National Commission on Labour (1967)||
One of our terms of reference requires us "to study and report in particular on measures for improving conditions of rural labour and Other categories of unorganised labour" and "to make recommendations". Rural labour can be agricultural or non-agricultural; but the former has a preponderance. Because of the mixed character of rural occupations, several categories of non-agricultural labour are available for agricultural operations when needed. Problems of rural labour as we envisaged them for the inquiry were two-fold, social and economic. The first has its origin in the low status of agricultural labour in the rural hierarchy, the second in the chronic lack of adequate employment opportunities. A fair measure of public opinion, however, agrees that if the economic problem is effectively tackled, some of the social disabilities will lose their edge.
28.1 Agricultural labour constitutes an overwhelmingly major section of rural labour. 'Agriculture', according to the International Standard Industrial Classification, includes cultivation of land, rearing and maintenance of livestock, forest operations, fishing and hunting; it does not, however, include fruit growing or plantations. Workers in the agricultural sector are distributed into three main categories:
(i) cultivators, (ii) agricultural labour and (iii) workers engaged in forestry, fishing and livestock, etc. We are primarily concerned herewith agricultural labour which is basically unskilled and unorganised and has little for its livelihood other than personal labour. Persons whose main source of income is wage employment will fall in this category. It consists of two sub-categories: (i) landless agricultural labour, and (ii) very small cultivators whose main source of earnings, due to their small and sub-marginal holdings, is wage employment. Landless labour in turn can be classified into two broad categories: (a) permanent labour attached to a cultivating household and (b) casual labour. The second group can again be divided into three sub-groups, •viz., cultivators, share-croppers and lease-holders. The following table brings out the distribution of workers in the agricultural sector:
TABLE 28.1: Labour Force Characteristics - 1961 Census
|(Figures in lakhs)|
|1. Total population .........||4389||3600|
|2. Total labour force .........||1887||1623|
|3. Labour force in the agricultural sector including fishing, forestry, etc.||1375||1343|
|(a) Cultivators ..........||996||979|
|(&) Agricultural labour .........||315||306|
|(c) Forestry, fishing, livestock, etc. .......||64||58|
The chart in Annexure I shows the place of agricultural labour of all descriptions in the total population.
Sources of Information
28.2 Before discussing the issues connected with agricultural labour, we consider it useful to record the sources of information on which we have relied. We have firstly utilised the findings of the two Agricultural Labour Enquiries (ALE) conducted in 1950-51 and 1956-57 and such results of the Rural Labour Enquiry (RLE) undertaken in 1963-64 and 1964-65 as were available. The first two enquiries
covered agricultural labour in the country specifically, whereas the third had a broader coverage. The National Sample Survey (NSS) provided data on employment and unemployment. These surveys between them have brought out the broad dimensions of the problem. The information is quantitative in nature and in the form of national or State aggregates. The second ALE which was taken up after some years of operation of the Multi-purpose Community Projects in some areas could have brought out their qualitative impact on the rural population. Its report refers only incidentally to this aspect. Farm management studies undertaken in selected areas provide information on the demand for employment in farm operations. Between the second ALE and the RLE, an important change was introduced in the rural areas through the extension of the Community Development Programme. Some statistics based on the RLE are available, though the report on the enquiry has not yet come out. It is expected that such qualitative changes as have taken place between 1956-57 and 1963—65 will be brought out in the RLE report when it is finalised. We, on our own, arranged a quick survey of the conditions of agricultural labour by covering about 200 villages spread over forty-six districts in the country. This. together with allied information available with the Central and State Governments and in other research studies, helped us to build up an impressionistic picture of the main direction and content of the changes in conditions of rural labour. The observation visits to rural areas of some of us, and of the officers of the Commission to villages lying in Intensive Area Development Projects (IADP) and other areas, provided useful factual background for our understanding the impact of the changes in rural areas on agricultural labour.
28.3 The response to our Questionnaire was unsatisfactory and yet as a result of the enquiries enumerated in the preceding paragraph, the scope of the study undertaken by us gained in perspective. Many issues emerged out of these studies and in the course of processing whatever evidence we had before us. To help us in analysing the situation and reaching conclusions in this part of our enquiry, where admittedly the areas of darkness were several, we convened a Conference on Agricultural Labour 1 (CAL) which discussed the information put together by our Secretariat and came to certain conclusions. These conclusions will be referred to at appropriate places in this chapter.
Arrangement of Topics
28.4 We divide our discussion on the subject into two parts: the first will provide a synoptic view of the changes in the conditions of agricultural labour since Independence in terms of (i) the population and its composition; (ii) employment; (iii) assessment of policy; (iv) wages and income; (v) organisation and leadership; and (vi) impact of changes in rural society on agricultural labour. We will record our conclusions and recommendations under each of these heads based on our assessment of the deliberations of the CAL as also of other evidence collected by us. The second part will deal with the labour engaged in forestry. Changes in the conditions of labour engaged in fisheries and in tending livestock do not figure in the report, mainly because of the paucity of information and inadequacy of evidence about these categories. We have reason to believe that changes in the conditions of fishermen cannot be different from those discussed in this Chapter nor would the remedies for improving their levels of living.