Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
One effect of the difference between the agricultural and industrial worker in respect of debt is to render ineffective for the latter in many cases the means on which most stress has been laid for relieving the agriculturalist, namely, the supply of co-operative credit. The principles of co-operative credit have made little progress among the mass of workers in factories and mines. Quite apart from any unfitness of the industrial worker as an individual, the movements among the industrial population form an almost insuperable obstacle to the spread of co-operation. Only where there is a regular settled labour force has co-operation a chance of succeeding, and even there modifications of the general methods of the movement are desirable, if substantial benefit is to be obtained. The railways contain much the most important section of industrial workers in regular permanent employ, and in recent years the co-operative movement has made considerable progress amongst them. We are, however, impressed by the fact that the greatest success is attained where the railway administration helps and assumes a considerable measure of control. The collection of installments of loans through the paybills and the delegation of the executive work to a special officer of the railway weaken the educative force of co-operation; but such steps make it a much more powerful force for the reduction of debt, and having regard to the importance of this object, we have no hesitation in recommending that all railway administrations should make persistent efforts to help their workers in this way. We commend especially a study of the methods adopted on the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway where the Jackson Co-operative Credit Society issued loans in the five years 1924-29 amounting to one and a third crores of rupees with losses amounting to less than a thousandth part of the collections. A recent development in connection with this society deserves the attention not merely of railway administrations but of other employers. When the society first started, loans were given only to members producing two participants in the provident fund as sureties. This had the practical effect of excluding gangmen and other low paid employees, many of whom were heavily indebted. Loans are now given to such men provided they produce two sureties with 5 years' service on the railway and provided that the loan is applied to the liquidation of debts due to professional money-lenders. The railway staff officer investigates such debts and is usually able to compound with the moneylender for a smaller sum than that claimed, very large reductions being secured in some cases. The debt is then repaid, and by the deduction of instalments from pay the debt is annulled. The difficulties in applying methods of this kind are to ensure that all loans are disclosed and to prevent the debtor from using the improvement in his credit to secure further loans from external sources. Something can be done to meet these difficulties by the exercise of close personal attention, and the employment of a labour officer is almost essential for this purpose. Where this condition can be satisfied, there are big possibilities in the way of debt liquidation. The work of a labour officer should remove the main obstacle to the working of a co-operative credit society by assuring regular employment to the workers, and his personal acquaintance with them and interest in them should accomplish the rest. In the initial stages, a loan to a society from an employer (or the appropriation of fines to its capital account) may prove of great benefit.