§ Mr. MACNEILL
, Member for South Donegal, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., "the famine at present raging in various parts of India, more especially in the Presidency of Madras, and the neglect of the Government in taking measures for the preservation of the lives of the people now perishing by thousands from starvation;" but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen:—
§ MR. MACNEILL
I feel a great responsibility for every word I shall say with reference to this matter. I make the charge that the Government of India are attempting to burke the truth regarding the real state of things in India. The effect of the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman to-day is, that the statistics are pretty much the same, as regards the death rate, as they were in August, 1891. Of course, we have not got the statistics, but, taking one 547 thing with another, we may take these as the statistics. The consequence is, that they show for the hon. Gentleman that the Indian Government is the best Government that the sun ever shone upon, except our own precious Government here at home. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, a few days ago, asked for particulars as to the population in the various districts of India. The Under Secretary was away in Derbyshire at the election, which is far more important than the lives of the people of India; but the Secretary to the Treasury answered for him, and said that the statistics were not out, and that he could not get the information. I have got the information in spite of the India Office, and shall show that there is an enormous death rate in India from starvation. The Under Secretary told us that the Census of India for 1891 was not out. That was true; but it was not the whole truth. When my hon. Friend asked for these Returns of the population, the answer was that he could not have them, because the Census of 1891 had not been made out; and we could only estimate the death rate in reference to the Census of 1881. But I have found out what it has been, according to the Census of 1891. From a Report of the Census of the population of the Madras Presidency I find that there are preliminary notices coming, as they come in this country before the Census is given, in this Report. It first tells the population in the Madras Presidency, and then tells how much it has increased since last Census. The population has increased since the last Census 15.28 per cent. That is the average increase. By simply adding the decimals we get the total number of the population in these districts in 1891. This has been done in a very able article which has been sent, I believe, to every Member of Parliament; and it has been left to the zeal of an English journalist in the Whitehall Review to do what the English Parliament has been trying to keep from the people of England—namely, to give us some information about the starvation and misery of the people of India. By this article we find out the exact amount of 548 the population of all these districts by a simple arithmetical calculation. The normal death rate per thousand, as ascertained in 1890, is 26; the normal death rate since 1891 per thousand is 52, the difference between the two being 26. If you take the average abnormal death roll for the 12 months as represented in August, 1891, by the calculation of seven-twelfths of 12 months, you will find it comes to the enormous sum total of 94,229 deaths; but we believe the death roll is infinitely greater. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us why it was not until November or December that any relief works at all to speak of were instituted in this locality?
§ MR. MACNEILL
I should not have made the statement unless I believed it to be true. Has the hon. Gentleman ever known me to make a statement which I knew to be untrue? On a point of Order I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in Order for one hon. Member of this House to say that another hon. Member has made a statement which is untrue?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has a right to say that a statement is untrue. There is no offence to the hon. Gentleman in that.
§ MR. MACNEILL
I understood he did what he once did before, to impugn my veracity. ("No!") Dare he say that I have ever made in this House or anywhere else a statement which I did not believe to be true? If the House will allow me to prove all the facts or statements on which I grounded what I said, it will see whether I was right or not in saying what I did say, and I believed what I said to be true. I state again that no relief was instituted in these districts until November or December; and if my information be correct, and if that statement be true, I say I have no word to describe or exaggerate the wickedness of the Government and the Administration, when these people were dying, and the abnormal death rate in these districts was 1,400 per month; and the late Secretary of State was thanking 549 Heaven for the merciful providence and benevolence of Indian rule. The Under Secretary stated that—The Indian Revenue, is always liable to be disturbed by famine.The Under Secretary thinks far more of the Revenue than of the lives of the people—But in the last ten days the danger of anything like a general famine or scarcity which would affect the finances of India has thank God, disappeared.He ought not to bring the Deity into a thing of this kind. He speaks of its influence on the revenue or finances: he has got no feeling for these people—no sense of humanity. All these people are to be ground down and crushed down for the purposes of the revenue and finances. It is a sort of gambling transaction with human lives; and is Heaven to be thanked for a gambling transaction with human lives? "Scarcity" is the euphemistic word used by the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Gentleman himself had only one day of the "scarcity," I wonder how would he like it. Did the Government ever consider that all these poor families could be supported on I the salary of Lord Cross or the salary of the Under Secretary; and what do they do for their money? "This scarcity will not be likely to seriously affect the revenue, &c." Everything is to enforce this mercenary despotism—a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. I wish the people of India were able to assert their position—perhaps they will some day. The Viceroy of India stated, in a telegram, dated from Simla, that there had been no change of any importance since his telegram of 28th July; that the prospects were very good; that in 55 districts the prices had risen; and that the relief measures were sufficient. And yet 94,229 people have died from starvation, or the effects of starvation; and it is no exaggeration, to say that every one of these people have been killed by this Government in India. These people do not care how many people die, provided only the justice-loving people of England are kept in the dark about this nefarious transaction. I shall have something to say about the Under Secre- 550 tary bye-and-bye; he need not provoke me before the time. I want to prove every one of these statements from official documents. I do not know whether the Under Secretary is going to abuse me for using, official documents. My experience in Ireland leads me to distrust official documents; but I am able to prove from official documents that the Government in India have culpably neglected their duty; and having done so, I will tell the House how that was, done. We can arrange, at any rate, to have everything published in the vernacular Press, and I am perfectly sure that all the statements made here will not be burked. This is the Report of the late Sir James Caird, which was presented in 1880. The late Sir James Caird was a Tory protégé, and he was made Right Honourable by the Tory Government. He collected statistics and made reports for them. He still had some instinct of honesty and of humanity, which is sometimes absent from officials, especially in Ireland. [The hon. Gentleman having read extracts from this Report, which dealt with the condition of the people of India and the means of relieving their distress, continued]: I accuse the Government of misappropriating a sum which would have supplied every hungry person in India with ample food. The Report says—It would appear that the animal Reversion Fund of £1,500,000, if so applied, would amply meet these calamities.What was done with it? The first thing which Lord Lytton did was to grab it and to apply it to the Afghan War. It was not applied for relieving the extreme poverty of the people, but for making what has been called the scientific frontier of Afghanistan. I wish Lord Lytton had only spent his time in a way I cannot characterise while in India, and that he had kept his hands out of the pockets of the people. There were two ways described in 1878 by Sir Charles Elliot (then Mr. Charles Elliot) of meeting famine. One is to watch well the approach of famine, and, having watched it, to do the best you can to meet it with a reserve fund. The second way is doing nothing until the wolf is at the door, and then leaving it to officials to report. 551 Now, Sir, I call an unwilling witness, the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham, and I ask him whether it is not a known fact that these natives will not apply for relief unless under the pressure of the extremest necessity, and, in fact, would rather starve than go to these places and beg? They rather go, like wounded and hunted and dying beasts, to dark corners, where they are found in the last stage of disease. Ordinarily the hearts of officials do not search for the people, but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Evesham did search for them, and he saved thousands of lives thereby. There was an official there before the hon. Baronet, and I do not know whether he remembers him; his name was Price. Does the hon. Baronet remember him?
§ MR. MACNEILL
The hon. Baronet does not remember him. He was a collector. I will pass from that to the appointment of Lord Wenlock, who holds his office simply because of the fact that he is a nephew of the Duke of Westminster. His administration has throughout been characterised by mismanagement. He has shown himself regardless of the lives and of the liberties of the people under his power, and, like the late Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he has simply thrown himself into the arms of the officials. Lord Wenlock is a man of very moderate abilities indeed. He was given this office because he was in financial difficulties at home, and it is because of these difficulties that he has been provided for out of monies voted by Parliament. The administration is scandalous that can allow a state of things such as this. There is a wholesale robbery, not alone of the property of the people of India, but of the lives of those people, simply to support a class of officials. Into the hands of those officials Lord Wenlock has thrown himself, in the same way as the late Chief Secretary threw himself into the hands of the notorious Captain Plunkett.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman having obtained leave to move the Adjournment of the House 552 in order to call attention to a definite subject is under obligation to keep closely to that subject. I am bound to say he is now speaking in the most discursive manner.
§ MR. MACNEILL
I was trying, Sir, to keep myself most strictly to the state of the famine-stricken population.
§ MR. MACNEILL
Very well, Sir. Then I will ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India whether when, a fortnight ago, he gave me an answer across the Table of the House, he understood the state of matters in August, 1891? If so, I should like to ask why were not the necessary relief works made; why, when the rainfall was known to be decreasing, were the people allowed to die as they are now dying in thousands? Sir, I have taken up this matter with some little care, and it is my duty, no matter what obloquy I may incur, to bring before the people of England the starvation and the misery of the people of India for which we are responsible, and I denounce in the strongest possible way the maintenance of a system which leads to the enforced extermination of the Indian people.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. MacNeill.)
(8.40.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOE INDIA (Mr. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
The hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. MacNeill) has failed to observe the courtesy which, I believe, is customary on these occasions, of giving notice, to the Minister concerned, of his intention to raise a question on the Motion for Adjournment. I do not, however, complain of the action of the hon. Member in taking the latter step, nor of the attitude of those hon. Members who rose in their places to support him, inasmuch as I cannot conceive a question of more vital or more pressing importance than one which affects the welfare and the lives of many hundreds of thousands of British subjects, nor a question upon which the House of Commons is entitled to more ample, more explicit, and more speedy information. The hon. 553 Member (Mr. MacNeill) has accused the Government of India of neglect in taking measures for the protection of the lives of the people. I listened to his speech attentively, but I did not hear one scintilla of evidence in support of that undoubtedly serious statement. He accused the Government of India of burking inquiry upon this question. There has been no desire upon the part of the Government, either here or in India, to withhold any item of information. On the contrary, they have supplied all the information without reserve that has been asked for. And if the hon. Member himself (Mr. MacNeill), or if any other hon. Member of this House, had put a question, or had raised any of the points on which they wished for information, it would have been immediately forthcoming. I shall be able to show, I hope, in the course of my remarks, that the charge that the Government have in any way neglected their responsibilities is one for which there is absolutely no foundation; that, in the districts affected by scarcity, the amplest measures have been taken from the earliest possible period; that the local Governors have addressed themselves with earnestness and with despatch to the emergency that confronted them; that the Government of India has spared no pains in the supervision of the entire problem; and that the Secretary of State has addressed repeated inquiries as to what was going on to the authorities in India, and has followed with minute interest and with unremitting support the efforts which have been made to cope with this condition of affairs. It will, perhaps, be to the advantage of the House, before proceeding to describe the present state of things, that I should briefly indicate to them what are the areas which have been or are subjected to this scarcity. The first are the Deccan districts of Bombay and Madras, together with parts of Mysore and Hyderabad, as well as certain contiguous districts in the Madras Presidency to the south and east. The circumstances under which this scarcity developed were as follows:—Last year the south-west monsoon, which is ordinarily expected to break on the southern coasts of India in the months of May and June, 554 was unusually weak in character, and terminated at an abnormally early period. Most unfortunately it was followed by a south-east monsoon, the arrival of which is expected between October and the month of December, of very scanty volume. Hence it was that there occurred a failure of the Autumn crops, of grass and fodder, great difficulty in the cultivation of Winter crops, and a serious and considerable exhaustion of the water in the irrigation tanks. The second district affected has been Rajputana and some neighbouring districts in the Bombay Presidency. It was the early cessation of the same monsoon, the south-west, in the middle of last year that led to a similar failure of the crops of grass and fodder, to a deficiency of water in the tanks, and to a contraction of the cold weather cultivation. The third district affected has been Behar, in the northwest district of Bengal, and the fourth District was Upper Burmah. These are, broadly speaking, the districts which have been affected by the conditions which I have described, and with which it has been necessary to deal, I do not know if hon. Members in this House are fully aware of the machinery already in existence in India for the purpose of meeting distress of this description; but, as it may facilitate the consideration of the matter, I will, with the permission of the House, briefly place it before them. The House will be aware that the last serious failure of crops in India occurred in 1876–7. After that famine, an Indian Commission sat and reported, and it was upon its suggestion that separate Famine Codes were prepared and published for the various districts of India, with special reference to the exigencies and requirements of the several localities. And those Famine Codes have since then been revised from time to time according as local experience has suggested new methods of action. The object of these Famine Codes was as stated in a Despatch of the Secretary of State in 1885—That on the occurrence of the calamity of famine, time might not be lost in improvising a system of relief, mistakes might be avoided, and Government itself and its officers might, without hesitation and vacillation, be able at once 555 to decide what was to be done, and to organise the machinery for carrying into effect the measures determined upon.
Yes, it was a published Despatch. I would now remind the House of the measures which are taken under these Codes for relief of the scarcity that is found to exist. Under the provisions of these Codes, district officers are required to report to the Government directly they anticipate, either from a failure of rain, or from an increase of grain prices, or from the general conditions of food supply, that any scarcity is apprehended. Under the same provisions a skeleton relief organisation is drawn up in times of plenty before any danger or distress is anticipated, relief works are planned and designed beforehand, relief centres are chosen, and a scheme of operations is constructed in advance, in order to be ready for the calamity, should it arise. These Codes also prescribe conditions for the management of relief works, and for the scale of wages to be given to those occupied upon them. They frame conditions further for the distribution of gratuitous relief either in poor houses or from house to house, and they contain elaborate schemes for the organisation of the medical, administrative and other staffs required. Finally, they lay down the conditions under which financial assistance should be given by the various Local Governments, either in the form of advances or loans to distressed communities or individuals, or in the shape of suspension or remission of the revenue itself. I have stated to the House the districts which are affected, and the machinery already existing and at the disposal of the Government for meeting that distress. Perhaps the House will, now permit me to place before them a brief but connected history of the scarcity, as it has arisen in different parts of the country, to unfold to them the measures which have successively been adopted, to meet it, and at the same time to explain the action which 556 has been taken ever since, fears were entertained by the Secretary; of State on the subject. It was in January last year that reports of the failure of rains in the Madras Presidency were first received. The Secretary of State immediately ordered that fortnightly telegrams should be dispatched to him as to the prospects of the crops, and as to any scarcity that was likely to arise.
1891. From July, when the situation became more acute, when other districts were affected, and more distress prevailed, weekly telegrams were sent by the Government of India, and, so far from there having, been any attempt to conceal the information thus received from the House and the country, these weekly telegrams were in every case handed immediately to the Public Press. In February, 1891, the Governor of Madras representedThat portions of North Arcot and Chingle put were affected by the drought, and that it would be necessary to open public works at convenient centres, and that largo remissions of land revenue would be required.In May, 1891, these works were started.
Yes, they were extensive relief works. I will state to the hon. Member and the House the number of persons employed upon them, and I can give no better idea of the extent of the works than by doing so. In July, 1891, the Secretary of State telegraphed to the Viceroy, saying he relied on all needful arrangements being made in Madras for an adequate relief staff, and for the suspension of revenue demands, if the distress was found to be severe. Five days afterwards the Government of India replied, that adequate arrangements had been made for all contemplated contingencies; and again, three days later, that in Madras the grain stocks were sufficient, that the land revenues on the last harvest were being freely suspended, and that liberal loans were being given In July, 1891, Coimbatore was found to be distressed, and relief works were started there. Already at that, time there were employed on those works 15,000 persons, as well as 1,500 in receipt of gratuitous relief. The hon. 557 Member stated in his speech that no relief works had been opened till the months of November and December, and when I interrupted to correct him, appeared to be very much hurt at my conduct. I have shown that they were opened in July. My argument is that these works were opened at the earliest possible moment. These numbers were maintained till September, 1891; they diminished in the districts to which I have referred in October, November, and December, and were discontinued in the latter month. Unhappily, however, in proportion as the necessity for relief diminished in the districts to which I have referred, other districts were drawn into the area of suffering, and required relief. In August of last year relief works were started in Nellore; in October in the district of Salem; and in December in Kurnul, Bellary, Anantapur, and Cuddapah; and Members of the House may not be averse to learning the figures relating to these operations. On 2nd February, 1892, there were employed on relief works in the Madras Presidency a total of 26,500 persons, while 1,000 were in receipt of gratuitous relief. On 16th February there were 29,300 in the former category and 1,240 in the latter, while on 1st March, which are the last figures we have received, the numbers were 32,855 in the former category and 1,218 in the latter. I turn now from Madras to the other areas which have been affected. On the 23rd July last year the Secretary of State, hearing that scarcity was threatened in the North West Provinces, telegraphed—I shall fully support your Government in taking every necessary precaution without delay.The answer received was that the prospects of the North West Provinces were improving, and I am happy to state that that favourable forecast has since been fulfilled. The next place to which I will refer is Upper Burmah. On the 24th July last year the Viceroy informed the Secretary of State that there was a want of rain in Upper Burmah. In August relief works were planned, and in September it was found necessary to open them. On the 11th August the Secretary of State, anxious for the fullest information from all the 558 areas, telegraphed both to the Government of India and to the Governors of the Presidencies of Madras and Pombay—Are you quite sure every precaution has been taken to meet any emergency forthwith?The Governor of Bombay replies—Ample rain has fallen in all districts except Ahmednagar, Sholapore, and Bizapur, but there is nothing describable as emergency anywhere.The Governor of Madras replied—All possible precautions taken, Present arrangements sufficient to meet immediate necessities which are clearly defined.And the Governor General replied—Extent to which autumn harvest will be affected and State assistance required will not be definitely known until September, but Local Governments are on the alert, and programme of relief works ready to be started should the necessity arise. Good general rainfall recently. There is no danger at present, except as regards Madras and Upper Burmah,We now come to August of last year. On the 28th of that month the Viceroy telegraphed that there was cause for anxiety in the Eastern districts of Hyderabad and Ajmere, and unhappily there was no improvement in Madras or Upper Burmah. On the 4th September, in consequence of statements that had been made in the public newspapers about the state of affairs in Madras, the Governor of that Province sent a telegram from which I should like to read a few extracts to show the hon. Member for Donegal the manner in which that noble Lord met and discharged the high responsibilities which devolved upon him. In answer to the charge which had been made that coercion had been applied in the collection of revenue, he telegraphed on the contrary—Large remissions, amounting to four lakhs of rupees out of 22 revenue granted this year, Chingle put, and over three lakhs outstanding uncollected. Collections suspended in case of all except ryots paying land tax 50 rupees and upwards. Eighteen thousand irrigation wells in good working order. Government, advanced 2¾ lakhs for construction wells; 1,900 under construction; 840 completed, this year. Supply of food grains ample. Prices high, but ragi, principal grain, poor classes, 100 per cent. cheaper than in famine 1877, and far below rates Famine Code. Concerning North Arcot, no land sold for arrears of revenue; cattle, only 20 cases. Population district about 200,000. Prices affected parts 100 per cent. below famine 1877, and far below 559 Famine Code rates. In affected Government tracts large remissions given. Numerous works provided since January, Chingleput; February, Arcot. New works freely sanctioned everywhere where large demand for employment exists. Kitchens opened wherever recommended by Commissioner. About 18,000 people employed on relief works, and 5,000 being fed, kitchens, at cost about 8,000 rupees monthly.These facts alone will, I think, show to the House that the Governor of Madras was at the earliest possible period alive to the duties of his position; that he conducted himself with vigour and energy in the discharge of those responsibilities; and that the charges of neglect of duty which have been brought against him by the hon. Member cannot for one moment be sustained. Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity of seeing the private letters which have been addressed weekly, since the inception of this unhappy state of affairs, by the Governor of Madras to the Secretary of State, and I can state that no step has been spared, no activity been wanting, on the part of Lord Wenlock to meet the crisis by every possible means that ingenuity, or energy, or resourcefulness could, suggest. The hon. Member gave us to understand that Lord Wenlock had never visited the districts affected.
The Governor of Madras has already paid three visits to the affected districts, and from his letters I find that he was giving directions for the distribution of cooked food, and was in constant communication with the various collectors and civil engineers carrying out the relief works. On the first day of next month he proposes to start again for the affected districts, and will not, as announced by the hon. Member, go to the hills until the south-west monsoon, which is expected in June, has arrived, and all anticipation of further danger removed. I have only been tempted to go into these details about the Governor of Madras in reply to what are, I think, the completely unfounded aspersions cast on him by the hon. Member. To continue my narrative. In October, last year, the Viceroy gave notice that the state of things in Rajputana was 560 unsatisfactory, and on 10th December the Secretary of State telegraphed—I am glad to feel assured that your Government as well as the Local Governments, and all public servants under them, are doing everything in their power.The hon. Member in the terms of the Motion which he submitted to the House accused the Government of India of being responsible for the fact that the people of India are now perishing in thousands by starvation. I listened with great attention to his speech, in the expectation that there would be some evidence forthcoming in support of so serious a statement. Mr. Speaker, no such evidence was produced to the House; the hon. Gentleman did not bring one shred of evidence to show that deaths were occurring from starvation, not by thousands, nor even by hundreds. So far as our information extends, we have only heard of four deaths from actual starvation. Undoubtedly want has increased, and that mortality has increased is proved by the figures I have given to the House, but that increase has been due to a variety of other causes; in the main to cholera, which unhappily broke out in the Madras Presidency, and at one period carried away as many as 85 per 1,000 in one week. It has been due also to low water in the tanks, and no doubt to the generally debilitated condition of the people resulting from the scarcity. But that does not justify the hon. Member in putting in a Motion for Adjournment the serious and unfounded statement that the Government are responsible for the deaths by starvation of thousands of people in India. So much for the history of the scarcity, and the measures which have been taken to meet it in chronological order to the present time. The House will perhaps allow me to place briefly before it the information we have received in the last few weeks as to the action which is going on. I have already given the figures of the relief works and gratuitous relief in the Presidency of Madras, the totals being 32,855 persons employed in the former category, and 1,218 in the latter, and it is gratifying to know that in this Presidency there has been since January a slow but continuous fall in the prices of food. In Ajmere 561 the figures for the first week in February were 19,151 on relief works, and 3,193 in receipt of gratuitous relief; in Bombay 945 on relief works, and 377 in receipt of gratuitous relief. Prices were rising in four districts, but were stationary elsewhere. In Bengal there was no employment on relief works, and no gratuitous relief was required. In Burmah, 17,190 were employed on relief works, in receipt of gratuitous relief none. The totals for British India during the first week of last month were 70,141 employed on relief works, and 4,788 in receipt of gratuitous relief. I have already mentioned that provisions exist for the advance of money to agriculturists. The following are the figures, so far as we have received them: In Madras, Rx92,000; Mysore, Rx20,000; Hyderabad, Rx30,000; Ajmere, Rx10,000; Burmah, Rx35,000. As regards the Revenue suspended or remitted, it is calculated that in Madras, which are the only figures we have at present, 20 lakhs have been so treated. Then, as regards relief expenditure, it is calculated that in Madras, up to June of the present year, there will be expended Rx180,000; Ajmere, up to January, Rx24,000; Rajputana, up to June, Rx140,000; and Burmah, Rx120,000. The land revenue for 1891–2 was 76 lakhs below the figures estimated up till the end of December; and it is estimated that the total cost to the Indian Treasury of this failure of rain and crops will not be less than 100 lakhs, and may be 150 lakhs in loss of revenue and cost of relief works. So much for the past. I may, perhaps, be allowed to refer to a Despatch which has been received from the Government of India, dated 17th February, which will shortly be laid on the Table of the House. From this we learn that, with the exception of Burmah, where fortunately an improvement is taking place, in the other districts affected, Deccan, Rajputana, and Behar, relief works will for some time be required, and no general amelioration can be expected till the south-west monsoon breaks in June. The facts and figures I have placed before the House are no doubt legitimately calculated to appeal to the sympathies of hon. Members; but I am glad to be able to say before I sit down 562 that the dark cloud has its silver lining, and that there are cheering elements in the situation. Perhaps the most marked feature of the scarcity has been the low prices of food, in consequence of the great extension of railways in the past few years. Since the famine of 1876–7, up to the end of 1891, close upon 9,000 miles of railway have been opened in India. The effect of these upon prices has been that in Ajmere, where the population is being fed almost entirely on imported grain, prices are very little higher than in normal seasons, while in the affected districts of Madras and Bombay they have been hardly more than three-fourths of those prevailing at corresponding periods of 1876–7, even in districts where the rainfall of 1891 has been less than that of 1876. In Behar there has been no alarming rise in prices. These facts will tend to allay the apprehensions which have naturally been felt, while they also justify the policy of public works which has been so strenuously pursued in India during the last few years. The second satisfactory feature to which the Government of India call attention is the extent to which local Governments and Administrations have made use of their powers to grant advances for works of agricultural improvement and the purchase of seed and cattle. In Madras especially large sums have been advanced with most beneficial results in securing the construction of works calculated to increase the productiveness of the soil, as well as in providing work for the people in the villages. In Ajmere considerable sums have been advanced to the larger landholders, who have thereby been enabled to support their tenantry and dependants upon estate works. Lastly, Sir, I may say that the Secretary of State has despatched a telegram to the Government of India, in which he asks that fortnightly telegrams may continue to be sent concerning the state of the relief works, and also for a monthly Report and tabulated statement showing the progress and results of the relief operations in each of the Provinces—these Reports, I need hardly say, will be at the disposal of the House—and pressing the most strenuous efforts on all the officers of the State. I am 563 obliged for the patience with which the House has listened to a statement which has necessarily been of a business-like character, and free from any element of excitement. I hope I have succeeded in showing the House that the Government of India are guiltless of the indictment that has been, as I think, so hastily framed against them; that they are fully aware of the immense and overwhelming responsibility that rests upon them, and have neither been Wanting in sympathy with those vast communities who have been so unhappily distressed, nor in such practical measures as an enlightened foresight or liberal Statesmanship could suggest to them.
§ (9.27.) SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
I do not rise, to supplement the very complete statement which the House has heard with satisfaction from the Under Secretary. I rise to challenge and to give, some contradiction to the remarks of the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. MacNeill); The speech was delivered in a thin House, but it will be reported by the Press, and may reach India, and I should not like my brother officers in India to know that these statements had been made without someone getting up to give some contradiction to them. The officers impugned are not here to defend themselves, and it is only right that somebody who knows what the conditions of life and service really are should stand up and give evidence in their favour. These officers are our own countrymen and countrymen of the hon. Member for Donegal, and instead of defending his own countrymen I ask the House whether the speech of the hon. Member was not the greatest travesty and caricature of what is going on in India. I have no feeling of anger against the hon. Member, who referred to me in kindly terms, but I feel bound to stand up for those who are not, here to vindicate themselves. I know what the conditions of service are in India. In my time we spared no exertions, we bore every kind of exposure we injured our health, and even risked our lives in order that these poor people might have something to eat, and their suffer- 564 ing be mitigated, and, to some extent, under the blessing of Providence, we succeeded. I do not mention this for self-glorification; we are no better than those who preceded us, or, than those who succeeded us, but I am sure that the efforts which were made in my time are now being made by the Government of Madras and the other Governments. I can assure the House that the officers there must be doing everything that their brains can think of and their hands find to do in order to save their Indian fellow-subjects. This mortality, to which the hon. Member refers in somewhat exaggerated terms, has arisen from sporadic and epidemic disease, and these diseases have arisen not from want of food, but from want of water. When the wells run low and the tanks dry up and the people begin to grub water out of the sand, then it is that the deficiency in water supply breeds sickness of a most pestilent and dangerous kind. It is impossible to save the people from that. You may bring them food, but you cannot bring them water, and it is the defilement of the drinking water that is the main cause of the mortality. Then the hon. Member speaks of what he is pleased to call the "wicked" conduct of the authorities, because they have failed to prevent this misery "Wicked" was the word he applied to our officers, who are doing their duty and are trying to put food into the mouths of a famishing people. The Governors are doing their, best to feed the people, and they are effecting all they can in the matter of relief by means of the railways. These beneficent works are carried out by the British Government, constructed by capital that was mostly raised in this very Metropolis. The hon. Member further speaks of all the persons who have died not only from hunger (of which the instances are very few), but from cholera or other forms of epidemic sickness, as having been "murdered" by the neglect of the Government of India. I should hardly have credited it if I had not taken down the word from the hon. Member's mouth. Then he proceeds to allude to the Irish famine of 1846, and he might as well have said that every Irishman who died from sickness and 565 from the potato disease in 1846 was murdered through the neglect of the English Government.
§ SIR. R. TEMPLE
Then the hon. Member spoke of some of the Revenue officers of the Government as licensed robbers. It was necessary that inquiries should be made before the Revenue was remitted on the drought-stricken lands; and because certain officers reported that in certain districts the scarcity was not so great as to affect the Revenue; he spoke of them as mercenary taxgatherers and licensed robbers. Then he speaks of the Government as being responsible for all this misery. Why the Government? What is the actual cause? It is the failure of the monsoon, and this arises from causes relating to atmospheric conditions. How can the Government be responsible for this? You might as well say that if in London there should be, say, a protracted frost, followed by a great cessation of employment, severe suffering of the unemployed, and some mortality, this House or Her Majesty's Government are responsible. That kind of responsibility, and that only, attaches to the Government of India, and yet the hon. Member says that the Government officials are answerable for any misery that is now occurring. Then the hon. Member talks of what he calls the financial cheating practised by the late Lord Lytton.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
It is difficult to imagine that Lord Lytton would accuse himself of cheating. But what the hon. Member alleges is that Lord Lytton and his advisers practised fraud upon the people of India because the Famine Insurance Fund was diverted from its proper purposes. I strenuously deny that. The Famine Fund has been applied to the construction of canals and railways for the prevention of famine. It did happen in one or two years, when the cash balances were abnormally low, that the famine works were not prosecuted with the same energy as previously, but that was more than amply made up by the progress which has since been made, and I can 566 confidently affirm that a much larger sum than the Famine Fund has been spent on the objects for which it was instituted. The late senior Member for Northampton—I suppose I may now mention his name—Mr. Bradlaugh, raised this very important matter before the House, and laid the figures before the House. In reply to him at the time I showed in detail what I have now stated in general terms. The hon. Member seems to think that if this Fund of £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 for the year had been properly spent, all this misery would have been avoided?
§ MR. MACNEILL
The hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood me. I know nothing, except from official information. Sir James Caird said that £1,500,000, if properly applied, would meet a famine.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
I cannot now verify the exact words, but I think the hon. Member must have misunderstood or misquoted Sir James Caird.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
Well, I cannot answer for Sir James Caird's dictum unless I see the context. But he could hardly have meant what the hon. Member conveys. For if he had meant it he would have been egregiously wrong, and the commonest examination of the accounts would prove the absurdity of such a proposition. A great famine would cost more by far than this in relief alone, irrespective of railways and canals. In one single year of the Bengal famine I spent £10,000,000 in my own territory. I subsequently recovered half of it by the grain I sold to people in distress, and by various other recoveries. It really cost not more than £5,000,000 net, but that is a great deal. Take this famine of 1884 and the subsequent famines of 1887, then in the Governments of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay the total famine outlay was from £13,000,000 to £15,000,000 sterling out of the Indian cash balances. The late Sir James Caird was very careful, and I think he must have been misunderstood somehow. If not, I can only say that the facts are quite different from what Sir James Caird supposes. The hon. Member has re- 567 ferred to what may be called the house-to-house visitation which I undertook in times of famine. I acknowledge the kind manner in which the hon. Gentleman has been pleased to refer to the little that I have done. But it is quite true that there was such a visitation, and that is I think the most correct statement he has made. I believe I had the honour of conversing with the hon. Member, and I explained to him what used to be done. There is in that country a degree of pride and fortitude under suffering which is most honourable to the native character, and it is really a pleasure to give them relief in time of famine with a generous hand, because we are certain they will not abuse it. They are most unwilling to apply for relief, and often would rather sink gradually down from feebleness and debility into death than go on the relief works. This tendency of theirs was so grave in Bengal, that I had to institute a house-to-house visitation, to send my officers into every single cottage and search to find whether there were not in darkened corners some pitiable objects pining away to death. Then we drew these poor people forth and placed them in field-hospitals. I do not mention this in the way of self-laudation, but merely to show the House what the servants of England did in those times, and what I did then Lord Wenlock and his officers are doing now. My remarks have necessarily been discursive, but I have attempted to answer the hon. Member and give back shot for shot. No doubt he is actuated by the purest motives, but I would ask him to extend some of his philanthropy to his own countrymen, and to accord to them the same compassion under all their cares, and labours, and anxieties that he extends to the native population. Let me remind the House that India is a progressive country, and despite these occasional famines and sickness the Census which has just been taken speaks in most eloquent terms of the successes which have been vouchsafed by Providence to British Government in the East. During the last decade there has been the finest increase of population ever known. Thirteen millions have been added by natural increment 568 to this teeming population, and in no country in the world during such a period has there been such an increase accompanied by a moral progress arising from the efforts of the Government for the elevation of the people.
(9.46.) SIR UGHTRED KAYSHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
The House is always glad to hear the hon. Gentleman (Sir Richard Temple) on Indian questions, because he never speaks without contributing something interesting and instructive. I simply rise because I thought, having held the office which is now held by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Curzon), I should be wanting in my duty if I did not say a word or two on the speech which he has delivered. I confess that I had only one anxiety before the horn Gentleman rose, and that was lest he might be betrayed by the fact that this was a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, and that this subject was brought forward without notice to him or to the House, into treating the subject more lightly and less seriously than he has done. I think it is only due to the hon. Gentleman that we should all acknowledge, as I desire to do, the readiness, grasp, and ability he has displayed in the way he has dealt with an extremely important subject, and that he has not given the go-by to a subject of so much gravity—a subject upon which the House and the country generally feels considerable concern. I will go further. I, for one, am prepared to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the facts which he has been prepared to communicate to the House. I did not altogether rejoice that this subject was brought forward on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, but after hearing the statement of the Under Secretary for India my feeling has been considerably modified, for we have been put in possession of information which, I think, ought to be communicated to the country and to the House. We have been promised at least one despatch, and from what the hon. Gentleman has stated I gather that he is prepared to lay Papers on the Table of the House which will give us fuller information as regards measures for the 569 relief of the famine; the expenditure which has been incurred; the number employed upon the relief works; and the number receiving gratuitous relief. The primary feeling of the House in considering a question of this kind must be a great anxiety as to this native population—this enormous number of subjects of Her Majesty in India. They are, unfortunately, exposed as we have learned from experience to these periodic famines, and they are entitled to all our sympathy in these visitations of Providence. But very active measures of foresight seem to have been taken by the Government of India for some years past. The hon. Gentleman has detailed to the House the nature of the Codes that have been drawn up by the Governments of the different parts of India for dealing with these famines, and I must say that these are evidences of foresight on the part of those Governments. I will speak of another great body of persons for whom this House must feel keen sympathy in the position in which these visitations have placed them—I mean the great body of English, Scotch, and Irish officials in India upon whom the burden of this heavy responsibility falls. At a vast distance from their native country they are entitled to the greatest justice from every Member of this House and from every friend whom they have left in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and not only to justice but to the most patient consideration, and we should not hastily rush to conclusions adverse to their administration under trying circumstances so different from any with which we are acquainted. With these thoughts in my mind, I would strongly deprecate our indulging in any exaggerations in this House on Indian administration, and especially Indian administration in the face of these famines. Let us stick only to such facts as we can prove, and I would ask hon. Members to pursue that course, and I would ask the Government of India and the India Office to furnish this House with the amplest information so that we may really have the facts upon which to base our judgments and that we may know how to do full justice to the administration. The issues are much too grave and much too far-reaching to be 570 handled lightly or to be the subject of rash conclusions. I hope they will not be handled lightly either by one side or the other. The reason why I ventured humbly but emphatically to offer my congratulations to the Under Secretary is that I think he has dealt with becoming gravity with this exceedingly serious matter. One subject on which he did not tell us much is with regard to the scheme for establishing a Famine Insurance Fund. I am afraid that the benevolent object which was originally in view when that fund was started has been lost sight of, and that there has been a tendency to take other points into consideration—grave points, with respect to taxation, and as to the importance of certain objects of expenditure which arise from time to-time; and these have diverted the attention of the officials of India from the great importance of retaining this Famine Insurance Fund for the purpose for which it was originally established. I think assurances upon that subject, in view of the fact that we have not escaped the visitation of another famine, would be very welcome to the House. I rejoice to hear of the great utility of the railways constructed during the last few years. We have gained experience of their utility in meeting famine, and we remember that some of the authorities were timid at the large expenditure of money in the making of these railways. I venture to express the opinion that, having got that experience, we may be encouraged to go on. I now simply desire to thank the hon. Gentleman for having given us such a full and complete statement at very short notice, and also to express a hope that on a mere Motion for the Adjournment of the House this Debate will not proceed to any great length, and that we shall have an opportunity for discussing Indian questions in a more appropriate way.
§ (9.59.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not rise for the purpose of continuing the Debate, or of adding anything to what has been said by previous speakers. I simply rise to make an appeal to the House to proceed as fast as possible with business of a most imperative and pressing 571 character. This is not an appeal made on behalf of the Government for progress with purely Government Business. The Estimates have to be got through by a certain date in order to conform with the law; and if the time of the House is taken up by Private Business, by Motions for Adjournment, or in any other way, the only result will be that the Government will be forced to ask the House to give them the whole time of private Members next week, and to do a way with the Twelve o'Clock Rule. The whole of Tuesday afternoon, which was taken by the Government, was occupied by a Private Bill, and we have now reached 10 o'clock on Thursday evening without having said a single word with regard to the pressing question of the Estimates now before the House. I hope all the Members present will be content with the discussion we have had upon a subject the importance of which I freely acknowledge, and on which we have had the advantage of hearing on one side the Member for Donegal at considerable length. The Under Secretary for India has stated the case for the Government. We have had a most able and interesting speech from the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Temple), and another from a late Under Secretary for India. I hope, therefore, that the House will feel that they have dealt sufficiently with the subject for to-night, and that they will now hasten to deal with the pressing matters which require their consideration and decision.
§ (10.0.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I think the Under Secretary has clearly shown the House that the charge of my hon. Friend cannot be sustained, and that the officials in India have been doing all that they possibly can in the circumstances, and that the Government are stimulated by the action taken. I think the statement is very satisfactory. However, the defence of the hon. Member for Evesham compels me to say a few words in support of the hon. Member for Donegal. The hon. Member opposite had experience of the last famine, when 5,000,000 people died. I happened to be there also, and I think the course taken by Lord Wenlock compares very favourably with the course taken by the last Governor. In the last famine in No- 572 vember people began to drop down dead. In December the death-rate very much increased. The Governor went away to Delhi to take part in a Durbar. What did he do afterwards? Instead of going back to the Presidency he went for a tour through India. I met him some time afterwards in Lucknow. No doubt my hon. Friend expected that the present Governor would act in the same way. But before going to the hills the Governor is going back again. I believe the Government are, to a large extent, responsible for the distress because of the system of rack-renting, which is worse in India than in Ireland. Rents were so high that whenever famine occurred there was no individual landlord to appeal to, and there was no margin to meet failures of crop. There is no doubt that a good deal could be said against the Famine Fund. It is used for wars and for railways to the frontier which do the country little good; but after the statement of the Under Secretary I think we may rest satisfied that the Indian Government are doing all that they can to cope with this famine.
§ MR. MACNEILL
I think the statement of the Under Secretary very fair and reasonable, and with the leave of the House I hope I may be permitted to withdraw the Motion. But I think what has occurred has justified the course I have taken in a matter of such extreme importance. I think I was fully justified in bringing forward the subject.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.