AGRICULTURE AND IRRIGATION

RURAL WAGES

There is a large number of tenant cultivators and landless labourers who are employed for various agricultural operations during the agricultural season. This class of wage-earners includes, as a rule, men, women and children. Generally men get highest wages, women earn two-thirds of men's wages and children one-half. The nature and conditions of these labourers, however, differ in different parts of file district and vary as time changes. The payment of wages also differs from one category to the other, further, marked variations in the terms, conditions and wages paid, during the past years are also observed as can be seen from the following paragraph [Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol. XII. Khandesh, 1880 pp. 198-202.].

Labourers.

'Labourers are employed in the fields between June and January, when in quick succession, come the sowing and reaping of the early and late crops, the picking and cleaning of cotton, and the ploughing of land for the next season. Women as well as men are employed in weeding and harvesting crops and in ginning cotton. In February and March, labourers bring headloads of grass and fuel from waste lands for sale, and from April to June they find work in housebuilding, road-making, and other village jobs. Except during the few years before and after the close of the American war and She opening of the railway through Khandesh, unskilled workers were probably never better off than they now are. Fifty years ago the wages of unskilled labour were extremely low, and at the same time employment was comparatively uncertain. Fifteen years age, on account of the great demand for labour in making railways and from the flourishing state of the cotton trade, the value of labour rose even more than the value of produce and other prices. Besides this, as most of the labourers, especially those employed in fields, were paid in kind, they shared with the farmers in the genera! profit from high produce prices. Since then, except during the special famine years. 1868-69, 1871-72 and 1876-77, prices have fallen almost below their former level, but owing to the continued demand for labour, wages have not fallen in an equal degree. At the same time, their want of thrift, and their fondness for spending their money on ornaments and opium or liquor, combine to keep labourers poor, and in many cases to plunge them hopelessly in debt. Money-lenders seldom, at one time, advance day labourers more than 2 10s. to 3 (Rs. 25-Rs. 30) but their liabilities often exceed 10 (Rs. 100). In making him advances the monev-lender often requires the labourer to pledge his labour, his house, his bullocks, and some times even his family pots and ornaments. When the labourer has no property, the money-lender usually demands a respectable surety, or forces the whole family to sign the bond.

Labour Mortgage.

About two or three per cent, of the labouring population in the east, and about ten per cent in the west, raise money by mortgaging their labour. These men are generally small landholders, who, by some folly or mishap, have fallen hopelessly in debt. Men who mortgage their labour are known as yearlies, saldars, because their term of service lasts for one or more years. Labour is generally mortgaged, either to clear off old debts or to raise a sum of money to meet marriage or other expenses. Sometimes a man mortgages his own and sometimes his children's labour. The men who take labour in mortgage are generally rich landowners, deshmukhs, patils, and others, who employ the mortgagers in field work and sometimes as messengers or duns, mahasulis. The labour mortgage bond, called a year deed, salkhat, is on stamped paper. Sometimes the mortgager is advanced the whole, and sometimes only one-half of the sum agreed on. The common plan is that the labourer, working solely for his benefit, is supplied with food at the mortgagee's cost. Under this form of agreement, a labourer takes from three to four years to work off a debt of 10 (Rs. 100). Occasionally the saldar lives by himself and is bound to do only a certain amount of work for his master. Under this agreement, the labourer supports himself, and in two years would work off a debt of Rs. 100. A saldar's services cannot be handed from one master to another. They are willing workers, and generally do their share of the agreement freely and without punishment. Sometimes they run away, and formerly, though they now refuse to do so, the magistrates used to enforce the bond. Their services never became hereditary. In the houses of wealthy headmen and landlords is a class of hereditary retainers. Before the passing of the Act (V of 1848), these people were bondsmen and bondswomen, the property of their master and liable to be sold by him. They now hold the position of hired servants. In practice their condition is little changed. They are well treated by their masters, and few of them have made use of their opportunities of raising themselves from the position of servants."

The rural labour is now free from the clutches of the moneylenders, due to the special legislation of 1946 to that effect. The situation improved further when the government increasingly made the employment facilities available to the labourers. As a result, the old systems of servitude like saklari, which meant the pledge of labour are almost withering away. The traditional method of making payment of agricultural wages in kind is almost extinct. The present wage rates as compared with those prevalent in the past also show a marked difference. This may be due to the demand for labour and the high cost of living which together have raised the. daily cost of the labour, both skilled and unskilled.

The classification of agricultural labour followed in this connection, however, is the same as stated in the Manual of Revenue Accounts. Accordingly, the three categories of labour are skilled, ordinary and field labour. The skilled labour comprises carpenters, black-smiths and cobblers; ordinary labour consists of load carrying coolies, well diggers, mason's or carpenter's assistants, earth workers etc.; while field labour comprises ploughmen, sowers, reapers, harvesters, weeders and transplanters, etc. To this one more category is added viz., herdsmen, whose main work is to collect livestock from different owners and to feed them in the jungle during the day and to bring them back in the evening to the owners' places. Of these categories of labourers, the herdsmen get lower payment for their services while the skilled labourers earn higher wages. Most of the ordinary or field labourers are employed either as casual workers or for the performance of specific agricultural and allied operations, and a very few of them are appointed as saldars who get wages on an annual basis. Generally men are employed for heavy work while lighter work is entrusted to women. Child labour is also sometimes employed for light work. The payment of wages to these labourers is usually made in cash on daily wage basis and depends upon the nature of agricultural operations involved. The following table gives the rates of wages of the labourers in the district. Usually the big landlords who can provide continuous employment For the whole of the year appoint sahlars. The contract with these sahlars is generally for a year and can be continued further if both the parties desire to do so. Sometimes the sahlars are provided with, besides cash payment facilities like food, clothing, accommodation etc.

TABLE No. 39

AVERAGE AGRICULTURAL WAGES IN DHULIA DISTINCT,
 1952 53, 1956-57 AND 1961-62

(In Rupees and paise)

Year

Month

Carpenters

Blacksmiths

Cobblers

Field Labour

Other agricultural-labour

Herdsmen

1952-53

July

2.70

2.50

1.85

1.18

0.88

0.68

August

2.73

2.53

1.98

1.11

0.84

0.74

September

2.71

2.53

1.78

1.16

0.84

0.74

October

2.71

2.55

1.48

1.14

0.86

0.75

November

2.90

2.60

2.00

1.11

0.84

0.74

December

2.90

2.60

1.85

1.28

0.91

0.81

January

2.35

2.55

1.80

1.16

0.91

0.81

February

2.75

2.45

1.80

1.10

0.85

0.70

March

2.8O

2.50

1.75

1.10

0.90

0.70

April

2.63

2.43

1.65

1.07

0.76

0.68

May

2.63

2.43

1.60

1.31

0.79

0.73

June

2.73

2.48

1.78

1.14

0.86

0.75

1936-57

July

2.62

2.50

2.12

0.94

0.87

0.75

August

2.62

2.50

2.06

1.00

0.87

0.81

September

2.62

2.56

2.12

1.00

0.94

0.81

October

2.62

2.50

2.06

1.00

0.94

0.87

November

2.69

2.50

2.00

1.06

1.00

0.75

December

2.56

2.37

1.94

1.06

1.00

0.75

January

2.50

2.44

2.06

1.00

0.94

0.75

February

2.50

250

2.12

1.00

0.94

0.69

March

2.56

2.50

2.06

1.00

0.94

0.75

April

2.56

2.50

2.06

0.94

0.94

0.75

May

2.56

2.50

2.06

1.00

0.94

0.69

June

2.69

2.50

2.06

1.00

0.94

0.69

1961-62

July

3.25

3.40

2.15

1.38

1.25

1.04

August

3.25

3.37

2.62

1.38

1.25

1.07

September

3.35

3.45

3.60

1.42

1.26

1.04

October

3.22

3.32

2.69

1.47

1.26

1.04

November

3.17

3.42

2.75

1.50

1.36

1.09

December

3.07

3.37

2.75

1.50

1.36

1.00

January

3.00

3.35

2.87

1.47

1.34

1.06

February

3.10

3.35

2.81

1.47

1.34

1.04

March

3.15

3.35

2.75

1.47

1.36

1.04

April

3.17

3.25

3.69

1.47

1.31

1.04

May

3.17

3.25

2.69

1.50

1.31

1.04

June

3.17

3.25

3.69

1.50

1.29

1.01

Balutedars.

Wherever the balutedari system exists, the method followed in making the payments for the services rendered by the balutedars has got altogether a different uniqueness. The balutedars generally include carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers and barbers. They get for their services payment in kind at the time of harvesting and threshing of the crops. The necessity or these village artisans is generally felt in the remote places.

 

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