Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
Owing to acute shortage of coal and in some cases of electric power many factories had to remain closed for some days in the month, during the War period, particularly during the years 1942-44. This led to considerable voluntary idleness amongst workers employed in such factories. The Standing Orders framed for the cotton mill industry in important centres provide for playing-off due to force majeure and in most cases the workers get no compensation for such enforced idleness. In the jute mill industry however, as a result of the efforts made by the Commissioner of Labour, Bengal, the employers agreed to give what is known as Khoraki, amounting to Rs. 4-6-0 per week during such weeks as the workers had to remain compulsorily idle owing to shortage of fuel and raw materials. In most of the industries, including glass, shellac, engineering (such as iron foundaries, rolling mills), etc., the unemployment was not alleviated by any action on the part of employers or of Government. Agitation was indeed carried on by labour leaders asking Government to institute an Unemployment Assistance scheme for the benefit of workers temporarily thrown out of work owing to shortage of fuel and raw materials. Unfortunately, however, owing to the difficulties of instituting such a scheme during war time, and owing to great mobility of labour and the sudden emergency of the problem, no such scheme could be evolved at short notice. As a consequence, workers suffered considerably.
Another war-time development relates mainly to the jute mill industry in Bengal where several mills were commandeered by the army for war purposes. Thus, while there was an insistent cry for more production. owing to the closure of these mills production naturally decreased. This
contingency was met by the Jute Mills Association by working two shifts in such mills as had not been commandeered, and these were known as "foster mills". Speaking generally, when a single management had two mills belonging to it, one a commandeered mill and the second a "foster mill" the latter was converted into a mill working double shifts where the workers from the first mill were transferred. This process, however; took a certain time for adjustment and, in the meanwhile, the workers in the commandeered mills had to go without work.
Owing to the war panic among the workers in jute mills, the industry suffered from a considerable shortage of labour for a long period. Attempts were made to induce local labour to take up jobs in the mills but this mostly failed. Even during the dark days of the Bengal famine, the local workers were unwilling to take up jobs of coolies and sweepers in the mills as they considered it below their dignity to accept them. Contrary to their policy, the managements had to recruit a certain amount of child labour. Likewise, owing to the war scare, there were large-scale exoduses to villages from centres like Bombay and Madras, and this caused a temporary scarcity of labour which had to be remedied by makeshift arrangements.