Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
In regard to working conditions, most of the employers rarely do more than what they are forced to do by law, and even this is evaded in several cases, while no extra measures to prevent the occurrence of accidents or secure better safety for the worker against dust, heat, etc., are usually adopted. The conditions under which the workers perform their tasks have a great bearing on their general health and efficiency. These can be considered under (a) Ventilation, (b) Temperature, (c) Lighting.
(a) Ventilation may be natural in which case it is effected by windows, ventilators, etc. It may also be artificial, comprising methods, of extraction of air by fans or propulsion of air into buildings by mechanical appliances. It is urgently needed especially in textile mills where work may be often carried on in dusty and or moist air. A fair number of industrial processes may be injurious or otherwise in proportion to the amount and nature of the dust that they produce. Similarly, an atmosphere kept moist by steam or spray, as in a cotton mill, may have a deleterious effect on the health of workers. There are several other trades which cause dust or injurious fumes. The evil effects of deficient ventilation are well-known and yet unfortunately no special analysis of the air in various factory industries is available.
(b) Provision for reasonable temperature in work-rooms is essential. Only a few of the employers in India have devoted attention to this subject. Air-conditioning plants have been installed in a fair number of cotton mills in Bombay and Ahmedabad. According to the Chief Inspector of Factories for the Bombay Province1 "the inside temperature recorded on the hottest day of the year in one of the best sheds in Ahmedabad was 88° with an external temperature of 112° in the shade". In this respect, Bombay lags behind Ahmedabad. The condition in other industrial centres' is worse. If employers were to devote their attention to the installation of khas tatties or air-conditioning plants in their own interests in summer, conditions would no doubt improve
(c) Adequate and suitable lighting in places of work protects the eye-sight of the employees and increases their output. Natural lighting may be derived from the roof or from side windows. Artificial lighting may be had through electricity, kerosene or petromax lamps Unsatisfactory natural lighting is due to old and unsuitable buildings nearness of other buildings, dirty window panes walls and ceilings and these drawbacks are very conspicuous in many factories in India. The continuous use of artificial lighting is in itself unnatural and strains the eyes. Unsatisfactory illumination increases liability to accidents and results in diminution of the output. It is also responsible for insanitary conditions as dirt accumulates unnoticed in the absence of adequate light. The employers must see that lighting is not only sufficient but that it avoids the casting of extraneous shadows in the actual place of work.
FN Report of the Bombay Textile Labour Enquiry Committee, p. 316
In many cases we noticed that lamps were not properly shaded with the result that light fell directly on the eyes of operatives while at work. The condition of compositors in a large number of printing presses was pitiable in this respect. It appears that Inspectors of Factories seldom give their thought to such things in the course of their inspections. We, therefore, suggest that there should be a statutory provision for the installation of adequate and suitable lighting in every part of a factory. We are also of opinion that it is necessary to certify premises, large and small, before they are occupied by any factory. This provision is no doubt in force in several places but our experience shows that it is not fully carried out, even in important urban areas.
Working conditions in bigger units, are, on the whole, satisfactory. Smaller and unregulated units, especially those housed in old buildings, present unsatisfactory conditions as to light, ventilation, etc., and leave much room for substantial improvement. Unfortunately, most of the employers are indifferent and merely content themselves by satisfying the letter of the law, rather than the spirit underlying it. The result is that, even within the limits laid down by law, the actual provisions made in regard to protection of machinery, etc., are, in several cases, disregarded. There are, of course, certain enlightened employers who have not stopped at merely providing guards for the exposed moving parts of machinery, but have gone further and organised safety-first committees among workers. With a view to educate them in the risks of accidents. In some cases, bonuses are paid if no accidents occur within the jurisdiction of particular sets of workers.
An account of some of the prominent drawbacks noticed by the Committee and their Investigating Staff is, given in a summary form below. A general strengthening of toe machinery of inspection, more frequent inspections and more stringent enforcements of the existing provision and their application to unregulated concerns should go a long way in bettering the conditions, reducing the number of accidents, and maintaining the efficiency of workers.
Textile Mills.—On the whole, particularly in newer units, the factory buildings are well lighted and ventilated and the general layout of the machinery is satisfactory and gives workers sufficient space to move about freely. In the older cotton textile mills, e. g., in Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Nagpur and Akola, Delhi, Lahore, Indore and Baroda, and older jute mills in Calcutta, arrangements for lighting and ventilation are not satisfactory and there is a considerable congestion in several cases. Machinery is also not well laid out with the result that the workers have no adequate moving space. A fair number of cotton mills in Bombay and Ahmedabad and few in Sholapur, Delhi and Madura have provided, air-conditioning in their departments. Some mills in Bombay and Ahmedabad have also installed vacuum stripping plants for removing cotton dust. Where this is not done, the condition; are intolerable. In some places, on account of climate, the weaving sheds are humidified though the arrangements in force are not everywhere satisfactory. Electric fans are also provided in several departments of mills in Bombay and Madras. So far as jute mills are concerned no exhaust fans and dust extractors or even cooling plants have been installed in most of them. In old established industries like cotton and jute, one would expect very much more than the minimum requirements laid down by
law in respect of health and comfort. On the other hand, it is unusual for factory managements to provide even seating arrangements to the operatives during working hours. It would help to reduce fatigue considerably if high stools are provided, especially for women workers. Working conditions inside most of the silk and woollen mills are generally satisfactory, Srinagar being the important exception. The Factories Act does not apply to either the Silk or Woollen Factory at Srinagar.
Engineering—Ventilation and lighting are in most cases adequate and satisfactory. In several general engineering workshops however war-tune increase in demand for labour did not lead to increase in their size, as a result partly of restrictions on construction work. Certain sections, such as foundry, carpenters' workshop, smithy, and hot-mill were found to be very dark and congested in several cases, A great deal of work on wood and metal is done in the open in many concerns which is very undesirable, as this exposes the workers to sun's rays throughout their work.
Potteries.—In Calcutta and Gwalior, provisions for lighting and ventilation leave much to be desired. In the clay-washing and grinding sections in Gwalior, there are neither windows nor ventilators on the sides of the walls. There is also much congestion in these and the filtering section. Provisions for lighting and ventilation are more satisfactory in Bangalore. Workers in the grinding and mixing sections are not provided with masks which may lead to silicosis. Nor are the workers in the casting section provided with goggles. Disregard of the provisions of the Factories Act in respect of the guarding of driving belts and electric motors was seen in many factories. Sufficient provision is not also made for the escape of smoke and fumes in several factories.
Printing Presses.—With the exception of some large presses, most of the regulated and unregulated presses, especially the latter, are located in premises which were designed for purposes other than those of housing of factory. It is not surprising, therefore, that workers were found working in such places as stables, improvised sheds and ill-ventilated dark rooms. In many presses, walls and ceilings, seldom whitewashed or painted, had accumulated a wealth of dirt and cobwebs. In such presses, serious overcrowding and congestion are inevitable. The larger presses too, appeared to suffer from a tendency towards congestion but this was perhaps due to pressure of work caused by war-time activity and may, therefore, be regarded as a temporary phase. In most cases, flooring, even when cemented and brick-laid, was dirty, uneven and unclean. Added to congestion was the acute discomfort caused by high temperature in summer, cold in winter and leaky roofs in the rainy months. Paucity of fans in most of these presses adds greatly to the discomfort of workers. In the survey of printing presses, particular attention was paid to discover the existence and incidence of lead-poisoning which is a recognised occupational disease in this industry. Unfortunately in the absence of regular periodical medical examination of workers and of scientific research directed towards determining the degree of prevalence of the disease, no definite and reliable evidence could be collected on the subject. except in a few stray cases. Lead is an insidious industrial poison which enters into the system in one or more of the following ways; (a) A worker may swallow minute particles of lead when it is converted in the stomach by the hydrochloric acid of the gastric juice info a chloride and this, by the way is readily soluble. (b) A line-operator or a worker in
the lead furnace may inhale lead fumes, (c) Compositors, while handling, lead, may absorb it from the skin. Workers in printing presses who constantly handle lead are prone to the slow absorption of the minute particles of the metal through taking their meals with unwashed or not properly washed Hands. It is significant that, in many presses, both employers and employees had not so much as heard of lead-poisoning. In view of this, it is not surprising that there was hardly any consciousness of the necessity of mitigating the incidence of this menace. In some presses, soap, occasionally of antiseptic quality was being provided by employers. But it is doubtful whether in most cases this was being done as a safeguard against lead-poisoning. Nail brushes were in use in not more than 3 or 4 printing presses. The knowledge of the possibility of lead poisoning by inhaling lead fumes appeared to be equally poor. Even in presses which had arrangements for letting out lead fumes, the position was not always satisfactory. Exhaust pipes by themselves may not be enough. What is needed is that they should be fitted on to exhaust fans, so that the fumes may be entirely sucked out. No definite opinion on the prevalence of lead-poisoning in this industry can be expressed by us, as the matter is one for medical research to determine. What is significant for us is: (a) the general ignorance of the nature and possibility of lead-poisoning in this industry on the part both of employers and employees and (b) lack of adequate safeguard against this occupational disease.
The incidence of the disease may not always be fully detected. In the absence of scientific investigation of this problem it is, however essential that each press should display notices in conspicuous places giving the causes of lead-poisoning and how best to remove them. The employers should in addition bring home to the workers the necessity of cleaning hands and finger nails through rinsing of the mouth before eating, regular daily baths after work and avoidance of food and drink in workrooms. They should also install suitable exhaust arrangements, bathrooms and wash basins fitted with nail-brushes. Inspectors of Factories should insist on them and also see that arrangements are in force for proper ventilation and nut cleansing of floor which should invariably be cement-ed. A gradual deterioration of eye-sight is another occupation at disease in the printing industry. Inadequate and unsatisfactory lighting arrangements inevitably put a heavy strain on the eyes of compositors and spoil their vision.
Glass Industry.—The frequency of minor accidents like burns and cuqs is very high in glass factories. In the smaller concerns, most of the-floor area is occupied by the furnace around which blowers, and helpers blow molten glass and wing the blow pipes. The smallness of the floor area per worker is in itself, therefore, a contributory cause of cuts and bums in spite of all the care and attention which the workers may give. Another cause for the frequency of accidents is that most of the workers go about their task barefooted. Small pieces of glass which lie scattered on the floor pierce the skin. Again, red-hot electric wires are used to cut the tubings and cases of burns often occur, as no gloves are generally given to 01 worn by the workers who manipulate them. - With the exception of a couple of factories no steps are taken by employers to protect the workers against cuts. A number of diseases from which glass workers suffer, are occupational in character, although they may not find a place in Schedule III to the Workmen's Compensation Act. For instance, the incidence of asthma and bronchitis is so high among blowers and helpers that they have to stop work intermittently, more so in winter when asthmatic attacks become frequent. Mouth blowing over-strains the lungs and
workers easily catch respiratory diseases. Moreover, the use of the same blow pipe by several workers spreads the contagion to all. Several workers, particularly the helpers and blowers, are susceptible also to pleurisy and pneumonia. During the rains, they may rush out into the open from the furnace shed and catch chill. It appears that, as long as there are no shelters for the workers adjacent to the furnace shed, such cases are bound to occur. It is also reported that some cases of silicosis have been detected among the mixers who work in closed rooms in an atmosphere laden with the dust of silica lime and other chemicals. Besides injuring the lungs, the dust affects the eyes of the workers. The glare of the furnace fire has also a deleterious effect on eyes. Nevertheless it was found that gloves and goggles were provided only in a few factories. In a number of cases, the factories do not adhere strictly to the scheduled hours of work. It may happen that the molten glass is not ready at the right hour, due to insufficient heating or any other technical reason. The work naturally commences late and the employees are detained for an hour or two after the scheduled hours of work without getting overtime according to the Factories Act. The quantity of glass prepared is so adjusted that it can all be blown only if the existing strength of workers work for 8 hours. If the blowing operations start late, they are carried on till all the glass in consumed. Again, as Section 35 of the Act (relating to weekly holiday) has been made inoperative in regard to glass factories in some provinces, it becomes well nigh impossible to find out if a worker is granted a holiday after 14 days' work. Sometimes, workers work on the 15th day under assumed names while an absence is registered against their real names. Conditions in the cottage shops at Firozabad are deplorable It was about a decade ago that Mr. Dixon expressed his opinion of these shops in the following words:— "The conditions under which the cottagers make bangles at Firozabad have to be seen, to be properly appreciated. Most of the so-called cottage factories consist of small one-roomed buildings, the floors of which are almost entirely monopolised by an open furnace containing a number of fire-clay pots of various coloured glasses. None of the cottage bangle factories have chimneys and they are always full of smoke". The U. P. Government have since made efforts to improve conditions and have at their own expense provided five model buildings with non-draught ventilation arrangements for the jurai work, but these accommodate only an insignificant proportion of the workers. The rest continue to work in the ill-ventilated one-roomed buildings. This is all the more serious as these cottage shops employ a large number of children. Nor are the conditions of work any better in the smaller bhattas where shishgars manufacture bangles with or without the aid of hired labour. The work here is entirely unregulated and children and adults work continuously for long hours near the open furnance. The Employment of Children Act is not applicable to these cottage shops and children get emaciated, weak and rickety and spoil their eye-sight at an early age.
Sugar Industry.—On the whole, the general sanitary and working conditions in the factories in Madras and Bombay may be said to be better than those obtaining in U.P. and Bihar. The foul smell which is characteristic of sugar factories in the United Provinces and Bihar is absent in the Ahmednagar factories. Sanitation in and around the factories in U. P. and Bihar has become an acute problem on account of the sullage water, molasses and the press mud. The effluent from the factory is allowed to flow into katcha tanks, streams, or soak pits. in Gorakhpur, two factories allow their sullage water to run into streams.
FN 16—2 M. of Lab./56.
In Merrut, one sugar factory has constructed pucca drains for this purpose. Soaking pits are found only in one unit in Bihar. The storage of molasses in katcha tanks leads to an unbearably stinking smell. The press mud was normally found stored inside the mill premises. The flooring in certain factories was broken at places and was not well cleaned at the time of our visits. The sulphitation tanks were found leaking in some cases, thus making the atmosphere very choking. There were steam leakages in certain factories in U. P., Bihar and Ahmednagar. Some of the staircases of factories in Bombay and Madras were steep and slippery. In Gorakhpur, the wooden staircases in two units were in a dilapidated condition. Machinery and fast moving pulleys and belts were not properly guarded in some units. From the point of view of lighting and ventilation, the condition of sugar factories may be said to be satisfactory, except in one unit in Madras.
Cotton Ginning and Baling.—Ventilation and lighting are poor in many of the factories in the Punjab, C. P. and Berar and Khandesh. No factory seems to have taken any precautions to protect the workers from the dust evil. The atmosphere in ginning rooms is always laden with dust and cotton fibres which are injurious to the lungs. Not even in the biggest factories were workers provided with dust respirators. This dust trouble was, however absent in the Double Roller ginning factories of Messrs. Volkart Brothers in which most of the processes had been mechanized. Loose garments are sometimes worn by workers working on machines.
Rice Mills.- Many of the rice mills particularly in the Madras province are small and old and are housed in the most unsuitable buildings. Some of them are so dark that work is done with the help of petromax lamps even during day time, only a few being electrically lighted. Night work mothers is carried on with the help of kerosene lanterns. Sanitary rules are observed only in name to satisfy the provisions of the Act. The entire premises of some mills are filthy. The flooring needs repair; latrines have to be tarred and lime washed; drains are full of dirt; ashes of husk come out of the chimneys in large quantities and spread in the compound; and the surroundings of the mills are filled with husk and rubbish. Above all, the two chief evils in Madras are (i) the dust menace and (ii) the smell nuisance caused by accumulation of water in the paddy soaking tanks. Some of the millowner's have provided dust collecting bags to remove the first evil but nothing has been done to combat the second evil, which can only be got over by a constant flushing of the paddy-soaking chambers. In Orissa, shifts are not properly observed, especially in those units where workers are housed near the mill premises. Women workers are, in many cases, employed contiguously for 8 to 9 hours without rest and without a weekly holiday. In one case, a mill was warned by the Inspector of Factories that female labour should not be allowed to work after 7 P. M. .
Mica Factories.—Whereas the working conditions axe satisfactory in the bigger concerns, they are not so in the smaller units. The small manufacturer usually seats the workers in a dark and ill-ventilated room, with or without a verandah. There is considerable congestion and the average floor space per worker does not exceed 12 square feet. The sanitary arrangements are deplorable and workers often resort to the bylanes for lack of latrines and urinals.
Shellac Factories.- With the exception of a few power-using factories in Calcutta, no labour law is properly respected, in this industry The Employment of Children Act, for instance, applies to all shellac factories, whether regulated or not, but as stated above, it is openly violated in most places. In unregulated factories, ventilation and sanitation are very poor, the ceilings are low and the floors are generally kutcha and dirty. In most of the regulated and unregulated factories, the effluent passes through dirty open drains into the pits or municipal drains outside. The factory premises are usually dirty and unclean. Washing pits, tubs and drains are not properly cleaned at regular intervals and the stench emanating there from is unbearable. The walls are not regularly lime-washed in accordance with the provisions of the Factories Act and driving belts are not properly fenced. Grinding and screening are usually done in spacious verandahs but our investigating staff came across cases where these processes were carried on in small rooms, the dust nuisance caused thereby being responsible for the ill-health of several workers. The bhatta workers get cramped fingers and the karigars' eye-sight is affected due to constant exposure to, heat. The rankariyas or persons who use their feet for crushing and washing the seed stand in water for long hours and develop sores on their feet and legs.
Bidi factories.—Bidi-making goes on in small houses, sheds and verandahas both in towns and villages, majority of output being manufactured in villages. Though the bidi factories in C. P. come under the local Unregulated Factories Act, their conditions are very bad especially in rural areas where workers sit in kutcha houses with mud flooring and without any arrangements for urinals and latrines. The bidi workshops in Bombay proper are much worse. These are usually situated either in or behind pan shops. Their condition so far as light, ventilation and sanitation are concerned, beggars description. They are dark, dingy places with very few, if any, windows and With approaches that are ugly and insanitary. Men, women and children are huddled together and there is hardly any space for any worker to move about. Most of them have no lavatories. Where these exist, their sanitary condition is miserable. Bidi factories employing 20 or more persons in the Bombay province come under Section 5(1) of the Factories Act and are subject to periodic inspections by the Factory Inspector. Most of the workshops in the city and Island of Bombay employ less than 20 persons and do not strictly observe even the conditions about sanitation, ventilation, lighting, etc., which are contained in the licenses they have to obtain from the Municipal Corporation. Conditions in other centres in the Bombay Province are slightly better in respect of lighting, ventilation and congestion. The conditions in Bengal are no better in respect of ventilation, sanitation, and ordinary amenities of life. Latrines are conspicuous by their absence in several places. In every pan-bidi shop in Calcutta, there 13 a section for bidi making. These shops are usually 5' x 4 x 8". The space is partitioned into two decks by means of wooden planks, the upper portion being occupied by the pan-bidi shop and the lower portion which is on the road level, by 3 to 4 workers who literally crawl into it for work. The workshops in South India are generally low-roofed, dark and ill-ventilated with uneven mud floors. The places are seldom cleaned and are littered with the refuse of the leaves. There are rarely any windows and the only entrance is often a narrow door so that light and fresh air are totally inadequate in the work places The workshops themselves are situated in dirty streets and lanes.
The workers squat on the floor with their work baskets in their laps and overcrowding is go great that one can hardly squeeze between them. For lack of proper arrangements for the supply of drinking water in most of the factories, the workers generally go to the nearest hotel or street pipe to quench their thirst. Although women are employed in this industry, there are no creches. In some cases, our investigating staff noticed women administering opium to their infants so that they may not disturb them at work.
Cigar Factories.—In Madras, the cigar factories are located in semi-dark and insanitary godowns in the by-lanes of the George Town area. There is considerable amount of overcrowding and no drinking water, urinals or latrines are provided on the premises. With the exception of Spencers, the Trichinopoly and Dindigul factories are very small. The work place in Trichinopoly is usually the front verandah of the proprietor's house, screened off from the street by gunny bags or palmyra leaves. The workers squat there with hardly any space to stretch their legs. In Dindigul, the work places are fairly well ventilated and overcrowding is not as great as it is in other places.
Carpet Factories.—At Mirzapur, carpets are manufactured mostly at the houses of loom-holders or master-weavers (Karkhanadars or Dukandars). The sanitary conditions of only some of the karkhanas (as the places of work, are called) are satisfactory. There are latrines and bathing facilities in them but a majority of the karkhanas have not been whitewashed for years and the lighting and ventilation in some of them are insufficient. There are no first-aid appliances in any of the karkhanas. The factory buildings at Srinagar are almost entirely made of wood. The outer walls, doors and windows generally consist of lattice. The inside walls are rarely whitewashed and the looms are usually so arranged that weavers cannot move freely from one end to the other. There are usually no central heating arrangements in winter when latticed walls, doors and windows are pasted over with paper to shut out the biting cold. This arrangement is not at all helpful and thus affect. the eyes of workers. In the case of factory buildings at Mirzapur, Srinagar and Amritsar, the floors are usually katcha and are littered with wastes wool, tobacco-ash, rubbish-and dust. There are generally no first aid boxes and no fire extinguishers. Rest shelters are conspicuous by their absence all over. There are no urinals anywhere and some of the factories at Srinagar have no latrines. Where latrines are provided, they are both insufficient and dirty.
Tanneries.—Working conditions are deplorable in most of the tanneries, regulated and unregulated. Apart from the lack of sanitation and suitable drainage arrangements for the disposal of effluent, flushings and hoofs are thrown on the premises indiscriminately. The effluent is generally allowed to run through uncovered kutcha drains into uncovered kutcha tanks thereby emitting the worst possible stinking smell. It is only in a small number of cases that the effluent is allowed to run into underground drains. Bathing and washing facilities are usually absent. Flooring is uneven and kutcha in all but a few large tanneries. Boots and gloves for workers are essential in the lane house and tanyard. Scudders and unhairers must have aprons. Workers on the shaving and buffing machines should have nose caps and respirators. Protective equipment such as these is given only in larger tanneries. Where given, these
are not always made use of. Unregulated tanneries rarely keep any first- aid boxes. Their roofs are usually low and working rooms dark In some cases, hides are pat up to dry on bamboo structures above the workers' heads.
Coir Mats and Matting.—The general working conditions are far from satisfactory in most of the regulated factories and are worse in unregulated factories. Factory-buildings, especially in unregulated units; are kutcha (being built of coconut thatch) without proper ventilation, flooring or protection against fire. Flooring is usually uneven, sandy and is littered with dust and waste yam. In some factories, pits are noticed in the weaving sheds. In several cases especially in unregulated factories, roofs are low. In some places, corrugated iron sheets are used with the consequence that working rooms become veritable furnaces in summer. The premises of all factories are dirty. In some cases there was a thick overgrowth of weeds and grass in the open spaces within the factories. Congestion of a serious character is seen in all units, particularly in the weaving, spooling and beaming sections. As a rule there are no guards for dangerous machinery and no exhaust arrangements are provided to keep away dust in the shearing and trimming sections or smoke in the dyeing section. Washing facilities are inadequate in several places. Even though tubs and taps are provided in all the regulated factories, workers in the stenciling department are not given soap and soda in sufficient quantity for washing off the dyes.
Manganese Mines.— In the Central Provinces manganese mining is carried on at different levels, there being five such levels in one big mine. Rest shelters are usually not provided, the reason stated being that workers can go to their quarters situated near the mines. The underground workers take rest, in the absence of shelters, either at their places of work or in some hollow space caused by the removal of ore. Where rest shelters are provided for the surface workers, they are of brick walls and thatched roofs, no seats being provided in them. Latrines and urinals are not provided in most of the mines. Although there are a large number of women workers there are no creches provided for their children. A rest shelter is sometime used as creche and an elderly woman put in charge of it. Where underground work is carried on in C.P., the supply of candles is not adequate. It was noticed in one mine that six workers were working in the light of one candle. Straight walking in the underground mines is difficult, if not impossible, owing to projecting stones and low roofs. Arrangements for light and ventilation underground are poor in mines in the Central Provinces but are much better in the Shivrajpur mine in Bombay. The Shivrajpur mine alone has provided on the surface bath-rooms fitted with water-taps for underground workers.
Mica Mining.—Conditions inside a mica mine are as bad as they could be. Wooden ladders are very often used for negotiating the mines and kerosene lamps and candles are used in most of them for lighting purposes. The ventilation in upper levels is generally good in mines owned by bigger firms but, as one goes deeper, conditions become worse. In mines owned by small mine-owners, ventilation is very poor. Since water is not regularly pumped out from the mines, the underground workers are everywhere found working in water.
Mineral Oil.—The refineries,1workshops and the tin factory of the Assam Oil Company are subject to the Factories Act and the working conditions are generally satisfactory therein, but the bulk of the workers
employed in the oilfields are subject to no statutory protection in respect. of hours and health and. to few statutory regulations in respect of safety Oilfields are given complete exemption from the operation of the Indian Mines Act. The following observations of tile Royal Commission may be quoted in this connection : "We are of opinion that the protection of the law in regard to rest days, hours, health and safety should be extended to workers on the oilfields. We also think that labour statistics analogous to those for factories and mines should be compiled and published. We, therefore, recommend that conditions on the oilfields be examined by Government with a view to determining whether the end can be achieved by modifying the present exemption and applying appropriate provisions of the Mines Act, or whether separate legislation should be passed for the regulation of hours, rest days, safety and health on oilfields".1 Though the recommendation was accepted in principle by the Government of India, no action has yet been taken to implement it. There are no rest shelters; small smoking huts alone being provided for shift workers. Workers engaged in drilling soil their clothes by mud or dirty water but no overall or allowance in lieu thereof is given to them.
Plantations.—Many of the tea gardens in Assam and Bengal are situated in highly malarial regions and this has a blighting influence on the health of the workers Many of the workers are anaemic and fall easy victims to disease. Further, most of the workers are recruited from distant places and life in tea gardens involves for them a change in climate and environments that cannot but have a depressing effect. To make matters worse, it often happens that food ration in tea gardens is not sufficient and most of the workers suffer from malnutrition. In the Kangra valley nearly 90 per cent. of tea garden labour live in adjacent villages and come to work in the gardens every morning. In Dehra Dun about 43 per cent. thus come from the villages and in Almora about 70 per cent. Nearly all the workers in South Indian gardens are recruited from the plains and the sudden change in elevation, rainfall and climate appreciably lower their resistance to disease. There is also a change in their diet. Women and children employed on work given to the maistry on a contract basis have to work unduly long hours and even instances of corporal punishment of children by the maistries with a view to exacting more work from them are not unknown. On many tea estates creches of a crude type are provided where small children of working mothers are cared for and fed. No creches are found in coffee estates. On some tea estates, hot tea without milk or sugar is served to the workers during the mid-day break in the rainy season but this by no means is a universal practice. No arrangements are made for supplying drinking water to the workers in the field. The rubber estates are mainly in the plains and conditions of work are not so bad. One disadvantage, however, is that the workers' clothes get spoiled by the latex and no compensation is made to them.
Railways.—Some of the disabilities of the staff in respect of their working conditions, based partly upon our observations and partly upon the information supplied by the workers concerned are detailed below :— (i) Gangmen.—Not a single Railway Administration supplies complete uniform including footwear for the gangmen who have to carry on their work exposed to sun and rain and, sometimes, snow. On the B.B. & C.I. Railway, blankets are supplied to gangmen on the line from Bombay to Surat but not beyond. The B. B. & C.I Employees' Union points
FN Report P. 11 a
out that. the gangmen should be supplied with rain. coats and not blankets, as the latter is inconvenient in the performance of their duties. (ii) Carriage and Wagon Coolies and Fitters,—On almost all railways, coolies and fitters working in the "sick sidings" have to carry on their work exposed to sun and rain as there is practically no provision for any shed over the "sick sidings", (iii) Firemen.—Firemen are seldom supplied with goggles to protect their eyes against the glare. On some railways, it is complained that they are not given any over-all garments or, if given, only very sparingly (iv) Signalmen.—On several stations of many railways there is no shed over the signal levers so that those who operate them are exposed to sun and rain. Moreover, it is complained that levers get frequently rust on account of rain and become difficult to operate. Those working in the cabins complain that there is no supply of drinking water, or the provision of lavatories and urinals for them close to the cabins. (v) Guards.—The general complaint of the guards on almost all railways is that, as the relieving staff is insufficient, guards are made to work at a stretch without adequate rest.
European and Anglo-Indian guards are exempted from working shunting and van trains between Lahore and Wazirabad. Indian guards complained about this racial discrimination. The reply of Sir Andrew Clow, the then Transport Member, was that "no action was taken (on their complaint) as there is no running room for European and Anglo-Indian guards at Wazirabad". (vi) Drivers.—The drivers on the South Indian Railway complain that the administration takes drastic steps by way of stopping the increments and promotion etc., if coal is not economised to the extent decided upon by the Locomotive Inspectors. (vii) Clerks.—The general complaint of the clerks in several of the offices both at the Headquarters and in the divisions of almost all the sampled railways is that they are over-worked, particularly as a result of the increase in the volume of work due to war. Moreover, owing to paucity of relieving staff, some of the clerks, at any rate, are not able to obtain compensatory leave. That this is true of the clerks even in the Railway Clearing Accounts Office, will be evident from the following passage: "There has been difficulty in giving compensatory holidays to some men. 554 clerks could not get the compensatory leave due to them during the last 6 months"1. (viii) Running Rooms.—The complaint of guards, drivers and others on running duty is that invidious distinctions are made between Indians and Europeans in respect of running rooms on some railways. Indian running-rooms are far inferior in several respects—crockery, furniture, servants, etc.—to European and Anglo-Indian running rooms. It is high time this distinction were abolished and the entire running staff treated alike for this purpose.
Tram and Bus Services.—For the convenience of staff called to duty in the early morning hours, a room was found set apart for them for their night's rest only at one place. While the condition of tramway workshops is fairly satisfactory, the seating arrangements in Depots are inadequate and unsatisfactory. Latrines are dirty and arrangements for drinking water rather inadequate. There are no rest-shelters, specifically set apart for the out-door staff at several halting points. It was complained that regulators who were expected to regulate the movements of tram cars and buses were not always supplied with watches. In legislative Assembly. Debates—Vol. III —No. 5—3rd April, 1944 -page 18. Reply given by Shri Edward Benthall.
Madras the bus drivers complained that driving buses fitted with producer gas plants causes giddiness, loss of appetite and in some cases permanent derangement of the digestive system. One complaint of the conductors was that they have to wait for a hours after regular working hours in order to pay in the day's collection and settle the accounts. No rest-shelters or tiffin sheds were provided for the benefit of the employees on buses.