§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
In bringing forward a motion on so grave and so grievous a subject as the Indian Famine, I should like to say a few words on the present situation. In the first place I may be permitted to express my respectful appreciation of the efforts which are being put forth by high and low in India to meet this stupendous calamity. A mass of people larger than the whole population of Ireland are now looking to the Government for their daily bread, and the number is steadily increasing, and will continue to increase for the next three months, while no substantial harvest can be reaped before the month of September. To succour effectively such a helpless mass of men, women, and children, scattered over a vast area, is a task almost beyond human powers; and we at home look with cordial admiration upon those who in India are labouring to save life with such untiring energy and devotion. But I will go further, and I will submit that the people of this country and the Members of this House have a duty to perform beyond that of passive spectators, however sympathetic. We should not fail to realise our responsibility towards the people of India. We hold these poor people in the hollow of our hand. The 250 millions all put together have not as much control over Indian affairs as a single elector of the United Kingdom. All the power rests with us, and we should remember that as we retain all the power, so we incur all the responsibility, and are answerable for their lives and welfare. What, then, is our duty to these starving millions? Surely in the first place this great and wealthy country should give without stint from its abundance for charitable relief. Let us consider for a moment the present situation as compared with that in the famine of 1897. I am sorry to say the result is not satisfactory. At the beginning of April, 1897, there were 2,800,000 persons on the relief works in India, and the Mansion House Fund then amounted to about £470,000. To-day the number on relief works is 1081 nearly five millions, but the Mansion House Fund has not yet reached £160,000. In other words, the need seems to be twice as great, but the charitable contributions are only about one-third of what they were in 1897. Why is it that when the need is so much greater the help given has been so small? I do not believe that the British people are less willing to relieve suffering than they were in 1897. But what seems to be wanted is a vigorous organised effort to arouse public sympathy throughout the country. There are many now in England—Government officers, missionaries, and others—who have personal experience of the horrors of an Indian famine; others realise the present situation by means of letters from friends in India, and I am convinced that if the Lord Mayor, who is ever ready for all good works, were asked to call a great public meeting, and bring before the British public the awful sufferings of our fellow-subjects in India, money would pour in to supplement the relief efforts of Government, which can do little more than merely keep body and soul together. And what we are all willing to do singly, why should we not do collectively as a nation? The Town Council of Hartlepool has earned the gratitude of India by proposing that an Imperial Grant be made; and I doubt not that such a grant would be generally approved throughout the country. In reply to questions on this subject the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India has stated that the Indian Exchequer is not in immediate need of help. That may be so, but my present suggestion is that an Imperial Grant should be given not in aid of the Indian Exchequer, but for the same purposes as the Mansion House Fund—to help the classes who are not able to avail themselves of the relief works; to find comforts for the sick, the aged, and the children; and to aid the cultivators in recovering themselves after the famine, and replacing the plough cattle, which in many parts are almost extinct. I feel sure that in appealing to public and private charity I have the sympathy of this House, and I therefore do it with confidence. Much may thus be done to mitigate the calamity. But we must remember that, do what we will in the way of relief, death and suffering will be widespread; and the same sad experience will be repeated each time that a famine 1082 recurs. So I come to the immediate purpose of my present motion, and ask, can nothing be done by way of prevention to ward off such disasters in the future? This is the point to which I would earnestly ask the attention of this House. Speaking broadly, the Government are doing all that can be done to mitigate the calamity by famine relief. But my point is that mitigation alone is not enough. There is a good saying that "prevention is better than cure"; but if prevention is better than cure, it is much better than mere mitigation. I would ask, then, cannot something be done beforehand to strengthen the weak knees of the ryot, and put him in a better position to resist when the bad time comes? I firmly believe that much may be done. I have closely studied the case of the ryot for the last forty years, and I am no pessimist regarding him. On the contrary, I maintain that with a rich soil, a fine climate, and a peasantry skilful, industrious and frugal, India ought to be the garden of the world, and to enjoy, under the Pax Britannica, a very large share of human happiness. No doubt the ryots are in some respects a feeble folk, but, on the other hand, they are strong in their skill and industry, and in their power to combine for mutual help in their ancient village communities. Holding these views, I have from time to time pressed for a special inquiry into the ryot's economic condition and needs. And I have asked that this inquiry should be made in selected villages, because the self-contained rural village is the unit and microcosm of all India; and if means could be discovered to make one village prosperous, a clue would be obtained to make prosperous the half-million or more of villages in which 80 per cent, of the Indian population is now collected. This view of the case suggests hope for the future. But I do not wish just now to talk about possible prosperity. The problem now before us is a much humbler one. It is to discover how the ryot, without leaving his village, can be kept from danger of starvation. With regard to this point I will put forward three propositions which will, I hope, commend themselves to all. The first is that the mortality in an Indian famine is due to the fact that the ryots do not possess a store of food, money, or credit sufficient to tide over one failure of harvest. This proposition stands to 1083 reason, for it is evident that the people would not die of hunger if they had food in their houses, or if they could buy or borrow it. The second proposition is that mortality from famine would practically be prevented if they had such a store of food, money, or credit. And my third proposition is that it is our duty to inquire why the ryots have not got this store, and if possible provide a remedy for so dangerous an economic condition. As regards the storage of food, we have the authority of the last Famine Commission (paragraph 592 of their Report) that the custom of storing grain, as a protection against failure of harvest, used to be general among the agricultural classes. This fact came under my own personal observation. In the earlier days of my service in the Bombay Dekhans every ryot had an underground store of millet put away, enough to keep his family for a year or two. This was easy, because in a bumper year far more of this coarse grain is produced than the people can consume. Roads and railways in those days were few, so that there was no temptation to send away the surplus produce; and the grains of the millet being enclosed in a hard shell could be buried in the dry soil for considerable periods without deterioration. The ryot, therefore acted as Joseph did in Egypt. In the fat years he filled his storehouses, so that in the lean years there was bread for the people. For various reasons this excellent custom no longer prevails. But it seems well worth inquiring whether so simple and inexpensive a safeguard against famine might not be re-established. I have long held that very strongly. I therefore last Thursday* put to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India a question on the subject. I asked him whether he would suggest to the Government of India to institute, at a convenient time, a detailed inquiry into the condition and food supply of a few typical villages in the provinces liable to famine, with a view to ascertain whether, by local storage of grain in times of plenty, and other precautionary measures, the economic condition of such villages might be so far strengthened that the failure of a year's harvest would not bring the cultivators into danger of starvation. The answer of the noble Lord* See page 697 of this Volume.1084 was not unsympathetic, and he was good enough to promise investigation into any specific question concerning which there is insufficiency of information, with a view to the adoption of precautionary or economic measures. That was the substance of his reply. The objection to such an inquiry, as stated by the noble Lord, is that during the past twenty years two Famine Commissions have already inquired and reported, but I would point out that the object of the inquiries by the Famine Commissions was a different one. The inquiries referred to mitigation and not prevention. Their object was to perfect the system of giving relief which is now embodied in the Indian Famine Code. That will be seen from the instructions issued to the Commissioners in the Secretary of State's despatch of 23rd December, 1897. The Commissioners were there instructed to investigate the famine relief measures taken in 1897 in the several provinces, to review the lessons learnt from these operations, and to record recommendations that might prove useful in future famines. There is nothing here about measures of prevention as contemplated in my present motion. As already stated, I am making no complaint with regard to the Famine Code, which is a monument of care and skill, but I press for the modest village inquiry asked for on Thursday last, as I believe it would result in a clearer understanding of the ryot's difficulties, and lead to practical measures for strengthening his economic position. I beg to move the resolution standing on the Paper in my name.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
I rise with much pleasure to second this motion. I do not pretend to the intimate knowledge of India that my hon. friend possesses, but I am not second to him in my deep interest in the welfare of its population. It is plain that this is the most awful famine of the century, and I am told by persons who know the facts well that, in spite of the utmost efforts made by the Government, and the indefatigable, self-sacrificing efforts of our Indian administrators, some millions of people will perish, and that it will cost the Government of India eight and a half millions sterling. One who knows India well stated in my hearing that he believed as many lives would be lost as in the great Madras famine—namely, five millions. People hardly realise what these gigantic 1085 figures mean. Perhaps the House will allow me to read two short extracts from letters describing what the writers saw with their own eyes. The first letter is dated, "Agra Medical Missionary Institution, 27th February, 1900," and is written by Colin S. Valentine—On Sabbath morning we had upwards of 3,500 poor creatures, to whom as usual we preached and distributed alms. There were many cases that pained me to the heart, and which when once seen can never be forgotten. Hundreds of poor houseless, homeless creatures are flocking in from the native States, where even the drinking water has left the wells. The accounts of the suffering from those parts of the country are truly heartrending, parents actually eating their own children. While all parts of the community are suffering, the young widows and children are the greatest sufferers. It is most pitiable to see the tiny little creatures lying in their mothers' arms, far more skeletons than living creatures. Of course, those are dying by thousands. In some respects the condition of the young Hindu widows is even more sad ….The second letter is by Mr. L. E. Marks, written from Ajmere, in Rajputana, on the 26th February, 1900—The suffering is fearful. In many places dead bodies may be seen lying here and there. Mr. Inglis has just returned from the very worst district, and tells me that it was a common sight to see bodies being devoured by dogs, and that he and Dr. Huntly took a walk one evening and counted forty bodies, and on other evenings twenty, thirty-three, and so on. He could not go through a field without seeing several skeletons by the wayside, the bones bleaching in the sun. The Famine Commissioner saw thirty bodies in a ravine in different stages of decomposition. We hear many other such stories, and we have seen sufficient to believe it all.I need not harrow the House with more details of the same kind. This state of things prevails over a great district inhabited by forty millions of people, and a lesser degree of famine prevails among twenty millions more. I think the country hardly realises it, and I am sure a larger response would be made to the Mansion House Fund if the citizens of London knew the real state of things. There is much that the Government cannot do. It gives a bare subsistence to those who come to the relief works, but it cannot search out the high-caste women and children who would rather die than defile themselves by labouring with the lower castes. The cattle also have perished to a fearful extent. In one district of Rajputana 90 per cent. have died, 1086 and I am told half of all the splendid breed of cattle in Gujerat, the Garden of Western India, have perished. But our object in this debate is to search for remedies, or preventive measures to alleviate the effects of famines which have now become more and more frequent. The House could not consider a more important question, for the war in South Africa must not blind us to the paramount importance of other questions. I believe there is one remedy, and only one, which can to a large extent mitigate famines: I refer to water storage and irrigation. No doubt some splendid works have been carried out on the basins of the great rivers, like that of Sir Arthur Cotton in the delta of the Godavery, where two millions of people now live in comfort in place of half a million of indigent, half-starved peasants. But we have done little beyond the river bottoms, and the great mass of the Indian population does not live in the river deltas. The famine is mainly in districts like Gujerat, the Central Provinces, and Rajputana, where rivers are scarce, and canal irrigation fed by rivers is often impossible; but in these districts the configuration of the country often lends itself to forming reservoirs during the rainy season. There are low hills with valleys or nullahs down which torrents of water rush during the monsoon, and where by damming up the watercourses there could often be obtained at small expense an artificial lake which would irrigate by small canals all the surrounding country. It is morally certain that if we had spent as much on irrigation as on railways in the past fifty years a great part of India would by this time have been beyond the reach of famine. We have spent some 300 millions on railways and only some thirty millions on irrigation. We are spending about one million a year on irrigation and eight or ten millions on railways. Has not the time come to make irrigation our principal task? We have made Egypt what it is by irrigation works; let us now try India. The crux of all those tropical countries is to get water. As John Bright truly stated—What you hear of as the calamity of India is that there is famine, and that the famine arises from drought; that there is a lack of water, or at least a lack of water in the right place and at the right time. Now, what is the remedy? Our Government knows very well what the remedy is; because what do they do? Whenever there is a famine they begin to think 1087 about some manner of irrigating that particular district. They generally wait until the horse is stolen before they lock the stable door. Colonel Chesney says, 'The Ganges Canal was the outcome of the great famine of 1833, the new project in the Doab of the famine of 1861; the Orissa works of that of 1866. Oudh has escaped famine so far, and in the Oudh no irrigation works have been constructed.' He goes on to say that the Indian Government is very like a father who spends a great deal on the doctor or the nurse if his child is ill and ready to die, but in ordinary times does not take the smallest care of him whatever, or teach him anything with regard to the preservation of his own health.Our true policy is to place an engineer of great eminence at the head of this Department, with as much power as Scott Moncrieff had in Egypt; give him a competent staff and a free hand for twenty years. I believe such a policy would revolutionise India. Unhappily there is no section, of the British public sufficiently interested to press the Government on this subject; but there is a powerful interest always pressing them on the subject of railways. The great iron trade and the engineering profession bring pressure, which it is hard to resist, on every Indian Secretary, and practically his whole borrowing power is used up in this direction. Then, the Viceroys and the Provincial Governors do not remain long enough to gauge the situation so as to carry out a great policy. Above all things, continuity of policy is what is needed; and I would venture the suggestion that where a Viceroy like Lord Curzon shows exceptional capacity, and masters a huge problem like that of irrigation, he should get a second term of office. His value would be double to India in his second term of office. There is nothing India needs so much as a strong continuous policy. A benevolent despotism suits Asiatics best, and therefore when native States happen to have a good ruler he is almost worshipped by the natives. What India wants is a modern Akbar. But irrigation is not a panacea; it is not applicable to all or nearly all the surface of India; and even if it were it would not give an assured position to the Indian cultivators without moderate and fixed assessments of the land. India is a country of rural villages. It has few industries; 80 per cent. of the people live on the soil. The manual industries it used to have, such as hand-loom weaving, embroidery and brass work, have almost been extinguished by 1088 our cheaper manufactures, and millions of small artificers are now thrown on the soil for maintenance. The countless millions of small cultivators in India are excessively poor. Most of them are hopelessly in debt to the money-lenders; and when a famine year occurs they have no resources to fall back upon. When in India I met with the greatest complaints about the land assessments. The natives insisted that they were heavily over-assessed, and when the settlement arrived they were in a state of terror, and had to bribe the corrupt under-officials to get a fair return made to the revenue officer. I notice that large additions have recently been made to the land assessments. The Central Provinces are the poorest part of India; they are suffering terribly from this famine, as they did from the last one three years ago, and I ask the House to listen to what a very able civil servant, Mr. Romesh Dutt, says about them—In many districts in the Central Provinces the Government demands and obtains 60 per cent., plus 12½ per cent. as rates, of the landlords' supposed assets. And as the landlords never get the high rents which the Government has fixed, it comes to pass that the Government demand amounts sometimes to 80 or even 100 per cent. of the landlords' real income. I have instances before me in which landlords have offered to surrender their property, because the Government revenue demanded from them was really more than all they collected from cultivators.That is a very bad condition of things.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
I have an explanation to give.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I have frequently discussed the matter with Mr. Dutt, and I know of nobody who has a more thorough grasp of the question than he appeared to have. The case of Madras is also very bad. The Government there demands one-half the net produce of the soil, which is not to exceed one-third of the gross produce, with the result that great numbers of harsh evictions take place for non-payment of rent.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I am quoting from Mr. Romesh Dutt and Mr. Rogers, 1089 who have both carefully studied the case of Madras.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member, and all I desired was to get at the source of his information.
§ SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
Is the hon. Member now quoting Mr. Rogers's own words?
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
No; I am not giving his exact words, but I will now give Mr. Rogers's figures. I find that in the last eleven years 151,000 cultivators were sold up by the Government; and I am informed that in the eleven years previously, when the cultivators were extremely impoverished by the awful famine in 1876, there were no fewer than 840,000 defaulters. Mr. Rogers obtained those figures for me, and they were taken from Government sources. Such a state of things stands self-condemned. It is quite impossible that the Indian peasantry can be prosperous under such a state of things. Need we wonder that the great bulk of them are hopelessly in debt to the money-lender, who often charges them 3 per cent. per month interest? The number of evictions every year in India is appalling, and the question is how we are to improve the condition of the peasantry of India. We shall have to devote our attention to that problem, or else we shall have troubles in that dependency. If the House thinks I am overstating the case, I will make a quotation from a source which the House generally will admit is absolutely reliable. I will quote from Sir James Caird. When he came home from Madras, about the year 1878, he put the whole case in a nutshell. Sir James Caird says—The right of the cultivator to mortgage the public land has made him the slave of the moneylender. Government rent must be paid on the day it becomes due. It is rigorously exacted by the officials, and as the moneylender is the only capitalist within reach, the cultivator gives a charge on the land, and hands over all his crop as a security for cash advances.That is the condition of the great majority of the Indian peasants who are hopelessly in the hands of the moneylenders, and 1090 they have neither money nor credit to fall back upon. The people of this rich country do not realise the excessive poverty of India, where in the best of times the average income is £2 per head per annum, against £36 in Great Britain. Lord Lawrence himself states—The mass of people in India are so miserably poor that they have hardly the means of subsistence. It is as much as a man can do to feed his family, or half feed them, let alone spending money on what you would call luxuries or conveniences.I am convinced that the two great means of raising the material condition of the Indian people are, an extended system of irrigation and a moderate land settlement, as far as possible fixed and permanent. The most prosperous part of India is Bengal, where Lord Cornwallis gave a permanent settlement at the close of last century. It was a mistake to confine it to the zemindars or large landlords, and it has been necessary to pass various Acts to secure fixity of tenure and fair rents for the cultivators as well. But the broad fact remains that Bengal is more prosperous and less troubled with famines than any part of India. Lord Canning recommended a permanent settlement of the land all over India. This was not adopted; but of late years the settlements have in many parts been made for shorter periods than thirty years in order to squeeze more revenue. The expense of governing India is too great for so poor a population, and it prevents the Government dealing with the land of India as the true interests of the people require. I do urge the importance of consulting more fully native opinion on this subject. The rulers of India, with the best intentions, are too much up in a balloon. Why do they not call to their aid some of the ablest of their native administrators, such as Romesh Dutt, who retired from the Indian Civil Service after a most honourable career, and whose work on India is full of wisdom? There is a vacancy on the Indian Council at present; why not fill it with such a man as Mr. Dutt, so that the Secretary for India may have the power of consulting a native of India on points which natives alone can perfectly understand? I much fear we may go on as we are doing till some catastrophe wakens us up like that in South Africa. The government of India is a gigantic problem. It is full of difficulties and dangers little 1091 dreamt of here, and the time has come when Parliament must face those difficulties or plunge into a sea of troubles. I beg to thank the House for listening to me so patiently.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in view of the grievous sufferings which are again afflicting the people of India, and the extreme impoverishment of large masses of the population, a searching inquiry should be instituted in order to ascertain the causes which impair the cultivators' power to resist the attacks of famine and plague; and to suggest the best preventive measures against future famines."—(Sir William Wedderburn.)
§ SIR LEWIS MCIVER (Edinburgh, W.)
I have listened with much attention to the two speeches which have just been addressed to the House, and I have endeavoured—with only very moderate success—to associate them with the motion which they profess to support. The motion runs—That, in view of the grievous sufferings which are again afflicting the people of India, and the extreme impoverishment of large masses of the population, a searching inquiry should be instituted in order to ascertain the causes which impair the cultivators' power to resist the attacks of famine and plague; and to suggest the best preventive measures against future famines.Now the mover did not expound to us any cases where the cultivators' power to resist the attacks of famine and plague had been reduced, but devoted himself to an appeal, with which I am glad to associate myself, to the benevolence of the people of this country, to assist the famine-stricken people of India in their present grievous sufferings. This is a most admirable object; but while I identify myself with the hon. Member's general sentiments, they are not very strictly relevant to the proposition upon the Paper. The hon. Member for Flint, who followed him, certainly suggested some grounds for such an inquiry, and one has less difficulty in following his various proposals. The motion proposes an inquiry into the causes which impair the power of the cultivators to resist the attacks of famine and plague. That means an inquiry into the causes of famine and the condition of the people, and practically an inquiry into the enduring widespread poverty of the 1092 people of India. That would open up a very wide vista of inquiry into nearly every branch of science, speculative and applied, from bacteriology to sociology and so forth. No doubt such an inquiry would be most interesting in its result, but it has already been done; in fact there is hardly any form of economic question in India which has not been most thoroughly threshed out by competent investigators and reported upon during the last twenty years. To do that all over again would not be helping the inhabitants of India to resist famine. We have on record three famous Reports made by very competent bodies, and I do not believe that anything can be added to what they have placed before us. We have the Famine Commission Report of 1879, presided over by Sir Richard Strachey; we have the Inquiry into the Condition of the Poorer Classes of India instituted by Lord Dufferin in 1888; and we have, the latest of all, the Report of the Famine Commission of 1897, presided over by Sir J. B. Lyall. There are shelves of Blue-books at the disposal of the hon. Baronet which will explain to him, so far as they can be explained, the causes of the famine. Judging by the way in which the hon. Baronet spoke of his own motion, it is not so much an inquiry he wants, as a subscription, and although I cannot support him so far as an inquiry is concerned, I will be delighted, according to my means, to assist him with the subscription. The great object of the hon. Member for Flint's speech was to denounce the present system of settlement in India. I have always liked that speech; I almost know that speech by heart, although I must say I admired it more in its original form when it was delivered by Mr. Romesh Chunder Dutt in the North-West Provinces of India last year. But even in its latest edition the speech contains evidence of the eloquence, ingenuity and experience of its original author. It consists, as the hon. Member indicated, of an indictment against the present system of settlement in India, and the purport of what the hon. Member conveyed to us was that there should be a permanent settlement for all the ryot-wari and corresponding tenures throughout India. The hon. Member has, apparently, a passion for permanency. He wants a permanent settlement and a permanent Viceroy, com- 1093 bined with irrigation works where experts say they are impossible and would be useless. I hope he will not be offended if I describe that as a somewhat crude proposal at its best, and one not likely to be of any practical benefit to the people of India as a whole. Any such inquiry into existing settlements in India would be a superfluity, because there is a permanent inquiry going on every year, and all the year, conducted by a most skilled and, I believe, just Department, who have absolutely no other motive than to seek a just settlement in accordance with well-defined principles. The primary fact which this House must consider in connection with the settlement between the Government and the ryots is that there is absent from the picture that important figure, the landlord. Over the greater part of India the landlord does not exist except in so far as the whole of the people of India are the landlords of the soil. Therefore the only persons that can be interested in the enhancement of land assessment in any one locality in India are the inhabitants of all the other localities, and with the Settlement Department—consisting of experienced, skilled and just officials, into whoso operations inquiries are specially ordered, and who are supervised by Boards of Revenue and Local Governments, as well as by the Government of India and the Home Government—there can be no motive to enhance assessment and no object either in over-assessing or under-assessing. I do not for a moment suggest that the Settlement Department is perfect; no Department is perfect; and when we realise that the Settlement Department is engaged over an area of 225,000,000 of acres, including 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 of holdings, to assume that there would not be instances of over-assessment and under-assessment would be to assume what would be superhuman. With regard to the special cases mentioned by the hon. Baronet, I can only say that, in my opinion, to use a familiar expression, his informants were "pulling his leg," seeing that settlements are made generally for thirty years, and only in certain parts of India for twenty years. Then with regard to the Central Provinces, to which he specifically referred, he stated, on the authority of Mr. Romesh Chunder Dutt, that the money taken from the landowners amounted to 60 per cent 80 per cent., and even 100 per cent of the 1094 gross produce, and that most of the cultivators were anxious to surrender their holdings. The average assessment of land in the Central Provinces is 6¾ annas per acre, and the estimated annual value of produce per acre is 8 rupees, so that so far from taking 60 per cent., or 80 per cent., or 100 per cent., less than one-eighteenth is taken on the estimate I have just given. Looking at it from another point of view, how can it be contended that the Government take from the cultivators in the Central Provinces more than one-sixth, when, as a matter of fact, the export returns show that in an ordinary year more than six times the value of the total Government assessment is actually exported in agricultural produce, without taking into account the food for eleven millions of people and their cattle? Sir Anthony Macdonell—perhaps the greatest authority on the subject—stated that at a moderate estimate the assessment of the Central Provinces does not exceed 4 per cent. The hon. Member referred to Madras. I have no word of disrespect for the Mr. Rogers whom he mentioned. I was associated with the collection of revenue in Madras thirty years ago, and I have maintained my association with it since, but I have never heard the gentleman's name. He must be slightly pre-historic, and therefore not a good authority on current affairs.
§ SIR LEWIS MCIVER
Quite so, and I therefore hesitate to accept as authoritative his opinion on Madras, because, as the hon. Member knows, no self-respecting Madras official is going to take the time of day from Bombay. The grievance of Mr. Romesh Chunder Dutt and Mr. Rogers is apparently the alleged enhancement of the assessment of Tanjore. The people of Tanjore may believe they have a grievance. A few weeks ago, when the income tax was increased in this country, people were inclined to complain, from the exclusively selfish and personal point of view, but from the broader point of view, the country recognised that in a crisis like the present the income taxpayers were better able to bear the burden than any other part of the community. That is precisely the case in 1095 Tanjore. Tanjore is perhaps the most smiling garden in all British India. It has a most superb system of irrigation, and in times of famine it remains as green as Colombo. Its area is about 2,700 square miles, with a population of about two and a quarter millions, which it bears lightly: that is, about 600 to the square mile, or one-fifth more than the density of the population in England. A famine in the neighbourhood is a distinct blessing to Tanjore, because it means a higher price for grain. It was found by the Settlement Department that it was underassessed, and in order to redress the balance, and in order that the inhabitants might not be let off too cheaply at the expense of their less highly favoured neighbours, the assessment was raised. The hon. Member would appear to advocate a reversion to the old inequitable method by which the rich would escape paying their due share to the general revenue of the country, and so throw an undue burden on the poor. I am myself satisfied that even if the case of the impaired power of the cultivator to resist the attacks of famine and plague were proved up to the hilt, it could not be laid at the door of the Settlement Department. I do not claim that that Department is infallible, but beyond all question it is perpetually endeavouring to amend the settlement, and to bring it as near perfection as possible. But, Sir, is the allegation in the motion, that the cultivators' power to exist has recently been impaired, proved at all? Is it true? I maintain that it is not true. I would be the last to attempt to minimise the poverty and the sufferings of the people of India. Poverty with them is a permanent factor, and that it is an irremediable factor is only too probable. No one who knows the country would ever attempt to understate the amount of poverty existing there. With a teeming and growing population on ungrateful soil, under no conceivable circumstances can the lives of the people be anything but hard. An existence which is but "a long-drawn question betwixt a crop and a crop" is hardly the ideal of comfort. When to that situation you add an uncertain rainfall, a treacherous climate which is a perpetual vehicle of epidemic disease, and when it is remembered also that many of the smaller economies and savings in good years, which are possible to the 1096 corresponding classes in this country, are devoured by the draconic effects of the customary law with reference to marriages and other ceremonies, it will be evident that life in such a country cannot possibly be anything else but hard. In all their sufferings from plague and pestilence the people of India have an irresistible claim upon our sympathy, our consideration, and our assistance. And I am proud to think that the history of the last few years has shown that the people of this country do not shirk that responsibility of those claims on their generosity. Nor do I believe that the appeal which is now being made for assisting the famine-stricken districts of India can possibly fail. At the same time a great mistake would be made and no good be done to the people of India by exaggerating the evils from which they suffer. The proposition is that, from one cause or another, and probably in great measure by the action of the Government of India, the Indian cultivator's power to resist famine has been impaired, compared with what it formerly was. Well, I am bound to say I do not believe that that is the case. All the available evidence we have of a thoroughly trustworthy nature makes in the opposite direction. The mass of evidence to the contrary is not mere hearsay or gossip, but is given on the authority of those whose business it is to give us the facts. In the first place, there is no doubt that the great majority of the people of India are much better off than they were thirty, or even ten years ago. Judged by any standard you choose, the health of the people and capacity to resist famine, so far from having been impaired, have been increased. Tested by the progress of population, by the price of land, by the increased extent of land under cultivation, by the rate of wages, by the growth of revenue, by the habits and conditions of the people, by their increasing comforts and even luxuries, their capacity has not suffered during the last few years; and so far from being in a worse position to meet famine they are year by year getting into a better position. You find that "the average villager eats more food and has a better house than his fathers. To a considerable extent brass or other metal vessels have taken the place of coarse earthenware vessels"; and the family possess more clothes. The land-owning and land-holding classes are "undoubtedly 1097 better off." The market price of land has advanced in every province, and it "is from three times to ten times greater per acre than it was thirty years ago." The wages of skilled labour have increased considerably, and in many places—for example, where railways have been built—the wages of unskilled labour have also increased.* Then it is said by the Government, after close inquiry, that "it is quite certain that an Indian province and the Indian administration are now better prepared to meet a famine than they were thirty years ago."… It is also pointed out that the famines of 1770, 1803, 1833, 1837, 1841, were "far more disastrous to the general prosperity of the country "than that of 1876–8. In 1877–8 "the facts testify to a remarkable development of the power of the agricultural classes to resist and recover from the effects of unfavourable seasons."‡ The Report upon the famine of 1897–8 states expressly that—Of late years, owing to the high prices, there has been a considerable increase in the incomes of the land-holding and cultivating classes, and their standard of comfort and of expenditure has also risen. With a rise in the transfer value of their tenures their credit has also expanded. During the recent famine these classes, as a rule, have therefore shown greater power of resisting famine, either by drawing on savings, or by borrowing, or by reduction of expenditure, than in any previous period of scarcity of like severity."§In connection with all that, the House will remember that the population test—that is, the effect or absence of effect of famine on thepopulation—affords evidence in the same direction. In the last thirty years the population has increased by 70,000,000—and it continues to increase at a rate in excess of any European country, except Great Britain and Prussia. Notwithstanding the losses from famine and the consequent loss of fecundity, the rebound of population immediately after a famine is most extraordinary. The most striking instances of this, which I remember, are furnished by Bombay, Madras, and Mysore. In Bombay in the decade 1871–81 the population increased only at the rate of 1 per* See Memorandum on Results of Indian Administration, page 27.† Ib., page 28.‡ See Secretary of State's Despatch, 26th February, 1880, quoted in Report of Famine Commission, 1880, page 30.§ Quoted in Moral and Material Progress of India, 1897–8, page 28.1098 cent., but in the following decade it increased by 14½ per cent. In Madras, in the first period, the population decreased by 1.35 per cent., and in the second period it increased by 15.58 per cent. In Mysore the population decreased in the first period 17.19 per cent., and increased in the second period by 18.09 per cent. This shows that the effect of a famine upon population is practically non-existent after an interval of ten years. Another indication of the want of effect of famine upon the wealth of India is to be found in the revenue. In 1894–5 the revenue was Rx94,814,000; in 1895–6 it had risen to Rx97,977,000. Then came the famine year, when it fell to Rx93,586,000; but in the very next year, without any increase of taxation, and with a good deal of remission, the revenue rose to Rx96,139,000. In addition to increased personal prosperity, the capacity of the people of India to resist famine is further assisted by the elaborate system of Government relief in the famine-stricken districts, and by the enormously improved means of communication. I was very much amazed to hear so irrational a view from the hon. Member for Flint, as when he advocated increased expenditure on canals rather than railways. Why, the railways have been the salvation of the country. Formerly the rate of communication in India was ten miles a day, but it is now at the rate of four hundred a day, and at one-sixth of the old cost. In 1877 four railway lines carried 4,000 tons of food per day into the famine tracts—a day's meal for seven million people. I do not think hon. Members will suggest that the conveyance of food to save an immense population from famine would be at all adequate but for the railways in India. To-day in the North-West Provinces and in Oudh, except in the Himalayas and the hill tracts south of Mirzapore, there is no village more than forty miles from a railway station.* I would call the attention of the House particularly to another important result in the extension of railways. In the famine of 1896 there was a uniform level of prices of food throughout India, in the famine districts as well as in other parts. That fact alone would suggest the proposition that nowadays a famine in India is not a local food famine, but a local wage famine. We are told by the hon. Baronet who proposed* See Memorandum on Results of Indian Administration, page 22.1099 this resolution that one of the causes of the sufferings of the people in India is the abandonment of the old fashion of private storage. But that is a phenomenon that is occurring in most countries of the world, and is only an indication of advanced civilisation. The hon. Baronet will remember that in his youth in Scotland people used to lay in a store of meal, and hung up their mutton hams from the rafters in the kitchen, against the isolation of winter, when there was no railway or any other assured form of communication. In many parts, both in England and Ireland, similar precautions had to be taken. Elsewhere people stored food when there was a danger of prolonged isolation by war, famine, or snow. But the whole tendency in this matter, with improved means of communication, is the abandonment of private storage. Take the average London household. Not many years ago the thrifty housewife laid in an eighteen months supply of composite candles; but she no longer does so, because she knows that round the corner she can get, at any moment, all the seasoned candles she wants. Formerly the average middle-class Londoner laid in a store of wine, but he finds no necessity for that nowadays, because he knows he can get it in any quantity at the stores. It is the same with private storage of perishable goods all over the world. The one exception I have heard of to the universal law is in those tracts of this country recently endowed with Sunday closing, where, I understand, the practice has grown up of storing a week's supply of ardent spirits for one day's—Sunday's—consumption. The point is that railways have rendered private storage unnecessary. In India the railway which takes away the grain of last year's crop brings it back as easily; and why should the cultivator keep his crop at the risk of destruction by fire or rats when he can take advantage of the market and hold his crop in money, which he can use either in paying his debts or in lending at usury to his friends? The hon. Baronet speaks of the ryot of to-day as if he were still down-trodden by Mussulman armies and obliged to store against war and famine. British peace and British locomotives have changed all that. The ryot is an extremely shrewd person. He reads the latest market quotations, printed in the vernacular, with quite as much, or even greater, interest than the hon. Member for Flint read the 1100 racing tapes at the Reform Club. The truth is that storage is an archaic and wasteful practice in these days of rapid turnover. In absolute peace the ryot finds it far more profitable to sell his crop and buy the grain for food as he wants it. I regret to have occupied the time of the House so long. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!] But I am bound to say that, taking the motion as it stands on the Paper, and the speeches which have been addressed to the House in support of it, I cannot see what useful purpose a motion of this kind can serve, unless it be to bring Indian debates in this House into even further discredit. Here we have been having a futile discussion on a state of things which is non-existent, with a view to obtaining an inquiry which has already been made over and over again. I contend that the Government of India has always in the past sympathised, and does now sympathise deeply, with our Indian fellow-subjects in the sufferings which plague and famine have inflicted upon them, and, in the words of my Amendment, it "may be safely left to that Government to carry out any modification of the land tenure and iudustrial system which experience may have shown to be likely to mitigate the effects of famine and epidemic disease." I am satisfied that they are giving the most anxious care to the matter, and I am also satisfied that the people of India know this, and gratefully appreciate it. I am not one of those who hold that the people of India love us, but I know that they believe we are doing our best to serve them, and that the government under which they now live is a better, purer, and juster government than they have ever known. I am perfectly satisfied, also, that there is no desire in India for any such inquiry as is suggested by the hon. Baronet. If any proof of that is wanted I should like to refer this House to the recent extraordinary and practically unanimous outburst of loyalty which has come from every class and every caste of India—from Rajput prince to Madras ryot, and from every district from Peshawar to Cape Comorin. In private and in public, by spoken and written word, this astonishing and practically unsuspected sentiment has found the most unrestrained expression, and this from a population which, in the last few years, has been submitted to repeated and combined invasion of plague, 1101 pestilence, and famine in forms and of a severity hitherto unknown. Under these circumstances no one need have wondered if the population of that afflicted dependency had stood gloomily aloof; but instead there has been a demonstration such as the most experienced of Anglo-Indians would never have ventured to predict. And that fact alone is a better reply to the charges of extortionate assessment and neglected duty which we have heard of to-day than any amount of statistics and counter arguments. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE
I rise, Sir, to second the Amendment just proposed by my hon. friend the Member for West Edinburgh. I am gratified that the appalling calamity which has once again overtaken the poor ryots of India is made the subject of a debate in this House, although it is not likely that the motion in the form in which it is submitted for consideration, or the speeches made in support of it, will furnish much light and leading to those engaged in the administration of the country, and whose duty it is to devise methods for the prevention of future famines. Owing to the absence of a meeting at the Mansion House, and to the comparatively slender response made to the Famine Relief Fund opened by the Lord Mayor, the impression was gaining ground both here and in India that the British public was at present too much engrossed in the operations in South Africa to take sufficient note of the gigantic misfortune from which our Indian fellow-subjects were suffering. The expressions of genuine sympathy used in the course of this debate will go far to reassure the poor sufferers that the British nation was neither indifferent to their woes, nor oblivious to their wants, and I trust the discussion will serve to place before the public here such full information on those points as will arouse one of those generous responses which Englishmen are always ready to make to the piteous cry for relief from a calamity of such vast magnitude. The Amendment proposed by my hon. friend is well calculated to serve this purpose, and I have therefore no hesitation in seconding it. Every attempt made to protect India against the visitations of famine, by any means 1102 whatsoever, is entitled to the sympathetic and serious attention of this House; and for me, especially, it is a bounden duty to carefully study and support every endeavour to find out any as yet undiscovered causes which are calculated to suggest preventive measures against their recurrence. In doing so, however, one has to recollect that numerous inquiries by Committees and Commissions have already been made, embracing the whole scope of the causes of the famines as well as of measures for their prevention. Still, any new suggestions that might be offered would be worth considering, and therefore I have attentively listened to the eloquent speeches made in support of the motion. The only ground which the hon. Baronet who moved it could urge for a fresh inquiry was that the former practice of storing millet or other grain had been given up by the ryot, and that a thorough analysis of the causes of the abandonment of this practice on data supplied by inhabitants of villages would furnish information as to why the cultivator is powerless to resist the attacks of famine. I deny, Mr. Speaker, that that is a sufficient argument for a fresh inquiry. A journal which is in the habit of reproducing faithfully the hon. Baronet's views expounds his argument in these words—"Famine is universally deplored, but the possibility of a remedy depends on our knowledge of Indian poverty and its causes." If this is what is intended by the fresh inquiry, then I maintain there is no adequate case made out for the House to accept the motion. Inquiries of a most searching and comprehensive nature, including this point, have been made over and over again, and the Library of this House is full of Reports dealing exhaustively with the whole subject of famines, their causes and their remedies, which it would take half a lifetime to read and to digest. It is often urged as a reason for a "village" inquiry, such as is suggested by the hon. Baronet, that the British administrator is not in touch with the masses of India, that he does not know their wants and wishes and habits, and that an inquiry by natives from natives is the only means of arriving at the elementary truth on these points. A reference to the Reports in the Library, comprising numerous statements and memoranda on these subjects both by Englishmen and Indians, 1103 official and non-official, would prove that this is not the case. What could be more full, more descriptive of the economic condition and habits and necessities of the ryot, than the results embodied in the minutes and memoranda of men like, say, Sir James Peile, who, in the course of their long careers extending over thirty and forty years, had become intimately acquainted with the mode of life and circumstances of the ryots? Again, Mr. Speaker, the contributions to this vast subject by intelligent native gentlemen are not few. I hold in my hand a book entitled "Progress of the Madras Presidency in the last forty years," by Dewan Bahdur Srinivasa, which is a very mine of information on the very subjects on which a fresh inquiry is sought. The author is a highly-educated native gentleman, who, having served for many years with distinction in our service, and again as Minister of a large native State, brings to his task the combined experience of British and native rule, and is capable of expressing opinions on almost every subject connected with such an inquiry. The present, like many previous famines, unfortunately spreads over extensive areas in native States. Their enlightened rulers, such as the Chiefs of Baroda and Junagadh and Bhavnagar and other territories, are, with the help of their own intelligent officers, doing their very best to cope with the sufferings of the famine-stricken poor. In these States, at all events, if not within the British territory, any new inquiry on the lines now suggested by the hon. Baronet would very soon be instituted if it was felt that there was any new cause to discover or a new remedy to apply in order to prevent and combat the evil. But no such attempt is made, or even suggested. Nor is there any call made from any quarter or community in India, British or native, for a fresh inquiry. What is wanted is immediate action, not inquiry. It is admitted generally, and on both sides of the House it is often suggested, that an easy means to postpone action on ascertained or evident facts is to order a fresh inquiry. While the dilatory inquiry lasts, those whose duty it is to act find it convenient, in fact are called upon, to slacken their active and responsible functions in that connection. We have before us already all the large discussions relating to the causes and remedies of famines in their various bearings. 1104 There is the much-debated question of land assessments, the scarcely less controversial one of irrigation, and, more important than any, the question of the elementary, agricultural, and industrial education of the masses. All these await solution in actual practice in a greater or lesser degree. Especially with regard to the last-named, the educational question, there is a consensus of opinion which makes immediate activity possible. In looking over a good deal of the famine literature to which I have referred, I find numerous competent authorities, both English and Indian, advocating the spread of agricultural instruction and of the elementary education of the masses. They all strongly advocate the extension of industrial training. It has been urged against me, since I first mooted in this House the question of industrial and technical education, that it had grown into a "hobby" with me. Be that as it may, the position, to my mind, is plain with regard to its bearing on the famine. In a country where 90 per cent. of its vast population is engaged in agricultural occupations and others subsidiary thereto, no wonder that the first touch of famine or even scarcity makes them helpless. When the land denies its sustenance, vast numbers of the people succumb. Is it not time same means were adopted to lighten this burden upon the soil? If we could withdraw even a small percentage of this population from entire dependence on agricultural occupation, and divert it to other pursuits, we should, on the one hand, lessen the pressure on the soil, and, on the other, enhance the power of the proportion so withdrawn to increase the wealth of the country by working at more profitable and less uncertain industries, and thus augmenting the purchasing capacity of the poorer classes. These are remedies which require not any further inquiry, but immediate action on the part of the administrators in India. In the face of these facts, to order some vague research to ascertain new causes of the famine would not only be a fruitless task, but imply a reflection, if not a reproach or censure, on our Viceroys and Governors and responsible officers, both European and native. It would be tantamount to telling them that they had, during the long period of our rule in India, failed to find out even those elementary causes, of famines, and 1105 neglected to adopt the equally easy means of preventing them which, to the advocates of the motion, seem to lie on the surface. Surely the House will express no such opinion or accept the grave responsibility of pronouncing such a censure. What it has to do is to express approval of the manner in which the supreme and provincial Governments in India have tried to grapple with the calamity, and particularly to show its appreciation of the efforts of Lord Curzon to deal with the larger questions I have enumerated, especially that relating to industrial education. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I have consented to second the Amendment in preference to giving my support to the motion. As I stated at the commencement of my speech, I am glad that this discussion has taken place, as it will not only convey to the distressed people of India a message of hearty and ample sympathy from the English nation in their sore trial, but will impress on the latter the great extent of the suffering which awaits succour. I trust the Lord Mayor may yet see his way to convening a public meeting; and, further, that Her Majesty's Government will, on reconsideration, feel justified in appealing to this House to make an Imperial grant. There may be considerations against granting such a Vote. There might be the fear of creating a precedent. But the circumstances under which the House would be called upon to vote such a grant are exceptional, and this is not the time to minutely weigh such considerations in the face of so grave a disaster. All possible objections can be well guarded against by allowing it to be explicitly understood that the grant was an offer to India of British sympathy in a time of exceptional trouble, and any such Vote need not form a precedent in future. If such a grant is proposed, I, for one, would heartily support it. I beg, Sir, to second the Amendment.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of Question, in order to add the words 'this House, while deeply sympathising with its Indian fellow-subjects in the sufferings which plague and famine have inflicted upon them, is of opinion that it may safely be left to the Government of India to carry out any modification of the land tenure and industrial system which experience may have shown to be likely to mitigate the effects of famine and epidemic disease.'"—(Sir Lewis McIver.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MACLEAN (Cardiff)
The mover and seconder of the Amendment have treated the motion of the hon. Member for Banffshire as if it were equivalent to a vote of censure on the Indian administration. I have listened carefully to the conciliatory speech of the hon. Member for Banffshire, and I heard nothing that was not moderate and reasonable. He certainly did not attempt in any way to find fault with the Indian administration. We all acknowledge that the Indian Government is doing an exceedingly good work in coping with the famine. We all say that the labours of the Indian Government are devoted, with the most self-denying efforts, to saving millions of people from a cruel death by starvation. What we do complain of is that it has become too much the habit of the Indian Government and of the India Office to treat any famine as an act of God for which nobody was responsible, and as if there were no deep causes which bring about famines of this kind, and that those causes ought not to be inquired into with the view to providing a permanent remedy for this deplorable state of things. My hon. friend the Member for Bethnal Green said there was no need for further inquiry.
§ MR. MACLEAN
And that there are volumes and volumes in this House of the experience gained by these Commissions. But is there not an inquiry now going on by means of a Royal Commission? We know that a Commission has been sitting for many years. It has lasted nearly as long as the walls of Troy or the trial of Warren Hastings, and if we may believe the rumours that reach us, it is going to present some feeble and futile report, showing that it is inadequate to deal with the great problems committed to its charge. The India Office is an admirable institution, but it seems to me to take a far too optimistic view of its own administration of India. During the past few years we have had all sorts of calamities in India—plague, famine, pestilence and war have all claimed their victims in thousands and 1107 tens of thousands—but all that does not disturb the serenity of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India. He comes down here and takes a rosy view of the state of affairs there. He surveys the whole area of his administration, and pronounces it to be very good. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton has often given this House proofs of the very sincere and earnest sympathy he feels with the people of India, and has gained himself great honour on that account, but I am not inclined to go all the way with him when he comes down here and pronounces the Government of India to be the discreetest, wisest, and virtuousest and best Government that over existed. We do not expect to get much enlightenment from the Indian Government on this question. Do we ever guess, is there ever any means of guessing, what is the state of public opinion out there? My hon. friend the Member for West Edinburgh spoke of the recent display of loyalty in India, but everybody knows that the offers of help were made by the Indian princes, who owed to us the security of their immense dominions, and by wealthy citizens in the great towns who had grown prosperous under our rule. The great bulk of the population held entirely aloof from any movement of that kind. Public opinion no longer exists in India. There is no freedom of speech out there. After a frontier war, a couple of years ago, when all India was ringing with censure of that inglorious campaign, one public servant had the temerity to come forward and re-echo those criticisms at a public meeting, and immediately the Government of India issued a ukase, saying that any public servant who presumed to criticise his superiors in that way would be publicly censured by the Government.
§ MR. MACLEAN
That is the kind of régime the noble Lord is prepared to defend; and how can we hear free criticism when that goes on? Why, the public servants of India used to be proud of their freedom and independence, and now we have an absolute prohibition of anything like freedom of speech. Instead of that we get copious telegrams of great tours by the Viceroy of India. These come to us every day in the newspapers, and we have speeches which 1108 are distinguished by too frequent and too self-complacent references, I think to the perfect wisdom and virtue of the Government of India. That is the sort of expression of public opinion that comes to us from that country. The other day the Viceroy made a speech—a very eloquent speech, as usual—in which he said that the first and greatest duty of the Government of India was to make the people committed to their charge more contented, more prosperous, and happier people than they were before, and this sentiment came at the end of a speech in which he announced that five millions of that happy people were dependent on the Government for relief, and were hovering on the verge between life and death, and that it was a great problem how the population could be maintained in that way. Well, I think all these statements do not represent public opinion in India in the very least. We have to go further to feel what is the condition of that people, and what are the true causes of what my hon. friend the Member for Banffshire calls the extreme impoverishment of the people of that country—of the great agricultural population who form the bulk of the people of India. Many specious arguments have been used by the hon. Member for West Edinburgh to show that the people of India are very much better now than they used to be. I returned to India after an absence of twenty years, and I must say that one thing that struck me most forcibly was the listless, apathetic and really despairing attitude of the people in the face of the many calamities which have overtaken them. The element of hope which consoles us in so many misfortunes was absent, they had ceased to believe in the power of the British Government. Their state of misery was intense, and they had nothing to look forward to. What are the causes that lead to this lamentable state of affairs? What is the true economic state of India? I wish to say a few words first of what I think are the real causes of that impoverishment. First of all, I think it lies in the heavy taxation of the people. The salt tax is oppressive, and the land tax is even a greater burden on the people. One often hears the objection raised by official optimists with regard to the land revenue that it is not a land tax 1109 at all, and that it is only rent. But this distinction is merely a play upon words. The money is taken from the people whether you call it rent or tax. You take £30,000,000 a year from them in the name of land revenue. On looking at the statistical abstract I found that the land revenue has increased by £3,000,000 a year, and except in times of famine it is never lower, and then only temporarily. That is a very bad thing for any Government to do. The State is the worst absentee landlord you could possibly find anywhere. A great landlord takes a large rent from his farmers, but he spends a great deal of money on the land. It comes back to the land in one shape or another, but the State that collects the rent takes the money away from the land and spends it in warlike preparations or in maintaining the India Office on an extravagant scale, and it does not come back to the land. The farmers are cruelly impoverished by the abstraction of this enormous amount of money every year. It is also the case that all the resources of India may be said to be mortgaged to this country. I know it is urged that India must be prosperous because there is a very active trade being carried on with that country. You way, "Look at the enormous imports and exports and the quantity of treasure that pours into India. All that means that the people must be much better off than formerly." That is all beside the actual position of the cultivator of the country. The truth is that all the great businesses in India are carried on by Englishmen. All the shipping trade is in the hands of Englishmen, and all the railways are managed by Englishmen. All the banks are in the hands of Englishmen, and nearly all the great industrial institutions of one kind or another are in the hands of Englishmen. We have perfect armies of men, either in the Government service or in individual enterprise, all flourishing out there, drawing high salaries, all saving large portions of their salaries, and transmitting portions of their savings regularly to England. Look at what India pays to this country for home charges—that is, for extravagant interest on railways, which this country would never have stood for a moment—in comparison with the enormous rates paid to the shareholders in Indian railways. They have to pay these home charges for railways, for the Army, for the India Office and 1110 one thing or another, to the amount of £19,000,000 sterling a year. If you add all that to the savings of private individuals coming to this country you make up a sum of something like £30,000,000 a year which comes to England, and for which India gets no return whatever. The export trade is £100,000,000 sterling. Nearly one-third of that trade is transported to England for the quittance of the duties of India, and no return is made to India at all. That is a great drain on the country, and produces necessarily the serious impoverishment of the people. One famine comes upon another and finds the people still more and more unable to deal with them. They live from generation to generation the mere slaves of the usurer. That is the condition of India as it now presents itself to us. During my own recollection we have had five famines in India, and this is the worst of all. How is it that we have no other famines in the Queen's dominions? I do not forget the terrible famine in Ireland sixty years ago. That famine caused a great political and commercial revolution in this country. It broke up old political parties. It converted Sir Robert Peel to free trade; and not only that, but it opened the eyes of Englishmen to the actual condition of Ireland, and we have had legislation passed during the last fifty years which has transferred an immense amount of property from the landlord class to the tenants, and also a great deal of the social and political influence they formerly wielded in Ireland. I do not say that the position in India is analogous to what took place in Ireland, but it is in some respects even worse. The people of Ireland could go over the seas, but the poor people of India do not like to go abroad. They shudder at going over the sea, and they are shut in on the land side by the barbarous legislation of the Ameer at Cabul. They have nothing to look forward to and nothing to hope for. I know it may be said that I am talking vainly, and that the whole mind of the country is now entirely absorbed in the South African war, for which we voted £60,000,000 without a moment's hesitation. Is it not time that we aroused ourselves to what we owe to other parts of Her Majesty's dominions? Would it not be a terrible thing if we were to run the risk of losing what is a far more precious possession to us, I mean the mastery 1111 of Asia, while we are struggling for the mastery in South Africa? I hope the people of this country will awake now to a sense of their duty in this matter, and will fulfil the obligations they owe to the oldest and noblest of our possessions—a possession which has brought into the lap of England during the last hundred years countless millions of treasure, and is far more valuable to us than all the self-governing colonies put together.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I am not going to be tempted into a discussion of the merits or demerits of the Government of India. That is hardly the question before the House; but I should be prepared at any other time my hon. friend may select to argue that question, and I should be interested to hear him prove from history that there ever was in India (I might say in Asia) at any time a Government so humane, so just, and so impartial—any Government which did so much to promote the moral and physical condition of the people as the Government of Great Britain in India. The motion introduced to the notice of the House in two temperate speeches by the mover and seconder of this motion has reference to the existing state of affairs in India in connection with this appalling famine. I am sure that those who have in times past convoyed to the people of India the impression that there is in the House of Commons a feeling of indifference to the best interests of India, and that whenever any Indian question is raised the House immediately empties, will now be able to report that in the presence of this great calamity and sorrow an interest is shown on both sides and by all sections of the House in discovering the wisest and best and most generous course to be a lopted in the emergency. The motion which has been submitted to the House asks that "a searching inquiry should be instituted in order to ascertain the causes which impair the cultivators' power to resist the attacks of famine and plague, and to suggest the best preventive measures against future famines." As I have already said, so far as sympathy is concerned, we are all at one with the mover and seconder of this motion, but what we have to ask ourselves is, what is to be the nature of the inquiry which is 1112 proposed, and also what is the tribunal by whom that inquiry is to be conducted? I take the last clause of the motion first. I have read a great deal about the responsibility of the Government of India with respect to the causes of this famine. I can conceive some arguable points in the first part of the motion, but I cannot for the life of me see where the Government can be brought in as responsible for the famine. I understand—perhaps I may be corrected if I am wrong—that the cause of the famine is the failure of the rain. It is the failure of the monsoon. If the same copious rains had fallen during the last three years as India enjoyed during the preceding fifteen years there would have been no famine, and if the Government of India is not to be praised when there is a good monsoon it cannot be blamed when there is a bad monsoon. Is anybody prepared to say that if the rainfall had been the same during the last three or four years in the famine-stricken districts of India there would have been anything like the famine which now exists? The hon. Member for Flintshire has dwelt on three causes which he held that the Government were responsible for, and which he thinks contributed to this deplorable state of things. His principal point was with reference to irrigation. I think that the House will be agreed as to two points. First, that certainly up to Lord Lytton's Government there was some neglect in India with reference to irrigation works; and, secondly, there has been a very great extension of irrigation works during the last twenty or twenty-five years; and it is not fair in dealing with what is going on to-day to apply either the facts, the reasoning, or the arguments which might have been powerfully applied a few years ago. I am heartily at one with my hon. friend in reference to irrigation works. I should like to correct an error into which my hon. friend has fallen. It is said that pressure has been put upon Secretaries of State by the railway interest in this country. Personally I have never been conscious of any pressure. I can tell my hon. friend that the chief guilty person with reference to the pressure on the Indian Government for the construction of railways when I was in office was myself. I have been a great believer, and I am still a great believer, in railway works and railway extension throughout India; and there is no part of the noble Lord's 1113 administration with which I have a deeper sympathy, and to which I give a stronger approval, than the way in which he has carried out that policy, which was not an easy policy to initiate, but which I think he has carried out, with the assistance of Lord Elgin and Lord Curzon, to a great and successful extent. But there is a limit to irrigation works. You have to consider the lie of the land, the facilities for obtaining water and getting rid of it so as not to create a swamp. I do not wish to weaken the force of my hon. friend's argument on that point. If there is a possibility in any part of India of extending irrigation works it is the duty as well as the interest of the Indian Government to extend those works, and I believe they are keenly alive to the importance of this policy. One of the grievances which have been mentioned is with reference to the settlement of the land and what is called the heavy taxation which India has to pay in the shape of land revenue. The last speaker has referred to official optimism, and he implied that there was a great deal of nonsense talked with respect to the land tax being really nothing more than revenue. I do not know whether my hon. friend will charge the late Mr. Fawcett with being an official optimist. I think if any Member of this House was more distinguished for his independent interest in the affairs of India, and his undying hostility to the Government of India, it was the late Mr. Fawcett. But that statesman declared that the Government of India exercises over a great portion of the soil the same rights of property as those which the English landlord exercises over his own estate. He also stated that the Government in India takes the place of individual landlords, and the cultivators of the soil rent their land from the Government instead of from private landowners. That, clearly, is not taxation, but it is rent. Mr. Fawcett goes on to say—Those, therefore, are completely in error who quote the aggregate amount of taxation which is raised in India in order to prove how heavily the people of the country are taxed. At least twenty millions per annum is raised in India by the land tax. … It would be as unreasonable to consider the amount raised as a burden laid on the people of India as it would be to consider the whole of the rent paid to English landlords in this country as an impost levied on the cultivators of the soil.1114 That is Mr. Fawcett's opinion. I have proof in reply to the hon. Member for Cardiff and the hon. Member for Flintshire that so far from taking 60, 80, and in some cases 100 per cent. of the gross produce, the Government never take more than from 4 to 8 per cent. Sir John Strachey says—The British Government never takes more than a fixed share, varying in different parts of India from 4 to 8 per cent.—8 per cent. was the maximum, and I believe that the amount has been reduced—of the gross value of the produce, and for many years the tendency has been to diminish the share of the State and to leave a large proportion to the private ryot.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH
I quoted from a letter which appeared in The Times as to the proportion of the rent taken from the landlords, the amount being 12½ per cent.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
The original tenant may sublet the property; he is the tenant of the State; and his rent is all that the State receives from him. The hon. Gentleman held up for our admiration the settlement in Bengal, and he wishes that all the land in India was settled as in Bengal. But surely my hon. friends know the history of the Bengal settlement. Lord Cornwallis was then the Viceroy, and he held the opinion that the greatest benefit which he could introduce in the land system of India was the land system of England, and his object was to create great territorial landlords, the zemindars, who would pay a fixed rent to the State, and become the intermediate owners of the land, levying their own rents. Nearly ninety years ago Lord Cornwallis carried out the settlement of Bengal. "This settlement," said Sir John Strachey,had been described as one of the most unfortunate but best intentioned plans that ever ruined the country. Millions of revenue are lost every year with no compensating advantage, and the time will come when the intelligent portion of the community in India will appreciate the fact that, in consequence of an arrangement ignorantly made a century ago, the richest class in the richest province of the Empire bears far less than its just share of public burdens.As far as my memory serves me, and I went into the question once with great care, and after considering the subject, I came to the conclusion that the sums put into the pockets of the zemindars of 1115 Bengal, money paid by the people and not going to the Government of India, was about ten millions sterling. I believe that the rental of Bengal when I was in office was about fourteen millions, whereas the land revenue paid to the State was a little over three millions. I am not prepared to recognise as one of the causes of famine in India the absence of the Bengal settlement throughout the rest of India; it has, like the Irish land question, been the occasion of perpetual conflict between the ryots and the wealthy zemindars who are the owners. It is said that this settlement is being screwed up. It is very easy to say so; but the increased payment has come from increased land brought into cultivation every year. This is a grievance which has always been complained of, and the hon. Member who moved the Amendment explained it with reference to the Punjab. Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and other large towns are much like the towns in this country. Land is constantly coming into use for building purposes, and naturally the State claims an addition to its rental once in thirty years upon this land, which was originally arable land in the neighbourhood of large towns. When such land is brought into the market and is let for building purposes, when its value increases 40, 50, and 100 per cent., I think the settlement officers would not be doing their duty if they did not claim increased revenue in respect to that land. All these circumstances must be taken into account before any contrast can fairly be drawn. I am of opinion that the measures to prevent famine have been the subject of exhaustive inquiry. If anyone has taken the trouble to read the report of that great Indian civilian, Sir Anthony Macdonell, with respect to the famine of 1897, he would see that the greatest experience, ability, and administrative power have been brought to bear on the solution of the question. The Government would be ill-advised if they commenced another inquiry which must necessarily be entrusted to men of equal standing and experience as those who have already described what they thought best to be done. This famine is indeed an awful famine; but what would it have been if the recommendations of the great Famine Commissions had not been carried out, and if the Famine Fund had not been in existence? I admit that the burden on 1116 India is enormous. I think the figures which the Viceroy gave in his last speech are some of the gravest figures I have ever read in connection with India, for he points out the ultimate loss to India totally irrespective of the loss for the year. But admitting that to the full, is India suffering the heavy taxation of which my hon. friend complains? My hon. friend complains of the salt duty; so do I. It is, indeed, one of the saddest features of the finances of this year that but for the famine, with a surplus of seven crores, it would have been in the power of the Government of India to make a considerable reduction in the salt duty. But I must demur to the complaint regarding the charge of interest upon capital advanced to India. Why, it is English capital mainly that has made India, and at the time the great railways were made 5 per cent. was not an extravagant rate of interest. But it is many a long day since anything like that rate has been guaranteed by the Secretary of State on Indian loans. Whether the rate is low or high, it is English capital that enabled India to construct those works, and they are bound to pay for that as for any other article that came into the market. I doubt whether in recent years more than three per cent. interest on loans has been paid by the Government. When there is not sufficient capital to construct these railways the money is drawn from England, Europe, and the United States of America. I should like to touch upon one other question and make an appeal to the Government. My hon. friend has urged the necessity of increasing public subscriptions. I hope the Famine Fund initiated by the Lord Mayor will meet with a more generous response than it has hitherto received, but that does not seem to me to meet the whole state of the case. A subscription is charity. The burden of this heavy famine is falling on the taxation of India. That taxation would in the absence of the famine have been materially reduced, and, I hope, the expenditure also. But I want to put it to the House that as a nation we owe a duty to India as a great branch of our Empire. A subscription is not a national act. A Vote of the House of Commons is a national act. A Vote of the House of Commons is a contribution of every taxpayer in the country, and, as India has 1117 so promptly and generously responded to the appeals made to her at this crisis on behalf of the Empire, I think the Empire should do something, not in return, but in acknowledgement and in reciprocation of the feeling of sympathy which India has so marvellously displayed. The official answer of the Treasury would be, "We are in the midst of a war; we want all our taxation." Yes; but nevertleless we are at the high tide of a national prosperity which has never been reached before. Some fourteen or fifteen days ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he expected an enormous increase in the revenue this year, which he estimated at £116,000,000 sterling. On the 31st of March we find that the amount has approached upwards of £120,000,000. A nation which can pour into the national exchequer, unexpected by its guardian, and without any increase of taxation, as the natural result of its legitimate commercial prosperity, so large an increase upon its income as the difference between 116 millions and 120 millions sterling, is a nation that can afford to be generous. I know that a private Member has no right of initiation on this question, and it is wisely so, because proposing a grant of money rests exclusively upon the Executive Government. I am sure I am speaking the feeling of a large majority of the taxpayers in desiring an opportunity of expressing their sympathy with India in her present trouble. The moral advantage of such an act would far out weigh the mere amount of the sum voted. There are fortifications and defences much stronger than either arms or artillery, and I believe we should strengthen our hold on India, and strengthen our Empire in India, which I believe to be an unspeakable boon to India as well as a great advantage to this country, if in this hour of her suffering we held out our hand in generous sympathy, and made an outward, visible, enduring manifestation of that sympathy which India would never forget.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I am sure both sides will agree that the time of the House could not have been better occupied than in discussing a motion which gives general expression to the sympathy which we all feel for India in her hour of distress. The only jarring note in the discussion, I regret to say, 1118 came from the hon. Member for Cardiff, who indulged in a wholesale diatribe against the Indian Government and its methods of administration, but did not make one single useful suggestion for a remedy, except that the Secretary of State ought to encourage insubordination amongst his officials. This visitation is the most serious which, I believe, has occurred during the present century. It embraces a territory of something like 450 square miles, with a population of perhaps 61 millions of people. There are at the present moment five millions of people engaged on relief works, and this is likely to increase until the middle of June. But, sad as the situation is, there are redeeming features associated with it. In the first place, thanks to the admirable provisions made by the Government, I am glad to say that the mortality is much less than occurred in the corresponding season of the famine of 1897. In some districts the rate of mortality is little above the normal rate of the average year; and I am also glad to say that, owing to the increase of railway communication, which the hon. Member for Flintshire seems to question, food in most districts is cheaper than it was three years ago, when there was a less serious famine. Moreover, the attitude of the people leaves practically nothing to be desired. They are struggling with a courage and resignation which they have never shown before, and I believe this is because they have the knowledge that behind them they have the support of the financial resources of the Government. Now the first motion seems to imply that there has been some deterioration in the material condition of the community at large in India, and that they have lost some of their old power of resisting these visitations. Year after year, in the discussion which takes place upon the financial statement connected with India, I hear a number of statements made by certain hon. Members all of which tend to prove that the material condition of India is deteriorating. Now is that true? There are certain tests which admittedly prove the progress of a community or nation in prosperity. If these tests are generally applicable, India cannot be excluded from their operation. If you find a population increasing and simultaneously therewith an increase of consumption and of productive power, if there is a general improvement in dress and in the household equipment of 1119 the great mass of the people, if year by year they make more and more use of the implements which a civilised Government gives them—post office, telegraphs, railways, and post office savings bank—if in every one of these directions there is a continuous increase, it shows that the country is in the main advancing in prosperity. If these tests are applied to India I do not think anybody could doubt that, although she may be thrown back by these grievous afflictions from time to time, still, in spite of them, she does advance in material prosperity. The beginning and the end of this and other famines in India is drought. If any hon. Gentleman who is interested in India will take the trouble to look at a map showing the density of the population throughout that continent, and then to look at a map which showed the varying rainfall in that continent, he will find that those two maps are almost identical. It is rain alone which enables the cultivator to live. From time immemorial India has been subject to famines owing to drought. In the first few years after the Government of India was transferred to the Crown a number of famines occurred. There was a famine in Orissa in 1866, when a million people died from actual starvation, and not from disease or other consequences of scarcity of food. There was a serious famine in 1868 in the North-West Provinces. There was a famine in 1874 in Bengal, and a famine which lasted nearly eighteen months a few years afterwards, in 1877 over a considerable portion of Bombay and Madras. The result of the experience of these famines was that it has brought home to the Government that the duty of mitigating these visitations must be undertaken by the Government, because they alone can perform it. In consequence a Famine Commission was appointed which laid down certain principles which experience had proved to be sound. The first principle they laid down was that there was no one year in which there was not sufficient food for the whole continent of India. The necessary thing, therefore, was to improve communications. It has been suggested by the hon. Baronet the Member for Banffshire that the storage of grain, as carried on in the days of old, should be encouraged. There are two reasons why that practice has been departed from. The first reason is that 1120 in the old days the population knew that if a scarcity occurred in their locality they would have to depend upon themselves for their food, and therefore they stored it. Now they know that the Government, with the agencies behind it, will take care that food is imported into that district. The second reason why they stored food was that there was then a lack of means of transport and locomotion. All that is now changed, and I quite agree that it would be advisable, if possible, to get the cultivators of certain districts to store food more than they do at present. I think, however, they have an effective reply. They might say that if they could get a good price for their produce in a good year it is as well that they should have the advantage of that price, and that when a famine came they would be able to supply themselves with the proceeds of what they had sold before. The agriculture of India occupies 80 per cent. of the whole population. Let hon. Members think what that means. Supposing that in any part of England 80 per cent. of the population were suddenly deprived of all means of occupation, what distress would it not create! As my hon. friend pointed out, the great difficulty which the Indian Government have to contend with is not a famine of food, but a famine of wages. Over a considerable part of the west of India no rain falls and then there is a cessation of the employment of 80 per cent. of the population in that enormous area. If those who take an interest in the matter were to analyse the classes who came upon the relief works they would find that in the majority of instances they consist not of cultivators, but that they are largely made up of labourers. One difficulty is of a religious character. In innumerable cases men possessed of very considerable herds of cattle have lost them altogether by refusing to sacrifice any portion of them in order to save the remainder. Not only is that the case, but men who have gone into the districts in question and tried to purchase cattle have been compelled, on account of the animosity which such a proceeding aroused, to vacate those districts and give up the idea. The problem with which the Indian Government has to deal is one which it is difficult to bring home to the minds of gentlemen, such as those who compose the British House of Commons, accustomed to move among communities 1121 with diversified occupations. The relief works which have been started, their classification, and the employment which they have given have been enormously appreciated by those who have gone to them. It is worthy of note that in those parts of India which were visited by famine in 1807 and in the present year the people came rather more readily than in those districts which have now been visited by distress for the first time. It has been suggested that the Government might largely increase their expenditure upon irrigation. The hon. Member for Flintshire has quoted a speech of Mr. John Bright on this subject. He is not, perhaps, aware what is the sequel to that speech. Mr. Bright, influenced by Sir Arthur Cotton, made a violent attack on the Indian Government when I was Under Secretary for India on the ground that they deliberately preferred the construction of railways to irrigation, because they were urged by military considerations. Adopting Sir Arthur Cotton's view, Mr. Bright maintained that by the expenditure of a much less sum we could render India absolutely free from famine by the extension of irrigation works. At that time the India Office was in some little trouble as to the principle which should regulate further expenditure on public works. I myself moved the appointment of a Select Committee of the House of Commons to inquire into that question, which sat for two years. Sir Arthur Cotton came up, and gave expression to his views, but there was not a single man on the Committee who supported his contention. It was self-evident to everybody that if irrigation was to succeed, the supply of water, on which the irrigation works depended, must be independent of the local rainfall. Wherever we had great rivers, as we had in the Punjab, or in the south-east watershed, spreading over an enormous area, we might safely rely on a supply of a water, and irrigation works might there have paid enormously, but in other parts of India irrigation works have not paid at all. There is not a single irrigation work of any size which proved profitable in the province of Bombay. Therefore it has been ascertained that there are only a limited number of areas in India in which irrigation carried out in accordance with any large scheme could have any prospect of real success. Lord Curzon has increased the annual sum to be devoted to irrigation. The Government wish in every way to encourage 1122 the villagers and the local authorities to construct small irrigation works and tanks. In an ordinary drought such reservoirs of water are useful, but in the present drought many of them are dry. In one case a large tank which has been full almost from time immemorial could only be put to some use by ploughing it up and sowing it. Whilst, therefore, it was considered desirable to give effect to the wish for irrigation, as far as possible, it must be remembered that it was not a panacea against a drought of the kind with which the Government have to contend. On the other hand, railways are useful in time of plenty as well as in time of scarcity. If it had not been for the railway extension which has taken place during the last twenty years the people would have died by tens of millions on the present occasion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff has complained of the great dividends which shareholders in these railways obtain. I think that if the hon. Member ever looks at prices in the stock list in this country, he will find that shareholders are getting considerably better dividends on the railways constructed here than on those which have been made in India. A good deal of the speeches that have been made have been devoted to the question of land assessment, and the hon. Member for Flint has reproduced several of the arguments and figures which a well-known Bengal gentleman, Mr. Romesh Dutt, recently used in a speech delivered by him as president of the National Congress. Mr. Dutt is a gentleman who has served with distinction in the Indian Civil Service. I have the pleasure of his acquaintance. I have communicated with him on various matters, and when, therefore, I saw that Mr. Dutt had made definite statements of fact in order to show that the land assessments in certain parts of India were too high, I at once paid the most careful attention and gave the most careful investigation to these figures and statements. I do not know where he got his figures from, but I regret to saw that they are erroneous so far as Bengal is concerned. His contention was in favour of the permanent settlement, which, he said, in Bengal had preserved the cultivators and the occupiers from famine. That is not the case. In my own recollection there have been two most serious famines in Bengal, and on both occasions the condition of those 1123 under the permanent settlement was in no degree better than that of those who were in the neighbouring districts which were only temporarily settled. Then Mr. Dutt asserted that rents were low in Bengal and never exceeded one-sixth of the gross produce, or about 16 per cent. I cannot understand what induced Mr. Dutt to make that statement. I have myself laid Blue-books on the Table of this House in reference to the permanent settlement of Bengal. The condition of the ryots under the permanent settlement in Bengal is not necessarily satisfactory. They pay the highest rents of any land occupiers in the whole of India, and the State gets the smallest amount of land revenue from them. I have made inquiries, and have been informed that so far from the rents representing only 16 per cent. of the gross produce, the grain produce rents in Bengal in most cases were over 51 per cent., and even went up to 66 per cent. of the gross produce. Mr. Dutt seemed to think that in the Central Provinces the Government of India were exacting an exorbitantly high land revenue. I am very reluctant to dogmatise as to what is and what is not a reasonable land revenue, and I should be very sorry to say that in the past we might not here and there have placed the land assessment too high. But the rules and principles which have been laid down, and which regulate the revenue officers, are framed in a spirit of justice and equity, and, so far as I have been able to make inquiry and investigation, in comparing the land revenue of British India with the land revenue of the native States, in the great majority of instances the land revenue of the adjoining native States is assessed higher than that of British India. What occurred in the Central Provinces was not that the assessment was put too high, but that it was put up rather too suddenly. The railroads in the Central Provinces brought immense prosperity to those countries. Prices rose enormously, and there was a corresponding increase in cultivation; and, therefore, when a fresh settlement was made a short time back, a very considerable increase was made upon the previous assessment. I do not think it was too high, but I do think its introduction should be gradual, so that the cultivators and the owners might adapt themselves to the altered conditions. The hon. Member for Banffshire has drawn attention to the indebtedness 1124 of the ryots. That is a most puzzling question. The assumption of the hon. Member is that this indebtedness largely arises from their heavy assessment, which they cannot pay without borrowing, and, consequently, they get into the hands of the money-lenders. That is not my view. In the first place, if the land assessment were so heavy as to afford the occupier little chance of a livelihood, the money-lender would not advance him money, as there would be no proper security. As a matter of fact, in those parts where the land assessment is exceptionally light in proportion to the gross produce, the occupiers and the owners are more heavily indebted than in those places where the land assessment is heavier. Mr. Nicholson, a Madras civilian, has given great attention to the subject of land banks. His proposals have been under the consideration of the Madras Government, and have been forwarded to the Supreme Government for criticism. When the papers are complete, I will gladly lay them on the Table of the House, because if we could at all contrive to establish a good system of land banks we should confer an enormous benefit on the occupiers. Mr. Nicholson observes that the Indian agricultural community borrowed because they could borrow without giving any thought as to how they would repay or reduce the loan. I think it will be found that, in the various parts of India where the land assessment is very light and, therefore, where the security is good, the occupiers and the owners are more in the hands of the money-lenders than where less security exists. In the Punjab the increase in the value of land is absolutely phenomenal. Forty years ago the number of years' purchase of land revenue was nine, and it has actually gone on rising and rising until now it is seventy years' purchase of the land revenue. During the same period the area of cultivated land in the Punjab has very greatly increased, and yet the increase of indebtedness has become such a social and political danger that we are now considering the desirability of legislation to prevent its further growth. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton made an appeal to the Government that a large grant should be made from the Treasury for the assistance of the Indian Government. The position of affairs between the two Treasuries 1125 since I have been responsible for the India Office is this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has always been ready, if the credit of India was impaired, or if they had any difficulty in raising the funds necessary for meeting the famine, to come to our assistance. But what is the financial position of India at the present moment? If we had had a normal year last year, India would have had a realised surplus of over five millions sterling, and notwithstanding the very heavy expenditure, which I cannot now estimate, I think there is every reasonable prospect that we shall have a surplus this year. If a grant were given by the Treasury as proposed, how is it to be dealt with? The funds collected by the Lord Mayor are only supplemental to the Government expenditure. They do not relieve the Government from one farthing of liability or responsibility. The object of these private subscriptions is that they should be put in the hands of committees dissociated from the Government and be applied to purposes outside the sphere of Government operations—that is to say, they are purely charitable contributions. Can the Treasury advance to the Indian Government a very large sum of money to be applied to charitable purposes? Is not that rather a startling precedent to establish? If we find that we cannot fulfil the obligations we have taken upon ourselves—that is, to find food for all who wanted it and work for all who came for it—then I think we ought to apply to the Treasury for a grant. But I think I ought to go some way towards meeting the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman. One great difficulty, when this drought is over, will be to set the farmers of the west of India on their feet again, because so many of them have lost a considerable part, if not all, of their cattle. I have been in communication with the Viceroy, and I think it would be advisable if we were to consider whether we could not somewhat extend the principle of advances which are made to cultivators. If any considerable sum is thus required by way of advances, and if, owing to the stringency of the Indian market, there should be difficulty in obtaining it, I have no doubt we will consider whether we cannot obtain in that shape some help here.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
Yes, we will lend it, and not give it. That possibly will get over one of the main difficulties which faces us. Beyond that I do not think that, at the present moment, it will be reasonable to expect me to go. Therefore the main objects upon which the Government of India will concentrate their attention for the future will be, in the first place, to continue to develop the railway system. I will try to see if it is possible to dissociate railway finance from Government finance, and I hope, in developing the railway system, to give a great impetus to small light railways, which can be constructed at comparatively small cost, and are most useful feeders to the trunk lines. In the next place we will continue to push irrigation and to pay particular attention to those smaller works which can be constructed over a great part of the famine-stricken districts, We will, in addition, do everything we can to try to vary and diversify the occupations of the Indian people. So long as eighty per cent. of the population are dependent on agriculture, whenever these visitations come there must always be great distress. With that object I will keep in mind what my hon. friend the Member for North-east Bethnal Green is always pressing upon us—the development of technical and industrial education in place of the purely literary education which now so largely prevails in the higher standards of education. These are objects for which we can all combine, no matter how much we differ from one another upon other remedies, and, if we will so co-operate, I think we ought to be able to push them gradually through the various stages of progress and realisation. There is one most gratifying feature in connection with the exertions of our officials in India. From everywhere I hear that the contact of the officials of the Government who have been called upon to fight against plague and famine with the people on whose behalf they are working is producing the most satisfactory results, because it is bringing home to the great mass of the community in a way that is unmistakable the benevolent intentions and policy of the rule which is over them. And when the famine is over the experience so gained will be utilised for the purpose not only of improving our machinery for dealing with these exceptional emergencies, but also for improving 1127 the industrial and agricultural systems of India in such a way as to make each recurring period of prosperity a fresh contributing force in the mitigation of distress. My hon. friend who moved the Amendment spoke, I think justly, of the extraordinary enthusiasm which the Indian people, in spite of their troubles, have shown in our success in South Africa. India in the hour of her trial has put her own distress for the time being on one side in order to show her sympathy and interest with Great Britain in the struggle imposed on us in South Africa, and, therefore, I think that we have not only a duty, but a debt to discharge in pushing on as rapidly as we can the restoration of prosperity to India.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
I would not have ventured to intervene in this debate were it not that I had the opportunity of learning from officials in India in January last the steps which were being taken to cope with the terrible famine which is afflicting that country. I travelled from Calcutta to Bombay, and the route which I took was through some of the most famine stricken districts, and I found that the distress from which the people were suffering was of the most pitiable character. But I am bound to testify to the zeal and devotion with which the officials in India are endeavouring to cope with this terrible affliction which is devastating the country. From the Viceroy down to the lowest official all are endeavouring in every possible way to relieve the distress and to save the multitudes inhabiting the famine stricken areas from death and starvation. I question whether there is one other Member in the House at present who has been to India and has seen with his own eyes the terrible distress which is now afflicting that great dependency of the British Crown. Therefore I venture to think that it is not inappropriate, having seen with my own eyes the terrible sufferings of our fellow subjects in India, that I should make an appeal to the Government in support of the contention of my right hon. friend the Member
§ for East Wolverhampton that we should give a grant in aid out of the Imperial Exchequer of this country to India to assist her in this the hour of her great distress and suffering. Is it not a fact that we gave out of the Imperial Exchequer a sum of eight millions for the relief of distress in Ireland during the great famine? It is only the other day that we relieved Egypt from an obligation to pay us £1,100,000, and last session we gave a grant in aid to the West Indies. I do not quarrel with all this or with the grant given to India as a contribution towards the cost of the Afghan war; but I appeal to the Government and to hon. Members on both sides whether it would not be a graceful act—an act which would bring contentment and peace to India and which would bind together the populations of India and this country—if we were now to give a generous grant in aid to relieve the distress in India. The Secretary of State for India questioned as to how such a grant could be applied. I venture to suggest that it could be applied to relieve the suffering cultivators of the soil in India from the payment of one year's rent or to relieve them for a term from the oppressive salt tax. I do not care how it is applied as long as it is applied. I must say that if there is one thing above all others which this famine has shown it is the great blessing that government by this country is to the Indian Empire. In bygone years a famine like the present would have claimed millions of victims, but, thanks to the Indian Empire being under the rule of this country, every effort to cope with distress is being put forward, and the loss of life is consequently reduced to a minimum. I hope that as a result of this debate we shall have an announcement from the Government that they will support, and, indeed, move that a substantial grant in aid be given out of the exchequer of this country to relieve the suffering population of India.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 72; Noes, 155. (Division List No. 95.)1130
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Burt, Thomas||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Caldwell, James||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Colville, John||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Baker, Sir John||Crilly, Daniel||Doogan, P. C.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Crombie, John William||Duckworth, James|
|Billson, Alfred||Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Edwards, Owen Morgan|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Dalziel, James Henry||Emmott, Alfred|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Ghee, Richard||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Kenna, Reginald||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Maddison, Fred.||Soutter, Robinson|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Steadman, William Charles|
|Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Harwood, George||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Wallace, Robert|
|Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||Wason, Eugene|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Kilbride, Denis||Power, Patrick Joseph||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land||Price, Robert John||Woods, Samuel|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Reckitt, Harold James||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Maclean, James Mackenzie||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Sir William Wedderburn and Mr. Samuel Smith.|
|M'Crae, George||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Gedge, Sydney||Moulton, John Fletcher|
|Arnold, Alfred||Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Muntz, Philip A.|
|Arrol, Sir William||Gibbs, Hn A G H (City of Lond.)||Murray Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Myers, William Henry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Gorst, Rt. (In, Sir John Eldon||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Barnes, Frederick Gorell||Goschen, Rt Hn G J (St. George's||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Percy, Earl|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Gull, Sir Cameron||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Purvis, Robert|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. W.||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Brassey, Albert||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Henderson, Alexander||Ritchie, Rt Hon Chas. Thomson|
|Butcher, John George||Hoare, E. Brodie (Hampstead)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Campbell, J. H. M (Dublin)||Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derb'shire||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Howard, Joseph||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle||Rutherford, John|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hozier, Hon James Henry Cecil||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Sidebottom, William (Derbysh|
|Charrington, Spencer||Keswick, Wiliiam||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Coddington, Sir William||Kimber, Henry||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Knowles, Lees||Stanley, Sir Henry M (Lambeth|
|Colomb. Sir John Charles R.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. E. H.||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow.||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a||Talbot, Rt Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Lowles, John||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Denny, Colonel||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Hart||Macdona, John Cumming||Welby, Lt.-Col. (Taunton)|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph D.||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Faber, George Denison||Maclure, Sir John William||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'gh, W||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J (Manc'r||M'Killop, James||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Finch, George H.||Marks, Henry Hananel||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Finlay, Sir Robt. Bannatyne||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Wodehouse, Rt Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Wrightson, Thomas|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Monckton, Edward Philip||Wylie, Alexander|
|Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Monk, Charles James||Wyndham, George|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Fry, Lewis||Morrell, George Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.1131|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Morrison, Walter|
|Garfit, William||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House, while deeply sympathising with its Indian fellow-subjects in the sufferings which plague and famine have inflicted upon them, is of opinion that it may safely be left to the Government of India to carry out any modification of the land tenure and industrial system which experience may have shown to be likely to mitigate the effects of famine and epidemic disease.