Class VIII - Civics

Chapter 4 - Understanding Laws

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    • The need for law was expressed for the first time in 1874 when Major Moore, the Chief Inspector of Cotton Department, Bombay highlighted in his report the poor working conditions of the labourers.
    • The Commission, appointed by the government in 1875 to go into the matter, recommended that legislation was not necessary.
    • Finally, after much violence in the part of the workers, and pressure from society at large, the Indian Factories Act (1881) was passed. The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885. Its aim was to have a much greater say in the way India was governed.
    • After first world war, the Paris Peace Conference appointed a Labour Commission, which recommended
      • Holding of an International Labour Conference every year, and
      • Establishing a permanent International Labour office in Geneva. These international Conference had a significant impact on the course of Indian Labour Legislation. The trade Union Act of 1926 constitutes a significant landmark in the history of labour reform in India.
    • Minimum wage consist of a basic wages and an allowance linked to the cost of living index. The Convention for setting up a machinery to install and administer minimum wages was adopted by the International Labour organisation(ILO) in 1928.
    • After canvassing opinion, the government of India discussed the practicability of establishing Wages Boards in India. In the meantime, the Royal Commission on Labour was appointed in 1929.
    • The Commission pointed out that “it would first be necessary to create machinery for fixing minimum rates of wages in those trades in which wages are lowest and where there is no question of collective bargaining.”
    • From 1919 to 1940 the government acted as a passive regulator of labour in industry. There was no marked increase in wages. The British Government followed a laissez-faire The payment of wages Act was passed in 1936; it sought to regulate the payment of wages to the workers.
    • Workers’ expectations rose with the formation of the Congress ministry in July 1937.
    • The Congress assured the workers of better wages. On the behalf of the government, Pandit Govind Vallabh Pant promised to take all legitimate steps to secure reasonable standards of work environment to the labourers.
    • An agreement between the representatives of employers and Mazdoor Sabha provided for the appointment of a Labour Enquiry Committee headed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
    • In June 1946, a Labour Enquiry Committee was appointed by the government. The committee found that wages were extremely low. It suggested that fixation of minimum living wages would definitely improve the existing level of wages.
  4. MINIMUM WAGE ACT (1948)
    • A minimum wages Bill was introduced in April 1946 in the Central Legislative Assembly.
    • The Bill was passed by the Indian Dominion Legislature and came into force on 15th March, 1948.
    • Under the Act, both State and Central Government were ‘Appropriate Government’ for fixation/revision of minimum rates of wages for employments.
    • The objective of this Act was “to secure the welfare of the workmen in a competitive market by fixing the minimum limit of wages.” The Act sought to provide minimum wages in those industries where labour is, by and large unorganised and unable to look after its own interests.
    • The Act is applicable throughout India, including Jammu & Kashmir.
    • The Minimum Wages Act (MWA) was passed in 1948 to protect workers from exploitation.
    • This Act was not effective in Regulating wages. Hence, minimum wages were determined in a laborious, sector- by- sector and case-by-case basis by State-level Minimum Wages Advisory Boards according to their own discretion.
    • The coverage of the Act is selective as it aims at protecting the workers only.
    • In 1957, the 15th Indian Labour Conference suggested five norms for fixing minimum wages :
      • The standard working class family of husband, wife and two children should be taken as three consumption units for one earner;
      • Minimum food requirement should be calculated on the basis of 2,700 calories per day per consumption unit;
      • Clothing requirement to be based on per capita consumption of 18 yards per annum, which gives 72 yards per annum for the average worker’s family.
      • For housing, the rent corresponding to the minimum area provided for under the government’s industrial housing schemes should be taken; and
      • Fuel, lighting and other items of expenditure should constitute 20 per cent of the total minimum wage.
    • It is more important to the workers that the Labour Laws are properly administered than their mere enactment.
    • The Labour Committees that implemented the MWA in the states said that the deficiencies in its implementation were mainly due to inadequacy of inspectors, ignorance of the law among employers and labourers, light punishment provided in the law and unwillingness of the labourers to complain or to give evidence against employers who paid less than three minimum permissible wage.
    • It is necessary to protect workers from exploitation because once an employer indulges in such a practices, it is bound to encourage other employers to reduce wages, and hence production costs, in order to remain competitive.
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