National Commission on Labour (1967)||
Four months prior to our appointment, the Government of India had set up the Committee on Labour Welfare (hereafter referred to as CLW) to review the functioning of welfare schemes in industrial establishments, mines and plantations and make recommendations about the improvements needed in their functioning. The Committee was also required to examine the working of the statutory welfare funds created for certain minerals, examine possibilities for introducing welfare schemes for agricultural labour, and consider related matters. To avoid duplication of investigations in this area, we decided to draw upon the information collected by the CLW to the extent necessary. In the recommendations which the CLW has sent us, it has covered several aspects of welfare and industrial housing and has made suggestions about social security. For this and the following three chapters, we have taken into account the relevant recommendations of the CLW, but have come to our own conclusions.
10.1 The need for adding welfare activities to the contractual relationship between an employer and the workers hardly received attention in any country in the early stages of industrialisation. The State had to intervene using its persuasive powers and/or by enforcing legislation. Our country has been no exception to this process. Barring a few cases, employers were not generally inclined to accept the financial burden on account of welfare activities. Where they did provide the amenities, it was more a matter of paternalistic—approach to labour rather than a recognition of workers' needs. The Whitley Commission, in taking note of the varying conditions in different establishments, recommended that the more indifferent employers might be brought at least upto the general level which was much below what was provided by the enlightened and progressive employers. It favoured the consolidation and extension of the principle already recognised in the Factories Act in the clause dealing with the general health, safety and welfare of the operatives. It did not desire to overload the Act, but sought a method by which Governments could secure a uniform minimum standard of welfare where the nature of the processes carried on or the special conditions and circumstances of employment demanded it.1
10.2 The Government of India started evincing interest in welfare programmes during the Second World War, when they introduced schemes of labour welfare in their ordnance, ammunition and other factories engaged in war production. The services of reputed labour leaders were availed of for advising Government on this important aspect of the workers' life. Government's anxiety in those days was to take steps to keep up the morale of the workers employed in these factories to help in the war effort in the midst of a politically difficult situation.
10.3 The Rege Committee, while recognising that some aspects of welfare had been receiving attention in individual centres/establishments mainly from local associations of employers, referred to the effect of welfare measures on the general atmosphere in the factory and their contribution to the maintenance of industrial peace. It recognised the role both of the employer and of the Government in this regard and listed a number of facilities which, if provided, were likely to promote a feeling amongst the workers that they had a stake in the industry as much as anyone else and reduce labour) turnover and absenteeism and stabilisation economically efficient working force.2