Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
The Government of India.—The Government of India till recently did not undertake any activities to promote the welfare of industrial labour. However, with the outbreak of war, the Government realised the need for the adoption of welfare measures as a means both to increase the workers' productive efficiency and to keep up their morale. In January 1944 the Government instituted a Coal Mines Labour Welfare Fund to undertake activities conducive to the welfare of coal-miners. The C. M. W. Fund has since begun its work and has sanctioned considerable sums of money for carrying on extensive anti-malaria work, provision of entertainments and construction of up-to-date hospitals in Jharia and Raniganj. Further, special privileges and priorities are given to the employers in respect of transport and purchase of foodgrains, etc., in order to facilitate and encourage the establishment of industrial canteens and grain shops. In particular, the Central Government has taken a keen interest in the establishment of canteens in factories and has persuaded Provincial Governments to take active steps in this connection.
Provincial Governments' Work—The various Provincial Governments till recently were content with enforcing the Central Acts relating to labour conditions, besides enacting a few of their own, and did not actively concern themselves with any welfare measures directly. This policy of non- intervention, however, was replaced by one of active intervention, though on a small scale in some Provinces, during the regime of the popular Provincial ministries in the years 1937-39. The Administrations which followed in the wake of these Provincial ministries also took steps to see that this work was not only continued but extended. During war time the Bombay, and U. P. Governments have directly embarked on a policy of providing welfare measures and Bengal and Sind have followed suit. However, the amounts spent and the activities undertaken as yet touch only a fringe of the problem and these will have to be generously expanded if they are to prove useful to the mass of workers.
Bombay.—In 1939, the Bombay Government first organised model welfare centres. The expenditure sanctioned in that year was Rs. 1,20,000 but it has gone up to Rs. 2,50,000 during 1944-45. In all, there are now 27 centres classified under four classes—'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D'. At Bombay there are 3 'A' class 9 'C' class and 4 'D' class centres, located
in various parts of the city; at Ahmedabad, I 'A' class and 4 'C' class; at Sholapur, there are 5 'C' class centres; at Hubli only I 'C' class centre. No. 'B' class centre has yet been opened. 'A' cites centres have a fall* time nursery school for children; a women's section providing literacy, sewing and embroidery classes and suitable games; out door games arid gymnasium with all facilities for men; and separate arrangements for water-taps and shower-baths for both men and women. Static as well as circulating libraries are attached to these centres; radio sets are provided; monthly cinema shows are arranged; and well-equipped dispensaries are attached. 'B' class centres are intended to be a replica of 'A' class centres but on a very much smaller scale. 'C' class centres provide indoor recreation and educational facilities, static and circulating libraries and dispensaries. 'D' class centres provide only outdoor recreation, such as games and sports. The centres have been very popular and the response from workers has been quite encouraging.
The United Provinces.—In 1937, a new Department of Labour was created with a Labour Commissioner and a Labour Officer, whose duties were mainly to keep in constant touch with the labour situation in Cawnpore and adopt conciliation measures when necessary. The Department of Labour has greatly extended its activities and has now evolved an ambitious welfare programme for workers. A welfare Department under an experienced Superintendent has been created to provide healthy recreation and wholesome amenities of life" to workers. Recently, a Lady Welfare Superintendent also was appointed to carry on welfare work among women and children. Three types of Welfare Centres—'A' 'B' and 'C'—at present numbering 28 in all have been opened. Thus, is Cawnpore, 5 'A' class, 4 'B' class and 5 'C' class centres have been opened; in Agra, I 'A' class centre; in Lucknow, 3 'B' class centres; in Aligarh, Bareilly, Hathras, Firozabad and Saharanpur, I 'B' class and I 'C' class centre each; and in Allahabad and Mirzapur, I 'B' class centre each. The total budget for the first year (1937) was only Rs. 10,000 but in 1945-46 Rs. 1,57,600 has been sanctioned. 'A' class centres provide medical aid, recreation education, maternity and child welfare, sports and games and physical training. 'B' class centres provide all the above, though on a smaller scale. 'C' class centres are of the nature of workmen's clubs, with a reading room, a library, and indoor and outdoor games. Dispensaries are attached to both 'A' and 'B' class centres and a trained midwife or ayah attends at each centre to wash, bathe and massage the workers' children, to entertain them with interesting games and to serve them hot milk—all free of charge. Moreover, industrial and instructional class are held for women and girls of the working class. Sewing, knitting, embroidery and other useful domestic arts are also taught. Debates and lectures are arranged; a number of night schools are run for mass literacy; and books and stationery are provided free of cost. Cinema shows are arranged for workers and their families, and dramatic clubs have been successfully organised at some centres. Occasionally baby shows, music parties, and mushairas are also arranged. These Welfare Centres have been very popular and have introduced a healthy and cheerful note into the otherwise gloomy lives of the toiling masses in these towns, who have begun to take an increasingly active interest in these activities.
Bengal.—Till 1940, the Government of Bengal gave grants to private organisations for the benefit of labour but the total amounts were very small (Rs. 3,005 only in 1939-40). In 1940, however, besides these
grants, Government made a start with ten Welfare Centres,, and in 1944-45, there were in all 41 centres. The activities of the Centres consist of educational classes, indoor and outdoor games, gymnasiums and recreational facilities like radio, gramophone and cinema shows. Considering that Bengal is industrially a very advanced Province with a large working-class population, the paltry sum of Rs. 34,720 spent on welfare measures in 1944-45 appears hardly adequate.
Sind.—The Sind Government have started two Welfare Centres in Karachi with provision for a gymnasium, indoor and outdoor games, a reading room and a library. The Centres, however, have not been a success for want of adequate funds and supervisions.
Other Provincial Governments have done next to nothing in the direction of welfare amenities for workers and have mainly contented themselves with suggesting to employers the desirability of doing certain things to improve the living conditions of their employees. Under instructions from the Central Government, Provincial Governments have taken steps to encourage the starting of cost-price grain shops and co-operative societies in industrial establishments for supplying the necessaries of life to workers at cost or concessional prices. They have also suggested to employers the desirability of starting industrial canteens, and for these purposes, as indicated earlier, special priorities have been given for purchase and transport of foodgrains.
Welfare Work by the States.—Coming to the Indian States, one finds that apart from a few exceptions, the State Administrations have done little by way of labour welfare Work. The Mysore Government have opened two Recreation Centres in working-class areas in the Bangalore City, with provision for indoor games, a reading room, a library and weekly bhajanas. Between 300 and 400 labourers visit each centre daily. During war time, the Baroda Government have started a movement for establishing co-operative credit and thrift societies with a view to encouraging the saving habit amongst workers. So far, 20 societies, with a membership of 24,511 have been established. The scheme was at first voluntary but has recently been made compulsory. The deposited money is to be returned after the war. This is part of a programme of anti-inflationary measures, but is likely to continue during peace-time as well.