Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The leading ratings employed on inland vessels are serangs and drivers in charge of the deck crews and the engine room respectively. As a rule they are engaged directly by the steamer companies and are responsible for the navigation of the steamers on which they are employed, but on the larger vessels in Burma they work under the commander and the engineer by whom they are engaged. In accordance with the provisions of the Inland Vessels Act these men are required to obtain certificates of competency, which are granted by the local Government to persons qualifying by examination. The lower ratings are supplied by the serang or driver, who is responsible for their recruitment, and through whom wages are paid. The companies thus have no direct dealings with members of the crew. Unlike seamen on ocean-going ships, the crews are not supplied with rations, the normal practice being for the serang to provide a joint mess for which a fixed amount is subsequently deducted from each man's monthly wages. Where men who are comparatively low-paid, such as serangs and drivers, are given full responsibility for both the engagement and payment of workers, there is always a danger of abuse, even though there is the safeguard that the employing agent comes from the same village as his men, many of whom may be relations or friends. It was stated in evidence by the Irrawaddy , Flotilla Company in Burma that the indirect system of engagement is unavoidable by reason of the indiscriminate changes among the lascars who form the crew. Men may leave the vessels overnight, leaving substitutes in their place and, though a register is kept by the commander to show the names of all the crew, the names are not always those of the men actually serving at the time. The Indian Seamen's Union and the Bengal Mariners' Union have been insistent in demanding direct engagement. Complaints have also been made by these two unions of abuses in recruitment and the lack of security of service. In Burma, the wages of lascars are Rs. 26-8-0 a month, paid through the serang. In India, it was alleged by a union that men sometimes get only Rs. 8 or Rs. 10 a month from the serang who may provide the messing, while statements furnished to us by a union and by one of the principal companies show that, generally speaking, for the lowest ratings the minimum pay is Rs. 20 a month. The hours of work are necessarily irregular, as they depend on various factors such as tides, fogs, the length of trips and the time taken to turn the vessel round at the end of the trip. in Burma, the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in evidence gave the average hours worked per day as nine. In India, according to the statement furnished to us by the Rivers Steam Navigation Company, Limited, the men work on an average 7 hours a day and 49 hours a week. We regret that the evidence which we have obtained is insufficient to justify our reaching any definite conclusions regarding the conditions of employment in this industry, which require a more detailed investigation than we were able to give. We recommend that such an investigation should now be undertaken by the Governments of Bengal and Burma. Among the questions to which attention should be directed are the working of the present system of recruitment and discharge, the possibility of direct employment and direct payment in the case of lower ratings, wages, hours, conditions on board and the arrangements made by the steamer companies for members of the crew who have been put ashore owing to sickness while away from the place of engagement.