National Commission on Labour (1967)||
11.5. It is against this background of welfare activities in their totality prior to Independence that we have to view the policies since 1946. Welfare of coal and mica miners was mentioned in the 1946 Programme as needing particular attention, though in the broader concept of welfare as explained earlier, many other industrial workers were also sought to be covered. Funds for welfare of workers in these industries had started being built up. Diverting a part of these for housing, also an element of welfare, was under consideration.
11.6. Not much emphasis had been laid on labour welfare under the First Plan: the welfare needs of urban workers were assumed to be adequately met by the then prevailing State Government schemes and of workers in mines statutory arrangements. As for plantation labour, the Plan sought to lay down priorities in welfare. It put health, housing and education in one group and recommended that when one or the other of these was adequate on any estate, attention should be concentrated on other items which were below standard. In the case of small plantations, welfare facilities, according to the Plan, were to be the responsibility of a group of plantations. The Second Plan made a significant statement on the principles which should govern labour welfare. It suggested the constitution of a welfare fund for manganese mining similar to the Coal and Mica Mines Welfare Funds, and the creation of similar funds, either by the appropriate Government or the employers, for other industries. The employers' responsibility in this regard was emphasised and the suggestion made in the earlier Plan for pooling of the resources of small planters was made applicable to all small employers. The Third Plan made no specific reference to welfare, but stressed that for improving work efficiency, welfare within the establishment should be ensured. This was in line with the emphasis in that Plan on reorientation of labour policy with accent on efficiency. As a part of this reoriented policy, cooperative activity was to be intensified as a labour welfare measure.
11.7. In pursuance of policies initiated in the Plans, a welfare fund for manganese mines was sought to be created. Several attempts were made to select industries in the Central sphere for constituting welfare funds, but no progress was possible because of other stresses and strains on the economy. Some States passed legislation for constituting a welfare fund out of the fines imposed by employers, unclaimed wages and the like. These attempts were successfully challenged in the Court by the employers, and for some time, alternative arrangements had to be made for running the welfare activities. Several State Plans made provision for labour welfare, but all these did not amount to much even as the Plan schemes were formulated. Their content was diluted further during the course of implementation.
11.8. (i) Central Government: An experimental scheme to finance non-statutory welfare activities in industrial undertakings owned and controlled by the Government of India was initiated in 1946. The scheme, however, did not cover railway establishments and major ports. A fund, built up from voluntary contributions of the workers, government grants, receipts from fines, rebates from contractors, profits of canteens and yields from cinema shows and other entertainment, was constituted to finance welfare activities envisaged in the scheme. These moneys are being utilised for indoor and outdoor games, establishing reading rooms and libraries, and celebration of special festivals. Apart from this scheme, the Government of India has also instituted special welfare funds for certain minerals; these merit separate discussion.
(ii) State Governments: State Governments and Union Territories run welfare centres with the object of providing educational, recreational and other welfare facilities for workers. A statement showing the number of such centres and the activities undertaken by them is annexed. These apart, a statutory fund was created for financing welfare measures for plantation workers in Assam under the Assam Plantation Employees' Welfare Fund Act, 1959. The fund, which was constituted out of fines realised from employees, grants from the Central/State Governments and the Tea Board, as also unclaimed wages or forfeited sums in the provident fund accounts and donations, is utilised for activities authorised by a Board of Trustees on which labour is represented. Among the activities are adult education and literacy drives, maintaining community and social education centres, organising games and sports, excursions, tours, running holiday homes, providing training in subsidiary occupations and home industries for women and unemployed persons, and also corporate activities of a social nature. In the case of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Mysore and Punjab, the labour welfare centres are administered by Welfare Boards created under (i) the Bombay Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1953 (as amended after the Supreme Court judgement)1, (ii) the Mysore Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1965, and (iii) the Punjab Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1963.
(iii) Employers: There has been growing appreciation on the part of employers of the utility of welfare work. With the gradual extension of the Employees' State Insurance Scheme, medical aid as an element of welfare has been declining in importance, and so has education because of the entry of the State into the field. While this is the general picture, we propose to discuss the progress in each item of welfare separately for factories, mines, plantations and other employments. It should be noted, however, that in regard to mines, the provision of these facilities is being undertaken by the welfare fund organisations. For plantations, the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, makes certain welfare facilities obligatory on the employers. In that sense, welfare work done in mines and plantations is not voluntary.
11.9 (a) Medical: Medical facilities in varying degrees are provided by large undertaking, either in their own hospitals or by arrangement with well-established medical institutions, supplementing those available under the ESIS.
(b) Education: Except in a few large undertakings, no attempt has been made to provide educational facilities for workers' children. Invariably, every exclusive industrial township provides suitable educational facilities. Some townships have taken on the responsibility of running secondary schools and colleges. Alternatively, transport is provided for workers' children to attend institutions which are situated away from the residence, but within reasonable distance. Where factories are located in a city or town which has educational institutions run by the State, local bodies and private institutions, the most which an employer is expected to do is to provide the workers' children with scholarships, text books and other educational material. The more enlightened among the
1 Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Company V. the State of Bombay, 1953, S. C. R., 1122.
employers have accepted this burden. Instances are not entirely unknown of employers in the organised industries making arrangements for the education of the workers' children in cooperation with the State or local institutions.
(c) Recreation: In the large establishments, increasing attention has been paid to recreational activities as a means of healthy diversion to workers. Employers recognise that the monotony of a worker's life has to be relieved, as it has a sapping effect on his work. Some establishments bear the capital cost of construction of buildings designed for recreation and the cost of sports material and also make available grants-in-aid to meet day-to-day recurring costs; others give grants on a matching basis. The scale of facilities offered varies from employer to employer and from project to project. The establishments that provide such amenities have been taking pride in the fact that their workers have received recognition in sports and cultural activities organised at the State and national levels. Cash awards are offered to workers who are outstanding in the field of sports or to those of their family members who excel in cultural performances. Progressive employers have evinced varying degrees of interest in this aspect of labour welfare depending upon their capacity to pay, the importance they attach to recreation, and the interest which their workers take in the concerned activities.
11.10. (a) Medical: Elaborate arrangements have been made for medical facilities to workers employed in collieries by the Coal Mines Labour Welfare Fund Organisation through a network of hospitals and dispensaries, including Ayurvedic dispensaries. The Fund also gives grants-in-aid to dispensaries set up by colliery owners. Arrangements have been made for treatment of cancer, T.B. and other malignant diseases. The Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund Organisation, too, has made similar arrangements, though on a smaller scale. The Iron Ore Mines Labour Welfare Fund is expected to operate in similar fashion in respect of its beneficiaries.
(b) Education: Educational facilities have largely been provided by the State Governments or local bodies, the Coal/Mica Mines Labour Welfare Funds and some progressive employers. Assistance to miners' children is given in the form of scholarships, book aid, and other facilities which are considered necessary locally. Though the activities are financed through a fund which is collected from mines, both large and small, welfare of workers in smaller mines is neglected. In non-coal mines, except in a very few large undertakings, little has been done to supplement the efforts of State Governments or local bodies in this regard.
(c) Recreation: Large scale undertakings in coal and non-coal mines have given due importance to the provision of recreational facilities. Workers in small coal mines have suffered from neglect; in mines other than coal, the position is worse still. Employers with large factory establishments have what are known as 'captive mines'; the coal or limestone mines of a steel plant are an instance in point. In the same way as workers in smaller mines are left out in matters of welfare as compared to those in bigger ones, factory employees in these units get a favoured treatment as compared with miners. During our observational tours, this preferential treatment was repeatedly brought to our notice at many places.
11.11 (a) Medical: The Plantations Labour Act, 1951 lays down that every plantation "there shall be provided and maintained so as to be readily available such medical facilities for the workers (and their families) as may be prescribed by the State Government". The Act further lays down that "if in any plantation medical facilities are not provided and maintained as required, the Chief Inspector (of Plantations) may cause to be provided and maintained therein such medical facilities and recover the cost thereof from the defaulting employers."1 While this is the legal requirement, according to the CLW, wide disparities exist even within the same region in the actual provision of medical facilities. We came across in the Assam Valley and in some large plantations in the South, some of the best hospitals for workers, equipped with research facilities to understand the ailments peculiar to the region. However, small coffee and rubber plantations in Mysore and Kerala States, as also small tea plantations in the North, find it difficult to look after the health of their workers. The Act and the rules framed under it lay down the type of hospitals, their bed-strength and the number of medical and para-medical staff to run them; but the nature of the medical facilities to be provided has been left to the State Governments. Utilising these powers, three plantation States, namely, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam have laid evidence shows that this corrective was rarely exercised, not because there was no case of default on the part of the estates but because of inadequacy of staff at the disposal of the Government and disinclination to proceed against employers.
down detailed rules even for prescription of drugs and medicines, but the non-observance of these rules is a matter of general complaint.
(b) Education: Education for workers' children between the ages of 6—12, in any plantation where the number of such children exceeds twenty five, is to be provided tree by the employers under the Act. State Governments have been empowered to make rules specifying the manner and standard of educational facilities to be provided by the employer for these children. Although the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, was made effective in 1954, only four State Governments have enforced the rules relating to statutory provision of free educational facilities. These States are Assam, West Bengal, Mysore and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, Bihar, U.P. and Tripura, the rules have not been enforced so tar. Even where they have been, workers are dissatisfied with the amenities provided. The Government of Assam has, in fact, taken over the management of educational facilities in some areas from the employers because of persistent complaints from the workers that the facilities provided are not adequate. On the other hand, in addition to the statutory obligation on the employers, the Tea, Coffee and Rubber Boards offer a limited number of merit or merit-cum-need scholarships to the children of workers. Employees of larger estates in general enjoy an advantage over others in this respect.
(c) Recreation: Though the Plantations Labour Act, 1951 makes it statutorily binding on employers to provide recreational facilities to workers, only four out of the eight plantation States have so far enforced the rules in this respect; Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Mysore have yet to enforce them. The employers complain that the workers do not avail themselves of the amenities provided and the workers maintain that the scale of facilities available is very inadequate.
11.12 The Labour Welfare Organisation in the Railways has taken up education as one of its important activities. It runs 744 schools (47 high/higher secondary, 26 middle and 671 primary) and two intermediate colleges. Subsidised hostels, for children of employees earning upto Rs. 349 per month, 13 in all, are spread all over India. The Staff Benefit Fund offers help, in cash and kind, to employees in distress, administers schemes for sickness relief, child welfare, and education of the staff and their children, and also arranges recreational facilities. Twenty six co-operative credit societies, 426 consumer cooperative societies, 416 fair price shops and twenty one cooperative housing societies were in existence in 1967-68. The Railways run 95 well-equipped hospitals, 544 health units, 67 chest clinics, 65 dental clinics, 22 homoeopathic dispensaries and 164 maternity centres. New hospital and health units are opened when needed. Doctors are sent for training in various specialities to render better service to employees. Benefits of the holiday homes built by the Railway Administration for its employees in various parts of the country are freely availed of travel passes to which the employees are entitled making this possible. The Railways take keen interest in spotting talent for sports. Employees who take part in the more sophisticated of such activities do not come from the rank and file, but in quite a few other games railwaymen have made a mark. And such performance is always appreciated.
Posts and Telegraphs
11.13 For the benefit of the employees of the Department, a Welfare Fund was set up in 1960-61. The fund gives distress relief in cases of death and protracted illness. Arrangements have been made with hospitals for treatment of staff members. The Department has schemes for award of scholarships, to children and dependants of employees whose monthly pay does not exceed Rs. 425 for technical and nontechnical education. Some co-operative credit societies are also functioning.
Ports and Docks
11.14 All the major ports and docks maintain qualified staff in their hospitals/dispensaries. Medical facilities have been made available in the residential localities of workers. Scholarships are awarded to the children of workers. Consumers' cooperative stores and co-operative credit societies are functioning in many dockyards.
Activities of Workers' Organisations
11.15 In addition to the Textile Labour Association, Ahmedabad (TLA), the activities of which have been described in para 11.4, other workers' organisations are also now taking interest in this aspect of workers' life outside the factory. The TLA itself has expanded its work with a view to encouraging the spirit of self-help and cooperation among workers' families. Thrift is being encouraged by providing banking facilities. Training is arranged in alternative occupations to provide continuity of employment. During our observation visits, we noticed similar work being done in the plantations in the Nilgiris by the Nilgiris District Estate Workers' Union. Education/cultural
programmes are increasingly becoming a part of the activities of well-organised unions. It could be said, as a general observation, that facilities sponsored by a union make a better appeal to workers than those made available through Government or employers.