Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
One great obstacle in the path of securing uniform policy and action in respect of labour matters is the distribution of legislative and administrative powers between the Centre and the Provinces under the Government of India Act, 1935. If we refer to the Legislative Lists in Schedule III to the Act, it will be noticed that a majority of labour questions have been relegated to concurrent List, Part II. The position as regards the Concurrent List, is that legislation on matters relating to Labour and Social Security can be both Central and Provincial, subject only to the reservation that the Government of India may issue directions to the Provinces so as to secure co-ordination and uniformity. This scheme of distribution of powers, however, has resulted in a complete lack of uniformity, both in regard to policy and action, as is obvious from the large mass of evidence presented in the Ad Hoc Reports of the Committee. We may draw attention to two or three important instances in this connection. Under the Factories Act, 1934, factory inspection in the Provinces has been entrusted to Provincial authorities, and this is not inconsistent with the constitutional position. As a matter of fact, however, the standards of inspection in different Provinces vary immensely. We do not wish to single out one Province or another either for praise or for blame, but we may generally state that the standards in most Provinces are poor, and, moreover, even the strength of the inspectorates is miserably small. We are sure that if factory inspection were a Central responsibility, this state of affairs could not have arisen. To take another example, under most Central Acts, the rule-making power is delegated to the Provinces, as this is regarded as mainly a local administrative matter. The important principle or constitutional law, which is jealously guarded in countries like Britain, where any deviations or lapses from it are strongly objected to,1 is that the intentions of the legislature should not be defeated by the rule-making power delegated to a subordinate authority which may or may not carry out such intentions. A comparison of the rules made by Provincial Governments under the "Factories Act in pursuance of the powers delegated to them clearly shows that many of the Provinces have not implemented the intentions of the legislature. This has led to a wide disparity in matters such as the provision of shelters, creches, etc. Instances can be multiplied, but we may here mention the parallel case of collection of statistics under the Industrial Statistics Act, 1942. The collection of statistics in regard to labour matters is a subject falling mainly under the Concurrent List, Part II. Owing to this, provincial governments have to be cajoled into taking action on the Act and, as a consequence, the industrial Statistics Act has become almost a dead letter. We do not wish to labour this point further, but may state categorically that unless the distribution of powers under the Constitution is suitably revised, so far as Labour and Social Security are concerned, future progress in this regard is bound to be seriously hampered.
F.N. Cf. for example, Lord Hewart's The New Despottism.
Similar problems have arisen in other countries such as U. S. A.,. Canada and Australia. The experience of these three countries is valuable to us, in view of the fact that all of them have federal constitutions and provide an illustration of the manner in which a constitution drafted under different circumstances can become a strait-jacket. In particular attention may be drawn to Canada, where Royal Commissions was. appointed to consider the entire problem of Dominion-Provincial relations. The main conclusion of the Report in regard to labour matters have been summarised by Sir Atul Chatterjee in an article on "Federalism and Labour Legislation in India" in the International Labour Review, April-May 1944, as follows:—
"The Commission observed that the present division of legislative power under the Constitution threw the main burden of modern social legislation upon the provinces, but that the support of such legislation had become one of the heaviest financial charges which the Governments were. obliged to meet. In accordance with the recommendation of the commission, the Dominion was given jurisdiction (by an amendment made by the British Parliament to the British North America Act) to establish a scheme on employment insurance and promptly exercise such jurisdiction. The Commission further suggested adjustment of Dominion-Provincial relations in regard to contributory pensions and health insurance and workmen's compensation. It also recommended an extension of Dominion jurisdiction in three respects: (a) basic standards of minimum-wages, maximum hours, and the age for admission to employment; (b) industrial disputes; and (c) the implementation of international labour Conventions."
The present political situation in the country being highly uncertain and although in a state of flux, we find it difficult to make concrete suggestions regarding labour in relation to the constitution. Broadly speaking, however, we feel that the power of the Central Government both in regard to legislation and administration should be unfettered and that not only should the centre pass Acts of an All-India character, but that it should also administer them so as to ensure maximum compliance with the provisions of law. On the other hand, it may be possible for the Provinces to pass laws of their own and enforce them provided that they are not repugnant to central laws already enacted. In other words, the provincial authority, for legislation and administration will be limited to such matters as have not already been taken cognizance of the Centre and we are sure that there will be a fair margin for the Provinces to exploit for this purpose. In any case, the chaos in this connection requires to be ended.
As stated already we have been greatly struck by the diversities, which exist between industry and industry, between one Province and another, and between British India and the Indian States, in relation to labour conditions. It seems to us incomprehensible why the same industry competing in more or less the same markets and enjoying more or less the same conditions and suffering from more or less the same disabilities should not be able to give more or less uniform conditions of work and wages to its employees. It would be recognised that the very humane problem of labour is one which cannot be treated compartmentally and that, like customs, tariffs, planning food, etc., has to be tackled on a national basis. The world has traveled very far since 1935 and the
atmosphere has been surcharged with new ideas in regard to problems of labour and social security. In view of this, constitutional and legal models of yesterday may have to be revised and readapted to the changed conditions and needs. The new outlook demands a new approach to the entire problem of labour legislation and labour administration. No doubt, during the last two or three decades, India has made considerable progress in the field of legislation. However, it is clear that the progress has been piecemeal and haphazard. The time has now arrived to take stock of things and to launch upon a bolder and a more comprehensive labour policy, and, to this end, to consolidate and extend the labour laws into a Labour Code applicable to the working classes generally, and provide minimum standards of legal protection for ensuring their economic stability and social well-being.
It is our pleasant duty to acknowledge the generous assistance and hospitality which we received from officials and non-officials throughout the course of our work. We wish in particular to record our grateful appreciation of the help which we received from Provincial Governments, State Authorities, Labour Commissioners (and particularly the Labour Commissioner, Bengal), Directors of Industries, Chief Inspectors of Factories, Port authorities, local bodies, employers' and workers' associations, managements of the units surveyed and all others who rendered. help in the collection of the data presented in this report and in the ad hoc reports published separately.
2. The Committee are thankful to Mr. Teja Singh Sahni, Secretary for having managed the Committee's office work with diligence and industriousness, for assisting them in preparing some of the Appendices to the Report, and for supervising the printing of ad hoc survey Reports. We are also thankful to Mr. N. K. Bhojwani, our Statistician, for sifting a mass of statistical material collected during our surveys and preparing some tables for the ad hoc reports.
D. V. REGE
S. R. DESHPANDE
B. P. ADARKAR
TEJA SINGH SAHNI, Secretary.
5th March 1946.