Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
So far as health in seasonal factories is concerned, the main danger is from dust, the extraction of which presents special difficulties. The industries chiefly concerned are the three largest, namely, cotton ginning, tea manufacture and rice milling. The main stumbling block in cotton ginning is the reputed lack of any dust-extracting plant which is at once effective and not unreasonably expensive. An investigation made in a cotton-growing province showed that the cost of the installation of adequate exhaust machinery would be approximately Rs. 100 to Rs. 150 per roller gin, of which there may be any number from 10 to 200 in a ginnery. Governments, therefore, have tended to refrain from making use of section 10 of the Factories Act empowering an inspector to order the installation of dust-extracting machinery lest the industry should be driven into Indian States where such requirements are not exacted. Reliance has been placed instead on effecting gradual improvements in ventilation. We were informed by a Chief Inspector of Factories that the extraction fans attached to cotton openers were not more than 50 per cent efficient, and we could ourselves observe that, even when he worker covers the mouth with the end of the pagri or a wad of cotton, the amount of dust in the atmosphere is sufficient to cause discomfort after a short period. Efforts made in one province to meet this difficulty by the use of masks or respirators proved abortive the workers declining, for caste reasons, to use these where they have previously been used by others. The high labour turnover in ginneries is said to have made it impossible to reserve masks for individual use. This difficulty is not insuperable, but perhaps it would not be easy to induce the workers to wear respirators. We note that it is the practice in most cotton-growing provinces to make use of the compulsory submission of building plans, required under the Cotton Ginning and Pressing Factories Act of 1925, as a means to bring home to employers the need for effective ventilation in new ginneries, and often to get such plans amended so as to ensure adequate ventilation from the start. We recommend that, before the plans submitted under section 9 (1) of that Act are approved, the prescribed authority should be satisfied that adequate ventilation will be secured. We would point out that the installation of dust-extracting machinery is a less expensive proposition than subsequent structural alteration. We also recommend a more liberal use of section 10 of the Factories Act in respect of existing factories in bad cases where improvement cannot be effected by increased window or roof ventilation.