Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The question of fines is dealt with in another section of this Report but we must refer here to deductions made from wages of railway employees under the name of debits. These are generally raised against the staff in respect of (a) the issue of unnecessary telegrams, (b) loss or damage to railway property in their charge, (c) compensation claims paid by the railway to the public, where loss or damage to goods occurs while in railway custody, (d) undercharges in fares and freights and (e) short remittances and base coins. Figures of actual debits raised and of the monthly pay of the members of staff concerned have been submitted, but not details of relative recoveries. We are informed that, in cases of loss or damage to railway property and to parcels and goods, debits are generally raised in the event of negligence on the part of the staff, different forms of punishment being used in other cases, according to circumstances. Undercharges in connection with fares and freights account for many of the debits and provide continuous ground for complaint. It takes some time for the undercharges to be detected in audit, and further time elapses before notice of them reaches the responsible parties. Figures supplied by one administration show that 40, 648 debits of the total value of Rs. 2, 60, 578 were raised on account of undercharges during the year ended 31st October 1929. Of the amount raised, Rs. 1, 01, 309 was withdrawn, Rs. 1, 29, 025 was actually recovered and the balance of Rs. 30, 24 4 was still outstanding on 23rd December 1929. We were informed that the staff obtain recoupment for these debits from the merchants. As we understand the position., the members of the staff, against whom the debits are raised personally approach the merchants in the matter. This method was confirmed by the representative of another railway who explained that " most of these debits a are not paid by the staff themselves but by the consignees. They are regular dealers at the stations, and out of motives of policy, I suppose, they pay the debits". In our opinion this system of recoverv of undercharges and recoupment is undesirable. Evidence that details of debits were not kept in separate lists or specially considered was borne out by instances brought to our) notice of the same members of station staff having debits raised against them month after month. Considerable hardship is caused to members of the staff by large deductions from their pay, which may be made months after the mistakes occurred. We understand that an officer has been placed on special duty to investigate and report on this question. We suggest that a special effort should be made to get at the root cause of the trouble, and to ascertain the extent to which it is due to deficiencies in rating and routeing methods or to inefficiency on the part of the staff. In any event, careful analysis of the numbers and amounts of debits charged against individual stations and employees should be made, with a view to the adoption of other methods of disciplinary action. We agree that the total abolition of debits is not feasible, but, pending further detailed enquiry, we suggest a system of maximum amounts bearing some relation to pay, with definite periods for recovery.