§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to a paper read by Sir William Wedderburn, at the Society of Arts, last Wednesday, on Agricultural Banks in India; whether he is aware that the Government of India sanctioned an experiment in that direction ten years ago, but that was checked by the reply of the India Office; whether he is aware that 2,000 similar agricultural banks exist in Germany, doing an annual business of £150,000,000 a year, to the immense advantage of the peasantry; and whether, considering that the Indian peasantry are deeply in debt to the money lenders, and are paying an average of at least 24 per cent. per annum of interest for their advances, the Secretary of State for India will give facilities to try this most important experiment in India?
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
The Secretary of State has seen a copy of Sir W. Wedderburn's paper, but has not read any report of the discussion to which it gave rise. A Return which was moved for by the hon. Member in 1887 contains the proposals made by the Government in India in 1884 for the experimental establishment of an agricultural bank in the Poona district, and the reasons for which the then Secretary of State was unable to accept these proposals. A reference to the Return of 1887 will show the hon. Member that the Secretary of State is not ignorant of the fact that these banks exist in Germany and other parts of the world. Lord Kimberley's Despatch of 1884, negativing the 1767 scheme then submitted, invited further proposals, which, however, have not yet been received. Like his predecessors, the present Secretary of State is most anxious to promote any practicable scheme for mitigating the evils caused by the indebtedness of the landed classes in India. And I should add that a Report on the subject is now being prepared under the orders of the Governor of Madras by an Indian officer who has studied on the spot the system of rural banks obtaining in Germany and Italy.