Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The only lead mine of any importance in British India is the Bawdwin mine in the Northern Shan States in Burma, situated nearly 600 miles from Rangoon and far from any other centre of population. Its own railway covers the fifty miles between the mine and the main line, and, with its ore mills, smelter and subsidiary plant, the mine forms a large self-contained settlement. There are sixteen thousand workers in employment, with an unknown number of dependents. The mine itself is a highly organised concern working on three 8 hour shifts. Six thousand men are employed, 85 per cent of them underground. Wages are paid on a system of contract bonus. Eighty-two per cent of the stopes are let on contract to a crew of normally 15 men (5 on each shift) and the rate per " set " of ground is agreed between the company and the three leading miners. The work is measured up at the end of each month to ascertain the amount earned. During the month each miner is paid half-monthly at a daily rate and the difference between the amounts so paid and the contract earning is distributed pro rata amongst the crew, less 10 per cent which is divided between the three leading miners in addition to their share. This balance is paid with the second half-month's wages. The lowest daily rate paid in the mine is Re. 1-4-0 and, in the case we saw, men on this rate received Rs. 20 each as their share of the monthly balance. Apart from workers who come from India, mainly from hill districts, there is a substantial number of Chinese from Yunnan in the mine. The company provides free housing, an excellent hospital, to which the inhabitants of the surrounding country also come, clubs and stores for the sale of food.
The Bawdwin mine and the works dependent on it at Namtu are unique in more ways than one.
The local administration of this great enterprise impressed us as more autocratic than anything we saw elsewhere, and we doubt if anything of the kind would be possible to-day in industry in any Indian province. We readily admit that the autocracy is, in a large measure, benevolent, and that the workers' physical needs receive a large amount of care. Wages by Indian standards are high and hours generally satisfactory, welfare activities of various kinds are carried on with vigour and success, the standard of living is comparatively high and, if a much stricter discipline is demanded than is usual in Indian industry, the increased efficiency of the workers is reflected in their material betterment. The workers made no representation to us, but we note that a petition presented to the Governor of Burma on their behalf, of which copies were given to us by the Corporation, stated that they " have no grievances to recite, no cause to represent ". Although we find it difficult to accept this as a complete statement of the position, we must regard the fact that the Corporation, without any recruiting activity, can secure a large labour force in a most isolated spot, as clear evidence of the attractions it offers. But there is another aspect of the position. We were informed by the General Manager that the management had built up a sort of patriarchal system and that they were convinced that it is far more to the interests of the workers and the industry generally than a system where there are trade unions and political organisations. He also said that, during his service with the Corporation, there had never been any collective representation made by the workers on matters. connected with their employment. Occasionally a man would approach him with a petition written by a petition-writer saying he had been un justly dismissed and praying that he might be reinstated, but, when the matter was investigated, it was always found that the man had no cause of complaint and that he had been justly dismissed. In this settlement, to which access is at times not easy without the assistance of the management and in which residence without their consent is difficult, the control of the employers over the work and life of the workers is comprehensive. We recognise that the circumstances are altogether exceptional and that with an extraordinary mixture of races, each housed in separate camps, effective combination would not be easy to establish, even if the employers favoured its creation. But we consider that there should be some recognition of the workers' collective rights, and some means by which when necessary, they can effectively present their case. We recommend the appointment of a labour officer, who, amongst his other duties, should direct his attention to the formation of suitable works committees