HC Deb 25 March 1897 vol 47 cc1321-2
MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

On behalf of the hon. Baronet the Member for Banffshire (Sir WILLIAM WEDDERBURN), I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the Government of India is about to migrate from Calcutta to Simla; and whether any steps will be taken by which, as in former famines, the Viceroy may take personal cognisance of the measures of famine relief in the different Provinces?


I am aware that the Government of India is about to migrate to Simla, from which place the Viceroy will be in no less rapid and easy communication with the officers in the famine districts than if he were at Calcutta. I may add that, owing to the publication of the famine codes, which establish general principles for the administration of relief, the intervention of the supreme Government is not now required as it was in former famines.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India, whether he is aware that there is a general complaint in India that the wages paid to labourers on relief works are insufficient to secure to them one full meal every day and whether, to test the sufficiency of the wages, he will direct that labourers admitted to relief works should be weighed at the time of admission, and should subsequently be weighed from time to time?


I am not aware of any general complaint as to the insufficiency of the wages paid to labourers on relief works. The famine codes prescribe the rates of wages, which bear a fixed proportion to the local value of food, and rise and fall with it. These rates are intended, as recommended in the Report of the Famine Commission, to "provide sufficient feed for a labourer's or a dependent's support," with "a margin against accidental error on the side of deficiency." I am also aware that the local Governments and local officers are carefully watching the effect of the wage rates on the condition of the people receiving relief, and the weekly reports state the general condition of those upon relief work as good and fair. The hon. Gentleman can hardly be serious in suggesting that in addition to the immense labours devolving upon relief officers should be added the duty of periodically weighing the three millions of men, women, and children who are now in receipt of relief from Government. [Laughter.]