Managing a Business/Labour wlfare
Sir can you please answer this question,
Explain the milestones in the development of labour welfare in India? Is it
successful in Indian context? Elaborate.
5. Explain the milestones in the development of labour welfare in India? Is it successful in Indian context? Elaborate.
Historical Development of Labour Welfare in India
During the early period of industrial development, efforts towards workers’ welfare was
made largely by social workers, philanthropists and other religious leaders, mostly on
humanitarian grounds. Before the introduction of welfare and other legislation in India, the
conditions of labour were miserable. Exploitation of child labour, long hours of work, bad
sanitation, absence of safety measures etc., were the regular features of the factory life. The
earliest legislative approach could be tracked back to the passing of the Apprentices Act of
1850. This act was enacted with the objective of helping poor and orphaned children to learn
various trades and crafts. The next act was the Fatal Accidents Act of 1853 which aimed at
providing compensation to the families of workmen who lost their life as a result of
“actionable wrong”. Earlier attempts at legislation in this country were mainly aimed at
regulation of employment.
Pre- Independence Era
The movement to improve the working conditions of Indian labour started with the passing of
the first Indian Factories Act in 1881. The deplorable conditions in which labour worked in
the textile mills in Bombay during those days, as testified by the factory commission of 1875
was the immediate cause for the passing of the Act. Adult labour, however, was not protected
in any manner. It was found inadequate in many respects. Any how, it recognized the right of
the government to safeguard the interests of the workers by means of a suitable legislation.
Therefore, the Mulock Commission was appointed by the Government of Bombay in 1884
to review the working of the Factories Act of 1881.
The Factories (Amendment) Act 1891 applied to all factories employing 50 persons or more.
Provisions relating to better ventilation, cleanliness and for preventing over crowding in
factories were also made. The hours of work for children were reduced to six per day.
Employment of women between 7.00 pm and 5.00 am was prohibited. Women were allowed
to work for eleven hours in a day with one and a half hours rest. Certain provisions were also
made for the health and safety of the Industrial workers.
The outbreak of First World War in 1914 let to a number of new developments. During the
war years (1914 to 1918) the number of factories and the number of persons employed
wherein increased. Wages did not keep pace with the rising prices and profits. The
establishment of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1919 was another
important land mark in the history of Labour Welfare Movement in our Country. The
formation of AITUC (1920), the first central trade union organization in our country, also
helped in furthering the cause of welfare movement.
Another milestone in the field of labour welfare was reached with the appointment of Labour
Investigation Committee (Rege Committee) in 1944. The committee was asked to
investigate problems relating to wages and earnings, employment, housing and social
conditions of workers. It covered different areas in labour welfare such as housing policy, rest
and recreation, occupational diseases, relief in the case of old age and death, crushes,
canteens, medical aid, washing and bathing facilities , educational facilities etc. For the first
time in India, this committee highlighted the importance of welfare measures for workers in
improving their social and economic life.
Post Independence Period
After independence, the labour welfare movement acquired new dimensions. It was realized
that labour welfare had a positive role to play in the increasing productivity and reducing
industrial tensions. The emergence of different central trade union organizations – INTUC
(1947), HMS (1943), BMS (1955), CITU (1970), NLO etc. gave a further fillip to the
growth of labour welfare movement. Mainly on the basis of the recommendations of the Rege
Committee, the Government of India enacted the Factories Act 1948. To draft this important
piece of legislation the services of Sir Wilfred Garrett were utilized. Thus, the Factories
Act of 1948 came into effect from 1
St April 1949.
Various Labour Welfare Activities were incorporated in different five year plans.
The First Five Year plan (1951 to 1956) paid considerable attention to the welfare of
working classes. It laid emphasis on the development of welfare facilities, for avoidance of
Industrial Disputes and for creating mutual goodwill and understanding. During this period,
the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, the Mines Act, 1951, and the Employees’ Provident
Fund Act, 1952 were enacted.
The Second Five Year plan (1956 to 1961) saw further developments in the field of labour
welfare. New enactments were made to cover seamen and motor transport workers. A
comprehensive scheme known as Dock Workers (safety health and welfare) scheme was
drawn up in 1951. In 1959, the Government of Assam passed an Act called The Assam Tea
Plantations Employees’ Welfare Fund Act. This period also saw number of enactments in the
field of industrial housing by various state governments.
The Third Five Year plan (1961 to 1966) stressed the need for effective implementation of
various statutory welfare provisions. It recommended improvement in working conditions
and emphasized greater productivity on the part of workers. Some of the legislative measures
during this period include the Maternity Benefit Act 1961, Apprentices Act 1961, and
Payment of Bonus Act 1965.
The Fifth five year plan (1974 to 1979) also laid down programmes for labour welfare. For
promoting industrial safety in increasing measure, the plan provided for setting up of safety
cells in various states. An amount of Rs.57 crores was provided for labour welfare including
craftsmen training and employment service.
The Sixth Five Year plan (1980 to 1985) decided to promote special programmes which
would also need to be undertaken by the state governments for the benefit of Agricultural
Labour, Artisans, Handloom Weavers, Fishermen, Leather workers and other unorganized
workers in the rural and urban areas. An outlay of Rs.161.7 crores was proposed for the
labour welfare programmes during this year.
In spite of all these efforts, the welfare work in India is still considerably below the standard
setup in other countries. However, it has come to stay as an accepted feature of employment
conditions and is bound to make rapid progress in the years to come, especially when the
Indian Republic is wedded to the ideal of a welfare state with socialistic objectives.