Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
May it please Your Majesty,
††† We, the Commissioners appointed to enquire into and report on the existing conditions of labour in industrial undertakings and plantations in British India, on the health, efficiency and standard of living of the workers, and on the relations between employers and employed, and to make recommendations; humbly submit to Your Majesty the following Report.
Our Report is signed by all of us with the exception of Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola who was elected President of the legislative Assembly on the 17th of January 1931. From that date he was unable to take further part in our proceedings and for this reason he does not sign the Report. We are grateful to him for the help which he gave until he was called to other duties.
After our. appointment, we prepared a list of subjects on which we particularly desired information, and arranged for its despatch, with a short covering letter, to those bodies and individuals who appealed likely to be in a position to provide information of value, inviting them to send memoranda. The letter and the list will be found in an Appendix to this Report. Thereafter we assembled at Bombay on 11th October 1929, and began our public sessions at Karachi four days later. Between that date and 22nd March 1930, the Commission was continuously on tour and visited all the eight major provinces of British India (excluding Burma), and Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara and Coorg. During the course of this tour we held 107 public sessions at 37 different places, which included all the leading industrial centres in India proper. We met again in London on 3rd June 1930, and between that date and 13th August 1930 we held there 24 sessions for recording evidence and for the consideration of the material then in our hands. Thereafter we left England for Burma, spending on the way 4 days in Ceylon for the purpose of gaining certain information relating to conditions in plantations in that island. We reached Burma on 19th October 1930 and, after a tour there, sailed for India on 11th November 1930. We met again in Delhi for the preparation of this Report. Prefaced to it is a sketch map of our tours, which extended to 16, 000 miles, exclusive of the journeys between London and Bombay and Colombo. In the course of our enquiry we held in all 128 public sittings for the examination of witnesses and 71 private sessions.
In each province we were aided in our enquiries by Assistant Commissioners, who were selected with the help of provincial Governments as representatives of employing and labouring interests. We had the co-operation of a special body of Assistant Commissioners in respect of railway questions. In addition, we had associated with us in most areas one or more ladies with local knowledge and experience. A list of all those who served in these capacities is appended to the Report. We thus bad the advantage of being associated with a body of men and women who, though they took no part in the framing of our Report, brought to our sessions a wealth of wide experience, intimate local knowledge, and wise counsel.
In all the centres visited we invited a selection of those witnesses who had forwarded memoranda to appear before us for oral examination, and we were thus enabled to examine representatives of all the Governments, all the leading associations of employers, nearly all the leading labour associations and a large number of individual witnesses, both official and non-official. We also visited as many industrial undertakings and plantations as we could in order to familiarise ourselves with the nature of the work, to come into closer contact with managements and workers, and to enable us to form a true judgment of the conditions. We made 180 such visits. In addition, in all the more important centres, we made inspections of housing conditions in the areas where the workers live and of hospitals and other institutions which concerned our enquiry. As our tour progressed we found it increasingly useful to examine workers selected by ourselves at the scene of their work or near their own homes. We were thus able, in many cases, to secure evidence of a character which could not have been obtained by summoning the witnesses in question to more formal surroundings. After we had completed the greater part of our first tour, the importance of covering a wide field in the time available made it necessary for us at times to sit in two panels. When these met in the same centre, one panel dealt with railway witnesses. In the Madras Presidency the panel system was employed to enable us to visit more areas than would otherwise have been possible.
Our request for written memoranda met with a liberal response. In all 490 such memoranda were submitted. These represent an immense amount of thought and labour on the part of all concerned and in many cases a large amount of expense, generously borne. Governments, associations of employers and employed, officials and other experts and private individuals have all endeavored to furnish for our assistance the results of their experience in the best form available. The oral evidence, to which 837 persons contributed by appearing before us, has been supplied with equal generosity, and a number of witnessesó placed vs further in their debt by furnishing supplementary statements at a later date. In some cases we have to comment on lack of information which we would have liked to obtain but this lack is due almost entirely to such information not being available in any form, and not to any reluctance to give it to us. We are conscious that exigencies of time and space have prevented us from making the fullest use of all the material supplied. But, whatever the value of our Report the volumes of evidence which accompany it constitute a source which, for years to come, should yield a wealth of information, not available elsewhere, for the study of labour questions.
No trouble was spared by all concerned to facilitate our enquiries, and to assist us in our tours. We would acknowledge especially the generous hospitality with which we were everywhere received, and the facilities and ready help given to us in our inspections. Oar thanks are also due to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Ceylon Government, the the Ceylon Association in London and the Planters' Association of Ceylon for their valuable help: and to the Director of the International Labour Office, who placed the resources of that office at our disposal, and readily responded to our requests for information. We would thank all responsible for the accommodation freely placed at our disposal for our work in India, and the High Commissioner for India, who permitted us to use the new India House for our meetings in London.
The Report falls into six main divisions. Conditions of employment and work in the factory industries are discussed first (Chapters 11 to VII). Four chapters follow on similar questions in relation to mines, railways and other forms of industrial activity (Chapters VIII to XI). This completes the review of working conditions in industry, and we pass to the standard of life of the industrial worker (Chapters XII to XV). The next group of chapters is devoted to general questions related mainly to the industrial worker, namely, workmen's compensation, trade unions and trade disputes (Chapters XVI to XVIII). We then turn to the plantations and deal in four chapters with the work and life of plantation workers (Chapters XIX to XXII). After discussing certain special questions relating to Burma, we deal in turn with statistics, general administration and the constitution in relation to labour (Chapters XXIII to XXV).
The Report attempts throughout to fulfil the dual task laid upon us of reporting on existing conditions and of making recommendations. We have come to our work from very different fields of experience. This has been most valuable in ensuring that every question is seen from several differing angles, but it has made it no simple task to present a common picture. While each of us, writing individually, might have placed the emphasis differently in some places, we have tried in our survey to express collective views, and have, we hope, succeeded in †moulding our individual appreciations of the position into a consistent whole. Every one who has any familiarity with India realises the danger of generalisations regarding so vast a country. Yet it is impossible to prepare a survey in reasonable compass without generalisations. While, therefore, we have endeavoured to obtain as literal accuracy as possible, it is necessary to bear in mind that it would be possible to adduce some exception to a number of the general statements made. In a few cases, we are aware of isolated employers, small groups of workers or even minor industries to which such statements are inapplicable. We believe, however, that such generalisations as are made are accurate in the sense that the exceptions are not of sufficient importance to affect our conclusions.
We are writing at a time when circumstances, both economic and political, are exceptional. In the economic sphere India, in common with many other countries, is facing a period of stress. Indian industry is involved in the general depression, and many of the industries with which we are concerned are facing serious difficulties which, we hope, will soon be surmounted. With orderly progress in India, her industry should have a great future. But the present position is one of anxiety for industrialists, for many workers and for all concerned in Government. We have considered the extent to which we should allow our recommendations to be influenced by the events of the last year, and have concluded that it would be wrong for us to give these any large influence. India has the right to expect from us, not a series of recommendations framed in the light of the existing crisis, but a considered programme for the development of labour policy. As a matter of fact nearly all our evidence relates to conditions in 1929 or early 1930, before the present crisis developed. Our survey, therefore, is a survey of conditions as they then stood and, for the most part, our recommendations are framed with reference to circumstances as they then existed. If the execution of some of the changes we advocate is made more difficult by reason of the present position, others are thereby rendered more easy to introduce. Some recommendations involve no expense, others call for financial outlay; but, as a whole, they are calculated to secure increased prosperity. It is sometimes assumed that good conditions for labour involve a sacrifice for industry. But, in the experience of India, there is abundant evidence to show that a generous policy in respect of labour is a wise policy in respect of industry. It is not possible for India to secure a permanent advance for her industries at the expense of her labour, and we are confident that this is far from her desire. In the views submitted to us, the suggestion that cheap labour is a national asset was seldom made. On the contrary, there is widespread recognition of the fact that industrial activity finds its strength and much of its justification in the prosperity of all who contribute to it. We have attempted to exercise as much foresight as we can, and we believe that the principles underlying our recommendations are likely to abide; but we have not attempted to anticipate the problems and difficulties of a future generation.
The present time is not less exceptional in the political sphere. Our work in India has been carried on when political issues have loomed large, and, as we write, great constitutional changes are being considered. We are happy to record the fact that political controversies have not prevented many who hold widely differing views in politics from co-operating with us for the benefit of labour; and we have been able to frame the great majority of our recommendations without reference to possible changes in the constitution. The needs of labour are evident, and the methods we recommend for meeting those needs are largely independent of the nature of the government of the country. " The nation in every country dwells in the cottage ", and the well-being of the people must be the primary concern of any government, whatever its form and composition. Our experience gives us the hope that in the India of the future the welfare of the workers will receive an increasing measure of wise thought and of generous action on the part of all who can influence their lives.
Diwan Chaman Lall desires to add that opinions must diner regarding the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence and he regards the recommendations as the minimum which should be enforced without delay.