Special Articles / Shankar Pathak / Social Work and Social Welfare
The East India Company was established in 1600 and began its trading activities in the southern part of India soon after wards. With the acquisition of Diwani rights in Bengal in 1765, the Company took on a new role as the colonial ruler of a part of the country. But the Company had little interest in framing a social policy towards its subjects, because of its preoccupation with maintaining and expanding colonial territory. It was only by the beginning of the nineteenth century that it was compelled to devote some attention to the other aspects of administration, apart from the collection of revenue and the maintenance of law and order. In this chapter we will discuss the colonial government's social policy in broad outline from the beginning of the nineteenth century. Social policy, in the final analysis, pertains to governmental policy. When we take into account the nature of colonial society and the government, it includes the policies of the government in such areas as religion, social welfare and social legislation, education and medical care.
Perhaps the most prominent area where a social policy existed was in the field of education. No other social policy was subjected to such detailed debate as the educational policy. Also, from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards education claimed the lion's share of the governmental expenditure as compared to other social sectors like medical relief, famine relief and social work. Before the Charter Act of 1813, the Company administration took hardly any interest in providing education to its subjects. Until then what little was done in this area was mostly due to the work of Christian missionaries. By this Act, the Company had to accept responsibility for the education of Indians and 'this was the beginning of the state system of education in India under the British rule'. During the period 1813-54, very little was in fact done by the colonial government to discharge this responsibility. So the missionaries continued to be the main agency to provide education to the people. This period, however, was characterised by many violent controversies which centred around the object of the educational policy, medium of instruction and the method and agency for the spread of education. The participants in the debate included the emerging Indian leaders, Christian missionaries, and officials of the government. Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 set the controversies at rest, at least for some time, by declaring that the main object of the educational system was to spread western knowledge and science, and by acknowledging the inability of the government to provide for all the educational needs of the country. So it emphasised that the bulk of the country's educational institutions would have to be organised by private bodies and instead of the education of the minority elite by the government, the education of the masses should be the duty of the state.
Until 1854, the Company did not accept direct responsibility for the education of the masses and its educational policy was influenced by what is known as the Downward Filtration Theory. According to this, the Company was expected to give a good education to only a few persons and they were in turn expected to educate the masses. The choice of the Downward Filtration Theory was dictated more by the limitation of funds at the disposal of the government than by any ideology.
Wood's Despatch stated that the education of the masses was the duty of the state, and both English and vernacular languages should be used as media of instruction at the secondary stage. But in actual practice, the colonial educational policy continued to be governed by the Downward Filtration Theory, and by Macaulay's Minute which had stated the object of education to be the creation of a class of persons who would be 'Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect'. It argued that the claims of English as a medium of instruction was far superior to that of any vernacular language.
As a consequence of this policy emerged a system of education which was elitist, confined to a small urban population and benefiting certain groups which were traditionally well placed like the Brahmins, Kayasthas, Parsees and Bhatias. Another consequence of this policy was the practical disappearance of the indigenous system of education by the end of the nineteenth century. In spite of its many major defects, the indigenous system of education was not without some good features. For instance, it was more widespread, extending into the villages and it was in tune with the past heritage of the country. The educational sdystem that finally emerged under the British 'was not top-heavy but light in its foundation', because of a narrow base of primary education.
The Crown rule which began after 1857 professed the welfare of its subjects as the goal of colonial government and some halting efforts were made in that direction. One such attempt was the increasing expenditure on education by the central government. (The educational grant which was one lakh rupees under the Charter Act of 1813 had increased to ten lakhs of rupees per annum by 1833.) The all-India expenditure on education increased ten times by 1932-33 as compared to 1882-83. This led to a substantial expansion of higher education in urban areas, especially at the levels of secondary and collegiate education. Not all this expansion was due to the actions of the government. The emerging Indian elite saw in western education a panacea for all the ills of Indian society and promoted its spread with great enthusiasm and organisation. With a few notable exceptions such as Jagannath Shunker Sett and D.K. Karve who advocated vernacular language as the medium of instruction, and G.K. Gokhale who sponsored a bill in the Central Assembly in 1913 for providing mass education through compulsory primary education, most of the Indian leaders accepted the model of education as evolved by the colonial government and tried to popularise it among the people. There were also sectarian demands for the provision of special educational facilities by the government to the neglected or disadvantaged groups. The government was compelled to yield to this pressure for political considerations during the latter part of the Victorian era. Thus, special measures were adopted to promote education among Muslims, Harijans and other backward classes and among the tribal population. The education of women which had long been neglected by Indian society also received special attention. Even though Gokhale's attempt to promote compulsory primary education failed, a substantial expansion of primary education took place between 1921-47, after the colonial government transferred education to the Indians, first under the system of dyarchy and later under the constitutional reforms of 1935 which ushered in a new era of popularly elected governments in the provinces. There was also further expansion of the special facilities of education for Harijans and backward classes. A new programme of adult education was also introduced during this period with a view to eradicate illiteracy among the masses.
An objective overall review of the achievements of the colonial government in education will reveal some positive features. First, it introduced western science and knowledge through modern education with English as a medium of instruction. This had far-reaching consequences on Indian society, both politically and socially. It contributed to the modernisation of Indian society by facilitating the development of national consciousness among Indians, which in turn resulted in the birth of political movement, first for self-rule and later for independence. It also inspired movements of religious and social reforms among the educated Indians. On the other hand, 'the principal charge against British educational administration in India is that it failed to create a national system of education for the country'.1 The colonial education system was not suited to the national needs of economic development and social transformation. It failed to provide a system of compulsory primary education through the medium of the mother tongue and it introduced a class of educational elites who were getting increasingly alienated from the mainstream of Indian culture. Also, the British system of education was violative of the principle of social justice as the gifted poor could not benefit from the costly higher education, while the less intelligent from among the upper classes reaped the benefits accruing from it because of their socio-economic position.
When the British rule began in India, there were already two well-established indigenous systems of medicine, namely, the Ayurvedic and Unani systems. Organised medical relief under state auspices, however, was not widespread. But 'the coming of the British rule made little difference at first, for they had little to offer in the field of sanitation' and also in medical relief. Modern western medicine was still in a rudimentary stage and it was only during the latter part of the nineteenth century that great scientific progress was made in medical care. As early as 1664 hospitals were opened by the East India Company for its servants. Towards the end of the eighteenth century a hospital was opened for Indians in Calcutta. By about the year 1800, hospitals were started for Indians in Bombay and Madras, and by 1840 'there were about a dozen hospitals for Indians in various large towns besides the presidencies'.2 These limited efforts by the state in providing medical relief to the native population was supplemented by the medical service provided by the Christian missionaries, especially for the needy and for the population in the interior mofussil towns.
Western type of medical schools were opened in the three presidencies of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The first medical college was established in 1835 in Calcutta and soon after medical colleges were started in Bombay and Madras. Vaccination, introduced early in the nineteenth century, remained the only organised public health measure for the prevention of diseases until 1880. This delay in introducing public health measures led to the unfortunate tendency to emphasise medical relief over public health. This continued until the end of the colonial rule.
A major development in providing organised public health service by the British rulers was the appointment of Sanitary Commissioners in 1880 in the five British Provinces of Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Punjab and U.P. This heralded an era of active state role in promoting public health. It was followed by the appointment of the Plague Commission after the outbreak of plague in 1896 which took a heavy toll of life. The Commission in its report submitted in 1904 'recommended the strengthening of the public health services and establishment of laboratories for research and for the preparation of vaccines and sera'.3 The government took prompt action on these recommendations. A string of laboratories were set up in different parts of the country, both under the central and provincial governments, to conduct research and produce vaccines. The first such laboratory was established in Bombay in 1900 and is now known as the Haffkine Institute. Later, seven more research laboratories were started in Kasauli, Madras, Coonoor, Shillong, Calcutta and Delhi. In addition to these research laboratories, several small laboratories were organised by the provincial governments. Medical research was also promoted by the Indian Research Fund Association. With the establishment of medical colleges, nursing schools and institutions for the training of public health staff such as vaccinators, sanitary inspectors, health visitors, dais, etc., there was a gradual expansion and strengthening of the medical and public health services in the country. A substantial expansion and improvement in the provision of medical care and preventive health services took place after the medical and public health departments were transferred to the provinces and to the charge of Indian ministers as a result of the constitutional changes of 1919 and 1935. Despite all these developments, the available facilities were far from adequate when seen in proportion to the size of the population and their needs.
This was due to two reasons. Firstly, there was the constraint of financial resources over which Indian ministers had little control. Secondly, the burden on the public revenue was quite high because of the general lack of voluntary action in this field unlike in the field of education. While promotion of education became a popular cause of the Indian social reformers and philanthropists, provision of medical relief did not have the same appeal to them. The Bhore Committee observed: 'In the organisation of medical relief for the people voluntary agencies have played a large part in most countries. In India, on the other hand, the state has undertaken the major share in making the provision.’4 It pointed out that only 7.6 per cent of the total number of medical institutions in the provinces (at the time of writing the Report) were maintained wholly by the private agencies and concluded that the 'share that public revenue have borne in provision of medical relief to the people is therefore very high'.5 Another feature of medical care during the colonial era is that a disproportionate number of medical institutions were in urban areas and the large rural population was practically left to fend for itself. The situation was not significantly different with public health, though it had substantial provision in rural areas in a few provinces like Bengal, Madras and Punjab. However, there was one area of public health in which notable progress was made during the period of 1910-47. This was in the control of epidemics, especially with reference to malaria and plague, which significantly reduced the number of deaths.
Famines have been a familiar feature of Indian society since ancient times. In the pre-British period, these were the result of non-availability of adequate food supply due to natural causes like draught and floods. They were limited to the localities where scarcity occurred and because of poor communication, impact of famine on the population was severe. During the colonial period, famines were frequent, especially during the latter half of the nineteenth century. There were thirteen famines in British India between 1770 and 1860. During this early period the Company government was inexperienced in administration and was unfamiliar with famines. 'For some years each famine was treated as a separate problem. Relief was given to able-bodied men, and some food was distributed, but this only reached an insignificant fraction.’6 There was no definite policy to deal with the problem of famines and many experiments were made which proved quite unsuccessful. A more systematic approach was initiated after the beginning of Crown rule under which the frequency and severity of famines increased. During the first fifty years of Crown rule (I860-1909) there were twenty major and minor famines and scarcities. This, according to Bhatia, is a record unprecedented in the history of India.7 During this period the Indian economy underwent major changes which have been described as a commercial revolution. The country's economy was linked to the world market, and the cash system was becoming more common. The traditional society was severely disrupted by the introduction of the railways, destruction of the indigenous industries, and the imposition of new revenue and judicial systems, often forced the owner-cultivator to be alienated from his land. In this period of unprecedented changes, the traditional system of protection of the poor in times of distress broke down completely. So in times of scarcity .and famines, landless agricultural labourers, weavers and tenant cultivators were the three most vulnerable sections of the population and they suffered the most. The laissez faire state policy in dealing with famines made matters still worse and there was a heavy toll of human life. For example, rice continued to be exported from India while there was a severe famine in Orissa in 1865-66. No action was taken to intervene in the rice trade and there was no prompt action to provide relief by the government. As a result, one-third of the population of Orissa was wiped out during this famine.8
Drawing upon the experience of Poor Laws in England, the British India government developed their famine relief policy based on the principle advocated by Mill that 'the greatest amount of needful help should be given to the needy which gives smallest encouragement to undue reliance on it'. This meant that the wages paid to the labourer during relief work should be less than wages prevalent in the area for similar work. 'Apart from providing employment for the able-bodied in the relief works specially started for the purpose, provision of gratuitous relief to the old, infirm and very young who were unable to work formed the principle plank of the famine relief policy of the government after 1860. '9
Until the Orissa famine, the government had not accepted the idea of gratuitous relief to the needy as part of public administration. Charity was considered to be the exclusive function of private philanthropy. This policy was slightly modified in 1861 when the government decided to provide matching grants to private agencies for meeting the costs of feeding the destitute during famines. After the shock of the Orissa famine, and the subsequent widespread criticism of the government, it was accepted as a matter of policy that henceforth there would be no loss of life during the famines. In the famines of U.P. and Rajputana in 1868-69 this policy was implemented successfully. However, soon after this in 1876-77 the government was forced to give up its policy 'of saving life irrespective of the cost' as it was beyond their financial power to undertake.
One of the measures undertaken by the British government to deal with the prevention of famines was the appointment of Famine Commissions, the first of which was appointed in 1880. As recommended by the first Commission a model Famine Code was developed and the provincial governments were asked to prepare Provincial Codes on the lines of the Model Code and they were to follow the Code strictly in the event of famines. The Famine Codes of 1883, which were the first to be formulated after the Model Code as recommended by the first Famine Commission were based on the belief that the State should intervene only when a sizeable proportion of population was affected by the famine, and the principal forms of relief should be the employment of the able-bodied on relief works. Only in exceptional cases, gratuitous relief was to be provided to feed the destitutes, young and infirm who could not be employed in relief works. Even the historians sympathetic to the British have commented that the 'Government was obsessed with the idea that there is something immoral in distributing public money to anybody except the completely infirm, without demanding some labour in return'.10
The Famine Codes provided instructions and rules for the guidance of the Provincial governments for dealing with famines. These included: the establishment of an information system to alert the Provincial government regarding an impending famine, the type and nature of relief works to be constructed, the classification of relief labour and the scale of wages to be paid; the organisation of gratuitous relief; suspension of revenue; grant of taccavi loans; relaxation of forest laws during the period of famine; and protection of cattle.11 The famine codes could not be strictly implemented due to compelling circumstances and the humanitarian spirit of some of the high officials of the provincial governments as in Madras and U.P. The Famine Codes of 1883 were modified from time to time on the basis of the experience gained from the implementation of the Codes. These changes included the discarding of the earlier fourfold classification of famine labour, based on the assumed differences of classes of workers, and the introduction of specifying the task to be performed by the labourer; payment by results on the basis of the completion of tasks; a shift in favour of public works near the villages of labourers as against the large centralised works at a great distance from the homes of the labourers and a more liberal approach to the provision of gratuitous relief.
By the end of the nineteenth century, there was a change in the attitude of the government in favour of prevention of famines. This was the result of a combination of factors such as 'the suffering caused by the two famines at the end of the century, the heavy cost on relief, and the change in the political climate in the country'.12 Two kinds of measures were taken to prevent famines: extension of irrigation and the improvement of economic conditions of the poorer classes of agriculturists. The improved economic situation contributed to the success of these preventive measures. The last of the major famines took place in 1907-08 and after that there was no famine in British territory until the great famine of Bengal in 1943. The Bengal famine was the result of a complacent and inept provincial administration, following the failure of rains for two successive seasons and the stoppage of rice imports from Burma due to outbreak of war. Prices rose very steeply as traders began to hoard large quantities of rice. While there was enough foodgrains to feed the population, the rural poor who were hit by the failure of crops did not have the purchasing power to buy rice. A large number of people died due to starvation. The official estimate was l.5 million deaths while the unofficial estimates put it at double the official figure. This was the last famine during the British rule. Soon after the colonial rule had begun there was a major famine in Bengal in 1770 and by a strange coincidence it ended a few years after the Bengal famine in 1943.
SOCIAL LEGISLATION AND SOCIAL WELFARE
The colonial religious policy was based on the principle of toleration of native religious practices. This policy was first pro- pounded in 1662 with the colonial settlement in Bombay. Later it hardened into a policy of uncompromising religious neutrality. According to Mayhew this policy 'was inspired by prudential and commercial rather than by spiritual or ethical motives’.13 It was a policy followed by the Muslim rulers for similar reasons about five centuries before the British took over the reins of administration from them.
To a great extent, the colonial policy was evolved by the officials in India in response to local events and they were permitted a good deal of discretion in this respect. It is true that officially, the general principles of policy were laid down by the Court of Directors in England during the period of the East India Company's rule and subsequently by the Secretary of State for India under the Crown rule. These high officials, however, had to rely on the judgement of their men in India, especially the highest official-the Governor-General-for the assessment of local conditions. Thus, the officials could indirectly influence to a substantial degree, the formulation of the general principles and guidelines of the policy. While officials in England definitely retained a veto power in matters of policy, their power to secure strict compliance of it by their subordinates in India was extremely limited in practice. This was due to their inability to exercise supervision over the local officials because of the long distance between London and Calcutta or Delhi, and the poor communication facilities. These barriers were overcome to some extent with the improvement in communication after the construction of the Suez Canal in 1879 and the introduction of the railways and telegraph in India during the latter part of the nineteenth century. It is for these reasons that the motivation and convictions of local high officials become significant for the understanding of the nature and practice of British social policy in India.
During the early period of the colonial era, religious and the closely related social reform policies were complicated by the triple character of the government:
its comercial-cum-imperial role, its status as an Indian ruler and as a representative of a nation whose monarch was head of the Anglican Church and the State. In practice, however, the religious policy was dictated primarily by its position as an Indian ruler-a timid Indian ruler-which demanded that the Company take no steps to interfere with Indian religious ceremonies (and customs), except when necessary to support or encourage these.14
The local officials during Clive's time followed his example of combining the Company's interests with self-gain and had little concern for the improvement of the conditions of their subjects. Corruption was rampant and many officials did not miss an opportunity to get rich, whatever the means. A change was introduced by the government of Cornwallis in 1786 which stressed the ideals of integrity and a high sense of public duty. 'This was facilitated by a generous salary system for the officials and the separation of commerce from public administration.’15 A major part of these officials were 'men of integrity and devotion' who were interested in the conservation of Indian society with respect to its oriental traditions of language, literature and philosophy. While they did not, perhaps, approve of the many superstitions and religious practices of the native population, their humanitarian spirit was dormant and weak. They tended to be fatalists and pragmatists in relation to religious and social practices which in effect meant supporting status quo. The only humanitarian actions of the government during this period was the abolition of infanticide at the island of Ganga Saugar, and prohibition of compulsory sati. Despite the campaign by Christian missionaries and later by the Indian social reformers, the government was not willing to intervene to stop the practice of sati for fear of provoking a rebellion.
The years 1828 to 1856 constitute the most active period of governmental action in social reform. Many historic measures were taken not only in the field of education as described earlier, but also in social reform. These included the abolition of sati by William Bentinck in 1829, the abolition of slavery in 1843, the abolition of female infanticide and human sacrifice, the control of thuggery, and the passing of the Widow Remarriage Act in 1856 which was the last major piece of social legislation for a long time. This active reformist role of the colonial government becomes meaningful only in the context of the changed social and political scene. By about the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the British rule had expanded in all four directions and they commanded the strategic points to ensure that there was no serious threats, external or internal. They felt confident of dealing firmly with any rebellion. With the emergence of an indigenous group of reformers advocating measures of social reform, they had an ally inside the subject population. At the head of this favourable situation was a government whose officials were deeply influenced with a new concept of duty. It was the result of the evangelical religious movement headed by Wilberforce, Trevelyan and Grant on the one hand, and on the other by the stoic, deistic-moralism ‘covered with a coating of utilitarianism', of men like Elphinstone, Holt and Metcalfe. William Bentinck belonged to the first group of evangelical reformists and it was the influence of this group more than the other which contributed to a series of measures of social legislation enacted by the government during 1828-56. The influence of the other group is to be noticed in a number of measures of social development like the improvement of agriculture, expansion of modern education and development of irrigation, etc. Of the two, the evangelical influence was more prominent. As a result, 'moral causes, concern for welfare, promotion of education and western values were now a part of man's duty. This development underlay much of the moral and material programme of the British in nineteenth century India’.16
The mutiny of 1857 came as a great shock to the colonial rulers. It was a traumatic experience which 'dealt a heavy blow at the former feeling of security and self-confidence'. This had a negative consequence as far as the British social policy was concerned especially with regard to social reform. Commenting on the change of attitude, Percival Spear says:
... the previous faith in Indian willingness to reform its society, so buoyant in the thirties, disappeared. To touch Indian institutions was now considered as dangerous as fiddling with a faultily insulated electric power cable.... So positive social measures were dropped and the moral duty to improve confined to things like railways, roads, and irrigation.17
This disinclination toward social reform was based only partly on a lack of faith in Indians and partly on the waning influence of the evangelical group among the officials. It was further strengthened by two events. One was the new method of recruitment to the colonial civil service which was no longer based on directorial nomination but on merit as assessed through a selection examination. The emphasis was on academic attainments and formal training of the new recruits. This change in the recruitment was introduced in 1853 a few years before the mutiny. But the growth and development of a modern bureaucracy, with its new administrative culture was evident in the post-mutiny period. Thus a new concept of duty was evolving among the officials. 'There was respect for authority, devotion to the task in hand in district, court and secretariat.' But there was no more a passionate zeal to reform the Indian society, whether through legal action or by dedicated pioneering work for a cause, as was done by Bethune and James Todd who worked for women's education in Bengal and eradication of the custom of female infanticide among Rajputs in Rajasthan respectively. The only major piece of social legislation to be passed during the latter half of the nineteenth century was the Age of Consent Act in 1891. But this was done after two years of controversy during which a reluctant government was goaded into action by a powerful, vocal and influential section of the educated Indians.
Beginning with the Workmen's Breach of Contract Act of 1859 and until the passing of the first Factory Act in 1881, a series of labour legislation was passed by the government which were 'mainly aimed at regulation of employment rather than of improving conditions of labour'. The purpose of these legislative measures was to provide the employers with a stable and dependable work force.
Between 1880 and 1895 'there was a certain amount of quickening in the development of Indian industries'. This led to the growth of cities and employment of labourers in large numbers in industries. They were driven to these cities to seek employment, because of widespread rural poverty. They lived in hovels which lacked even the basic amenities of life. Among these labourers were children and women including widows and old women. They worked at a stretch for as long as 12 to 16 hours per day with little rest in between. The working conditions were horrible. There were hardly any safety measures. There were no toilet facilities and not even a place to rest. As already mentioned, due to the efforts of a few social reformers like N.M. Lokhande and Shapurji Bengali in Bombay, and more than that due to the pressure of Lancashire Mills in England who were worried about the serious competition from Indian textile goods, the British government in India was compelled to take some action for the regulation of factories and especially about the working conditions of the labourers. Though a committee was appointed by the Bombay government in 1875 to inquire into the conditions of operatives in Bombay factories and to consider the necessity of passing a Factory Act due to the opposition of the manufacturing interests and a large proportion of the public in India, the first Factory Act was only passed in 1881. This Act was meant to apply only to factories employing more than 100 labourers and it was aimed at providing minimum safety measures like fencing of the machines, prohibition of employment of children below seven years and regulation of hours of work for children below twelve years. Due to further pressure from textile mill-owners in England, the Central government appointed a Factory Commission in 1890 and based on the recommendations of this Committee, the Indian Factory Act was passed in 1891. This Act was generally on the lines of the earlier Bombay Act. It went beyond the Bombay Factory Act in some respects. These included: application of the Act to factories employing 50 laborers, prohibition of employment of children below the age of nine, regulation of working hours, especially for women and children, and provision of a weekly holiday. There were also provisions for sanitation at the factories and for their inspection. The Factory Act was amended in 1912, 1923 and 1934. Each successive amendment increased the scope of the Act by bringing in other sectors of the manufacturing industry within the purview of the Act. It also brought about further improvement in the working conditions of the laborers by providing for better safety and sanitation measures, and by reducing the working hours further.
Whether by special enactments or by further amendments to the existing Factory Act, the government gave protection to women and children. Employment of women on night duty and their employment underground in the mines were prohibited. Similarly, employment of children during the night was prohibited, and the age at which a child could be employed was gradually raised. Also, the working hours of children were reduced from time to time. The Workmen’s' Compensation Act of 1923, a series of Provincial Maternity Benefit Acts passed between 1929-40, the Payment of Wages Act of 1936 and the Bombay Industrial Disputes Act of 1938, are some of the major legislative measures enacted by the British government in response to various pressures and the gradual transfer of power to the Indians at the provincial levels.
The end of the First World War signified a major change of attitude on the part of the government towards the labour. The pressures from various groups in England such as the textile manufacturers and the social reformists and trade unionists, the international obligations arising out of the formation of the I.L.O. and its recommendations on labour legislation, the domestic pressure arising from increasing trade union activity, industrial unrest due to strikes and political agitation for representative government together contributed in compelling the government to give up its laissez faire role and intervene actively to pass a series of legislations to promote industrial peace and labour welfare.
As a preparatory step before enacting any labour legislation, the government normally appointed official commissions to study the problems and suggest measures for improvement. Prominent among the various commissions appointed are the Industrial Commission of 1918, the Royal Commission of Labour of 1929, the labour enquiry committees of the governments of Bombay, Bihar, U.P. and C.P. during 1937-38 and the Labour Investigation Committee of 1944 (Rege Committee). These committees and commissions made a variety of recommendations for the provision of housing facilities, the improvement of working conditions inside the factories, especially in the areas of safety, health, and welfare amenities like drinking water, rest rooms, canteen, creches, etc. They also recommended the appointment of special staff like factory inspectors and labour officers to ensure that the legislative provisions were implemented. All the legislative measures suggested by the various official groups and implemented by the governments- both the provincial and central-until 1946 were generally focused on the improvement of conditions inside the factory premises and the protection of the workers from various malpractices during recruitment and employment. These were the statutory intra-mural welfare measures. Apart from these, the need for housing facilities were stressed by the Industrial Commission and the Royal Commission on Labour, and provided voluntarily by some of the progressive employers. Also, the recommendations made by the provincial labour enquiry commit- tees to start labour welfare centres in predominantly industrial areas were accepted and implemented by the governments of the concerned provinces. The intended purpose of these centres was mainly to provide a platform to industrial labour where they could pursue during their leisure-time recreational, cultural and educational activities. During the Second World War, the central government issued ordinances to provide for 'an experimental scheme to finance non-statutory welfare activities in industrial undertakings owned and controlled by it. This did not include railways and major ports' .18 The welfare measures were to be financed out of a fund created by voluntary contributions of workers, government grants, and a variety of other sources. Labour Welfare Funds for the miners were also created by levying a cess on the mines. Statutory welfare measures like education and medical facilities were provided under this scheme.
As early as the 1920s, some of the employers had started providing a variety of welfare services to their employees. These employers included some of the big, well-known Indian and British industrial houses. Some of these pioneering organisations had appointed labour or labour welfare officers as recommended by the earlier official commissions on labour. Associations of mill owners in jute and textiles also took the lead in pioneering extra-mural labour welfare programmes in Calcutta and Bombay, and they appointed labour officers to organise and administer these programmes. However, there was no statutory requirement for the appointment of labour welfare officers until after independence, when the 1948 Factory Act included it as one of its main provisions. It should also be noted that a few well-organised trade unions had taken the initiative to provide a variety of welfare measures to their members such as education for children, health facilities, library and reading rooms, recreations, and literacy classes. Prominent among these are the Textile Labour Association of Ahmedabad founded by Gandhiji, Mill Mazdoor Union of Indore, the Mazdoor Sabha of Kanpur and a few railwaymen's unions. This brief account of welfare legislation and evolution of labour welfare in the country during the colonial period highlights the fact that notable progress was made in respect of these during the last quarter century of the colonial rule. As the Rege Committee noted, despite some improvement in the living and working conditions of labourers, there was not much progress in the actual implementation of many of the welfare legislations due to weak inspection and enforcement machinery. The government had not played a very vigorous and effective role except to pass labour legislation from time to time. In 1946, the Rege Committee had recommended a comprehensive programme of labour policy after detailed study of all aspects of problems in the country. For that reason, its report is a historic landmark in the evolution of labour welfare in India.
Modern social work was introduced in India by Christian missionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Orphan children and destitute men and women were kept in the boarding houses run by them. Soon, this example was followed by some of the Indian social reformers like Sasipada Banerjee, Jotirao Phule, Pandita Rama Bai, D.K. Karve, Veereshalingam Pantulu and others who started widow homes in different parts of the country. During the last quarter of the century, organisations like Arya Samaj, Prarthana Samaj and Ramakrishna Mission began to provide a variety of welfare services for famine-stricken destitutes, orphans and widows. By the beginning of the twentieth century many sectarian, religious or caste associations in different corners of the country began to provide similar institutional welfare services.
The colonial government, in accordance with its general policy of laissez faire, took little interest in providing any form of welfare service to the needy sections of the population. As a result, until about the second decade of this century, the role of the state in social welfare was one of inaction. It was only during the second and third decades of the twentieth century, that through a series of legislation, the government at the centre and in the provinces initiated programmes for the control of certain social problems like beggary, crime and juvenile delinquency in the metropolitan cities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. This was partly due to the urgency of the problem which resulted from the expansion of trade and development of industries as viewed by the government. It was also due to the fact that these were the services with which the government was familiar, as they had been in operation for some time in England where, much earlier, similar problems had been faced in the process of industrialisation.19 Thus, social defence was the field in which the state intervention first began in this country.
Among the earliest measures were the provision for the employment of orphans and destitutes by the Apprentices Act of 1850 which was followed by the Reformatory Schools Act of 1870. They 'provided for the training of destitute children and treatment of juvenile delinquents'. Madras was the first province to pass the Children's Act in 1920, and was soon followed by Bengal and Bombay. Several provinces passed the Borstal Schools Act ‘to provide a programme of correctional treatment for adolescent offenders.’ By an amendment of the Indian Code of Criminal procedure in 1923, a beginning was made for the release of offenders on probation. 'The application of the provision was restricted to first offenders as well as to some extent, to the legal character of the offenders in question.’20 Following this, a series of attempts were made to introduce an all-India probation legislation. In 1931 even a Bill was drafted, but it was not passed because of the turbulent political climate at that time. By 1948, the governments of Madras, Bombay, U.P. and the Central Provinces had passed legislations to provide for probation service for the offenders. Legislation for the control, prevention and treatment of beggary was passed by 1945 by the governments of Bombay and Madras. Suppression of immoral traffic was also attempted by a few provinces like Bombay, Bengal and Bihar.
Towards the end of the colonial rule, social work in the public hospitals was started with the appointment of an almoner in the J.J. Hospital in Bombay in 1946. The appointment of a social worker in the psychiatric unit of the same hospital was made soon after this development. But there was no similar programme initiated in any of the mental hospitals in India. However, almost a decade earlier a psychiatric social worker was appointed in the first child guidance clinic which was started by the Sir Dorabjee Tata Graduate School of Social Work in a children's hospital in Bombay.
Social welfare in a country like India has to be primarily rural in character. For a long time, the colonial government did not take much interest in initiating welfare services in the rural areas. When circumstances compelled them to act, as in the case of riots by the Deccan farmers over the issue of heavy debts and their exploitation by the moneylenders in 1874 or during the severe famines which were frequent during the nineteenth century, the government responded by ad hoc and sporadic measures to deal with the situation. These included the passing of a legislation to protect the agriculturists from the clutches of the moneylenders, to prevent alienation of land and provide for debt relief; the limited expansion of irrigation facilities in a few districts of Punjab, Madras and U.P.; the provision of credit on easy terms such as taccavi loans and similar measures.
During the 1920s, a few provincial governments introduced rural development schemes by providing separate staff and special financial grants, and by coordinating the work of developmental programmes of various departments. The first to initiate a scheme of rural development was Punjab. In 1923 it set up a rural community board and established district community councils (Dehat Sudhar Committee) with the District Officer as Chairman and other district officials and a few non-officials as members. The seven-year Gurgaon experiment under the leadership of District Officer F.L. Bryne is by now wellknown. The lessons of this experiment were that 'under a dedicated and dynamic leadership of an official much improvement could be accomplished even in a backward district, but there would be no enduring results because of the official sponsorship, and the failure to create non-ofIicial local leadership and voluntary organ- isation to carry on the work, after the departure of the official'.21
The governments of Bengal, U.P., Bombay and the Central Provinces followed in the footsteps of Punjab, though with varying emphasis on the programmes included as part of rural development. These programmes, though not common to all of them, included the promotion of the cooperation movement, agricultural improvements, female and adult education, sanitation and health, and supply of drinking water. The central government also gave financial support during the late 1930s to the provincial governments by setting aside large sums to aid rural development(nearly £ 3,000,000). In addition to these, there were a few non-official experiments in rural reconstruction such as the Marthandam scheme of the Y.M.C.A. and Tagore's scheme in Santiniketan. The general opinion was that the official schemes were not as successful as the non-official schemes and the success of the latter was attributed to their intimate knowledge of local conditions, close contact with the people, their missionary spirit, trained personnel and better methods of work. Under the prevailing conditions, it was considered that 'a social welfare scheme, directed and financed by the provincial or state government, and carried into effect through semi-official district bodies and voluntary village communities is more likely to succeed in producing useful results than either a number of keen but isolated departments or a medley of uncoordinated voluntary societies without money or trained staff’.22 This lesson, however, was not remembered during the post-independence programme of rural community development, though it seemed to have been accepted as an official policy in relation to other social welfare programmes.
The colonial social policy began to evolve only after 1786 with the wide-ranging administrative reforms of Cornwallis. Until then, there was no colonial government worth the name, because of the spirit of mercantilism which dominated the operations of the East India Company, and the rampant corruption among their officials at all levels. The triple character of the Company administration only complicated the situation and there was a great reluctance to do anything which might undermine the colonial rule. As a consequence, the objective of social policy during the early phase of colonial rule became the preservation of the status quo under the garb of religious neutrality and non-interference in native social customs. The influence of orientalists promoted a positive interest among the officials in Indian literature and philosophy. It also strengthened (and perhaps provided a justification for) a generally conservative attitude towards native institutions.
The active policy to reform the colonial society which was evident during a brief period from 1829 to 1856 was the product of a combination of favourable circumstances. At home (i.e., in England) it was a period of change and an age of improvement.23 The 'cult of progress' could not but influence the colonial policy also to some extent. At the head of the government in India was an assertive, daring, and reformist official like Bentinck who demonstrated that reform without rebellion was possible.24 The example was followed by others who succeeded him. The evangelical lobby, which provided a new motivation to many officials in favour of reform, was strong both in England and in India. The post-mutiny climate in India led to the swing of the pendulum back to a cautious, non-interventionist social policy, except in the fields of education and famine relief in which there were modest positive achievements. The Victorian era, otherwise, was characterised by the dominant contemporary ideology of laissez faire liberalism.
The devolution of power to the provinces which began in 1870 and continued as part of the constitutional reforms of the twentieth century is attributed by some British historians to the spirit of British liberalism which 'found a more constructive field of work in the development of local government'.25 The dominant factor behind these changes, however, 'was money or at least lack of it'. Faced with the problems of revenue and mounting administrative and military expenditures, 'the government found it increasingly difficult to find funds to provide social services'.26 It could not spend more than two-fifths of its revenue in the spheres of development and social services. In the meanwhile, the Indian elites, who were the products of modern English education, were critical of the government for its failure to improve the conditions of the people and held it responsible for the wide spread poverty of the masses. They had also become politically organised and were demanding representation in the government. So the successive devolution of power was the solution the government found to deal with its financial and political problems. And, as Baker observes, this policy was partially successful.27 Despite the constraints of limited political powers under dyarchy and the 1935 constitutional reforms which granted provincial autonomy, substantial progress was made in the sphere of social services during the last phase of colonial era.
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