Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
Like the problem of medical facilities, that of educational facilities also raises a question of principle, viz; to what extent can the employer be held legally or morally responsible for the education of his workers, and if he is to be held so responsible, for what types of education? Broadly speaking, it is a proposition which will be readily acceptable that education as a whole, should be a responsibility of the State. In this context. the Royal Commission (Report, p. 27) observe as follows: "In India nearly the whole of industrial labour is illiterate, a state of affairs which is unknown in any other country of industrial importance. It is impossible to overestimate the consequence of this disability which are obvious in wages, in health, in productivity, in organisation and in several other directions". They, therefore, recommend (Report, p. 494) that "education of the industrial worker should receive special attention and that employers should try to develop the education of their workers' children in their factory schools and that local bodies and employers should co-operate in creating special facilities for the education of workers' children". We are not sure, however, that provision of educational facilities could be imposed upon employers as a matter of policy. As in the case of medical facilities, if any employers actually do provide such facilities, they must be considered as merely gratis. From this point of view, it is interesting to know that the educational scheme of the Central Advisory Board of Education (popularly known as the Sergent Scheme) envisages the financing of a system of national education by the Central and Provincial Governments, partly supported by religious trusts and partly one or two other sources.
It is one thing, however, to say that employers must finance the education of their workers or workers' children, and quite another to say that if they interested themselves in certain types of educational activities with reference to their workers or their children, they would find such activities ultimately proving beneficial to themselves. For instance, adult education or education through the medium of radio, or cinematograph, or lectures on matters of interest to labour, and also specialised instruction in processes of production to skilled workers under agreements can be of great use to employers themselves, in so far as such education improves the mental efficiency and skill of the workers.
Several enlightened employers have provided good educational facilities, from motives partly of self-interest and partly of charity. For example, the Tata Iron and Steel Co. have established a net work of schools,
F.N. In particular, see the Report of the Central Advisory Board of Education on Post-war-Development of Education in India, p. 72.
including two high schools, 8 middle schools, 19 primary schools and 10 night schools. The Buckingham and Carnatic Mills run primary schools, a nursery school and adult education classes. Most of the railways provide adequate educational facilities and run a number of schools for their workers' children. In plantations, likewise, primary schools are run by many enlightened employers at their own cost. The Assam Oil Co., at Digboi, have also provided excellent facilities for education of workers and their children. The C. P. Managnese Ore Co., Ltd., have established a network of schools with the help of contractors at their mines, where education is given free.
Facilities for adult education are almost nil. Most of the employers have not done anything and some who tried had to give it up in despair as the workers did not take any interest. But some trade unions have been doing valuable work in this regard. For Instance, the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association and some other trade unions conduct night classes for adults and the attendance of the workers has been quite satisfactory. The Delhi Cloth and General Mills have devised a novel system for encouraging adult education. Since January, 1944 all new illiterate workers are required to join the adult classes under the terms of their contract of employment. Under the rules of the company, no illiterate worker below 40 years is entitled to become permanent until he has passed the literacy test. As a result of this adult education campaign, the percentage of literacy among workers by July 1943 had risen to 70.1 Some of the Government Labour Welfare Centres in Bombay, U. P., and Bengal also conduct night classes for adults.
As regards provision of facilities for industrial and vocational training little has been done by employers. The Government Labour Welfare Centres conduct classes in sewing, knitting, embroidery work, etc. for working-class women and girls. The Labour Welfare Department of the Government of Bombay runs an industrial training workshop at Ahmedabad where workers are given vocational training which would help them in periods of unemployment. Training in tailoring, carpentry, smithery, moulding, fitting, turning and such other trades is given in the workshop. The Government of U. P. runs a textile institute and a Leather Working school at Cawnpore. Both these impart instructions to workers and mistries. Some other Provincial Governments, like Madras, also run a few trade schools where apprentices are trained. The Railways have their own vocational schools where workshop assistants, permanent way, control, signal and yard apprentices are trained. The Tata Iron and Steel Co. run a technical institute for higher technical education for skilled workers. There are a number of other public and private institutions providing training facilities in different parts of the country.