Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
A. Relationship between House-rent and Income
There have been very few enquiries on this subject in India. According to the Bombay Labour Office enquiry of 1938, which covered Bombay, Ahmedabad and Sholapur, the percentage of rent to income in the city of Bombay varied from 8.91 in the income-group Rs. 95 and below Rs. 100, to 42.67 in the lowest income-group Rs. 10 and below Rs. 15. It was observed that as the income increased the percentage of rent diminished. The average percentage for the families covered by the enquiry was 17.07, the percentage of rent paid to income in the case of 55 per cent. of the families lying between 18.30 and 23.51. The percentage of rent to income in Ahmedabad was 14.09 for all income-classes, the percentage varying from 5.97 in the income-group Rs. 95 and below Rs. 100 to 39.7 in the income-group Rs. 10 and below Rs. 15. The highest proportion of rent to income in Sholapur was 26.55 per cent. in the case of the income-group below Rs. 20. The average amount of expenditure on rent and proportion of rent to family expenditure for Other areas in the province of Bombay are set out in the following table1:—
Average amount of expenditure on rent and proportion, of rent to family expenditure
Average amount of expenditure on house rent
Percentage of expenditure on house rent to total expenditure
|Jalgaon||2 3 3||9.03|
|Amalner||2 7 6||10.07|
|Chalisgaon||1 13 9||7.20|
|Dhulia||2 6 5||9.33|
|Viramgam||2 0 9||7.20|
|Nadiad||1 6 5||4.83|
|Broach||1 10 2||5.64|
|Surat||2 1 3||7.00|
|Barsi||1 1 2||6.19|
|Gadag||0 13 10||4.14|
|Hubli||1 1 6||4.59|
According to the housing enquiry of mill workers in Cawnpore undertaken by the U. P. Bureau of Economic intelligence, "The monthly income of 57 Per cent. families ranged between Rs. 10 and Rs. 25 and of another 29 per cent. between Rs. 25 and Rs. 40: the maximum concentration of families occurring in the income level Rs. 15-25. Again, 86 per cent. families paid rents below Rs. 3-8-0 per mensem; while 62 per cent. paid rent between Rs. 1-8-0 and Rs. 3-8-0. The proportion of families paying comparatively high rents was more in lower income groups". The average rent as percentage of average income in each type of dwelling in different income-groups is shown in Table 145.
F.N. From the Report of the Bombay Textile Labour Inquiry Committee, p. 274, 'Report on Housing Conditions of Mill Workers in Cawnpore, 1942, p. 40.
Average Rent of each Type of Dwelling in different Income-groups in Cawnpore.
An enquiry into the family budgets of industrial workers in Madras City1 in 1938 revealed that, out of a representative sample of 641 budgets of workers in organised industries, 330 families or nearly 51 per cent. paid a monthly rent of Rs. 3 and more but less than Rs. 6. Altogether 69 families, or nearly 11 per cent., paid a monthly rent of Rs. 6 and more but less than Rs. 8. Table 146 shows the frequency distribution of rent paid by families according to income-groups:—
*F.N. Report on an Enquiry into the Family Budgets of Industrial Workers in Madras City, P, 37.
Frequency Distribution of Rents paid by Families according to Income- Groups.
We thus notice that comparatively high rents are paid by the lower income-groups than by the higher income-groups.
B. Distance from the Place of Work
It is not possible to give accurate distances from workers' residences to their places of work. In some cases, these are on the factory premises or at a stone's throw or ten minutes' walk. The fact that the chawls in localities near the mill areas are always overcrowded confirms the conclusions that workers try to live as near their places of work as possible. In such cases, the question of conveyance to and from the place of work does not arise. There are also many workers who live in various parts of cities away from their places of work. Where the distances are short, one does not mind walking on foot but, where long distances are involved workers try to avail themselves of some cheap and quick means of conveyance which may be readily available at all times. Public vehicles in congested cities are not sufficient to cope with the demand and what is really worse is that they do not touch the working class quarters as they ply only on the main roads and most of the workers residing in out of the way quarters cannot readily make use of them. More than this, the ordinary workers, with his meagre, cannot be expected to pay for his conveyance to and from place of work every day. The workers' representatives have rightly pointed out that, in the absence of proper housing facilities near the factories, cheap conveyances must be provided for such persons as are forced to live away from their places of work. Except some of the Railways that have regular train services often free between the main city and the workshop, there are very few managements providing transport facilities to their workers. The need for cheap and regular conveyance is felt to a great extent in the case of night shift workers. It is natural on the part of workers to demand that buses should be made available when the night shifts close. The employers should no doubt attend to it in their own interests.
C. General Amenities
In cities and towns, general facilities are usually provided by the municipalities. Where municipalities are indifferent or where the work places are situated away from towns, these are very inadequate. The absence of regular markets leads the workers to resort to pedlars who often manage to wangle out a higher price for their wares of cheap and inferior quality. The contaminated and rotten foodstuffs that the workers have to buy from the gutterside vendors undermine their health and spread disease. In these days of rationing price control regulations, profiteering and blackmarketing, these troubles have multiplied to great dimensions. The inconveniences to which the insufficiency of postal services gives rise are thus summed up by the Gujarat Regional Trade Union Council;
"Large sections of workers are recruited from outside and they are required to send money by money orders to their dependants in villages. Generally there is a very great rush on post offices due to this; hence the post office and money order clerks fleece the workers by compelling them to pay some cash for sending the money order in time. Many workers have to stand in queues for long hours to be disappointed in the end. As the post office cannot tackle all of them in their working time, clerks get overworked and easily fall a prey to corrupt practice". It is suggested that the number of post offices should be increased with due regard to the needs of working men and markets established in each working-class locality.
D. Allotment and Eviction
Allotment of houses provided by the employers is made in different places. Ordinarily priority registers are maintained. In some cases, precedence is given to those whose nature of duties warrants it. The railways give priority to the traffic and station staff whose services may be required at any time and whose presence on the premises is necessary. Seniority or length of service is another consideration with some employers. Minimum pay or even an offer of allotment by rotation are the criteria in some places. Prevalence of malpractices and favouritism among the alloting authorities are not absent. The acceptance of illegal gratification in the form of pagdi ranging from Rs. 10 to Rs. 40 in congested towns, is a common scandal. Discrimination against trade union members is fairly common, and communalism was also noticed in some places in the allotment of quarters. Sub-letting is not normally practised but it is generally overlooked now-a-days in several places on account of lack of accommodation due to war. Eviction is effected in cases of discontinuance of service, arrears of rent, wilful damage to property; and in some cases, subletting. Verbal or written notices are served for this purpose. In some cases, warnings, threats, force and police are resorted to. The threat of eviction against trade union members is quite common. The Wimco of Madras state that 15 days' notice on either side is necessary for the termination of a tenancy. The agreement also contains the following clauses:— "The Company shall be at liberty to revoke this license at any time without notice and without giving or being liable to give any reason therefor to the licensee and thereupon the licensee will hand over to the Company vacant possession of the rooms". This provision, to say the least is most arbitrary and should not find place in any agreement.
E. The Land Acquisition Act.
The Indian Industrial Commission put forward a proposal that employers should be enabled to acquire land for housing their workers. The Royal Commission supported this principle and recommended that the Land Acquisition Act be so amended as to enable industrial concerns owned by individuals or associations of individuals to secure land for worker's quarters. The Land Acquisition Act was amended for this purpose in 1933. Its operations was, however, limited to the cases of acquisition for industrial concerns employing 100 persons or more. As to how far employers availed themselves of the amended Land Acquisition Act to secure land compulsorily to house their operatives is not exactly known, but one thing is certain that not many of them have done so. It appears that only very few, employers availed themselves of the Act, e.g., the Bata Shoe Co. at Lahore, the Attock Oil Company at Rawalpindi the Tata Iron and Steel Co. at Jamshedpur. Before the establishment of the Improvement Trust at Cawnpore, the British India Corporation alone constructed two workmen's settlements which were acquired under this Act. Since the inception of the Trust in 1920, all the contiguous areas to the city being notified for acquisition by it, no employer could acquire land independently under the Act. The Trust was the only institution competent to transfer land to prospective buyers after properly developing it. In the past, employers did not care to acquire land. Since December, 1942, when His Excellency the Governor of U.P. urged the employers to provide sufficient accommodation for their workers, several of them have applied for and already acquired land for the purpose. The lease of land thus transferred provides a clause for safeguarding the interests of the workmen in matters of rent, eviction, etc. The rent to be charged will be fixed by the Trust so as to give a net return of not more than 4 per cent. of the total capital outlay.
F. Housing Policy
From what has already been stated it is clear that our cities have been growing in the most in desirable manner with the result that housing conditions of industrial workers have not improved in spite of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. In several cases the houses available are dingy, dark, damp, overcrowded and insanitary. The position has in fact greatly deteriorated in some places, especially during the war, though there are a few exceptions of good housing schemes by employers. It has already been stated that the Tata Iron and Steel Company are building up a model city at Jamshedpur, almost complete in every respect. Similarly, the Madura Mills have provided a housing colony, known as 'Harveypatti," for their workers. Nearly 600 houses have been built so far and the colony is almost self-sufficient from the point of view of amenities such as a school, a market, a dispensary, etc. There are a few other housing colonies of a similar type at Gokak, Nagpur, Cawnpore, etc.
Bad housing conditions have a definite bearing on health and efficiency. Our study of the housing situation leads us to the conclusion that the present state of affairs wherein responsibility for providing houses is statutorily shouldered by none cannot be allowed to continue if workers, health and morals and their standard of living are to be improved. A clear, long-term housing policy, therefore, seems called for. Some persons hold that it is high time that housing was treated as a "public service" and received due attention from Government which, according to them, should take active steps to build cheap and sanitary houses. Others think that employers alone should bear this responsibility. No less important a concern than the Tata Iron and Steel Company considers that housing 'should be a charge on industry and that the haphazard and uncontrolled growth of industrial settlements and slums created by private landlords should be definitely put an end to. The consensus of opinion, however seems to favour a scheme wherein all parties—Government, employers and municipalities—have a share commensurate with their responsibility. As employers, the Government of India have now accepted the responsibility of providing suitable quarters to their own workers and have in view a scheme for enforcing standard conditions for industrial housing. According to them, the workers' house must in future comprise 2 rooms, a kitchen, a bath, a lavatory and verandahs, both at the back and in the front. We have given due consideration to this problem and feel that employers, especially in big urban centres, will not be able to discharge their duties to the satisfaction of all concerned, if they are statutorily asked to erect standard houses for their workers. The reasons are obvious. Apart from being a heavy burden on their resources, they will not be able to get the necessary economic rent because of the workers' low earnings. The municipalities cannot finance the construction of houses, as their resources are generally inadequate. They can at best supply housing colonies with water, light and drainage. The only alternative under the circumstances seems to be for Government to step in and assume general control of industrial housing. We indicate below the broad outlines of a policy which may be statutorily laid down.
The main desideratum is the enactment of an Industrial Housing Act by the Government of India providing for the creation of an All-India Industrial Housing Board and Provincial or Regional Boards. We presume that there will in future be a systematic planning of industries
under the auspices of Government and that, once it is decided to allow an-industry to be set up at a particular place, the Housing Boards would deal with the construction of workers' quarters according to a pre-arranged plan. The proposed Housing Boards should be of a tripartite character, due representation being given to employers, employees and Government. They should be left to decide in each individual case whether the financing of housing should be a duty of employers or Government or both. Thus, generally speaking, if an industrial establishments is set up in a rural area or in an out-of-the-way place, where land and raw materials are cheap and where no alternative private housing is available, the employer might be asked to house the workers at his own cost. The position would be different in urban areas, owing to the scarcity and high values of land sites. The State should here accept a direct responsibility for the housing of workers and provide capital finance for the same. We are of opinion that the capital outlay on workers' houses should be raised by Government and advanced to the All-India Housing Board. This board will co-ordinate the activities of Provincial or Regional Boards and advance funds to each according to its needs. The recurrent expenditure—interest, depreciation, maintenance, repairs etc.—may be distributed between employers and workers, the latter paying it in the form of monthly rent which should in no case exceed a certain percentage of earnings (say, 10 per cent).
It should be left to the Provincial or Regional Boards to decide in each case the agency for the construction of houses. The services of Improvement Trusts may be utilised where they already exist; otherwise the Housing Boards may deal with all questions of housing policy including actual construction, standards of accommodation, ownership rent, etc. Rules and Regulations in respect of housing standards may be laid down under the Housing Act. It has already been stated that tenements which workers occupy are generally overcrowded, taking into account not only the dimensions of rooms and the aggregate number of occupants but also their age and sex distribution. It is also apparent that sex distribution in itself may determine the minimum requirements of a family in respect of bed-room accommodation. A married worker must have a basic minimum of at least two living rooms, a kitchen, front and back verandah, a bath room, a lavatory and a small enclosed courtyard, if he and his family are to have privacy and. sanitary and healthy conditions of living and if his children are to be brought up in an atmosphere free from the dirt and squalor, which unfortunately surround them today. The Industrial Housing Act should confer the ordinary rights of tenancy on workers. It has often been complained that many employers keep a watch on their movements in quarters provided by them. In some cases, the chowkidars disallow the entry of outsiders if they fall in the category of 'undesirables* in the eyes of their employers. Trade union leaders have generally no access to these quarters although their contact with workers at their homes is necessary. It is only after the factory hours that workers get some leisure, and if their quarters are inaccessible to trade unionists it becomes difficult for them to discuss their grievances as they arise. This state of affairs is rather unsatisfactory and we feel that, once the quarters come under the direct control and management of the proposed tripartite Housing Boards, it may be possible for workers to move and work in an atmosphere of freedom.
We feel that regional disposal of industries and industrial housing is a great necessity. The Housing Boards should attend to the dispersal of industries in rural and semi-urban areas to avoid the dreadful squalor and congestion in industrial towns in this country. On this point,
we may quote the view of Sir William Beveridge1 who says: "It does not seem to me to matter very much whether the industries are near the raw materials or not; because the raw materials can travel; what I object to is that in this country instead of moving goods we move human being as strap-hangers in suburban trains, miles and miles and and miles everyday. No, by proper distribution of industries I mean distribution with reference to places where people can live and live happily. If, for instance, we were making Britain a new industrial country I would not allow any factory to be put up anywhere without a previous plan as to where the people were going to live who were to work there. That's a new principle that I'd like to see adopted". The question of dispersal has attained a further importance today on account of the emergence of the atom bomb and the strategic necessity of diffusing our industries in sparse regions. It may be added that some of the belligerent countries in World War II actually shifted their large plants to remote places to save them from destruction. The dispersal of industries assumes the existence of adequate transport facilities in the form of good roads and railway communications. This will help the employer in regard to economical marketing of his products. So far new industries are concerned, there should not be any difficulty provided Government plan in advance and do not allow a haphazard growth. The problem of transplantation of old industrial units for their ultimate dispersal in different areas may present some difficulty, though the low price of land, labour and building materials in rural areas, as compared with prices in cities, may make the proposition a profitable one. In case some loss is incurred in the process, it should be possible for the Housing Boards to bear a part of the whole of it.
F.N. Sir William Boveridge's B.B.C. talk on December 16, 1943.