Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The representatives of the Indian tea industry who appeared before us were unanimously opposed to any scheme of wage regulation, perhaps not unnaturally; most official witnesses were also doubtful as to whether it would prove a practical proposition. The objections raised, however, appear to be due to a misconception as to its object and the method of its operation. There is, in the first place, the fear that wage rates would be raised unduly, and that the less prosperous gardens would be driven out of existence. These apprehensions were urged in Ceylon when statutory wage regulation was first mooted, but they have not been borne out by experience. The successful operation of wage-fixing machinery necessitates consideration of the question with close relation to the economic effects of any proposed rate upon the industry, and it is not likely that a properly constituted wage board would take action which would have the effect of bringing about a contraction in the industry and in the extent of employment open to labour in Assam. A more serious objection is that raised as to the practicability of applying statutory rates to work of the kind done on Assam plantations.
It is urged that the character of the work varies from season to season, and depends on the nature of the soil and other factors which are not constant within a district, varying even within a single garden, and that the output of the worker also varies according to individual skill and diligence. It has been already stated that low earnings do not necessarily denote unsatisfactory conditions, nor do high earnings always mean that conditions are good. But the objection seems to us to be based on an imperfect understanding of the operation of rate-fixing machinery. In Assam, as elsewhere in India, there is a tendency to assume that statutory wage rates must result in a fixed sum paid to each worker at the end of a month or some other period, irrespective of his task or output during that period. This is, in essence, the system in Ceylon, and when statutory minimum wages were in force for contract labourers on the Assam plantations, the wage prescribed took the form of so many rupees a month. We are agreed that such a system is not capable of general application in Assam. Any system of statutory wage rates, if it is to work equitably, must take account of the fact that the labourer is often a part-time worker, and that in many gardens it is impracticable, even if it were wise, to insist on every worker doing a full day's work.