Courtesy Reuters

Industrial Labor in India

INDIA'S rapid progress along the path of industrialization has left big gaps in her social legislation. The enormous growth of her population (from 319,000,000 in 1921 to about 370,000,000 in 1934) and the economic depression of the last six years have only increased the need for reforms.

The industrial expansion has been going steadily ahead behind tariff walls built upon a basis of "discriminating protection" -- a policy accepted by the Government of India on the recommendation of the Fiscal Commission after the World War. The outbreak of hostilities had revealed, as in a flash, the almost complete dependence of India on her imports of manufactured articles from abroad, even for the most essential commodities. In 1916 the Government appointed an Industrial Commission headed by Sir Thomas Holland and composed of a number of distinguished men, both British and Indian, to investigate the possibilities of industrial development in India. Though the conditions of labor were not mentioned among the assigned subjects, the Commission nevertheless dealt with that problem with great lucidity and foresight. Referring to the alleged inefficiency of Indian labor, it wrote:

If the children of workers are provided with education under tolerable conditions of life, a new generation of workers will grow up, who will learn to regard mill work as their fixed occupation. Better housing is a most urgent necessity, especially in the large congested industrial cities. Facilities for healthy amusement, shorter hours of work (though a reduction of these may for a time decrease output), and other measures for economic betterment, such as cheap shops for the sale of articles required by the millhands, and co-operative societies, are almost equally important. . . . The problem, not only on moral grounds, but also for economic reasons, must be solved with the least avoidable delay, if the existing and future industries of India are to hold their own against the ever-growing competition, which will be still fiercer after the war. No industrial edifice can be permanent, which is built on such unsound foundations as those afforded

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