National Commission on Labour (1967)||
We now take up for discussion the issues connected with another group of workers, who cannot be identified by a definition but could be described as those who have not been able to organise in pursuit of a common objective because of constraints such as (a) casual nature of employment, (b) ignorance and illiteracy, (c) small size of establishments with low capital investment per person employed, (d) scattered nature of establishments, and (e) superior strength of the employer operating singly or in combination. We do not propose to cover every sector of such employment, but take up categories where the number of workers is large and where information about them is available in some form. The categories naturally will be illustrative rather than exhaustive. These are: (i) contract labour including construction workers; (ii) casual labour; (iii) labour employed in small scale industry; (iv) hand-loom/power-loom workers; (v) bidi and cigar workers; (vi) employees in shops and commercial establishments; (vii) sweepers and scavengers; (viii) workers in tanneries; (ix) tribal labour, and (x) other unprotected labour. There will be a certain measure of overlap between them. For instance, bidi and cigar establishments can fall under (iii), (v) and (vi); contract labour will be found in (iii); and so will casual labour and so on. These categories will include workers who are protected by some labour legislation and others who are not. We expect that between them, the categories of workers dealt with will throw up a range of issues which will cover the rest of unorganised/unprotected labour as well.
Sources of Information
29.1 We have to tread warily in an area where first-hand studies of different categories of unorganised labour have not been undertaken, and where such information as is available is not adequate. During the course of evidence, the representatives of State Governments and some unions shed light on the conditions of casual and contract labour. Employers of shops and commercial establishments met us and explained their stand and so did unions organised by their workers. We also arranged for a special study of labour conditions in small-scale industries in one State and used it as a model for understanding, through the help of Education Officers of the Central Board of Workers' Education, the position in selected employments in other States. We set up three Study Groups especially to understand the problems of (i) construction workers, (ii) sweepers and scavengers, and (iii) tribal labour. Their reports have been of considerable assistance in reaching our findings.
29.2 The 1961 Census puts the total number of non-agricultural wage-earners at about twenty-four millions. If from this number the total number of workers employed in the organised sector, namely, registered factories, mines, plantations, government and quasi-government bodies, ports, insurance, banks, etc., which number about fourteen millions is deducted, one gets a rough estimate of workers in the unorganised sector. Besides the ten million workers so arrived at, there are a large number of workers other than 'employees' in the cottage and household industries and handicrafts; according to the 1961 Census, the number of such workers is eleven millions, and these latter we cannot cover because of the absence of employer-employee relationship in them.