, the main feature is the absence of direct employment. The shipping companies or stevedores employ foremen, known variously as tindals, mukaddams, gang maistries. jamadars, joliwalas, or sardars. Each of these brings one or more gangs of dock labourers who work under his supervision and receive their wages from him. The shipping companies or stevedores pay the foreman for the work done and leave it to him to distribute the amount among his men. In Rangoon and sometimes also in other ports, it is the recognised practice for the foreman to increase his own earnings by employing fewer men in the gang than the number specified and paid for by the company.