The Agriculture labor Enquiry Committee defines agriculture labourers as those who derive their main source of income by working on farms of others for a wage. They are one of the two types of farm workers, other being the cultivators. The agricultural labourers are:
- Engaged in agricultural or allied activities including horticulture, dairy farming, poultry etc.
- Work for wage in cash or kind or both
- Work full time or part time; whole year or part of a year.
An agriculture labourer has no right of lease or contract and has no risk in the cultivation on land but merely works on another person’s land for wage.
There are two types of agricultural labourers. First, those attached to some other farming households on the basis of a written or oral agreement. They work as per instructed by their masters and cannot work at any other place. Second, those who are free to work in any farm on the payment of daily wages are known as Casual Laborers.
Agricultural labourers are the most unorganized and exploited class of the rural population of the country. Their standard of living, level of income and the rate of wages have remained abnormally low. Their agricultural wages are very low due to use of automated machines in agriculture nowadays. A large section of laborers are unemployed due to automation, drought, low rainfall etc.
In India agricultural laborers are usually highly indebted. In several parts of India, the agricultural labourers are still forced to work as bonded labourers due to inability to pay to the landlords or money lenders. What government can do is revising the minimum wages periodically considering the changing price level and rehabilitate the agricultural laborers on the acquired land declared surplus under ceiling laws and also on the newly reclaimed land. Creating alternative source of employment by developing small scale industries and social security, measures will also improve their standard of living and earning capacity.