Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
We believe that the industry also is likely to gain from the introduction of wage-fixing machinery. For years the position of the worker in Assam has been the subject of widespread suspicion in other parts of India. In reviewing the conditions obtaining in Assam, it has been our endeavour to indicate how far that suspicion is justified and how far it is based on ignorance or misrepresentation.
We hope that our efforts will be of some assistance both in dispelling prejudice and in removing the grounds for complaint which at present exist. We have tried to show, especially in the preceding and following chapters, that in some directions the industry has gone to commendable lengths in the attempt to secure a contented labour force. By improving existing conditions it should be possible for the planters in Assam to offer intending recruits conditions greatly superior to those prevailing in the recruiting areas. At the same time, nothing would do more to restore confidence in such areas than the knowledge that the recruit was assured of the form of protection obtainable through statutory wage-fixing machinery. The existence of gardens where the wage rates can be cut reacts unfavourably on the whole industry; and unsatisfactory conditions, even on a few gardens, keep alive all the old prejudices against Assam and make it more difficult for even the best gardens to secure recruits. Moreover, the potential recruit is more likely to understand the position and to appreciate the advantage held out to him, if he knows precisely what pecuniary return is obtainable for his labour. The inauguration of wage-fixing machinery, therefore, should be as much to the benefit of the industry as to that of the workers employed in it. If the industry were in a position to give an assurance in the recruiting districts that on no garden could the rates fall below specified limits, a continuous source of danger should be eliminated; and the mere establishment of the rates at present prevailing in the better gardens should in itself constitute an important aid to recruiting. The establishment, of minimum rates in Ceylon and Malaya has come mainly from the desire of India to ensure that its nationals who emigrate receive fair treatment. The establishment of wage-fixing machinery in the Assam tea industry should give the same assurance in respect of the emigrant to Assam and thus go far in placing that province and its main industry in a position where they would receive the sympathy and co-operation of all fair-minded men in the recruiting provinces.