1st Five Year Plan
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Introduction || APPENDIX (CH-4) || APPENDIX (CH-9) || ANNEXURE (CH-12) || APPENDIX (CH-14) || APPENDIX (CH-24) || APPENDIX (CH-29) || Conclusion
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Chapter 13:

Magnitude Of The Problem

The expression 'agricultural workers' denotes those rural workers who are employed on wages in agricultural occupations. In the census of 1951, out of a total rural population of 295 million, 249 million are shown as being engaged in agriculture. Of these, 18 per cent were returned as cultivating labourers and their dependents. The census classified the agricultural population into four classes, namely, (i) cultivators of land, wholly or mainly owned; (2) cultivators of land wholly or mainly unowned; (3) cultivating labourers; and (4) non-cultivating owners of land. Cultivating labourers were broadly denned as employees of cultivators. Since, for varying periods, small owners, tenants and artisans find themselves working as cultivating labourers, the line between agricultural workers and the other agricultural groups is subject to marginal shifts and agricultural workers may be broadly described as a residuary group in the rural community.

2. In the past, not enough attention has been given to the problems ot agricultural workers and information concerning the conditions under, which they live and work has been extremely meagre. Since 1949 the Central Government have been engaged in carrying out a comprehensive enquiry for the collection of data on employment, earnings, standard of living and indebtedness of agricultural workers. The object of this enquiry was to enable the Central and State Governments to initiate protective and ameliorative measures, including the fixation of minimum wages. For the purpose of this enquiry, an agricultural labour family was defined as one in which either the head of the family or 50 per cent or more of the earners reported agricultural labour as their main occupation. The field operations under the Agricultural Labour Enquiry, which embraced 813 villages selected on the basis of random sampling and 104,000 families all over the country, have now been concluded and the data are under study. The enquiry has helped already to draw attention to the significance of the agricultural worker in the country's future development and its results are likely to be of material assistance in drawing up programmes for agricultural workers.

3. Until the data obtained in the agricultural labour enquiry become available, any assessment of the magnitude of the problem of agricultural workers for the country as a whole has to be based on the returns of the census of 1951. The census shows wide variations in different parts of the country in the proportion of the agricultural population who constitute agricultural workers. Among the States in which agricultural workers constitute substantial sections of the agricultural population are Travancore-Cochin (37%),Bhopal(3i%), Madras (28%), Madhya Pradesh (27%), Bihar and Hyderabad (25%) and West Bengal (21%). Bombay, Orissa, Punjab, Madhya Bharat and Pepsu have an agricultural labour population varying between 12 to 15 per cent. Among the larger States, Uttar Pradesh has the lowest percentage (8%).

4. Agricultural workers may be classified broadly into two groups, namely, 'casual' workers and 'attached' workers. Casual workers are by far the larger group, representing in the recent enquiry undertaken by the Government of India, as many as 89 per cent of the total number. In this enquiry, 'attached' workers were denned as those who had continuous employment for one month or more at a time. The proportion of 'attached' workers is higher in some States, being about 24 per cent in the Punjab, 22 per cent in Bihar and 20 per cent in U.P. as. compared, for instance, to about 6 per cent in West Bengal. Recent enquiries suggest that the period of unemployment for agricultural workers ranges from three to six months, interspersed in different seasons during the year. Plantation workers, who number about l'2 million, constitute a distinct class of agricultural workers who are perhaps closer to industry than to agriculture.

5. Another class of agricultural labourers consists of those who leave their villages in groups for fairly long terms in search of employment. A large number of them can be seen in the more important cities without practically any shelter. As the influx of such workers is likely to continue, a first step should be to provide clean camp sites equipped with water supplies and sanitary arrangements. This would also reduce the risk of epidemics in the cities. A sample survey of such persons might give valuable information about their condition.

Approach To The Problem

6. Tht, existence of large numbers of agricultural workers who lack sustained employment and frequently suffer from social handicaps is to be regarded as a source of serious weakness and even of instability in the present agrarian system. With the decline in rural industry, many artisans have become part-time labourers. The increase in fragmentation and subdivision of holdings has driven many peasant farmers to seek casual labour. Reduction in the larger farms which has been in progress in consequence of tenancy legislation leads to a diminution in the amount of higher employment which may be available. Few agricultural workers are dependent on agricultural labour alone; commonly they also combine other casual work with agricultural labour. Generally, agricultural workers have short periods of intensive employment, for instance, at harvest time or in sowing season or when cotton is picked. As compared to the farmer, the agricultural workers' problem, is perhaps in a larger measure one of unemployment rather than of under-employment, but the degree of unemployment depends almost entirely on the character of local agriculture and on the distance from urban centres.

7. The Five Year Plan has to be viewed as a comprehensive programme to remove the social and economic causes which account for the present condition of the agricultural workers. As a section of the village community, the economic condition of the agricultural workers depends upon the state of prosperity in the agricultural economy. The programmes under the Five Year Plan aim at increasing agricultural production substantially. Extension of irrigation, intensive cultivation and improvement in agricultural practises will increase rural employment and thus afford greater opportunity to agricultural workers. Through measures related to land reform many tenants, who are also in some part agricultural labourers, will obtain security and greater protection and will be on the way to becoming owners. Some land, especially that which is not now under the cultivation of tenants, will also be available for agricultural workers. It will be recalled that in making proposals for the reorganisation of the rural economy on co-operative lines, one of the major objects in view is to carry out changes which will rapidly place the agricultural worker in a position of equality in status and opportunity with other sections of the village community. As the economy as a whole develops, an increasing number of workers will be drawn away from the village, so that both those who move out of the village and those who remain in the village are likely to obtain more adequate employment. In addition to the industrial programmes in the Plan and those relating to transport and other fields of economic life, the Plan contains important programmes for village industries and the promotion of khadi. These will be of direct benefit to agricultural workers.

8. Agricultural labour populations are concentrated most in areas where population presses heavily on the land and the development in sectors of the economy other than the agricultural has been retarded. By selecting such areas for special programmes such as community development projects, it should be possible to make a distinct contribution to the problem of rehabilitating agricultural workers, for increase in the tempo of development is the effective answer to the problem of unemployment and under-employment.

9. While a number of different programmes in fhe Five Year Plan will promote the interests of agricultural workers, special mention may be made of two which bear directly on their welfare. In the plans of State Governments about Rs. 23 crores are provided for the amelioration of backward classes. About two-thirds of this amount should be available for backward classes other than scheduled tribes, of whom a large proportion are to be counted among the agricultural workers. The Central Government's plan has also provided a sum of Rs. 4 crores for the welfare of scheduled castes and other backward classes, in addition to programmes for scheduled tribes and scheduled areas. Furthermore, in the Central Government's plan a sum of Rs. 2 crores has been set aside for resettlement schemes for landless agricultural workers.

Minimum Wages

10. Under the Minimum Wages Act, State Governments are required to fix minimum rates of wages for agricultural labour by the end of 1953. The legislation permits them to fix minimum wages for such portions of the territories or for such classes of employment as they might consider feasible. In most States steps to implement the legislation have already been initiated. In nine States, including Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, minimum wages have been fixed. In Uttar Pradesh minimum wages have already been fixed for farms over 50 acres in twelve districts. In a number of States draft proposals are at present under final scrutiny. Enquiries to ascertain low wage pockets are in progress as in Madras. The enforcement of minimum wages for agricultural workers in low wage pockets, for the larger farms and in areas selected for intensive development should be regarded as an important aspect of the programme for improving the conditions of agricultural workers and should receive high priority. We suggest that progress in the implementation of the minimum wage legislation should be reviewed from time to time at inter-State Conferences, so that experience gained in meeting common problems may be pooled and the implementation of the legislation expedited.

House Sites

11.. Agricultural workers, not being owners of land in a village, are seldom the owners of the sites on which their houses are constructed. -This makes them dependent on the consent either of individual owners of land or of village proprietory bodies. Landless workers holding temporary rights over house-sites in a village should be granted rights of occupancy in them. Where the house-sites are the common property of a village, the village panchayat should be placed under obligation to grant the sites free of charge to agricultural workers who may be in occupation of them. Even where the sites belong to individuals, by persuasion if possible and by legislation if necessary, the sites should be transferred in occupancy right to the landless workers who may be in possession of them. Such provision for compensation as may be unavoidable should be made and the obligation imposed upon village panchayats to provide the sites free of charge to the landless workers either by obtaining these by way of gift from the owners in question or by settling directly with the owners. In some areas the existing village site is so congested that a new village site has to be provided for further extension. The landless, and particularly the Harijans, should be fully represented in the allotment of sites in such extensions and, wherever possible, an effort should be made to provide small allotments for kitchen gardens. In the State programmes for amelioration of backward classes, the provision of house sites and of small backyards should receive special emphasis.

12. Full support should be given to the movement initiated by Acharya Vinoba Bhave for securing land gifts for the landless by providing means of cultivation and other assistance to landless labourers selected for the allotment of the gifted land. The movement has considerable moral value and, if pressed forward, holds promise of relief in meeting some of the urgent problems of landless workers. The State Governments could make it a permanent feature of the work of rural development which might continue beyond the pioneering phase.

13. With the assistance of the co-operative staff, the irrigation, buildings and roads, forest and agricultural departments and other government agencies in the States should try and organise co-operatives of village labourers. Under the technical guidance of their officials, these co-operatives should be encouraged and enabled to take up contracts for specific pieces of construction work. The success of forest labourers' societies in Bombay and of certain other similar efforts elsewhere suggests that, given suitable encouragement and assistance, the formation of labour co-operatives can make an important contribution to the relief of rural unemployment and, in addition, make it possible for the government to assist more adequately with social welfare schemes and other ameliorative measures,

Resettlement Schemes For Landless Workers

14. Blocks of newly reclaimed land as well as culturable waste land should be set apart, wherever possible, for the settlement on co-operative lines of groups of landless agricultural workers and of holders of small, uneconomic plots of land. Even though the amount of land which could be thus made available would be limited and the proportion of agricultural workers who could be benefited might be small, the existence of such a scheme in each State could become a source of hope and encouragement in the lives of many families of agricultural workers and would go far to arouse confidence and enterprise in them. Within the scope of the programmes included in the Plan, there is considerable opportunity for organising co-operative settlements and colonisation schemes for agricultural workers and, as a matter of policy, the fullest use should be made of these possibilities. As already mentioned, the Plan makes a special financial provision to promote resettlement schemes for agricultural workers.

15. Being without land, agricultural workers have no security to offer. As a rule, therefore, they do not become eligible for financial assistance from the Government. While individual loans may present certain administrative difficulties, we suggest that State Governments should formulate schemes for granting financial assistance to cooperative groups of landless workers for such purposes as house building, purchase of bullocks and implements and for ancillary industries which they may wish to take up after suitable training under the auspices of Government. Special assistance by way of educational stipends'and for vocational and technical training should also be offered, as indeed is already being done in many States.

16. In the past, there has been no agency on behalf of the Government for dealing with the social and economic problems of agricultural workers. The extension organisation in the districts, whose early establishment we propose elsewhere in this report, should concern itself with the problems of welfare and employment of agricultural workers no less than with those of agriculturists and every effort should be made to bring home to village panchayats their responsibility for the welfare of the agricultural worker equally with that of other sections in the community.

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