Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
We have been supplied with statements regarding revisions of wages made during the war and post-war years to meet the changes in the cost of living. War allowances were given on various railways from 1917 and increased from time to time, until they were merged in general revisions of the scale of pay carried out between the years 1920 and 1922. We are informed by the Railway Board that the scheme of revision was framed with due regard to the increased cost of living in the various provinces traversed by the several railways and that, as the lower paid employees were particularly affected by the increase in the cost of the necessaries of life, the percentages were fixed on a sliding scale, giving much larger proportionate increases in the lower grades. The following table indicates the percentages of increase over 1914 scales of pay which were merged in the general revision of 1920. Figures are given for each of six railways (A. B. C. D. E. F.) operating in different parts of the country and take no account of grain compensation or other allowances:—
|Percentage increase on railways with headquarters in|
|Pre-war monthly rates of pay.|
In the case of some railways, where workers were receiving Re. 6 and under, wages were raised to Rs. 12 in 1920.
In view of the fall in the cost of living in recent years, there was, in the opinion of the Board, no occasion to undertake a further revision of a general character, although pay meantime has been improved in individual grades and classes, the resulting cost in the aggregate being considerable. We are also informed that an officer placed on special duty with the Railway Board reported, after an enquiry, that in the revisions of scales of pay immediately following the war, railway employees had fared appreciably better than local Government employees on corresponding rates of pay. The numbers of grades and varying scales of pay rising on an incremental basis, as well as promotions from one grade to another, make it difficult to give a detailed comparison of increases in wages. We have been furnished by the Railway Board with statements showing scales of pay of important classes. From these we have selected gangmen, pointsmen, ticket collectors and signallers as representative of workers whose wages are not materially affected by overtime, mileage or other allowances. In the Appendix to this chapter we give a comparison of the minimum scales of pay of these selected grades on the six railways included in the above table. This statement shows the minimum rates ruling in 1914, 1921 and 1929; but, as these rates in some cases apply only to certain sections of the lines, we have given both the minimum and the maximum scales in force in 1929 before the recent revisions sanctioned by the Railway Board came into effect.
Figures have been supplied to indicate the improvements in wage earnings since 1914. Taking labour alone, i.e., all employees except supervisory and clerical staff,, the Railway Board estimate the rise in the average wage in 1928-29 over that in 1913-14 as approximately 124%, after taking into account a rise of 26% in the number of employees on all railways. We recognise the danger of making comparisons of this description, in view of the expansion that has taken place in railways since 1914, the increase in the volume of business handled and the consequential increase in staff and working costs. We have extracted from the annual reports of the Railway Board the following figures, showing the increases since 1914 in route mileage, in traffic expressed in terms of passenger and ton miles, in working expenses and in staff numbers and cost on the twelve Class I railways under examination, namely:—
|Route mileage||30, 533||34, 689||14|
|Passenger miles (in millions)||15, 707||20, 705||32|
|Ton miles (in millions) ..||15, 213||21, 209||39|
|Working Expenses (in lakhs)||Rs. 3, 129||6, 961||122|
|Number of employees (excluding construction and contractor labour) ..||597, 415||751, 808||26|
|Cost of above in lakhs||Rs. 1, 362||3, 726||173|
|Cost after allowing for increase of 26% in|
|number of employees||Rs. 1, 715||3, 726||117|
These figures cover all staff, superior and subordinate, permanent and temporary, employed on open line, excluding construction staff and all contractors' staff. The 1928-29 figures, however, include bonus contributions to the Provident Fund and gratuities not debited in 1913-14 and to that extent differ from the pre-war year's figures. Nevertheless the comparison bears out the Railway Board's estimate of the increase in labour costs and gives an indication of the increase in earnings of railway workers since 1914. On the other hand, the index figures of the cost of living published in the Labour Gazette of the Government of Bombay indicate a fall in the percentage increase over July 1914 from the 1920 average of 90% to an average of 48% for 1929 and to 22% at the end of 1930. Although the position of railway workers generally would appear to have improved considerably in recent years, as regards both earning capacity and buying power, the Railway Board recognise that accepted standards are being raised, and what would have been regarded as satisfactory even ten years ago is no longer sufficient. Early in 1929, therefore, they set on foot a systematic examination of the service conditions of lower paid employees, with the result that revised scales of pay for these employees have been sanctioned and put into effect on three of the state-owned and state-managed railways at an estimated annual cost of Rs. 26 lakhs per annum. Revisions of pay have also been sanctioned for two of the company-managed railways, involving additional expenditure of over Rs. 6 lakhs annually, and it is stated that elsewhere similar improvements are under discussion. Moreover, enquiries as to the pay of other subordinate employees on scales higher than those recently revised or under revision have been instituted. We appreciate the difficulties caused by the present depression in trade and realise that the extent and rate of the desired improvements are conditioned by the ability of the railways and of traffic to bear the additional expenditure required. It must be kept in view, however, that of 759, 000 employees on the twelve Class I railways under review on 31st March 1930, 408, 000 or 54% were in receipt of less than Rs. 20 per month. We recommend, therefore, that the claims of low paid workers to improved wage standards should continue to receive careful consideration from the Railway Board and the administrations concerned.