Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The health of the worker in plantation areas is a question of primary importance to all concerned. The plantation manager rarely fails to realise that, in carrying out the duty of conserving his workers' health, he is also serving his own best interests. Not only does a high morbidity rate handicap production and reduce earning capacity, but experience has shown that it is easier to attract labour to. and keep labour on, a healthy garden than an unhealthy one where, for instance, malaria is rife. The necessity for the accurate maintenance of records of sickness and mortality is less generally realised. Without these it is difficult to determine variations in health at different periods and between different areas and populations, or to estimate the effects of expenditure on prevention of disease. The methods of registration in India make it almost impossible to extract birth and death rates for industrial workers from those of the general population, but, in the plantation areas we have been given records or vital statistics for a number of individual estates. These show that, generally speaking, the death and infantile mortality rates of plantation populations are considerably lower than the corresponding rates of the respective provinces as a whole. This seems to indicate that both economic and general health conditions are of a higher standard than those in the average rural or urban area. In Assam birth rates are generally lower than might, be expected, probably owing to omissions in the registers; we believe that, as and when accurate records are obtained, the registered birth rates on the plantations will gradually rise above the recorded provincial rates. No garden visited by us in Assam had a registered death rate exceeding 36 per 1000, but under present regulations, such rate must be at least 70 per 1000 before a garden can be classed as "unhealthy". We consider that such a classification is unnecessary, and that, apart altogether from these figures, continuous attention should be directed to prevention of the causes of ill health and mortality. In the estates of South India birth rates generally are considerably higher than in Assam, probably as a result of more accurate registration. Rather surprisingly, the infantile mortality rate showed no corresponding increase. This variation, which may he due to the lesser prevalence of malaria, cannot be attributed to better economic conditions or superior physique. We recommend that all managers should be required to maintain birth and death registers, and that by inspection Government should ensure that these are reasonably accurate.