Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
The legal position in regard to provision of creches is that the Government of India has under the Factories Act (Section 33) empowered the Provincial Governments to make rules "requiring the reservation of a suitable room for the use of children under the age of six years belonging to women workers in factories employing 50 or more such women workers, and describing the standards for such rooms and the nature of supervision to be exercised for the children". Most of the Provinces, including, Bombay, C. P. and Berar, U. P., Bengal and Madras, have availed themselves of this rule-making power. On the whole, however, the employers have been rather slow in observing the requirements in regard to provision of creches even in Provinces where the law requires it. Things were bad enough in former years when there was no provision of creches, as women used to keep their children with them while working near the machines or, worse still, drug them with opium and leave them at home. Mills which are not legally obliged to establish creches do not have them at all. Even those employing more than 100 women workers in a large number of cases evade the provision of the law and put forward some lame excuse or other in justification, such as e.g. that the women in the factory are unmarried and so require no creches; or that only women who have passed the child-bearing age are employed; or that they are widows, etc. Even where the rules are observed, the tendency is to conform only to the letter of the taw and to break the spirit of it. Thus, some dark room in a comer away from the work-place may be set apart with no playthings to attract the children and nobody to look after them. The Royal Commission (Report, p. 65) stated that though creches were not uncommon in factories employing women, and some of these they saw were admirably staffed and equipped, "others, if, better than nothing, still left much to be desired; yet others were both dirty and inadequately furnished". This state of affairs still continues in a large measure. Generally speaking, the creche is one of the neglected corners of the factory and if an ayah or nurse is in attendance, she seldom pays sufficient attention to the requirements of the children left there. The emoluments of nurses in charge are usually low. Supervision even in good creches leaves much to be desired. For example, at one place we were told that women workers hoped their babies in creches with the connivance of the nurse in charge. The atmosphere is seldom very clean, and standards of sanitation seldom very high. If cradles are provided, there are not enough of them, with the result that children are allowed to lie on the floor, generally in dirty clothes and crying for want of attendance. On occasions of visits of officers or Committees, there is a considerable amount of window-dressing and even then conditions do not appear to be very satisfactory. Of course there are some enlightened employers who have established creches which are well-equipped and adequately staffed. For example, child welfare and maternity wards are attached to the hospital provided by the Tatas. The Gokak Mills in the Bombay Province and the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills at Madras have made excellent arrangements for creches and also children maternity welfare. Parry and Co., a their Nellikuppam Sugar Factory have established a child welfare centre with a trained nurse, Ayahs and health visitors. Women in the locality are given pre-natal and post-natal treatment and on three days in a week workers' children are given bath, clean dress and milk, all free of cost. The weights of the children are recorded and steps are taken to improve their health. Likewise the Begg Sutherland Group of Mills provides creches under the supervision of trained midwives. The creches are equipped with hanging cradles
and cots, mattresses, sheets, blankets and all other necessary equipment.. The children are kept clean, being washed and clothed in fresh garments everyday Toys, biscuits and nourishing food are also provided by the management. In the Madura Mills, creche is being maintained in a spacious building, with a kitchen attached to it, from which children are supplied free meals, milk, fruit etc. These are merely illustrations of the facilities provided by enlightened employers, but, generally speaking the attitude of employers is not very favourable to the provision of creches. We feel that unless the law regarding creches is made more universal than at present and also more rigorously enforced, the position is not likely to improve. In this connection, mention may be made of the fact that the Governments of Bombay and Madras have appointed a Lady Inspector of Factories to visit creches and bring them up to a minimum standard of cleanliness and comfort. We also feel that, apart from factories, other industrial establishments, particularly mines and unregulated factories, should be brought under the scope of such law. At present, the position in mines and unregulated factories appears to be most deplorable.