226. The demand for labour, and especially unskilled
labour, in Berar is large: cotton as a crop requires a great deal of care and
attention, and there is a proportionate
influx of casual labourers from other parts of India, chiefly
the north. At the date of the former Berar Gazetteer
payment for agricultural labour was almost always made in
kind, and, as such a payment is entirely independent of
variations in the price of money and is moreover largely based
upon custom, it is not surprising to find that it remains
almost unchanged at the present day.
The cotton-picker is not paid in cash; the rate is from one-twentieth to one-tenth, according to the market; the twentieth is the old rate. If the first picking is a twentieth share, the second should be a tenth, the third is sometimes half, because one person can collect but a small quantity in a day at the late gathering. The
Kunbis have a superstitious predilection in favour of getting their cotton picked by women. As each person has completed her or his day's picking, she or he carries the load to the appointed place, where the owner is in waiting for them; as each bundle is received it is ranged, with the picker seated near, the Dhers and other outcastes apart from the others. The owner commences by asking for one of the loads, which is thrown before him; he divides it into the stipulated number of shares, and teils the picker to choose one, who does so, and takes possession of it.
In cutting juari a labourer's wage is one pula or bundle (sheaf) with the ears, to be chosen by himself. For cutting ears off the stalks two ordinary baskets for a man, and one for a woman, is the wage; each basket contains four seers (eight lbs.) of grain, value four annas. A wheat cutter's wage is two sheafs, yielding about four lbs., valued three annas.
' A chana-picker (the plants arepulied up) gets, if a man,
two karaps (heaps) and a woman one; a Rarap contains six lbs., worth perhaps four annas.'
It may be added that it is doubtful whether the preference for women cotton-pickers to-day is so much a superstition, as an economic hankering for cheap labour. In 1870 the rate of payment in hard cash for unskilled labour (casual) was 4 annas per diem and this remained without much fluctuation
till 1900-1901. Since then it has risen tili it Stands to-day at about 8 annas; and the high prices prevailing for agricuitural produce lately have inclined cultivators towards cash payment, a System which has its advantages for the payee also. In cotton cultivation men are paid 4 annas a day for sowing or weeding and women 2 annas. The cotton is picked from 3 to 5 times almost invariably by women. At the first picking the wage is 2 annas per diem, at the second and 3 rd it is the money equivalent of a wage in kind i.e., 4—4½ annas for every maund of 15 seers (30 lbs.) picked, this being a fair day's work. After this the wages fall and at the 4th and 5th pickings only 2 annas per diem are earned. Juari is sown by men who are paid from 4 to 6 annas a day. Cutting and stocking as well as threshing are done by contract by men on a basis of 2 to 2½ kuros (1 kuro= 16 seers) for every tiffan (4 acres) reaped or some-times 24 seers for every khandi of 320 seers harvested. The ears are separated from the stalks by women who get a basketful of ears (value about 4½ annas) per day. Similar arrangements prevail with fegard to other crops. Farm-servants regularly employed got from five to eight rupees a month in the plains, seven being perhaps the commonest rate; and in the Melghat from Rs. 2½ to Rs. 5 per month. In each case presents of clothing from their masters at Dasahra and Holi are the equivalent of a few rupees more.
The wages for unskilled labour in other professions are naturally regulated by those in agriculture. An ordinary cooly is paid
5 annas a day, a woman or a boy 3 annas: in the rains these rates are increased to 6 or 7 annas for men and 4 annas for women, that for children remaining the same. Hammals for heavy work come frequently from Khandesh; they draw 6 to 8 annas at any time of year. Watermen,
chaukidars and similar unskilled servants are paid 5 to 8 rupees a month. [The above figures were supplied by the Executive Engineer and represent average rates. During the cotton season there is very great shortage of labour: coolies and Hammals can then command from As. 8 to Re 1½ and women easily obtain from 4 to 6 annas daily for work in the factories. Children are not often employed and their rates of wages remain constant.]
227. The wages of skilled labour is of course a more
complicated question: the higher kinds
of agricultural labour may draw Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 per mensem, and a syce Rs. 9 or 10 per mensem: it is difficult, however, to speak of these as skilled labour. A mason gets Rs. 20 to Rs. 22, and a village carpenter or blacksmith Rs. 22 to Rs. 30. It is probably this last class of labour which is referred to in the old Berar Gazetteer (page 272) as receiving from 12 annas to 1 rupee per diem. Allowing therefore for the difference between casual and fixed labour the rate would appear to have remained almost the same. This is probably true as regards such village servants for there has been no great variation in the demand or supply during forty years: and some of the balutedars, it should be remarked, continue to draw their customary haks at harvest though they have no legal claim to do so. In other branches, however, there has been a great rise in wages: men with a turn for mechanics command wages in the gins and factories which may commence at Rs. 28 per mensem as blacksmith and include promotion even up to Rs. 50 or higher as fitter or overseer. Good Marathi-speaking clerks need never be without posts on Rs. 15—25 per mensem and it is very hard to get a man with a knowledge of English as well on anything less than the latter figure even when the prospects and ultimate pension of Government service are included. Even when all allowances have been made for the declining value of money this is clearly a sign of the increasing prosperity of the District.