The 1850s was the conspicuous decade for the sharp increase in the labour intensive industrial development. It was this decade which saw the successful establishment of jute and cotton mills. The coal-fields were connected with the railway junctions to facilitate the supply to the expanding railway system in India.
Since India was subjected to British industrial interests, the building of railway system and working coal-fields could not give stimulus to industrial revolution. It was not the beginning of a diversified industrial growth, but both a beginning and an ending.
Rather, as Daniel Thorner has observed, the railway system was constructed both to drain out the raw materials at economical rates and also to create a demand for British industrial goods.
Daniel Thorner said that:
In the economic sphere the railways fostered a measure of regional specialization in both agricultural and industrial production and encouraged the bringing of more land under cultivation. The railways appear also to have helped raise the level of wages and prices and to have helped make them more nearly uniform in the sub-continent as a whole.
Yet when we consider the fact that the railways have been the largest and most important enterprise of a truly modern character in India, involving heavy machinery, precision techniques, and advanced communications, we have to conclude that they have had surprisingly few constructive results. They helped spread a veneer of modernization over the countryside while doing little to initiate a process of modernization.
In 1946, 70 per cent of the industrial index was constituted by the cotton textiles jute textiles and coal. All other mining and industrial concerns accounted for about one third of the total industrial production on the eve of independence.
The industrial growth up-to the first World War was confined entirely to these four basic industries viz., railways, coal, jute and cotton. It was the alarming growth of steel industry in Germany which rather compelled the British Government to develop conciliatory steel industry in India, and the Tata Iron and Steel Industry (TISCO) made its mark on the industrial map of India in 1911.
Next in importance to the railway industry was the coal industry. It was not only the basic requirement of railways in India, but also of the British industry. The coal production was just one lakh tonnes in the 1840s.
It rose to three lakhs tonnes in 1860, one million tonnes during the First World War, and, thereafter, remained almost static on 250 million tonnes during the period of subjugation of the country to Pax Britannica. Until 1920s, the coal industry was controlled and managed exclusively by the British. After 1920, small coal-fields were developed by the Indian management.
The jute industry was also started by the British. First jute industry was established in 1854. Three more mills came into existence by 1862. By 1877, 4000 looms were in operation. By the close of the century the number rose to 15,000 looms.
It was the military preparations in Europe in the twentieth century, that helped increase the number to 40,000 looms when the First World War came to an end. This mark was sustained by the continued tense situation and wars for the power struggle in Europe.
It was the Indian textile industry which was ruthlessly destroyed by the British in India. But it was also the cotton industry which was revived by the Indian entrepreneurs. The Parsi community which traded in the raw-cotton were the first to establish a cotton mill in 1854.
The growth of cotton industry was rapid. The number of the mills increased from just 8 in 1861 to 271 mills in 1914 and continued to maintain the expanding tempo up-to 1946.
It was the First World War which forced the industrial growth at a faster rate and in diverse areas. Marine activities being curbed in 1800, India was left with no merchant marine of its own. The country was also deprived of the marine facility offered by the British merchant fleet during the war.
It exposed the grave danger to the British empire in the East since the non-availability of spare parts and machinery brought; almost a break-down even in railway service.
British compulsion to place its demands for government stores, so far obtained from England, on Indian resources helped emergence of other light industries. The general and electrical engineering industries which were absent from the industrial map of 1914, had become an important sector by 1919.
Similarly railway workshops, ordinance factories, iron and steel factories, chemical industries and others had obtained a respect-able place on the industrial map of India. It was this industrial growth which provided jobs to an increasing number of people and led to the emergence of a substantial labour force in India.
The following table gives a vivid picture:
The above table shows that there was a labour force of about 546 thousands in 1892. The strength increased to 3854 thousands by 1949 i.e., it increased 700 per cent during this period. The phenomenal growth was in the railways. It employed the largest number of people. Their number rose from 259 thousands in 1892 to 901 thousand in 1949.
Therefore, there was an increase of about 350 per cent in the employment of labourers in the railways. Next to it was the mining industry. There were just 33 thousands miners in 1892. Their number rose to 594 thousands in 1948 i.e., the employment opportunities increased by 180 per cent in mining industry.
Next to the railways in providing employment was the cotton industry. It employed 121 thousands people in 1892 and 661 thousands people in 1848, Overall, the factory employment was insignificant. There were only 254 thousands people in the factory employment in 1882. The factories in India were providing jobs to about 2580 thousands people in 1949.
The industrial growth, however, was much below the potentialities of the country. The resources, but for British over-rule, could have created more industry and therefore more jobs to the people and lessened the burden on land. There was a temporary change during the Second World War but India still remained predominantly an agricultural country. Only eleven per cent of the population remained in the urban centres.
Until 1939, over seven- tenths of the export trade consisted of raw materials and food stuffs and about three-quarters of the imports consisted of wholly or partially manufactured goods.
The number of persons employed in organised sector was extraordinarily low for a population of the size of India and the daily average number of hands employed by establishments in British India to which the Factories Act applied was only 1,553,169.
It was mainly because of this tendency that the country could not have a substantial labour force, which could leave its impact on the socio-economic development of the country during this period.
Character of the Indian Labour Force:
The real labour force, however, exists in a country only when the workers obtain a permanent employment in factories and when the industrial environment provides them a more adequate fulfillment of personal satisfaction, than they enjoyed in the village or rural society.
Here it is sufficient to say that there was no such growth of industrial sector in India. Ln 1881, only 9.3 per cent of the Indian population lived in urban centres, while by I94i the total was 12.8 per cent and by 1951 it rose to just 17.3 per cent.
This increase was also more because of the partition of India which had forced dispossessed rural inhabitants to urban centres. These figures, however, do not tell the truth. Industrial employment becomes quite insignificant if we look at occupational distribution of Indian population.
According to the Statistical Abstracts for British India, the occupational structure before the World War II was as under:
As the occupational structure reveals the industrial employment was just 10.38 per cent whereas the domestic employment was to the tune of 7.51 per cent. These two contradictory employment avenues tell the real character of the labour force in India, and that is why the real labour force in British India was really insignificant.
It is necessary to know the source of the supply and working of the labour force to understand this aspect of the labour force.
Position of Land:
Before the rise of the British power, the Indian rural economy was self-sustaining. The villagers had their own plots of lands. Others could have land on pattaddari from the big landlords. The local artisans worked on the goods needed by the peasantry. This was not a feudal system.
It was more based on community feeling tempered by the political abuses. But after the British obtained the political authority in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa they resorted to “Permanent Settlement”. Big plots of land were allotted to many a farmers at fixed rate. These farmers with the passage of time emerged as zamindars.
The zamindar allotted the plots of lands to the peasantry and charged the land rent according to his assessment. The land rent was so much inflated by them that it became sometimes uneconomical to the peasantry. But the zamindar was empowered to confiscate the lands in the case of defaults in the payment of the land rent.
Thus the peasant was forced to work as a labourer on zamindar’s lands to provide for himself and his family. Besides, the Company Government, and later the Crown Government encouraged farming of cash crops such as cotton, jute, oilseeds etc. The agriculture was commercialized to the advantage of the consumer of Britain.
Therefore, the peasantry was left with little surplus to withstand the poor harvest— a normal feature of Indian agricultural economy. Consequently, the farmer had to live at the mercy of village-banker. As the miserable position of the peasantry obtained in the fifties and sixties, in that process the peasantry became permanently in debt.
Social Status of Labour:
Their indebtedness increased further after the increasing population could not find another avenue an d had to depend upon the available land to his family. This led to sub-division of land into uneconomical small holdings.
As the population went on increasing, the rural economy did not expand, there was increasing unemployment. This forced the surplus members of the agricultural family to hunt for job outside the agricultural economy.
It was particularly essential for the members of those families who came “from the lower castes, and had less to lose by leaving the security of the village”. It was this low caste rural population which came in the urban centres and emerged into labour force of modern India. This character is still retained by the labour force in India.
“The mass of workers still represent the superfluous elements of India’s rural population whom an impoverished land”, aptly observed by Shiva Rao, “is incapable of supporting socially and economically they represent the most backward sections of the population.” This was also the reason that manual labour could obtain respectability in the society.
The industrial and economic policy had impoverished the village community more than the urban economy. After the industrialization, offered new opportunities to unemployed and underemployed in agricultural economy, the villagers were not as free to move out as their counterparts in Europe were able to become Industrial labour.
The industrial labour in India had a strong link with the village. It was mainly because in the late nineteenth century the social system was very much linked with economic activities. A change in occupation was constrained by the social norms. Blunt’s observation was a true picture of the society.
He observed that in the Hindu society:
It is the caste and not the individual that counts. A man’s social position is that of the caste of which he is a member. The caste chooses his occupation for him, and if he disregards its decision it can take away his social position altogether by out-casting him. Secondly, the caste—system is rather a socio-economic unit than a social organization. Almost every caste is closely associated with a particular occupation.
It was for this reason that generally, the industrial labour came from the lower layer of the society. According to a survey of 550 families of Bombay, textile workers in 19.37, for example, 43 per cent of them belonged to lower layers of the caste structure.
Most of these 43 per cent were Mahars whose hereditary occupation was serving as village menials, performing such services as guarding of crops, scavenging of messages, cutting fire-woods, carrying cow-dung cakes and so on.
“The development of industries in the city, however, opened a new channel for them for the betterment of their economic condition and for emancipation from the economic and social dependence on the caste Hindus”.
This was the position in all the industrial centres. According to another survey of 959 families in eight industrial centres, including Delhi, Nagpur and Indore, conducted in 1950-53, 79 per cent of them were untouchables. 64 per cent of them were landless agricultural labour. The surveyor concluded that 65 per cent of these people migrated from their villages because of economic distress and related reasons.
Next to the people of lower layer, it was the peasantry which migrated to the industrial units to lessen the burden on land as well as indebtedness of his family. It is for this reason that we find that the growth rate of population between 1901 and 1951 was 50 per cent; but the population of advanced industrial centres viz., Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras expanded by 235 per cent.
The better prospects in the industrial units comparing with rural avenues bettered the social position of their families in the villages also. It encouraged the people of higher castes also to seek jobs in industrial sector.
A survey of 38000 families in the textiles in Bombay in 1941 revealed that sixty per cent of them were members of respectable cultivating castes. It brought down the percentage of “depressed” people to 16 per cent. Thus the pecuniary benefits weakened social constraints and accelerated the mobility of rural population to industrial population.
The Labour Investigation Committee observed in 1946:
In recent years … there has been a greater concentration of the working class population in industrial areas and this has led to the rise of an urban proletariat in most cities, which is prepared to stick to the town to a greater extent than before ….A steady increase in the ranks of landless labourers, moreover, has compelled many to remain and settle in the town and to regard it as their home.
It is, however, an exaggeration. Though the social norms had started crumbling down, but the gap in the proletariat and the elite in the urban. centres created new constraints upon the industrial labour to maintain their link with the village where their meagre assets could obtain for them more respect than as expected in the urban centres. It was also due to the recruitment and management policy.
Recruitment of Labour:
After the British started their jute and plantation industry they looked upon the leaders of the castes in the villages to provide them needed labour. They paid them a commission to bring their people to these industrial units. But after working in these industrial units, the labourers found better conditions than prevailing in the villages.
It opened a mad rush of the “depressed” people and even they paid “bribe” to the recruiters, who had by their work become a link between the employer and the labour. These were the two abuses which went against the industrial security of the labourer in India.
The Royal Commission also stressed these abuses in the following words: “The temptations of the jobbers’ positions are manifold and it would be surprising if these men failed to take advantage of their opportunities.
There are few factories where a worker’s security is not, to some extent, in the hands of the jobber; in a number of factories the latter has in practice the power to engage and dismiss the worker. We are satisfied that it is a fairly general practice for the jobber to profit financially from the exercise of this power.”
The jobber’s financial position further enhanced after the attraction for factory labour increased beyond the demand by the staggering industrial growth. They could establish not only their control but were also in a position to supervise the labour in a better way.
Radhakamal Mukherjee has explained it as under:
It is he who visits the villages of miners and loaders, offers advances to them and brings them to the colliery, maintaining an adequate labour force from day to day. It is he who keeps the labour in village and family gangs, which adds to the amenities of their toil in an uncongenial environment.
He is a man of higher intelligence and ability than ordinary miners. He keeps watch over them, sees that they go to pits regularly and reports if they do not obtain proper facilities for work, i.e., suitable working faces, and an adequate supply of tubs.
He is also responsible for all tools and plant issued to miners and loaders, keeps them under discipline at their work and also remains present when the payment is made to them. He acts in fact as the middleman between the management or the rising contractors and the miners.
Thus the recruiter of labour became all in all to the labourers. The employers found the job quite easy as they could depend upon these recruiters not only for the supply of labour but also for supervising their work.
Assured of supply of labour, discipline and direction of work through these recruits the employers became indifferent to the interests of the workers. With better prospects in the industrial sector, the surplus and underemployed labour in the impoverished rural economy had already been induced towards migration. They could ignore their interests since the people being pushed into factories had no other avenues left.
They had no difficulty in attracting skilled and unskilled labour at cheap rates since even the low wages were more attractive and comparatively higher to the poor returns of the hard work they were putting in the rural economy.
The indebtedness and appalling poverty was rather pushing them into industries. The entrepreneurs therefore did not care for providing adequate housing, sanitary facilities or other amenities which could develop commitment in the industrial labour.
The revelations in the report of the Labour Investigation Committee in 1946 are not only starting but also expose the very exploiting-nature of these entrepreneurs in India.
The Report noted that, “On the whole, it may be stated that employers who take a most indifferent and nonchalant attitude towards welfare work and say that no rest shelters are provided as the whole premises belong to the workers themselves, no latrines are provided because workers prefer the open spaces, no canteens and sports are necessary because they are not likely to make use of such facilities, and soon, constitute the majority. It is apparent that, unless the precise responsibilities of employers in regard to welfare work are defined by law, such employers are not likely to fell in line with their more enlightened and far-sighted conferrers.”
The housing problem was rather more serious. One third of the industrial labour was not provided with any housing facilities. As a result one-room hut provided to a meager percentage of the labourers was shared by about 4.8 persons.
These occupants were not members of one family. They belonged to different families and shared the accommodation “to save by starvation” and pay for the living of their families left in their respective villages.
It was the exploitation which kept “the village an infinitely better place than the city for the young and the aged, the sick, the maimed and the exhausted, the unemployed and the unemployable.” It may be noted here that it was the exploiting nature of the entrepreneurs which had forced the helpless labourers to pay through their nose. The capitalist approach of the British Imperial Government in India was not prepared to intervene unless “the discontentment burst out and threatened their rule”.
Moved by the miserable plight of the industrial labour in the cities. Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders argued for revival of rural industry so that the labourers are not pushed into the labour centres and they could be in a position to bargain with the entrepreneurs.
With this, the entrepreneurs argued for reducing the wages of the workers in the 1920s after the First World War came to an end and the demand for their goods decreased and the chances of optimum profit by the entrepreneurs disappeared. Their irrational approach gave birth to labour movements and trade unionism.
It has been often talked that Indian economy is predominantly agricultural economy. About 70 per cent of the population is engaged in the agriculture. The industrial activities engaged only about ten and a half per cent in addition to about five and half and one and half per cent engaged in subsidiary occupation such as trade and transport respectively. They were, however, contributing more in the national product.
Therefore, they occupied the most important key centres of the economic activities in India. Besides, their concentration made the industrial labour identifiable forces. They could be organised into political weapon in easier way than the huge and unorganised rural mass.
It may be mentioned here that it was the industrialization of European countries which provided the strength to the politicians engaged in the struggle against the aristocracy for sharing in the Government.
The revolutions in France were successful because of the combined support of the labour force, and Paris could dictate the vast majority of rural population after 1789. It is for this reason that all the political parties and ambitious leaders took keen interest in the labour and sought the allegiance of organised labour movements to their cause.
Indian Factory Act, 1911:
Non-committed attitude of the labour force and their continued attachment to the rural economy and society impeded the chances of organisation of any labour movement in India for a longer time. Besides, the unchallenged British supremacy before the First World War proved bulwark against the penetration of socialistic thought in India. The political movements in India were not those of protest. Rather they were of compromising nature.
Before the First World War, the people who believed in obtaining better treatment from the British by winning their confidence, were powerful leaders of the society. It was only the partition of Bengal in 1935 and disappointment created by the Government of India Act, 1909, that this group agreed with the “revolutionaries” that the future of the Indians could not be better with the continued imperial rule. Therefore the labour protests were sporadic and had little chances of success.
Humanitarian and British Industries Interests:
It was the humanitarian and liberal approach, then dominant in British politics, which voiced the labour grievances against long working hours. They echoed that the Indian labour should also be provided with safeguards like regulated working hours, holidays, regular payment and insurance and hospitalization facilities available to their counterparts in British industries.
But there was little improvement in the lot of the Indian labour. The welfare measures were rather forced upon the entrepreneurs in India by the British manufacturing interests.
The British manufacturers apprehended that the low-cost of Indian products due to cheap labour would be putting them into “unequal competition”. Therefore, they exerted their pressure on the Government of India to enforce welfare measures which could increase the cost of their products.
It was their pressure that the first Indian Factories Act was enacted in 1911. The Act regulated the working hours of adult male labour to 12 hours per day. The labourer was still insecure and weak in bargaining for better wages and security.
First World War and Trade Unionism:
It was the First World War which increased the hardships of labour to limits beyond endurance. The Indian National Congress was also opposed to the British who dragged India into the war. The Congress leaders had already started protesting and organised movements against British rule on being disappointed by the Government of India Act, 1909 which had shattered their hope of getting a “share in the government” by conciliatory approach.
It was in this context that the Congress passed a resolution in 1918 urging its provincial committees and other associations to organise labour in the country. With this aim the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed in 1918.
The AITUC, however, could not develop the movement to the expected stages. It was only an unaffiliated unit in Ahmedabad which could do something tangible and became the forerunner of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).
The Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (TLA):
In 1918, the Ahmedabad textiles sought scrapping the “plague bonus” paid to their labourers for many years The workers, however, argued that the rise in cost of living must be compensated by paying them 50 per cent rise as deamess allowarce.
The labourers were led by the sister of the Chairman of the Mill-owners’ Association. Viewing the seriousness and effectiveness of the movement, the mill-owners sought the mediation of Mahatma Gandhi, who had by then made his debut in Indian politics.
The District Collector also urged Gandhi to use his good offices to avoid any untoward incident since the “mill-owners had “threaten(ed) to lock-out the mills, which will naturally cause great distress and hardship.”
Consequently an Arbitration Committee was constituted consisting of Congress leaders, Mill-owners and the Collector. Apprehended labourers, however, went on strike and the mill-owners threatened dismissal of all the “absent” labourers. Their approach is unite revealing which is still dominating many an entrepreneurs in our country.
The mill-owners argued that the Congress leaders assumptions’ were not based on facts. The mills are not “run out of love for humanity and as a matter of philanthropy, that their aim is not to raise the condition of the workers to the same level as that of the employers … In reality mills are privately owned, and are run with no other motive than to make profit.
Workers are employed with this aim in view, and therefore employment of labour and conditions of employment are determined purely on the basis of supply and demand and from the point of view of their efficiency.” The mill-owners’ rigid approach worsened the poor workers’ conditions.
Before the strike could fizzle out Gandhi went on fast. It gave a great fillip to the workers’ agitation and aroused public concern. The workers’ determination, for the first time won this “righteous struggle” in their favour and strike came to an end.
This revealed them the benefit of united action and also developed a new labour ideology viz., “Gandhian” labour ideology. Gandhian way stood for lawful course based on “truth and fairness” and harmonious relations between the owners and the labourers. It did not give political emphasis to trade unionism. In this way, this struggle established a non-violent labour struggle in the history of Indian labour movement. It was this ideology which led to the formation of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).
Radical Trade Unionism:
It was clear from the mill-owners’ attitude that they wanted to take advantage of slow industrialization of the country and increasing labour supply. Since the Government was not inclined to unrestricted industrialization of the country, it was also obliged to extend protection to the labourers working in those factories.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) was also stressing the need for harmonious industrial relations. The victory of the “Bolsheviks” in 1917 in Russia had alarmed the western countries. They were not prepared to risk the law and order by letting the scrupulous entrepreneurs free of Government control and exploit the workers.
As had been established by various investigations the exploitation, impoverishment and concentration of labourer were heaven for the emergence of “Bolshevik atoms” to “throw out the duly constituted and lawful governments”.
In order to combat the spread of the Bolshevik ideology, the Government took initiatives for the betterment of the conditions of industrial labourers throughout their colonies. In tune with that policy, the Government of India enacted the Indian Factories Act, 1922.
It fixed a ten-hour working day. Next year, the Indian Mines Act 1923 was passed which regulated the timings of the miners for the first time in the country. The Workmen’s Compensation Act also provided security measure and compensation in the event of accidents.
Recognition to Trade Unionism:
The investigation parties also revealed that unless the workers are provided with a platform to air their grievances, there could not be any link between the government policy and the aspirations of the labourers. Lack of this compatibility also leads to serious under-ground activities and revolutions.
Therefore, the investigators suggested formation and recognition of trade unions. It had already been practiced in the European countries. The Government of India also passed the Indian Trade Unions Act in 1926. The Act provisioned that any association of seven persons could get themselves registered as a trade union.
The Act also provided immunity from criminal prosecution for any agitation furthering trade union objectives. The trade union could work in the direction of furthering their interests.
The Condition of the Labour and Rise of Communist Ideology:
The government had legalised the trade unionism as a bulwark against the spread of communist ideology. There was a great gap between its actions and deeds. The entrepreneurs continued, as the Labour Investigation Committee reported in 1946, to ignore even the legitimate demands of the labourers. They were paid very badly.
The British Traders Union Congress delegation to India reported in 1928 that “all enquiries go to show that the vast majority of workers in India do not receive more than about Is. per day. In the province of Bengal, which includes the largest mass of industrial workers, investigators declared that as far as they could ascertain, 60 per cent of workers were in receipt of wages of not more than Is. 2d. a day in the highest instance, scaling down to as low as 7d. to 9d. for men and 3d. to 7d. in the case of children and women…. Our own inquiries support these figures and, as a matter of fact, many cases have been quoted to us of daily rates in operation which descend to 3-1/4 d. for women and 7d. or even less for men.”
The housing was worst. The above delegation reported that: “We visited the workers’ quarters wherever we stayed, and had we not seen them we could not have believed that such evil places existed… Here is a group of house in ‘lines’, the owner of which charges the tenant of each dwelling 4s. 6d. a month as rent.
Each house; consisting of one dark room used for all purposes, living, cooking and sleeping, is 9 feet by 9 feet, with mud walls and loose- tiled roof and has a small open compound in front, a corner of which is used as a latrine. There is no ventilation in the living-room except by a broken roof or that obtained through the entrance door when open.
Outside the dwelling is a long narrow channel which receives the waste matter of all descriptions and where flies and other insects abound…. Outside all the houses on the edge of each side of the strip of land between the ‘lines’ are the exposed gulley’s; at some places stopped up with garbage, refuse and other waste matter, giving forth horrible smells repellent in the extreme. It is obvious that these gulley’s are often used as conveniences, especially by children….
“The overcrowding and insanitary conditions almost everywhere prevailing demonstrate the callousness and wanton neglect of their Obvious duties by the authorities concerned.” The plantation workers were in worst conditions.
The male worker got only Rs.7-10-0 per month. The earnings of women and children were less by two to three rupees to those of male workers. They were treated like slaves. It was this reason that the entrepreneurs were making huge profits.
The Dundee Jute Trade Unions to India reported in 1925 that: “When Reserve Funds and Profits are added together the total gain to the shareholders (in the jute industry) in the ten years (1915- 1924) reached the enormous total of three hundred sterlings, or 90 per cent per annum of the capital. There are from 300,000 to 127 000 workers employed at an average wage today of £12.10s per annum. A profit of £ 300 million taken from 300.000 workers in the ten years means £ 1,000 per head. This means £ 100 a year from each worker. And as the average wage is about £ 12 10s per head, it means that the average annual profit is eight times the wages bill.”
It was the condition of cotton industry as well. 14 mills paid a dividend of 100 per cent, whereas two mills paid over 200 per cent. In some cases the dividend rose as high as 365 per cent.
The justification for decreasing the salaries after the boom of the World War had slumped down was not based on truth. The mills continued to make huge profits.
Romesh Dutt informs us that; “The level of profits today, while no longer equaling the orgies of the post-war boom, still abundantly reveals the exceptional exploitation. Thus in jute, the Reliance Jute Mills Company paid dividends of 50 per cent in 1935, 42-1/2 per cent in 1936 and 30 per cent in 1937.
In tea, the New Dooars Tea Company paid dividends of 50 per cent both in 1935 and 1936; the Nagaisuke Tea Company paid dividends of 60 per cent in 1935 and 50 per cent in 1936; and the East Hope Estates Company paid 23 per cent in 1935, 88 per cent in 1936 and 40 per cent in 1937.”
In the wake of these mounting profits and draining out the wealth, the workers were impoverished. The labour legislations were also favourable to the entrepreneurs. Shiva Rao reports ; “Taking all labour legislation into account, affecting factories, mines, plantations, docks, railways, harbours, etc., it is doubtful whether more than seven or eight millions at the outside come within its protective influence.
The rest who constitute by far the greater majority of the industrial workers are engaged in small or what is known as unregulated industries.” The main factory legislations extended only to about sixteen lacs and fifty thousand workers.
Curiously enough the factories established in the “Native States” were completely left out of the purview of these factory acts. It were these reasons that the factory workers resorted to strikes. Protesting against the proposed reduction of wages there were about 200 strikes involving one and half million workers in 1920.
After the Congress leaders professed conciliatory approach and the Government was not prepared for amelioration of the impoverished workers, the socialistic ideas came forward.
Encouraged with the successful revolution in Soviet Russia, S.A. Dange started his journal, The Socialist in 1924. The people having socialist ideas formed their own Trade Union Congress and Dange became its first Assistant Secretary.
The British Government was not prepared to withstand any socialistic ideas. It arrested four prominent Communist leaders namely Dange, Shaukat Usmani, Muzaffar Ahmad and Das Gupta. They were sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. It was this repressive approach of the Government which rather strengthened the socialist ideas and spread the Communist movement among the working class people.
By 1939, they had attained potential power and brought almost a breakdown in the factories. They also cooperated with the political movements. It gave greater strength to the nationalist ideas. It was this reason that the Socialist and Communist leaders were arrested in the Second World War and the Communist Party was banned.
Their repression further strengthened their status among the workers. In this way the industrial labour in India was baptized with the radical ideas.