HC Deb 16 March 1882 vol 267 cc1006-8

asked the Secretary of State for India, Whether his attention has been called to the three Petitions proceeding from the Mohammedan National Association, Merchants and Bankers of Calcutta, and the Anglican Bishop and Clergy of Calcutta, respec- tively, recently presented to Sir Ashley Eden on the subject of increased drunkenness, and suggesting the closing of liquor shops on Sunday as a means of diminishing the evil; whether he has noticed the statement of Sir Ashley Eden, in refusing the Petitions, that, "there can be no doubt that there is an increase of drinking among the natives;" and, whether he proposes to take any steps in view of the numerous representations on the subject of the increase of drinking habits among the Indian population?


I have seen the Petitions referred to, asking that liquor shops in Calcutta may be closed on Sundays. The hon. Member's Question conveys an inaccurate idea of the effect of the Lieutenant Governor's reply to the Memorialists. Sir Ashley Eden said that while— No doubt there may be an increase of drinking, it is not among the class that frequents the liquor shops; it is among the middle classes, who drink in their own houses. That careful inquiry had convinced him that— The alleged increase in intemperance is more imaginary than real. And that, at any rate, any such increase was not due to multiplication of liquor shops, as the number of these shops had been reduced in Calcutta and its suburbs, with a population of 550,000, from 602 in 1871 to 403 in 1881. Nor did Sir Ashley Eden absolutely refuse the prayer of the Petitioners; but said he could not legally comply with it during the term for which the existing licences were granted, but that he would see that the houses were closed for a part of Sunday when the licences came to be renewed. In reply to the last part of the Question, although I have no reason to think that there is any disposition on the part of the Government of India to adopt measures which may have a tendency to promote intemperance among the population, I shall call their attention to the necessity of exercising extreme care and caution in the matter.


asked if there was not a considerable increase in the Excise Revenue during the last financial year, especially in Bengal?


There has certainly been an increase in the Revenue referred to by the hon. Member; but I do not admit that it has anything to do with the subject of the Question of the hon. Member for Dungarvan.