Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
A fair assessment of the strength of the movement at the present time is difficult, mainly because unions vary so greatly in form and character. This will be best realised from a brief review of the main types. At the bottom of the scale come those " unions " which represent little or nothing more than the one or two men (generally drawn from the professional classes) who fill the leading offices. A few such unions can fairly be described as having had their main evidence of reality in notepaper headings. The object is to give a platform and a name to the leaders. The members, if not imaginary, are convened on the rare occasions when the endorsement of some resolution is required. This type of valueless growth, which is more characteristic of Bengal than of other provinces and is becoming rare even there, was stimulated by the belief that it would assist the leaders to secure nomination in the labour interest to local councils or international labour conferences.
On a higher level come what may be described as the ad hoc unions, i.e., organisations designed to secure some definite and immediate object. These, though they may be organised by independent persons, have their origin in the genuine need of the workers. The most common form is the strike committee, formed to carry on a strike and sometimes charged with the responsibility of formulating demands after the strike has begun. With the end of the dispute, particularly if the workers are unsuccessful, the " union " either disappears or enters a state of suspended animation, from which it may be revived by a subsequent dispute. Unions of this type are frequently able to claim a very large membership for the time being, and they can be of distinct service to their members. But they do little in the way of educating their membership in trade unionism and may even create obstacles in the way of genuine trade unions. The majority of labour unions are now permanent and regular organisations. Transport is perhaps the best organised section of industry; the railway workers and seamen support a number of live unions, and dock workers have generally some organisation. Combination is fairly general among Government employees; the stronger unions hero are mainly those constituted of persons outside the ranks of labour, but there are unions of some strength within these ranks. Printers, with their educational advantages and more settled conditions, find the formation of unions easy, but hitherto these have not proved very effective, being strongest in Government presses and weakest where the need is greatest. On the whole, the textile workers have been slow to organise. Up to 1926 there was no effective organisation of the cotton mill workers in Bombay, and even now very few of the jute mill workers in Bengal can be regarded as regularly organised. In Madras, on the other hand, the cotton mills, where organisation began, have remained as a focus of trade union activity. In Ahmedabad, the workers, excluding the Musalman weavers, are organised in a group of craft unions which, participating in a common central federation, have a strength and cohesion probably greater than those of any other labour unions. This may have some connection with the survival, until a comparatively late date, of a strong guild tradition in Ahmedabad. This lateral method of organisation is comparatively rare in India, where the tendency has been to organise vertically, i.e., by industrial establishments. Even where more than one union is formed in the same industry and the same centre, the division is generally by factories and not by occupations. Mining workers are poorly organised in every field, and in the plantations genuine organisation on the labour side is quite unknown. Measured geographically, trade unionism is strongest in Bombay Presidency, and weakest (having regard to the potentialities) in Bengal.