HC Deb 07 July 1884 vol 290 cc209-10

asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether, considering the alarm throughout Europe at the spread of Asiatic cholera, and in view of the fact that there is so often a deficiency of salt found in the blood of persons dying from this disease, and that vast numbers of the Natives of India are not able to procure a sufficiency of salt, Her Majesty's Government will at once abolish the Salt Tax in India?


I have no reason to believe that want of salt has any connection with cholera in India. It is not the case that vast numbers of the Natives are unable to procure sufficient salt. Extension of railway communication and recent reductions in the tax have made salt more plentiful and cheaper than it previously was. Thus, in the North-West Provinces, the part of India most remote from the sources of salt supply, the mean price of salt in the autumn of 1873 was 15 lbs. the rupee, or a little over 1½d. per lb. In the autumn of 1883 it was 22 lbs. the rupee, or rather over 1d. per lb., a decrease of about one-third. The net revenue from salt is now about £5,750,000 sterling, and there is no probability that the surplus will be sufficient to justify the surrender of this large sum.


asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether it is the case that, since 1882, the Excise regulations respecting the salt monopoly have been made more strict in the Madras Presidency; whether the number of Natives sentenced to fine or imprisonment for offences against these Laws exceeded 9,000 in the year 1882–3; and, if a large proportion of these sentences were passed on men who had obtained salt by mixing the earth of their grounds with water; whether it is the case that the late reduction in the Salt Duty in Madras amounted to twenty per cent., and that already the demand has so much increased that the Salt Revenue has risen to within 4 per cent of its former amount; and, whether the Government intend to give the native population the inestimable boon of further reductions in the Salt Duties?


(1.) In 1882 the Madras Salt Laws were amended, and made in some respects more strict; (2.) the number of persons convicted in 1882–3 of offences against the Salt Laws was 8,399. The number is less than that of 1879–80 before the amendment of the Salt Laws, when the convictions were 9,678. A large proportion of the convictions were for the illicit manufacture of salt from salt earth. (3.) The salt tax in Madras was reduced 20 per cent in March, 1882. Comparing the years 1880–1 and 1882–3 the loss of Revenue caused by this reduction is 9 per cent. (4.) Considering the present state of the finances of India there is no immediate probability of a further reduction in the Salt Tax, which has in the greater part of India been lowered by 33 per cent to 39 per cent within the last seven years.