Industrial Revolution of India and Labour Policy
Labour rights or workers' rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human
rights having to do with labour relations between workers and their employers,
usually obtained under labour and employment law. In general, these rights'
debates have to do with negotiating workers' pay, benefits, and safe working
conditions. One of the most central of these rights is the right to unionize.
Unions take advantage of collective bargaining and industrial action to increase
their members' wages and otherwise change their working situation.
can also take in the form of worker's control and worker's self management in
which workers have a democratic voice in decision and policy making. The labour
movement initially focused on this "right to unionize", but attention has
Labour rights are a relatively new addition to the modern corpus of human
rights. The modern concept of labour rights dates to the 19th century after the
creation of labor unions following the industrialization processes. Karl Marx
stands out as one of the earliest and most prominent advocates for workers
His philosophy and economic theory focused on labor issues and advocates his
economic system of socialism, a society which would be ruled by the workers.
Many of the social movements for the rights of the workers were associated with
groups influenced by Marx such as the socialists and communists.
democratic socialists and social democrats supported worker's interests as well.
More recent workers rights advocacy has focused on the particular role,
exploitation, and needs of women workers, and of increasingly mobile global
flows of casual, service, or guest workers.
The International Labour Organization was formed in 1919 as part of the League
of Nations to protect worker's rights. The ILO later became incorporated into
the United Nations. The UN itself backed workers rights by incorporating several
into two articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which is
the basis of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
During the twentieth century a new branch of jurisprudence known as Industrial
Jurisprudence has developed in our country. Industrial Jurisprudence is a
development of mainly post-independence period although its birth may be traced
back to the industrial revolution.
Before independence it existed in a
rudimentary form in our country. The growth of industrial jurisprudence can
significantly be noticed not only from increase in labour and industrial
legislations but also from a large number of industrial law matters decided by
the Supreme Court and High Courts. It affects directly a considerable population
of our country consisting of industrialists, workmen and their families. Those
who are affected indirectly constitute a still larger bulk of the countrys
This branch of law modified the traditional law relating to master
and servant and had cut down the old theory if laissez faire based upon the
freedom of contract in the larger interest of the society because that theory
was found wanting for the development of harmonious and amicable relations
between the employers and employees. Individual contracts have been in many
respects substituted by a standard form of statutory contract through
legislation and judicial interpretation. The traditional right of an employer to
hire and fire his workmen at his well has been subjected to many restraints.
Industrial Tribunals can be their award makes a contract which is binding on
both the parties creating new right and imposing new obligations arising out of
the award. There is no question of the employer agreeing to the new contract, it
is binding even though it is unacceptable to him. The creation of new
obligations is not by the parties themselves. Either or both of them may be
opposed to it, nevertheless it binds them. Thus, the idea of some authority
making a contract for the workmen and employer is a strange and novel idea and
is foreign to the basic principle of the law of contract.
Similarly there is change in the concept of master and servant. One who invests
capital is no more a master and one who puts in labour is no more a servant.
They are employer and employees, the former may hire the latter but he can no
more fire them at his will.
The interest of the employees is in many respects
protected by legislation. Both are now parties in an enterprise, without one
yielding to the higher status of another but as co-sharer in the partnership.
Even the right of labour participation in the management has been given
legislative recognition to the utter despair of the capitalist. Most of the
benefits claimed by a workman are not part of his bargain with the employer when
the latter employed him or are not due to them on account of any contract but of status
. The industrial society all over the world has been moving during the
present century from contract to statusand this status is a
politico-socio-economic juristic status.
What were the factors that lead to this departure from the old theories of the
law of contract, and the law of Master and Servant? Industrialization in India,
as in order countries, brought with it some new socio-economic problems. Those
who control the industry have a natural tendency of multiplying their wealth and
if this tendency is not checked the rich grown on richer and the poor becomes
poorer day by day. The gap between the rich and the poor ultimately grows on to
this extent that it develops into two distinct classes in any industrial
society, a few of whom are Haves and others are Have-nots. This economic
disparity leads to a struggle between Haves and Have-nots, the latter
Although this situation continues for some time and it had continued
to be so in our country too, but gradually the workmen realized that they could
put a better fight if they get united. This realization was closely followed by
a period of industrial unrest leading to strikes and lock-outs. In conditions of
disturbed the world has witnessed the horrors of the two world wars resulting in
spiral rise in the cost of living. With the rise in the cost of living there has
been consistent demand from labour for increase in wages. Democratic ideas have
also grown simultaneously with the growth of industrialization in our country.
These democratic ideas have pleaded for and have also helped in mass awakening
and consciousness for greater power amongst the working class.
Out of the
struggle between workers, demanding for better share in the production and
profit of the industry and the employers hesitation to part with it beyond a
certain limit. have grown the recognition of certain principles which are
considered to be fundamental in almost all developed countries of the world.
basic principles are:
- The right of workmen to combine and form associations or unions.
- The right of workmen to bargain collectively for the betterment of their
conditions of service.
- The realization that economic struggle is inevitable because it is but
natural that labour world agitate for better conditions.
- A shift from the doctrine of laissez faire to a welfare state.
- Tripartite consultations i.e., solution of the industrial or labour
disputes through the participation of workers, employers and the Government.
- The State can no more be a neutral onlooker but must interfere as the
protector of the social good.
- Minimum standards must be guaranteed through State legislation.
The concept of industrial jurisprudence in our country developed only after
independence. Until independence the change in attitude of the government and
the benevolent labour legislation only aimed at amelioration of the conditions
of labour and it could hardly be said to be a deal in social justice to the
The birth of industrial jurisprudence in our country may be
ascribed to the Constitution of Indiawhich made more articulate and clear
the industrial relations philosophy of the Republic of India. This philosophy
has afforded the broad and clear guidelines for the development of our
industrial jurisprudence and has thus taken India one step forward in her quest
for industrial harmony. The Parliament and the Supreme Court have helped in
shaping industrial jurisprudence, the former through legislation and the latter
as interpreter of the labour laws.
Rights of Workers
The laws cover the right to work of one's choice,
- Right against discrimination,
- Prohibition of child labour,
- Fair and humane conditions of work
- Social security,
- Protection of wages,
- Redress of grievances,
- Right to organize and form trade unions,
- Collective bargaining and participation in management
India has numerous labour laws such as those prohibiting discrimination and
Child labour, those that aim to guarantee fair and humane conditions of work,
those that provide social security, minimum wage, right to organize, form trade
unions and enforce collective bargaining. India also has numerous rigid
regulations such as maximum number of employees per company in certain sectors
of economy, and limitations on employers on retrenchment and layoffs,
requirement of paperwork, bureaucratic process and government approval for
change in labour in companies even if these are because of economic conditions.
Labour Policy in India
After independence it was largely felt that the labour policy must emphasize
upon self-reliance on the part of the workers. Since independence till 1954, the
period when V.V. Giri
was the Labour Minister, all official pronouncements
emphasized that labour should become self-reliant. An equally forceful view had
been to prefer reliance upon the Government. This cross-current of approach to
the labour policy gave place to a new approach known as Tripartism
became the central theme in the so-called Nanda=period
in 1957. During this period the Government paid reliance on three party
approach, namely the trade union representing the workers, the employers, and
the Government. In this kind of approach the representatives do not decide
anything but their role is mainly advisory.
They meet together, discuss the
points in dispute and strive to reach a consensus and if they agree they make
recommendations. Out of the three, the role of the Government is more important.
Annual Labour Conferences and the permanent standing Labour Committees served as
the chief instrument of Tripartism.
These conferences advocated, amongst many
things; workers participation in management, workers education, works
committees, and minimum wage legislation. At the sixteenth conference held in
1958 a momentous advancement was made by adopting a Code of Discipline in
industry. The Code pledged the parties to avoid strikes and lock-outs without
notice, and to eschew unilateral actions, and to rely on settlement of disputes
by discussion by voluntary arbitration or by adopting to such measures as the
law may provide. It also pledged them to avoid coercion and victimization, to
avoid partial strikes and lock-outs, and to follow grievance procedure.
Industrial Revolution of India
Industrialization in India as in any other country implies the growth of a
factory system with employers and wage earners in varying circumstances and with
varying characteristics, yet having some common features and it is the common
features that are of interest.
As a consequence of the introduction of
factory system production became concentrated in a few selected places,
resulting in the increase of labour population at all such places. The village
workers migrated to the industrial town because of the difficulty of finding
adequate livelihood in their native place. This resulted in disappearance of the
popular village handicraft system because they could not compete with machine
The goods produced on a mass scale with the help of machines in the
industries were cheaper than the goods produced by handicraft method. But the
development of industry in India brought with it a great evil inasmuch as it
changed the status of a craftsman into wage-earner. Therefore, the craftsmen had
to migrate from village to industrial cities in search of employment in
Evils of Industrialization:
The factory system had some inherent evils to which the factory workers were
exposed in the beginning. These may be divided into two heads namely, economic
1. Economic Evils
- The artisan who in the handicraft system had the psychological
satisfaction of producing the goods himself became in the factory system only a
tender of the machine. He had to produce the goods with the help of tools and
raw materials supplied by his employer and in the workshop of the employer. In
the factory system of production only a part of goods were produced by a certain
category of workers. Different categories of workers produced different parts of
the same gods. Thus, the goods came in the final shape by the composite labour
of many categories of workers. The workman in this system did not get full
psychological satisfaction of manufacturing a product by himself and this
indirectly arrested his mental development and creative talents.
- The wages paid to factory workers were quite inadequate to meet their
barest needs in the new environment which was different from their rural life.
- The employment of factory workers was not secure in the beginning; they
had to suffer occasionally from periodic unemployment and under-employment as a
consequence of over-production or trade cycles. A worker could be discharged by
his employer at any time without assigning any reasons therefore.
2. Social Evils
- The factories were sick not only of economic evils but also of
social evils. Overcrowded cities with insanitary slums, and acute housing
shortage because of large scale migration of village population to industrial
towns had its natural effect on health, morality and social life of workers.
- Work in factories was very hazardous and strenuous with long hours
duty, no rest, and no facility for recreation. Machines were taken care of by
the factory owner who had little regard for the safety and welfare of the
- Workers were exposed to serious accidents because machines were not
properly screened. Accidents were considered as normal risk incidental to
employment in a factory and the worker who was unfortunate victim of an accident
lost his employment and had no right to compensation.
- The wages paid to the workers were very low. Wages were the only
source of their income. The workers found it extremely difficult to live with
the wages so earned by them. Therefore, they had to find out ways and means to
supplement their earnings. Consequently the wives and children of workmen
started seeking employment. The factory owners exploited this situation and
employed them in large numbers at extremely low wages without any regard to
their physical conditions.
The workers found it difficult to adjust with these conditions. These evils of
industrialization and the lack of adjustment and harmonious relationship between
the employer and the labours created problem in the industry, which we call
Written By: Sudha Dwivedi
- ........Industrial arbitration may involve the extension of any existing
agreement or the making of a new one, or in general the creation of new
obligations, or modification of old ones...
- According to Sir Henry Maine the human society has hitherto moved from
status to contract
- Mahesh Chandra, Industrial Jurisprudence (1976), p. 40
- Mahesh Chandra, Industrial Jurisprudence (1976) p, 31.
- In this connection the Preamble to the Constitution and Part III and
Part IV of the Constitution dealing with Fundamental Rights and the
Directive Principles of State Policy respectively need special mention.
- Report of the National Commission on Labour, (1969) p. 56.
- Indian Law Institute : Labour Law and Labour Relations
- V.V. Giri, Labour Problems in Indian Industry