Pre-Independence Labour Legislation in India
It is argued that protective labour legislation is one of the factors responsible for India's slow economic growth and, hence, need to be amended. This paper tries to trace the ischolar_mains of Indian labour laws. It documents the various laws and rules made to regulate the behaviour of labour at the work-place since the days of Kautilya to the dawn of Independence. It is perceived that even the highly pro-management labour laws implemented most rigorously failed to bring economic prosperity to the common people. Hence, the question arises: whose interests would be protected by modifying the existing labour legislation.
The paper is divided first chronologically into three broad parts: legislation during the ancient, medieval, and colonial periods. Part III is further divided into occupation-wise sections, such as laws for agricultural, plantation, mine and industrial labour. The aspects of labour legislation dealt with include (i) terms and conditions of employment other than monetary, like hours of work, safety conditions, facilities and amenities at place of work, continuity of employment (job-security), health-care and training for workers, holidays and leave, etc.; and (ii) labour relations, including trade unions, collective bargaining, strikes and settlement of disputes in the absence of regular special labour or industrial courts, as at present. Wages, salaries and other monetary payments are not covered since most of them are regulated by law only after Independence, except the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 which is reviewed here in brief. Also rules for male and female workers and special laws for perennially exploited labour, like slaves, bonded labour, contract labour and child labour, are dealt with.
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