Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
As Rangoon acts as a labour pool for the whole province there is a large floating population in addition to the resident labour force. The number of Indians permanently employed is very small compared with the, total numbers. Housing is provided by employers for a substantial proportion of the former, generally in the form of barracks. Some of these are of a fair standard. but much of the accommodation, is capable of considerable improvement. The barracks are subject to inspection by the Corporation. but that authority rarely insists on enforcement of its own regulations. In many cases the buildings are two-storeyed, and arranged back to back, whilst sanitation is defective. In spite of these defects, they are superior to anything else available for labour in Rangoon, but they are very different from the type of housing to which the worker is accustomed. The Corporation has provided houses for about 20% of its employees and proposes to extend its building programme until it has accommodated 60% of its staff, whilst the Rangoon Port Commissioners have also built quarters for a proportion of their permanent, employees. Generally speaking, temporary employees and casual labourers find shelter in buildings registered as lodging-houses by the Municipality. Most of these places are situated in the he art of the city, where land is expensive and rents are high, and in 1928 there were 1, 659 such houses licensed for 75.777 persons. There is a large population for whom no proper housing is available, and these overcrowd the lodging-houses beyond the licensed limits. A lodging-house usually consists of a single room without windows or ventilation openings and with no sanitary arrangements. The room is leased on payment of a lump sum to a gang maistry, who crowds in as many labourers as he can. Each tenant pays from Rs. 2 to Rs. 4 rent per month. The committee which reported on the Public Health of Rangoon in 1926 describes a room in which were counted 50 persons, aIthough the number allowed by municipal regulation was only nine. " Every inch of floor space is occupied by a sleeping human being and others are to be found on shelves and hunks along the walls ''. In a number of houses the occupants include some women. and so-called married quarters consist of a small portion of the room screened off with gunny bags. Interior partitions of different kinds have the effect of reducing light and ventilation still further. The same room may also he occupied by two sets of tenants, one at night and the other, whose work takes them out at night, during the day. The standard of accommodation in the Corporation bye-laws is by no means exacting, being 36 square feet per person. This is reduced to 24 square feet where ventilation is ample and an open space exists round the building. Under these regulations the average room, about 121/2' X 50' in size, provides for fourteen persons, but if it were occupied half the time by one gang and half by another, there would be no grounds for prosecution, although 28 persons were in occupation. In the hot weather conditions may not be so detrimental to health as these figures would seem to imply, because most of the tenants use the room merely as a place for storing possessions and sleep outside on the streets or pavements. In the monsoon and cold weather months, however, overcrowding must be intense. Accommodation wins so restricted, in the dry season it is not unusual for larger numbers of rickshaw pullers to spend the nights in or under their rickshaws.