Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The main point to be observed in this industry is again the employment of young children. In the carpet factories of Amritsar these children are employed not directly by the factory owner but by the weaving masters, who are responsible both for engaging them and for paying their wages. The manager concerns himself solely with the master weaver who is paid on a contract basis, i.e., so much for each carpet, according to its size, quality and design. There is for the most part no limitation on the children's hours, other than that imposed by the exigencies of daylight and the need of rest intervals, though holidays are generally obtained by taking advantage of both Hindu and Musalman religious festivals. No girl labour is employed. For the most part boys start at 9 years of age, though in some eases it may be as low as 6 years. Although the method by which this boy labour is obtained varies in details in different parts of the district, its essential characteristics are the same throughout. Where the child is not the son or a near relative of the weaving master, he is normally the child of a man who, in return for a loan of money from the weaving master, contracts out the labour of his child at so many rupees (7, 9, etc., according to the age of the child) per month. The duration of the contract, which is sometimes set out in a formal document, would appear to be determined by the repayment of the loan. It is not without significance that one witness, who was Managing Director of a leading carpet manufacturing firm, declared, when shown such a document found by us on his own premises and drawn up only a few weeks previously, that that was the first time he had ever heard of the existence of written contracts of the kind, excusing his ignorance on the ground that he had " nothing to do with the children " and dealt only with the master weavers. Yet, on his own admission, in this industry two of the four persons on the normal-sized loom are generally children under 12 years, the remaining two being a boy of over 14 year and the master weaver himself.
It was clear to us from the evidence that these children were in the position of being obliged to work any number of hours per day required of them by their masters. They were without the protection of the law as regards their physical fitness to labour, the number of hours they might be required to work without any interval or, indeed, any other of the more elementary protections afforded by the Factories Act in respect of child workers, and they were subjected in some cases to corporal punishment. Yet the bulk of such children were 2 to 5 years below the statutory working age in respect of child workers employed in factories under the Act. We understand that the local Government drew the attention of the industry to the position of these children as long ago as 1923, and that in 1927, after an enquiry which showed that conditions were unchanged, made suggestions for the regulation of child labour. These included the fixing of a minimum age of 9 years and a maximum day of 8 hours for children up to 12 years. The factory owners were prepared to accept a minimum age of 8 years and to provide educational facilities, but the opposition of the master weavers prevented any agreement by their unwilling-ness to accept, either then or subsequently, any reduction in the working hours. The matter of a voluntary trade agreement in respect of the working conditions of these children is believed still to be under consideration. We are convinced that here, as in the bidi factories, official regulation is required primarily in the interests of the child worker.