§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord G. HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
In accordance with the understanding arrived at the other night by which we undertook to give the hon. Member for Camborne an opportunity to initiate a debate, I have placed a non-controversial resolution on the Order Paper, which, I think, will give the hon. Member the same scope and latitude for his speech which he would have had if he had moved his own Resolution. I therefore beg formally to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed: "That this House approves of the several recommendations of the Famine 266 Commission of 1901, made for the benefit of the agricultural population of India:—(Secretary, Lord George Hamilton.) (8.0.)
§ * (8.30.) MR. CAINE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I am glad to see that I have rather more of an audience than there usually is when Indian questions are discussed, but I trust that the importance of the matter which I have to bring before the House will induce a larger number of members to attend presently. This debate has been arranged in order to enable the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India to speak to a notice of Motion which I had on the Paper as an Amendment to the Address. The Government are as anxious as I am that there should be a debate upon the im- 267 portant issues raised with regard to the poverty of India and whether the Report of this Commission goes far enough to meet the evil. I am obliged to take up the position of hostility to the recommendations of this Famine Commission, on the ground that they do not go far enough, and to urge upon the Government and the Secretary of State for India the great importance of looking more to famine prevention, rather than to the mere palliation of the evils which arise from famine. I approach this question with a deep sense of responsibility, for I am not entirely ignorant of the Indian people, having spent four winters in India, during which time I endeavoured to acquire all the knowledge I could of the people. During that time I learned enough to realise the vastness of the problems involved in the alien European government of 300millions of Orientals, with an ancient civilisation of their own to which they are passionately attached, on which we are trying to graft the newer Christian and Occidental civilisation of the nineteenth century, This work is being carried on by the very pick of that Anglo-Saxon race which is the dominant influence in the civilisation of the West. I have nothing but the profoundest admiration for the ablest civil service that the world has ever produced, and I would not dare to criticise its methods or call in question its results unless I was driven to it by hard realities of failure.
The Amendment I have to move is a charge of failure in one, and perhaps the most important, of the responsibilities undertaken by Britain when she became the Lord of India. It declares that the vast agricultural population of India have not materially benefitted under British rule, that they are not only poor, but that their poverty is chronic, and increasing in volume and area, and I urge upon the Government with a view to its prompt relief—A diminution of civil and military expenditure and the eventual removal of its causes.I have no complaint whatever to make on this occasion with regard to the condition of classes of the Indian people, other than those engaged in agriculture. The development of natural resources other than agriculture is progressive, though, if the occasion fitted, I could show that the progress might be considerably stimulated by the Indian 268 Government. During the last ten years the great mineral industries have been stimulated, the production of coal and iron ore has been more than doubled; of petroleum the increase has been six-fold. The productive power of Indian cotton mills has increased50 per cent., of jute and hemp mills 60 per cent., of woollen mills 80 per cent., of paper mills 120 per cent., and of all other manufacturing industries an average of 70 per cent. The number of joint-stock companies has increased, during the same period, from 928 to 1,340. It must, however, be borne in mind that the whole of these industries are small in proportion to the population. All the cotton mills in India do not put out as much produce as the town of Burnley in Lancashire. The sea-borne and land trading of India has more than maintained itself, and although native industrfes could and ought to be stimulated enormously, such stimulation being one of the best methods of providing alternative employment for the poor agriculturist, I feel justified in lifting all other industries but agriculture out of the range of my Resolution; although a heavy discount must be taken off the prosperity produced by these manufacturing industries by the consequent reduction of employment in hand-weaving and other indigenous employments, the shreddings of which are apt to further congest agricultural employment. My Resolution, therefore, applies only to the 180 millions of the whole 230 millions of people within the area of British India who are engaged in agriculture, and these form about 80 per cent. of the whole.
I need not occupy much time in establishing the fact that the agricultural populations of India are poor. It is notorious that of all countries under Western rule, India is the very poorest. The average income of the United Kingdom and her self-governing Colonies, the United States, France, Germany, Holland, and Belgium is £33 per head per annum: of Russia, Italy, and Spain £13; while that of India is, on the authority of Lord Curzon, only £2 per head. I will endeavour presently to show that even this estimate is optimistic, but I am quite content to rest my case for extreme 269 poverty upon Lord Curzon's figure. But Lord Curzon goes into further detail. Two pounds is the average income of all India from the rich Parsee merchant in Bombay and the wealthy Zemindar in Bengal, down to the poorest peasant on the dry lands offamine. He definitely estimates that part of the national income derived from agriculture, and states it authoritatively at 20 rupees, or £1 6s. 8d. per head per annum. I ask the House to ponder over this, for it is the deliberate statement of the present Viceroy of India, whom no one will charge with undue pessimism, that 180 millions of our fellow-subjects have to exist, year in and year out, on an average income of 320 pennies for 365 days, which is less than one penny per day. But I ask hon. members to please bear in mind that this average includes all the landowners, Zemindars, and wealthy tenant farmers, and were it possible to separate the ten millions of the richest from the 180 millions, it would leave 170 millions of people whose average income would not reach three farthings per day. I will ask the House to consider what this income means to these 180 millions who "enjoy" it.
Let me put before the House some estimate, not of my own but that of a competent authority, to show what is the expenditure of an average Indian small farmer. In 1888, Mr. Leslie S. Saunders, Commissioner in the Indian Civil Service, made an official estimate for the province of Buar, which he begins by a declaration that—Little or no poverty exists in the province.He takes a family of three of the agricultural labouring class, and estimates the year's expenses as follows:—Clothing, 16s.; cost of grain—not wheat or rice but inferior cereals—£3 15s. 11d.; condiments, 15s. 1d.; salt, 6s. 2d.; cooking oil, 5s. 9d.; lamp oil, 3s. 10d.; and 17s. 2d. for petty expenses, making a total of £6 19s. 11d. Lord Curzon estimates the average income of all engaged in agriculture at £1 6s. 8d., but here is an agricultural labourer whose family of three require, if sufficient food of the humblest sort is to be had, an income of £6 19s. 11d., towards which the average, including 270 the income of the Zemindar of his village, only produces £4. It is little wonder that the late Sir W. W. Hunter declared that there were 40 millions of people in India who travelled from the cradle to the tomb without ever having had enough to eat at a single meal. Sir Charles Elliott does not hesitate to say that—Half our agricultural population never know from year's end to year's end what it is to have their hunger fully satisfied.Reduced to the individual it is clear, not only from the estimate of Mr. Saunders, but from a hundred similar estimates familiar to any student of Indian famine literature, that the agricultural population of India, if they are to have sufficient food of the humblest and coarsest quality, require at least £1 8s. per annum per head. According to Lord Curzon their total income is only£1 6s. 8d., which is not enough for food alone. They cannot obtain simple covering for their nakedness, they cannot light a lamp at night, they cannot give a few pence to the priest, or scatter a few flowers before the altar of their God, except at the cost of an extra pinch to their empty bellies. But it must be borne in mind that Lord Curzon's is an all-round estimate. The better off have much larger incomes than the average, and the average is below the bare needs of each, while every man who, gets enough to eat and to wear, gets it at the cost of his poorer neighbour.
I am treating Lord Curzon's estimate as though it were clear money, but I have no doubt that rent or the Land Tax has to come out of this average income and some items of taxation beside. The noble Lord in his explanatory memorandum on the Indian Budget states this to be 1s. 6d. per head, which reduces the amount to £1 5s. 2d. But apart from rent it is only too certain that the bulk of the Indian peasants have to meet the demands of the money lender out of their slender and precarious income of £1 6s. 8d. per year. It is impossible to go into lengthy detail concerning the enormous indebtedness of the Indian peasant to the village money lender and the grain merchant. It may be inferred from the fact that in Punjab special legislation has just been 271 passed to prevent the money-lender becoming the universal landowner, and the permanent middleman between the Government and the tiller of the soil. It may be inferred from the terrible revelations of the Deccan Riots Commission, and from the fact that in the Surat district of Bombay presidency in 1900, 85 per cent. of the year's revenue was paid direct to the Government by money-lenders that their wretched creditors might be kept upon their puny and and staggering legs.
The powerful and elaborate report of Mr. S. S. Thorburn, who is one of the ablest of Indian Civil servants, upon which was 'based the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900, just referred to, is a perfect mine of information about the grip of the money-lender on the peasant. Why have hon. Members not got this report which the noble Lord promised last sessions? I think this delay requires an explanation from the noble Lord. In the course of his inquiry Mr. Thorburn investigated 474 different villages in the Punjab, and he found that all these villages were involved in debt. He divided them into three classes—firstly, those hopelessly involved; secondly, those seriously involved; and thirdly, those slightly involved. The 126 villages classed as hopelessly involved contained a total cultivated area of 64,000 acres, of which no less than 28,000 acres was held by money-lenders. Of the 210 villages seriously involved the total cultivated area was 143,000 acres and 30,000 of these had passed into the hands of the money-lenders There were 138 villages slightly involved with a total cultivated area of 95,000 acres, and of this total 5,500 acres were hold by money-lenders. Out of a total acreage under cultivation in these 474 villages over 60,000 acres had passed permanently out of the hands of the cultivator into those of the money-lender whose wretched helots most of them had become. But apart from this permanent alienation the unsecured indebtedness to money-lenders in these three groups of 474 villages is very heavy indeed. Mr. Thorburn estimates it at two million rupees or £134,000 sterling. He estimates the total indebtedness on mortgages in possession, simple mortgages 272 in existence, and other smaller items at over 4,700,000 rupees or £314,000.
Mr. Thorburn investigated twelve sample villages carefully selected holding by holding; he found that out of less than 14,000 acres under cultivation belonging to these villages, 7,000 were alienated, of which nearly 5,000, or 36 per cent. of the entire 14,000 acres were alienated to money-lenders. He states that:—In the above twelve villages, out of 742 families, 566 are now practically ruined or heavily involved, and out of the whole 650 families who were at any time indebted, only thirteen had succeeded in extricating themselves, and mainly due to external causes.I cannot better sum up the indictment which the condition of things suggests against the land system of India than in Mr. Thorburn's own words:—It facilitates the passing of the property, of the ignorant many to the astute few, it fostersusury, punishes ignorance and stupidity, and rewards business qualifications and education, a costly thing in India utterly beyond the reach of the peasants.Two of the greatest authorities who have ever approached Indian problems have estimated the average income of these Indian agricultural peasants at 18 and 20 rupees per head per annum. I fail to find in the data given to us by either Lord Cromer or Lord Curzon any evidence of having deducted the interest to the money-lender from their estimate of income. The entire indebtedness of the Indian peasant can of course only be estimated. From all the estimates I have seen made a fair average appears to be £230,000,000. This comes out at £1 6s. per head of the peasant population. The interest averages at least 12 per cent. per annum, so that 3s. 3d. has to be deducted from the £1 6s. 8d. of Lord Curzon's estimated annual income, reducing it to £1 3s. 5d. per head per annum. If from this £1 3s. 5d. we further deduct the estimate of 1s. 6d. per head for rent, estimated by the noble lord in his budget statement, it reduces the income of the agricultural population of India to £1 1s. 11d., or 263 pennies for 365 days. The estimate given by Mr. Digby, C I. E., in his recent book is ¾d. per day, which is 274 pence. If, therefore, rent and interest to money lenders has to be paid out of Lord Curzon's £1 6s. 8d., Lord Curzon is the worst pessimist of 273 the two, and Mr. Digby is vindicated by the Viceroy himself. I will, however, be on the safe side and stick to £1 6s. 8d. throughout in the argument I am about to detail.
I have somewhat laboured the Punjab inquiry, because it has received the official stamp and approval of legislation, for the result of which we have yet tow lait, as the Punjab Land Alienation Act is only a year old. I will however venture to trouble the House with some extracts from the Report of the latest Famine Committee, which has only just been circulated to members. The Report has been prepared by Sir Antony MacDonnell, whose authority is equal to that of any Indian servant. It says—This is the state of things to-day, and while it remains unaltered, indebtedness in the Bombay presidency must continue and increase. We desire to guard ourselves against the supposition that we impute want of care or solicitude for the people's interest to the authors of the Bombay revenue system. The authors of that system were men of ability, humanity and zeal for the public good; and nothing is further from our thoughts than to impugn the excellence of their intentions. What we wish to point out is that their intentions have not been fulfilled. They expected the accumulation of agricultural capital; but their plans did not promote thrift, nor did they conduce to the independence of the ryot. They looked for the capitalist cultivator and we find the saukar's serf. On the extent of the indebtedness of the Bombay cultivators no precise official information, we believe, exists, but there are materials for a probable estimate. We know that the Deccan Riots Commission of 1876 found that 'about one-third of the occupants of Government land are embarrassed with debt; that their debts average about 18times their assessment; and that nearly two-thirds of the debt is secured by mortgage of the land.' We also know that the money-lenders, in the villages visited by the Commission, paid about one-eighth of the whole land revenue—theirproperty having been acquired within the preceding twenty, and for the most part the preceding ten years—while it was notorious that the private transfers of land were, in most cases, not recorded. The Commission of 1891 found that, within the preceding eight years, land paying 10 per cent. of the revenue, in the districts which they visited, had been sold, two-fifths going to the money-lenders: while lands paying 17½per cent. of the revenue had been mortgaged, four-sevenths going to the saukars. In his evidence before us the Chief Secretary to the Bombay Government said that 28 per cent. of the land in Broach had passed into the possession of the money-lending classes; and from a report of the Collector of Ahmedabad it appears that in his district expropriation of the old owners has also made considerable way. Taking all these statements into account, and comparing them with the evidence we have 274 recorded, we think it probable that at least one-fourth of the cultivators in the Bombay Presidency have lost possession of their lands; that less than a fifth are free from debt; and that the remainder are indebted to a greater or less extent. It is unnecessary to retrace here the efforts which since 1875 have been made to remedy this lamentable state of things. Commissions have sat and reported; Acts of the Legislature have been passed and amended; executive action of various sorts has been taken. But, of all, the result has been disappointment. Comparing the statistics of sales and mortgages in the four districts to which the Relief Acts have applied with the corresponding figures in non-Act districts, and weighing the evidence of the witnesses on the point, we form the conclusion that these Acts have done but little substantial good. Indeed, there is positively room for holding—and statistics show—that transfers of property, both by sale and mortgage, have become more frequent in districts to which the Relief Acts apply. We, therefore, think that the time for palliative measures has passed, and that the hour has come for recognising facts as they exist, and for applying those measures which the facts demand, no matter how unwelcome may be the disillusionment that they may bring.I will not pursue the matter further, I think these terrible sentences are more than enough. What is true of the Punjab is true of Bombay, and what is true of both is true of all India. I ask the House to declare emphatically, in the damning words of Sir Antony MacDonnell, the Lieutenant Governor of the North West Provinces, and his three equally distinguished colleagues in the commission—That the hour has come for recognising facts as they exist, and for applying those measures which the facts demand, no matter how unwelcome may be the disillusionment that they may bring.I stand appalled before the reform of our entire system of Indian Government, which is needed to cope with these tremendous problems. The entire repudiation of debt by the Indian peasant, if such a thing were possible to such patient, enduring, law-abiding people, would still leave them in a condition of things that twenty years would reproduce the same conditions of life. Even freedom from debt would not suffice unless accompanied by a great scheme of irrigation and a thorough readjustment of rent. Let me quote again Sir Antony MacDonnell's Report—We ourselves are disposed to think that the assessment in these Deccan districts is a full assessment for tracts where 'the soil is sterile, the climate precarious, a good crop being in some parts obtained only once in three 275 years, and the peasantry, though sturdy and ordinarily law-abiding, are described as utterly uneducated and with a narrow range of intelligence.' But whether the assessment be moderate or full, we have no doubt that it cannot be collected in short years without forcing the ryots into debt. Except in the Panch Maháls, where the land revenue is shown as about 5 per cent. of the produce, this figure being due to the backward character of the people and their primitive methods of cultivation, the assessment in Gujerat is a full one, taking 20 per cent of the produce. Notwithstanding this, the Deputy Director of Agriculture considers that the profits on cultivation in Gujerat are greater than in the Deccan, and we have no doubt that this is so. An assessment of 20 per cent. of the gross produce in a fertile ryotwárí region like Gujerat is not greater than the rents which landlords in many districts of Northern India levy from their tenants for lands of even less productiveness. But, when landlords in Northern India take such high rents, they are obliged to allow suspensions in bad years. We have now stated for each province visited what is, according to the statistics and evidence placed before us, the pressure of the land revenue on the soil. We are aware that in such a complex matter averages are exposed to error; and that the liability to error grows with an increase in the number or diversity of the rates or scales on which the averages are struck. But we have been as careful as we could be in the circumstances, and we feel confidence in the general character of our conclusion. Our general conclusion is that, except in Bombay, where it is full, the incidence of land revenue is low to moderate in ordinary years; it should in no way per se be the cause of indebtedness. But it has been proved by experience in all provinces that the cultivation (i.e. in ryotwárí tracts tile ryots, and in zamíndárí tracts the tenants) fail to lay by from the surplus of good years a sufficiency to meet their obligations when bad years come. In every country the small farmer, whose capital is sunk in his land and his stock, is usually short of ready money when the crops are deficient. This want of ready money is perilously aggravated in India by the total absence of even rudimentary provision to encourage thrift or to secure safe borrowing. Consequently there is in adverse years peculiar need in India for elasticity in the demands made on the cultivator, whether these be revenue or rent. Unless, therefore, provision for suspension and remission of revenue and rent (and in the case of rent for a proportionate relief to the receiver of the rent) be an integral part of the revenue system in any province, the cultivator will be forced to borrow on conditions incompatible with his solvency and independence. The importance of suspensions and remissions of revenue and rent is consequently very great. Even these, however, do not strike at the root of the matter; the true remedy and preventive of indebtedness will be found in the promotion of education; in the development of proper and popular institutions for organised credit and thrift at the very doors of the cultivator; in the removal of the causes inherent in the agrarian system of the country, which force the cultivator into debt; and in the advancement of agricultural 276 efficiency in all its branches. With the question of popular education we are not here concerned, though we cannot pass it by without a recognition of its importance; on the other questions mentioned we proceed to indicate our recommendations under the following heads: Suspensions and remissions of revenue and rent; agricultural banks; the system of granting taqáví loans; organic changes in the existing agrarian system of Bombay, which has led to undue indebtedness; and the improvement of agriculture.But these facts, if new to some hon. Members, are not new to the Government of India. I have here a "strictly confidential" Minute by a very able and distinguished Bombay Civil servant, Sir J. B. Richey, and I venture to trench upon its strict confidence by quoting one or two passages. And here let me say that I thank the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, for his consistent courtesy to Members of this House. He has often shown me confidental documents, and I can say that I have never betrayed his confidence. The documents from which I am quoting were not obtained from the India office, but form part of the library of the late Mr. Bradlaugh. Sir J. B. Richey's paper is of intense interest and is based on "Reports on the economic condition of the masses of the Bombay Presidency." He says that—Notwithstanding certain advantages there is a considerable proportion of cultivators whose fields do not yield them a full year's grain supply.And then, after giving an interesting and striking table, he goes on to say that—It aprears that the fields of ten per cent. of the cultivators are not believed to yield a full year's supply, of which very much at any rate, goes to the money-lender.Ten per cent. of the cultivators of Ahmadabad have only nine months supply. From 33 to 50 per cent. of the cultivators of Kaira have only eight months supply, and after paying their debt only from three to four months supply. In Broach 10 per cent. of the cultivators have only six months supply; and in Surat 15 per cent. for six months supply; and in Panch Maháls the cultivators have only ten months supply.
§ MR. CAINE
The date is 1888, and things have not improved since then. In the Deccan—Authorities are unanimous that many cultivators fail to get a year's supply from their land. The average holding is 32.4 acres, and the average per head of population is 2.5 acres assessed at 11 annas per acre. The quality and natural advantages of the soil appear to be only one-fourth of those possessed by the Gujerat cultivator, though the acreage is double.Here is another interesting statement—The pressure on land is severe, except in Khandesh, and there must be a large proportion of cultivators who have to look for support to other resources besides their holdings.In Khandesh 15 to 66 per cent. of the cultivators have only six to eight months supply after paying debt; in Nasik 50 to 80 per cent. have only six months supply after paying debt; in Ahmadnagar 25 per cent. have from six to eight months supply before paying debt; in Poona 33 to 50 per cent. have six to eight months supply before paying debt; and in Satara 20 to 50 per cent. have only from four to eight months supply before paying debt. Then we come to the Konkan.Reports are unanimous that many cultivators do not get a full year's supply from their holdings.I will not trouble the House with further particulars from this confidential document. I will only say that in twelve districts in the Bombay Presidency in the year 1888 over 40 per cent. of the cultivators had yield enough of sustenance for less than eight months in the year. It is little wonder that these wretched people find it hard to pay rent to the State, and interest to the money-lender, who smears every page of this confidential Report with his slimy track, without getting further and further into debt. I will now turn from this confidential document for Bombay to a similar document for the North West Provinces entitled "Inquiry into the economic condition of the agricultural and labouring classes in the North West Provinces and Oudh" and dated the same year, 1888. This is what the collector of Muttra says—The condition of the labouring class was distinctly worse. Labourers are less permanent than cultivators; they have less credit and do not easily get loans. And they have no cattle to sell, or grain stock to subsist on, so that the margin between their ordinary life and actual want is a very narrow one. To many of this 278 class the past cold weather has been a very trying one. A very noticeable feature in all the statements is the cessation of any purchases except of absolute necessaries of life. The purchase of cloth is at once suspended in years of difficulty, and the weaver class competes with the rest of the labouring class for any work that may be going. In generally well-to-do villages the excessive rain which spoiled the harvest also knocked down houses, and furnished work in repairing them, but in many cases re-construction was postponed until better times came round. Sickness, too, added to the distress; and when easy earthwork was opened at Brindaban, some fever-stricken people were noticed who could hardly carry even quarter-filled baskets.I could quote similar statements from a score of confidential Reports, but will content myself with quoting from one more only, containing the replies from various Local Administrators in 1887. I have given details from Bombay and Northern India; I will just give one sentence from the Central Provinces. I may say in passing that I do not select the worst passages by any means, but rather only those which most fairly demonstrate the truth. Here is a Report from the province of Damoh which is 27,000 square miles in extent equal in area to all Scotland, without the islands—A considerable number of the smaller tenants would seem to be hard pressed, though the Deputy Commissioner makes no mention of any cases of distress, and it is probable that the expenditure has been understated. As in Saugor the number of tenants indebted is very large. Out of 684 tenants in 21 villages, on less than 520 were found to be in debt. Of 44 tenants whose circumstances were inquired into by the District Superintendent of Police, 39 were in debt, the total number of debts aggregating 9,405 rupees on a total rental of only 759 rupees. The case of 19 tenants questioned by the Tahsildar of Hatta was similar, 12 were in debt, owing altogether 1,555 rupees on a rental of 492 rupees. Mr. M'Minn found 72 out of 77 tenants questioned by him to be in debt, 70 owing more than a year's rent. On a rental of 980 rupees the total debt was 14,492 rupees.Now, these Reports do not refer to the famine districts at all. It is a fair statement of the permanent condition of the poor people whose cause I venture to plead in this House to day. The present Government of India, through Sir A. MacDonnell's Report, and in many other ways, have officially admitted the evils resultant from its system, and have begun tentative reforms. But, as Mr. Thorburn says—For more than 70 millions of the sufferers it is too late for any change of the system to be beneficial.279 These words ought to be burnt in letters of fire on the hearts of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, and the Viceroy, as well as on the heart of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton—for Liberal Administrations are as much to blame as Conservative Administrations, and it is very far from me to wish to make this a party question.
I cannot pass from this part of my subject without some reference to the chief evidence of the horrible poverty of the agricultural people of India, the evidence of recurring famine with ever-increasing intensity. These famines are the eruptions of the smouldering volcano of Indian poverty, and the inevitable result of all the causes of poverty to which I have been referring. From cradle to funeral pyre, the life of the Indian peasant is one prolonged, never-ceasing struggle for something to eat. He has no time to think of anything else. Forty millions of them are hungry all the time; 50 millions more are often hungry; and none of them ever get anything better to eat than the coarsest cereals and vegetables, kept down by a little highly-taxed salt, and a few cheap condiments. The whole of these 90 millions are worn by the most carking of all cares—debt they can never pay. When scarcity comes upon them it is little wonder that they lie down and die in heart-broken millions. These famines, when they come, are met with courage, generosity, and skill, and the way in which the Indian Government has brought its system of relief to the highest point of efficiency, obtains the gratitude, and has won the admiration of the world at large. It is now time that the Administrators of India, the choicest men this great Empire can furnish, should address themselves to famine prevention, and this House should refuse no help or encouragement. The Secretary of State for India, in the resolution before the House, invites approval of the several recommendations made in the Report of the Famine Commission. These are excellent in principle, and propose suspensions and remissions of revenue and rent, the establishment of Agricultural Banks; organic changes in the existing agrarian system of one province of India, Bombay; and 280 schemes for the improvement of agriculture. If these are honestly and generously carried out, no doubt much good will result. But at their best they are only palliatives which may relieve the patient for a time, but only postpone the hour of final dissolution. It is certainly a time for suspension and remission of rents, but the recommendations fall lamentably short of what is needed.
I would like to emphasise to the House that one great feature of all these Famine Reports is, that we cannot but feel that the authors would like to go a great deal further than they do; but they are practical men, and only make such recommendations as can be immediately and honestly carried out.
Let me read from page 96 of the "Famine Commissioners Report."It is necessary to lay down the degree of calamity which calls for relief and the degree of relief suitable. It is desirable to fix the relief point low in order to secure that enquiry is made in all cases of extensive crop failure; but, ordinarily, we think relief will not be required when there is half a normal crop.Then with regard to suspensions, par. 282 says—In the case of widespread crop failure relief should proceed from the general to the particular. In such a case general estimates for homogeneous tracts, or groups of villages, or larger territorial areas should be made, and upon these estimates uniform suspension should be worked out.If the calamity is local and isolated, relief should proceed, on the other hand, from the particular to the general. Field to field inquiries should be made, and suspension follow the result of such inquiry.The House will at once see that these recommendations are exclusively palliative, they involve before they can be applied, the existence of calamity, or widespread crop failure. They do not touch the fringe of prevention, and no recommendations are made which reach the root causes of recurrent famine, the rack renting of the Government, and the clutch of the money lender, which exhaust the peasent in times of prosperity, while keeping them just alive for future exhaustion in times of calamity and crop failure by grudging suspensions and remissions. I must in passing justify the epithet of "rack renting" as applied to the Government of India. The amount of land revenue received out of these starving peasants 281 by the Government of India in 1889 was 23,981,000 tens of rupees, in 1892 it was 24,905,000 tens of rupees, in 1895 it was 26,200,000 tens of rupees, in 1897 it was 25,683,000 tens of rupees, in 1898 it was 27,459,000 tens of rupees, in 1899 it was 25,800,000 tens of rupees. During the five years 1889–1894 the average land revenue was 24,500,000 tens of rupees; during five years 1895–1900 the average was 26,000,000 tens of rupees. But let the House note carefully that during the last five years occurred the most disastrous famine in the history of India. I will read to the House the Secretary of State's own description of it.The Secretary of State says that 15 millions sterling had to be found by the Government of India for famine relief alone. During the five years in which the famine years are included the Government squeezed out of the land from which the famine stricken peasants had to get their food, five millions of pounds more than they were able to get during the preceding five years when there was no famine at all!An apt illustration of the coarse old proverb, "What is got over the devil's back returns under his belly."
We are asked to approve the recommendations of Sir Antony MacDonnell's Commission. Let us do so by all means, but in doing so let the House further record its opinion that the time has come to be done with palliatives, and realise in Sir Antony's own words—That the time has come for recognising facts as they exist and for applying those measures which the facts demand, no matter how unwelcome may be the disillusion that they may bring.In making his financial statement last August, the Secretary of State for India said—Since the territories of the East India Company passed over to the authority of the Crown, I doubt if any Secretary of State has been able to make a more satisfactory statement than it will fall to my lot to unfold the surpluses of income over expenses are large, continuous and progressive.These surpluses which give the noble Lord such reasons for pride are one of the main causes of that poverty of the Indian peasant which, like those surpluses, is large, continuing, and progressive.
I must now pass on to the second part of my Amendment. I hope I have established to the satisfaction of the 282 House that the poverty of the Indian peasant is real and chronic. Is it steadily increasing in volume and area? I may almost claim to have already established this proposition, as I have gone along. It is of vital importance that we should know, with the full authority of the Secretary of State for India, whether the Indian agricultural population is or is not, getting steadily poorer. There is a steadily increasing school of Indian politicians who, for the last thirty years have been insisting that there are two Indias—British India and Indian India—that the former gets richer and the latter gets poorer year after year, and that India is being slowly, but surely, "bled to death." The "Isaiah" of this school of thought is Mr. Dadhabbai Naoroji, and its "Jeremiah" Mr. William Digby. C.I.E. Mr. Naoroji was once a Member of this House, and has left behind him a fragrant memory and deep respect for his earnest, unselfish devotion to the people of the land of his birth. Mr. Digby is a man of authority on this question, with a long record of Indian famine experience, who received his Companionship of the Indian Empire as a reward for eminent service in Madras famine administration.
Mr. Digby has recently published a book of 650 pages, entitled "'Prosperous' British India," which, whatever may be thought of its conclusions, deserves the attention of every Indian politician, from the Viceroy and Secretary of State downwards. Although this school of Indian thought has not attained the consideration it deserves in this country, whose ideas of India are mostly formed from military novels and melodramas, at the Missionary meeting, or from Mr. Rudyard Kipling's works, it has obtained a passionate support from educated India, especially that section which is identified with the Indian National Congress. Mr. Digby's book formulates it into a definite charge. It may be summed up in a single statement, upon which Mr. Digby stakes his entire case—that the income of the Indian people per head per day in 1850 was two pence, in 1880, on the authority of Lord Curzon and Sir David Barbour it had fallen to three-half-pence, and in 1900 it had fallen to three 283 farthings. Mr. Digby professes to rest his case entirely on authoritative Government statistics, and in his book constitute a formidable indictment of our Indian Administration, and whatever we may think of his conclusions, he undoubtedly furnishes material for the proper study of the subject and the formation of our own conclusions. But, I do not commit myself to any of Mr. Digby's statements, premisses, or deductions—with thousands of other Indian politicians I wait with eager interest the reply the Government of India is bound to give, and which I hope may come from the noble Lord himself to-night. I sincerely trust that he may be able to rout Mr. Digby, and make mince meat of his terrible indictment. If he can, no one will be more pleased than Mr. Digby himself. I cannot bring myself to such precise charges as these formulated by this important school of thought, nor can I always accept either its premises or its conclusions. But viewed broadly, it has truth on its side, and I have found it impossible to doubt, as the result of independent inquiry, that the chronic poverty of agricultural India is steadily on the increase, and if not turned backwards will in time result in the bankruptcy and ruin of our Indian Empire. I am at any rate satisfied, that every famine leaves some part of India permanently poorer.
Let me put the Secretary of State himself in the witness box—He said last August in this House, with regard to the recent famine—Putting aside the misery, privation, and the mortality inflicted upon humanity alone by this awful visitation, the property lost to the agricultural community in Western India is estimated to be not less than £50,000,000 sterling.What is the value of his five million surplus in face of this frightful admission? Of course, compared with 1895, the agricultural people of India are poorer by fifty millions. It would take more than fifty millions to restore the famine districts to their old prosperity, and enable them to pay the rents which are needed for Budget surpluses and to meet the recurring demands of the money-lending cormorant. There is another evidence of increasing poverty among the Indian peasants in the fact, that the net area 284 sown with crops in India has diminished during the last five years. In the five years, 1890 and 1894, the average area was 192 millions, in the five years, 1895 and 1900, the average area was 188 millions, and the drop in the year, 1899 and 1900 was from £196,000,000 in the previous year to 180 millions. Of course this is accounted for by the famine. I quote it only in corroboration of the noble Lord's estimate of 50 millions material loss. During the last five years the Indian agriculturist was the poorer by the crops of 22 millions of arable land, an area equal to that of two-thirds of all England. Perhaps the most serious loss is that of cattle, which cannot be replaced except by the growth of time and the acquisition of fresh wealth for their purchase. Four million cattle died in the recent famine. It is a pathetic detail of this loss, that a London hide merchant told me the other day that the Indian hides had greatly depreciated on the market, because so many of them had four holes in them—pierced by the shoulder and hip bones as the wretched animals slowly starved to death. I will not labour this point by many other evidences which are apparent proving the paralysing impoverishment of the recent terrible famine which has left the Indian peasantry, in one way and another, a good hundred millions poorer than they were five years ago. We have, however two authoritative statements with regard to the income of the agricultural population to which I have already made slight reference, which opposed to the views of Mr. Naoroji and Mr. Digby, declare that this income in 1900 was 20 rupees per head, while in 1882 it was only 18 rupees and both estimates have been prepared from the same data. Let me read to the House a few sentences from Lord Curzon's speech in Council on the Financial Statement of the year, 1901, on the 27th March last—
said—I have had worked out for me from figures collected for the Famine Commission of 1868, the latest estimate of the value of the Agricultural production of India, the calculations of 1880 showed an average Agricultural income of Rs. 18 per head. If I take the figures of the recent census for the same area as was covered by the earlier computation, I find that the Agricultural income has actually increased… 285 and that the average per head is Rs. 20, or 2 Rupees higher than in 1880.The Viceroy appeals to his critics to hold their judgment in suspense. I have held my own judgment in this matter in suspense for many a long year past, waiting for some serious attempt to destroy adverse criticism, and reassure me with regard to such fierce critics as Messrs. Naoroji and Digby, but it does not appear. These gentlemen deluge us with data culled by them from Government sources which seem to justify their horrible and depressing pessimism. At last the Viceroy speaks out. He tells us that the average income of the agricultural population has risen during the last 20 years from 18 rupees per head to 20.
I may remind the House in passing that my criticisms of to-day are based entirely on the Viceroy's estimate of 20 rupees, but he himself blows on his own data. He says—I do not say these data are incontrovertible. There is an element of the conjectural in them.So there were in the figures of 1880, the uncertainty in both of them is precisely the same. There is nothing conjectural or uncertain about Mr. Digby's data. There is a robust certainty, an arranged deliberateness, a total absence of conjecture that is at any rate refreshing and intelligent, however right or wrong may be Mr. Digby's conclusions, on which I make no comment and to which I do not commit myself. But I have a right to ask the noble Lord how long he expects us to hold our judgment in suspense. He gives us no help in our efforts to arrive at the truth. Here, in the Viceroy's speech, are two important documents referred to, for one of which Lord Cromer and Sir David Barbour are responsible, and for the other of which the present distinguished Viceroy himself is responsible. One was prepared in 1882, the other in 1901. These data are declared with the emphatic authority of the Viceroy himself to show that the income of the Indian peasant is progressive, not retrogressive. But these data are treated as a close secret and refused to us, yet the Secretary of State expects us to accept his "ipse dixit" and rest content. The first of these important documents, prepared by Sir David Barbour and 286 adopted by Lord Curzon is 20 years old. It was asked for in Parliament in 1893 and refused. I asked for it last week. Let me read to the House my Question and Answer—Mr. CAINE: To ask the Secretary of State for India if he will lay upon the Table of the House and circulate to Members the note by Sir David Barbour, R.C.S.I., entitled "An Inquiry into the Incidence of Taxation in British India, 1881,"which is the authority upon whom Lord Cromer rests his statement in British India was 18 rupees per head of the population: and has he yet received a copy of the official memorandum prepared for the Viceroy of India from figures collected for the Famine Commission of 1898, showing the latest estimate of the value of agricultural production in India from which the Viceroy, in a speech to his Council on March 28th, 1901, estimated the average agricultural income per head at 20 rupees; and if so, will he lay it upon the Table of the House and print it for circulation as a Parliamentary Paper.REPLY. To the first part of the hon. Members' Question my answer is that, as has already been stated in answer to a question in this House in the year 1893, the Note to which it refers is of a confidential nature, and was based on information which is now from 20 to 30 years old. For these reasons I do not think it expedient to present it to Parliament. (2) In reply to the second Question I have not received a copy of the memorandum referred to, and I must consult the Viceroy before I can reply to the Question. (3) There is a long and voluminous report on an inquiry instituted by Lord Dufferin before 1888 into the Agricultural population, and I propose to publish this.The noble Lord says the memorandum is of a "confidential nature," but Lord Cromer describes it as based on figures collected by the Famine Committee of 1880 and published in 1882. What on earth can there be "confidential" in such as this? His other reason for referring to it is that it is from 20 to 22 years old. But it has been brought up to date by Lord Curzon's treatment of it, who has constructed a document of his own on precisely the same lines and declares that as a result of the compression of the two, that the Agricultural income was actually increased, and that the average per head is 20 rupees, or two rupees higher than in 1880.
The Secretary of State actually confesses to having never seen the memorandum on which Lord Curzon bases this estimate, although it is a year or two since it was completed—yet the publication of these two documents is a vital element in 287 this controversy and if the data upon which they are based to justify the conclusions drawn, the Naoroji-Digby school which is always proclaiming to the world the sad and increasing poverty of the Indian cultivator would be put out of business once and for all. I am glad we are to have the inquiry instituted by Lord Dufferin in 1888, but if it is to dispel the arguments of the pessimist, it appears to me a great pity we did not get it in 1889, twelve years ago. I again press upon the noble Lord the prompt publication of these two all important documents. If they are conclusive to Lord Curzon, they should be conclusive to us all. Let me in a single point demonstrate to the House how impossible it is to judge of the soundness of the comparison of these two estimates of twenty rupees in 1901, and eighteen rupees in 1882 without the data on which they are based. The moment I read Lord Curzon's speech I asked myself and I now ask the Secretary of State for India if he had taken into account the difference in the purchasing power of the rupee at the two dates? A rupee to an Indian peasant represents so much food, it has no other meaning to his mind. I now ask the noble Lord to turn to page 321 of the last issue of the Indian Statistical Abstract where there is set out a table showing the variation from 1873 to 1900in the average annual retail prices of seven food grains at selected centres. He will find the prices are based on the 1873 prices, which are represented throughout at 100, and in the following years the variations are shown as so much below or so much above 100. I will give the House the figures of the year 1881, which I understand to be the year on which Sir David Barbour and Lord Cromer's estimate of eighteen rupees of income is based, and those of 1898, on which Lord Curzon has based his estimate of twenty rupees, and his consequent declaration that the peasant is better off by two rupees per head per annum to-day compared with twenty years ago. In 1881, rice was 97, wheat 101, jawar 94, bajra 98, ragi 99, gram 106, and barley 97. In 1898, rice was 157,wheat 145, jawar 131, bajra 130, ragi 174, gram 135, and barley 111. These figures show that the price of these grains was far higher for Lord Curzon's year than for Lord Cromer's year. Rice was higher 60 per cent., wheat 44, jawar 39, bajra 32, ragi 288 75, gram 42, and barley 21. Taking the average throughout grain foods which absorb 60 per cent. of the peasants expenditure were just 45 per cent. higher at the time of Lord Curzon's 20 rupees than they were at the time of Lord Cromer's 18. I will strengthen and endorse these figures by comparing the five years of 1800–1884, Lord Cromer's period, with the five years, 1896–1900, Lord Curzon's period, and taking not single years as I have just done, and as these two great authorities have also done, but periods of five years. For 1880–1884 rice was 132, wheat 103, jawar 97, bajra 103, ragi 105, gram 102, and barley 97. For 1896–1900 rice was 170, wheat 164, jawar 160, bajra 170, ragi 169, gram 178, and barley 157. Taking the average throughout, the five years of Lord Cromer's period are 6 per cent higher than the 1873 prices, and Lord Curzon's five years are 67 per cent higher than 1873 prices, and 61 per cent higher than Lord Cromer's. I cannot, of course, press this rise in price universally as showing the increase of poverty. There is the counter consideration of how far the agricultural people of India are benefitted by high prices of this produce. But that is not very far. The small farmer parts with his grain to the bunya, or moneylender, who fixes his own price, while the agricultural labourer who buys from the bunya pays the high price, for it must be remembered the tables are based on the average annual retail prices. Then I ask the House to consider what an advance of 60 percent in the price of food means to the millions of people, afflicted by drought, whose own crops have failed, and who must buy their food. These figures and consideration, demonstrate very forcibly the utter worthlessness of such a statement as Lord Curzon's, unless accompanied by the data which enables him to arrive at it. In my use of Lord Curzon's statement, I give him credit for having taken this and everything else into account, for the case is bad enough for all my purposes without discounting it in any way.
I think it worth while to have submitted these figures to the House for the further purpose of showing, that side by side with increasing poverty, that increasing poverty is made worse by enhanced prices of the necessities of life. I hope the noble Lord can tell us definite- 289 ly if Lord Curzon's has taken these enhanced prices into consideration, or whether they form one of those elements of conjecture and uncertainity which he warns us his data possess? I hope I have succeeded in convincing the House that there is good reason why it should adopt the first part of the Amendment, I should have moved—had opportunity been given—that the poverty of the Indian people engaged in agricultural pursuits has not only become chronic, but is steadily increasing in volume and area. I fear I have wearied hon. Members in the process, but the subject is one of such vast importance that I must continue to beg their indulgence while I deal as briefly as possible with the second put of my proposal.
I ask for a new policy with regard to Indian poverty—its prompt relief by a diminution of civil and military expenditure, and a policy of prevention in place of a policy of palliation. I do not think it ought to be expected from anyone who has not free access to all the information possessed by the Government that he should formulate a scheme by which famines may gradually become impossible and the poverty of the people decreased, but there are some self-evident fact which any student of Indian sociology can state. I believe nothing permanent can be effected until the moneylender difficulty is solved, and a great progressive scheme of irrigation established. Drain, debt, and drought are the root causes of both poverty and famine, which are the inevitable outcome of permanent poverty in a country dependent on stored water. Debt, drain, and drought, therefore, are the three devils which had to be exorcised, and a vast sum of money will be needed to effect their destruction. The House will note that in my Resolution asked for no remission of taxation. To try to deal with these three devils by a remission of the salt tax, agricultural banks, suspensions or remissions of the Land Tax, and schemes for the improvement of cultivation is simply holding a candle to the three devils. These things are all well enough in their way, as palliatives, in the meantime, but they are only eau-de-Cologne and a fan; when a blue pill and a black draught are wanted. Drain, Debt and Drought—Drought, Debt, and Drain—get rid of these, and India's prosperity 290 will begin. It never will while they remain in possession. Money alone will get rid of them. India's taxation produces noble surpluses, in spite of heavy famine expenditure. The last two years, takon together, show cash surpluses of 4¼ millions sterling. During the same two years, there was famine expenditure of £9,000,000. Therefore, but for this abnormal expenditure, those two years would have shown surpluses of nearly £14,000,000, or £7,000,000 each, and I understand that this year will fall not far short of that amount. But it is far better that these surpluses should go to the prevention of poverty by a wise, large, progressive, and permanent scheme of irrigation, than be merely shared out in annas and pice by the abolition of the sale tax, great as such a boon would be, and largely as cheap salt would help to diminish cholera and other epidemics. £5,000,000 a year wisely spent on irrigation works and torage tanks, would, in 20 years, make drought and its result, famine, impossible for India. But apart from famine expenditure, the Government have got the money in their surpluses. Last year about £6,000,000 was spent on railways, and I think, speaking roughry,—I have not the figures by me—three-quaters of a million on irrigation.
§ MR. CAINE
I only wish to say that it ought to have been just the reverse. Railways may be good for famine relief, but irrigation is good for famine prevention.
Debt, however, is the bigger problem. The Indian peasantry is hopelessly bankrupt. Even under improved conditions induced by the destruction of famine caused by drought, they would still be in the permanent clutch of the usurer. Why should not the Government take the bull by the horns, pay off the money-lender everywhere on just and equitable terms, prohibit the alienation of land, and resettle the land tax on equitable terms, taking good and bad years into account, including (wherever it can be borne) the interest on the cleared debt, remitting it once for all where it cannot be borne on the holding. That appears a formidable 291 scheme, but its details would be as nothing to the finest civil service in the world. It is a formidable scheme. It requires £200,000,000 to carry out. But what is £200,000,000 to us? We have voted it with a light heart for a war. What is £30,000,000 on irrigation works to us? We have a Bill before the House to spend £40,000,000 on the water supply of London. Why not spend a smaller amount on the great reform in India? But I have not long since said that the total debt to moneylenders is £230,000,000. I believe an equitable settlement would bring it out at far less. Wherever usury has been enforced, and the interest charged has been excessive, it would be only fair to take the excess into account as capital repaid, and pay only whatever balance was then due. I believe that £200,000,000 in hard cash would buy up every agricultural debt in India. Borrow the money at 3½per cent of the money-lenders themselves by issuing Government stock for whatever the settled claim might be, and so get rid of the debt, and keep the interest in India to be spent in the villages by the money-lenders. It would add £7,000,000 to Indian annual expenditure—true; but it would give prosperous peasants able to pay their taxes in place of a nation of bankrupt, and hungry wretches who, unless this is done can pay neither debt, interest, nor taxes. But the Imperial Exchequer ought to bear the whole of this burden, for we are year by year robbing India by forcing upon her exchequer expenditure that ought justly to be borne by ourselves far beyond the interest needed to clear out the money-lender at once and for ever. I will not labour out all the items; they are fully set out in the minority Report of the Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure, of which body I was a member. I will touch on only two or three.
A year ago, in moving an Amendment to the King's Speech, I called the attention of the House to the fact that there were 28,000 troops borne on the Indian establishment, which had been borrowed by the British Government, employed in South Africa, China and Hong Kong, the Mauritius, Singapore, Ceylon, and Juba land. Some 292 have gone back, but the Secretary of State informed the House last week that there are still some 20,000 outside India to-day. For over two years, probably running to three, from 20,000 to 30,000 troops, British and native, for whom India has paid all the capital charges of recruiting and transport, and whose maintenance is a permanent charge on India, have been employed in service, in foreign countries where India has no particular interest, and in a colony where Indians are treated more like dogs than fellow-subjects, Britain paying only the wages and food of the men while thus employed. So far as the necessities of India are concerned, she could safely dispense altogether with these 30,000 troops. They are simply a reserve force of the British Army, planted upon India to the relief of the British taxpayer, quartered in India as a reserve force for the defence of the British Empire in the East, from Cape Colony to Peking. Common equity demands, if the Indian Army is to be kept at its present numbers, that one-seventh of its cost should be borne on the British estimates, one-seventh of its numbers being treated as a reserve of the British Army, quartered in India for convenience, and with a special view to service in the Eastgenerally. Apart, however, from this simple act of equity, the Indian Army is kept at its present strength, not for the maintenance of law and order, for which less than one-half would suffice, but because of that foolish dread of Russia, to appease which, more than anything else, the Indian taxpayer has been drained to the verge of utter bankruptcy. But for this Russian bogey, all the military needs of India could be met with less than half the present expenditure, £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 would be set free for peaceful enterprises, and every reform that I have suggested could be set strongly afoot, with a generous remission of taxation to accompany them on their journey of blessing. No reasonable politician in this country now believes that any Russian Government would be so mad as to embark on such a ruinous adventure as the conquest of India, to take upon its already overburdened back the additional burden 293 of the poorest country on the face of the earth, exposed to the sea attack of the strongest navy on the seas. As long ago as 1877, Prince Gortchakoff declared that the idea of the conquest of India by Russia was a perfect impossibility, and, if practicable, an act of supreme folly. Russia has her own civilising mission north of he Himalayas, as Britain has south of the Himalayas, and it would be an act of suicidal madness or either to cross that boundary to invade the other. There is no fear of Russian invasion for 100 years to come, even if Russia desired it, and, even if there were there is no need for such a British occupation of India as is meant by 75,000 troops. The reduction of that garrison to 50,000 would still leave it as strong as it was the year after the Mutiny, and India is now peaceful, law-abiding, and intensely loyal to British over-rule. The cost of these 25,000 British troops would mean £3,000,000 a year set free for the enrichment of the peasant. If it is still thought fit to continue them in India for possible service in the East and China, it would be an act of simple justice to give India an annual grant of £3,000,000 for their maintenance. But if they were withdrawn, what matter? Have we not just thrown 250,000 soldiers into the Cape? It would be as easy to throw them into India, and have them there for twelve months, before Russia could cross Afghanistan with an army worth the name; and such an effort on the part of Russia would mean hopeless financial ruin to her Government before a shell conld be fired at Quetta or Peshawur. For downright political idiocy, commend me to the Russian bogey. It is the most inveterate prejudice which ever dominated a sensible people; Lord Salisbury himself has called it an "antiquated superstition." I wish he would clear it out of the mind of the Secretary of State for India, of his Viceroy, and, if possible, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton. Like many other superstitions, it is a murderous one. It has slain millions of the poor, patient, starving people of India during the last 30 years, and depleted Indian resources of £300,000,000 which, spent for the 294 benefit of the Indian peasant, would have saved every famine of the last twenty years. When India is governed by reason instead of by prejudice, the sun of her salvation will arise, but never before.
I will not labour the question of military and civil expenditure further than by a short reference to possible economies in the higher civil service. There are, roughly, altogether 8,000 Europeans in the Indian civil service, receiving in salaries and expenses over £5,000,000 in the year, while 130,000 Indians receive half a million less, about £4,500,000. Of the 8,000 Europeans, the employment given to fully 3,000 might with justice and efficiency be given to natives of India, who would be glad to do the work at salaries that would effect a saving of quite half a million sterling. What is the use of the vast, costly, and elaborate system of University Education in India if the graduates are practically shut out of the national careers which in this country are taken up by our own graduates? The Indian civil service is fenced against the sons of that country by monstrous and impossible conditions for the great bulk of them, and Parliament ought, without delay, to tear these, fences down. But another half a million might be saved to India out of the £2,000,000 spent on superanuation allowances and pensions. The bulk of Indian covenanted civilians retire after twenty-five years of service, of which four are furlough. I would extend the service to thirty-five years, with five years furlough, before retirement on full pension was permitted. When the twenty-five years was fixed, residence in India was a different thing from now. Everything that can make life easy and healthy in the Indian, climate is now provided for the Civil servant. When he gets furlough he can go to a dozen fine sanatoria in the hills, or can run home in twelve days from Bombay to London. At 50 he comes home for good, with £1,000 a year pension, and, if he has been reasonably prudent, savings of £10,000 or so. I never see men who carry their years so well, or who are fitter for hard work at their age. They make themselves useful on City Companies as directors, they are valuable 295 public men on the London County Council; they come into this House, and work in line with the most industrious of us all. Such names as Sir Richard Temple, Sir George Campbell, Sir William Wedderburn, and Sir George Balfour, are reminders of this to those who like myself have had twenty years experience of this House. Sir Charles Elliott is Chairman of the Finance Committee of the London School Board, and Sir Henry Bliss is an Alderman of the London County Council. Ten years more work in India would hurt none of them. It is sheer folly to withdraw them in the prime of life at their richest period of experience, in the very summit of their capacity.
I could easily indicate another million of money which could be got from other economies, and an equitable readjustment of charges between the British and Indian Exchequers, but they are all set out in the minority Report of the Indian Expenditure Commission prepared by Sir William Wedderburn, Mr. D. Naoroji, and myself, and I must content myself by referring hon. Members who may desire to look further into the matter to that report. I hope, Sir, that I have been able to indicate the possibility in such economic reforms as I have touched upon of securing from the existing financial resources quite enough money to restore the agricultural people of India to a reasonable and permanent prosperity. I thank both parties in this House for the kind and courteous consideration which they have given to a long, and I am afraid, a rather dull speech. I do not attach myself to extreme views upon this question, to which I have made frequent reference, nor do I agree with all their conclusions. I do hope, however, that I have said enough to convince the House that the poverty of India is terrible, chronic, and progressive, and that it ought to be dealt with in the most drastic way possible.
§ *(10.4.) LORD G. HAMILTON
I am a little reluctant to interpose at so early a stage in the debate, because I know I may prevent my hon. friends who wish to take part in this debate from addressing the House, but the hon. Member for Camborne has spoken at such length and made so many suggestions that I feel bound to interpose at this early period of the debate. I 296 agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is no question more worthy of the attention of this House than the material condition of the masses of our fellow-subjects in India. I have more than once stated my opinion that our main claim, our only claim, to rule India is the belief that we can improve the material prosperity of those who live within its borders; and if it can be shown that we have failed in that duty, and that that material prosperity has deteriorated, there is a flaw in our title to govern India which cannot easily be remedied or effaced. what does that mean? It affects the credit of every section of the nationalities who sit in this House. It affects England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland; and speaking as an Irishman, I am disposed to think that there is no part of the United Kingdom which has more contributed to the foundation of our Empire in India than Ireland. An indictment such as that which the hon. Member has just delivered means, if it be true, that we have failed in India to a terrible extent. For nearly half a century India has been under the control of the Crown. This nation has had in its possession the greater part of India for more than a century. We have during that time established peace from one end to the other of that country. We have established equality between race and creed, justice between man and man.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
We have established, in spite of the denunciation by the hon. Gentleman, the lightest system of taxation which exists in Asia. We have spent hundreds of millions in developing the material prosperity of the country, assisted by the most modern science and civilisation. We have offered every inducement to the best products of our public schools and Universities, and of our social system to go out and take part in the military and civil administration of India; and we have selected the very ablest men that political and Parliamentary life could produce to put at the head of that Ministerial hierarchy. If the result of all that has 297 been that we have done harm rather than good to the people whom we wish to benefit, the failure has been, indeed, a great and fundamental one. On what does the hon. Gentleman base his allegation? I agree at once that India is very poor. I admit that one section of the agricultural community are becoming more and more in debt, and that we have had two of the most terrible droughts of which history has a record; but I absolutely deny that the material condition of the country has fallen back during the last few years, or that India is poorer or more wretched than she was twenty or thirty years ago. The hon. Gentleman at the end of his speech alluded to past surpluses. I may say that there is every prospect of an equally big surplus this year. The hon. Member is a man of business, and I put this simple question to the hon. Gentleman, whether the income of an individual or a community could steadily augment year by year and yet the one or the other become poorer and poorer by the process as it goes on.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Yes, certainly. It is the case in Ireland. The public income is increasing by millions.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The taxation in India has remained stationary, and it therefore becomes an impossibility that the community can become poorer and poorer while the income is steadily increasing.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
There have been no new taxes imposed since I have been in office; the only alteration in the financial and fiscal system has been a reduction in customs. If I wished to describe the material condition of India by comparison, I might liken it to this great metropolis, this City of London. It might seem at first sight that there is little resemblance between that great dependency and this great city, the centre and capital of the richest Empire in the world. No one will deny that within the last twenty years London has made most extraordinary strides in the wealth and attainments and habits of its population, and 298 in all the outward attributes of material prosperity. It has increased in income in rateable value—or, tested by any gauge economic science can suggest, there have been great strides in material advance. And yet it is but a few years back that those interested in social subjects were startled by the statements in Mr. Charles Booth's well-known book in which he analysed the conditions of the people of London, classifying them according to their incomes, their wealth and poverty, including those who were in receipt of Poor Law relief, those who were in chronic want, and those who, from time to time, had difficulties in obtaining the necessities of civilised life. The result of his investigations, minute and elaborate, was that he estimated not less than 30 per cent. of the population of this great city were in a condition equivalent to pauperism. So it is that you may have two different sets of economic phenomena attached to the same community, separate and not affecting each other; you have a community in the aggregate wealthy, and increasing in prosperity and all the outward attributes of material wealth, and yet at the same time inside that community there may be a dense mass of poverty. And such I believe to be the condition of India. I believe we have, on the whole, improved, substantially improved, the condition; but there is still a dense mass of poverty, which let us do all we can to mitigate and alleviate. Now the hon. Gentleman spoke of palliatives, which he rather ridiculed.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Well, he wished to dismiss them for the future and have recourse to drastic remedies to get rid of drought and debt. Now, has the hon. Gentleman, or have any of those who have worked with him, ever thought or attempted to realise what drought in India means? Has any human being belief in the power of mortal man to stop drought in India?
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Yes, where you have great rivers, perennial rivers, whose sources are in great glaciers outside India, in the immediate neighbourhood of those rivers it is possible to avert the effects of drought when no rain fails. But take the rest of the country. You have two Asiatic peninsulas not far from each other—the peninsula of Arabia and the peninsula of India—in very much the same latitude, not dissimilar in area and dimensions. Arabia is in the main a great sandy desert, inhabited by a few nomads who eke out a miserable existence by preving on each other. India has a population within its borders of a fifth of the human race, and yet in productive years they live there cheaper than in any other part of the world. What constitutes the remarkable difference between the two peninsulas? Rain. It is quite true that poverty and famine may arise from different sources, from war, or a state of affairs little short of war, from oppression, over-taxation, from unwillingness to cultivate because those who sow are not sure they will reap, indifference and ignorance; but in India one cause alone since the British Government have had control has caused famine, and that is drought. No doubt if you could elevate the people to a higher standard there might be less distress and greater power of resistance to drought when it comes; but even if the hon. Member were to carry out all the schemes—mad schemes I will call some of them—he has mentioned to-night, if you bring up the people of India to a standard of comfort such as no European nation has over attained, if for ten years no more rain fell than the recent average, no mortal power could prevent India from becoming an arid and depopulated desert.
What does drought mean? It is not a question of food; the scarcity of food in a district affected by drought is the least of the evils with which the Government of India have to deal. There is nearly always a sufficiency of food in India to feed all the people within its limits, and owing to the development of the railway system the British Government are able, no matter what part of the country may be 300 affected, to pour in sufficient food to maintain the people of the district. But 80 per cent. of the people of India are agriculturists; they depend upon agriculture; and when drought sets in over any large portion of India for any lengthened period all employment ceases, all wage-earning power goes, industry is paralysed, and the whole community is affected; the means of transport cease, the cattle die, vegetation disappears, and for one person who dies from want of food, many, many more die from bad water. In this country, with all our variety of employment, if, in a winter, frost is prevalent continuously for a month, six weeks, or two months, agricultural work fails and great depression is caused, although we have an elaborate system of poor relief. But think what it is in India, when all employment ceases, when no one is able to obtain employment or earn a livelihood. If, during the past year, a larger number of persons have been in receipt of famine relief in distressed districts, this is not due to deterioration in their physical condition; but it is due to the unparalleled duration and intensity of the last two droughts with which we have had to deal. And the evidence that we have, both in the Report of Sir Antony MacDonnell and in previous Reports, shows that the people have sustained and faced the recent disaster with less loss of life, more courageously, and more effectively, than they did any previous visitation of less severity for many years back. In the last great famine before the two which the hon. Gentleman referred to, which occurred in India in the year 1876–77, the mortality was far greater than in either of the later disasters. And the Reports show that the people who were on relief were of a higher social standing than those who sought relief during the recent famine, and that far more land then went out of cultivation than has recently been the case. Therefore, I think I may fairly contend that, so far as famine is concerned, we have conclusive evidence that the people are better able to sustain the terrible infliction imposed upon them by drought than they were before.
And when, in addition to that, we take the tests which are applied to 301 other countries as proof of financial or material prosperity and apply them to India, we find that, notwithstanding these terrible local visitations, every branch of the Revenue, except land revenue, is improving, that the powers of consumption and the powers of production outside the distressed areas are steadily increasing, that all branches of indirect taxation are also improving, and that the exports and imports—particularly those which relate to the masses—are increasing in volume. Is not that clear and indisputable evidence that on the whole, notwithstanding the deplorable effect of recent droughts, the community of India is prosperous and her economic condition is slightly improving and not deteriorating?
It always seems to me that there is no country about which it is more dangerous to indulge in generalities than India. The history of India is unique; no country has a history like it. So far as her history goes back, it has been a record of one succession of invaders pouring down from the mountains and settling in the plains below, and there is not one solitary instance of those settlers ever returning to the mountains. They have gone on pushing the people they have found on the plains lower and lower down the peninsula. And so it came to pass that there is a mosaic of races, and of creeds, and of religions, and a variety of customs in immediate contiguity one to another which cannot be found in any other part of the world. And this being the case, it is most unwise for anybody to generalise from the individual experience which we obtain from any one particular locality and to try to apply that experience to the rest of that great continent. India is not inhabited by one race and one nationality, but by many races and many nationalities. And the ordinary life of the agriculturist in India is so dull and monotonous that little interest is taken in their lot in ordinary times. It is only when they are suffering some great affliction, some terrible natural visitation such as the recent droughts, that in this country and elsewhere people's interest is excited, and then all their attention is concentrated on the particular afflicted spot. Those who are interested go to the most distressed portions of the affected districts, and 302 they generalise upon their microscopic experience in a limited area, and attempt to apply that to the whole of the great continent.
The hon. Gentleman spoke at great length upon the indebtedness of the agriculturists, and he gave the House clearly to understand that that indebtedness is due to rack-rent.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The hon. Gentleman did not quote fairly, because he must have known that Sir Antony MacDonnell, in his Report, lays down exactly the reverse. I do not wish to weary the House at this late hour with too many extracts from persons of unquestioned authority, but the unpleasant feature concerning the indebtedness of the agriculturist in India is that it does not arise from over-assessment or too heavy land revenue; it results from light land revenue. If we had so taxed the agriculturist that he could not get a livelihood out of his holding, the money-lender would not advance large sums on a security that was of little value. It is to the fact that we have given this asset of great value to the great agriculturists, and to the fact we have also, by the alterations which we have effected in the law, given the money-lender facilities that he never had before, and security which he never had before, that we must attribute this great increase in indebtedness. I have on more than one occasion in this House ventured to express my opinion that, as regards the future of India, the most serious difficulties that this country can have to encounter are not inherited with the system of native government which we took over or inherent in that system, but they are of our own creation.
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I quite agree with the hon. Member, that we were in too great haste to try to apply Western ideas to India. But when the hon. Member made his speech, he repudiated those ideas. It seemed to me to be a speech which, in Indian history, will almost rank with the speech recently made at Chesterfield; 303 it is cleaning the slate. He has wiped out all those doctrines and all those little principles which, when he first came into Parliament, were inseparably associated with the political Party to which he belongs. I have always thought it was a great misfortune—
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Does the noble Lord imply that any speech has been made at Chesterfield or elsewhere, professing to dispense with all the doctrines of the Party to which the speaker belongs?
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
The right hon. Gentleman is no more an authority on the speech made at Chesterfield than I am. Neither of us was present, and we both read it. As I read it, it was a repudiation certainly of most that the speaker had previously professed, and an intimation that he could carry on our policy better than we can ourselves. I could quote phrase after phrase in that speech, which is conclusive evidence in favour of the contention I have just put forward. The hon. Gentleman belonged, I think, to the strict school of political economy when he first entered this House. He has, I think, very properly given expression to the unwisdom of trying to govern India, and above all, to regulate her land system, by a strict application of the rigid principles of political economy. What Sir Antony MacDonnell points out (and this is also what the hon. Gentleman points out) is that the authors of the land revenue system in Bombay considered that the best way toExcite the cultivator to independence and to create agricultural capital" was "to exempt him as much as possible from the pupilage and surveillance of Government officers.There was, it was said—An obvious advantage to get land out of the hands of cultivators unable to pay their way and to transfer it to cultivators with more capital….As the customs and native revenue systems of India are adverse to land transfers, it is therefore all the more necessary to adopt measures for giving them effect. Accordingly," said Sir Antony, it was decided that there should be no interferance by Government officers with the people, and that no inquiries should be made regarding the financial condition of the cultivators. Thus things were left to take their own course, and the result was—as invariably happens when an ignorant and improvident peasantry can dispose without 304 restriction of valuable rights in land—that the cultivators sank deeper into debt, and that their property began to pass out of their hands.What was the origin of the indebtedness? It was the low assessment of what Sir Antony points out was a very valuable property. But it is not only the authority of Sir Antony MacDonnell to which I can refer the House. No man has given expression more strongly to this idea of the imprudence of the cultivator before he knows how to make use of the value of land paying so low an assessment, than Mr. Thorburn. Mr. Thorburn delivered a very remarkable lecture on this very question a short time ago to the Fabian Society; and he pointed out, as one of the causes of these people being reduced to the necessity of alienating their lands, the encouragement we had given to the money-lender by a low assessment. I am not finding fault with the money-lenders, for they are as essential to the cultivatorsas their spades or the ploughs. But an advantage was given to the money-lenders by the system of low assessment, and the increased facilities which under process of law, they have obtained for recovering the money they advance. Mr. Thorburn compares two communities, one in native and the other in British territory, where the conditions are the same, except that the land assessment in the native territory is double the assessment in the British territory; and he remarks that the cultivators in the latter case are indebted, partially expropriated, and utterly miserable in the grip of the money-lenders and of our "system," while their brethern in the other village, although poor, were unindebted, the sole right-holders in their villages, and each of their villages is still a vigorous self-governing community. He adds that he does not give these instances as a plea for high assessment, but as a proof that, until our system is thoroughly reformed, the lighter the rating of land the easier was the road to ruin. There is a gentleman who took a very active part in the management of the famine in Northern Bombay—a man of large experience and great humanity—Mr. Lely—and he made a remarkable speech in the Council of the Governor of Bombay. He took the trouble to go to 305 village after village and ascertain the exact amount of indebtedness of a certain number of the cultivators with the view of ascertaining if it was in any way due to assessment; and he shows in the most conclusive way that it not only had nothing to do with the Government assessment, but that none of the indebted ever pretended that it had. The first case was that of 65 families holding 152 acres assessed at 810 rupees. They had run up debt amounting to over 24,000 rupees, at the rate of 161 rupees of debt per acre. They had incurred these debts for dinner parties on the death of various members of their families, for dowries and other marriage expenses. It was found that 33 per cent. of the land in one district had passed into the hands of money-lenders. Mr. Lely's subordinate paid a visit to a village where the people were known to be heavily in debt. He got them all together to the number of 46. All were in debt. Of these 36 had borrowed for marriages and 32 for funeral feasts, 11 for cultivation purposes, six for building new houses, and two who owned no land previously had borrowed in order to buy. In no instance was Government assessment even mentioned as a cause of the debt. The rack-rental of which the hon. Member spoke—
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
The hon. Gentleman talked of rack-rent, and that the poverty of the people was due to their inability to pay the assessment.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Whether the hon. Gentleman intended it or not, the obvious inference from his speech was that it was in consequence of the land 306 revenue being too high that these people were in debt.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
Then the hon. Gentleman does not allege that the indebtedness is due to the Government assessment being too high. The indebtedness of the cultivator I have shown not to be at all due to the land revenue being too high. I always speak with great reserve in regard to this land assessment. It is very difficult for anybody like myself to be able to express a strong opinion as to whether or not the gross produce taken is too little or too much; but this much is absolutely certain—that there is no connection whatever between the indebtedness of the people and the amount of the land revenue; for in those cases in which the land revenue is the lowest the, people are more in debt. But I admit that there is one defect in our system which can be remedied. In certain parts of the country the Government insists on being rigidly paid at certain periods, and, although this system is mathematically easier to the occupiers, it does, perhaps, help to getting them into trouble. A discussion once took place between a native and a land revenue officer, and the officer pointed out that the system of insisting on regular payments was mathematically correct and better for the occupier. But the native replied that he once had a brother who had to cross a broad river, and he found mathematically that on the average it was only 3ft. deep; but, unfortunately, he was drowned in the first hole of 7ft. into which he fell. Now, Sir, I think there is wisdom in that reply, and the Government propose to introduce greater elasticity into the system of the payment of land revenue where it is required. Now, Sir, I pass on to that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech in which he dealt with the poverty of India.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I was going to group together all the remedies we propose to introduce. Recently a law has been passed with reference to the Punjab, whereby the power of alienation has been greatly restricted, and a power has been given to the Courts in certain cases to review and look into contracts under certain conditions. A Bill of almost the some character was passed for the Bombay Presidency recently, and it is proposed to introduce legislation of a similar character in certain other parts of India. Now I come to the difficulty of proposing or carrying through legislation of this character. We have created in India under our system a great interest in the money-lenders. We have educated and turned out a number of University men every year with no means of livelihood unless they become lawyers or newspaper writers, or attach themselves to the money-lending crowd; and although these gentlemen and the papers they represent are always attacking the Government as regards the poverty of India, the moment we attempt to curtail the powers of the money-lenders they turn round and do their very best to prevent such legislations passing into law. And I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne will find that many of those with whom he associates are not in agreement with him.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I quite admit. Now, Sir, I turn to the cause of poverty in India. The hon. Gentleman estimated in English pence the average income which the peasant or labourer in India enjoys. I do not myself attach very much importance to these hypothetical calculations of what is the average income of any body in a great country like India, as they are largely based on supposition. I declined to produce certain documents for which the hon. Gentleman asked, because they are old history, and I doubt whether they would do much to elucidate some of the problems which the hon. Gentleman attempted to touch; but these figures do show, and show very clearly that, although the movement has been slow, it has of recent years been upwards, and on the whole, the average income 308 in India has increased, but very slightly. The hon. Gentleman asked what can a man do on an average income of 1½d. a day? The hon. Member must remember that food in India is extraordinarily cheap. It has never paid any outside country, even during the worst famine and even when prices were highest, to import food into India, and during the recent famine relief in the Central Provinces a man doing a good day's work could be kept in good condition on a penny a day when the price of food was above its normal rate. I was looking through some Papers the other day, which were prepared in Lord Dufferin's time, and I came across a statement, which I believe to be absolutely true, as to what a man can do on an income of six rupees a month. That is 96 pence, and it gives a man a little more than 3d. a day. Any one in receipt of this 3d. a day and being the head of a family consisting of not more than four, could give his family every day three meals of rice or millet, and fish, if near the coast, and butcher's meat once or twice a week; but there would be no milk or butter or cheese for the children. If you wish to draw any conclusion from the average income of the inhabitants of India, you must look a little into the vital statistics of the country. In India the birth-rate and the death-rate are higher than in Europe. Life is shorter. The result is that infants form a far larger proportion of the population than they do in Europe. In this country one-seventh of the population is taken to be of school age, but in India one-seventh of the population are under the age of five, and two-fifths are under the age of 14, so that only three out of every five are adults. That must be taken into consideration in calculating the average income of the whole population, because it is obvious that the amount of food that an infant requires is very much less than what is necessary for an adult doing hard work. But Sir William Hunter, distinguished writer though he was, fell into the error—in making his statement about so many millions of people being always in want of sufficient food—of basing his calculation upon the assumption that every one in India was an adult and required the food necessary for an adult.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
I have now dealt with the two main propositions of the hon. Gentleman—the poverty of the people and the indebtedness of the agriculturists. I have shown that to say that we can by the drastic proposals which he suggested, or can by any human effort, make rain fall in India, is absurd.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
You cannot get rid of drought by irrigation. That is an exploded fallacy. How can you have irrigation-works in a locality the water supply of which depends upon the local rainfall? If the local rainfall fails, your irrigation work fails. Yet that elementary proposition, which is common-sense, never will be faced by those who talk of irrigation as a remedy for drought.
§ * LORD G. HAMILTON
No doubt there are certain places where irrigation is an effective remedy against the absence of rain. That is wherever you have rivers whose sources are beyond the local rain- 310 fall. But wherever you have rivers depending on local rainfall, irrigation is no remedy against drought. Tank irrigation and well irrigation may provide against a drought of a few weeks or months, but it is no avail against a visitation from which India is now suffering. We have appointed a Commission of the highest reputation, which is investigating the question of irrigation, and it will, I hope, before long, make its Report. But I think it is absolutely certain it will never put forward the preposterous idea that a great part of India can be made secure against drought by irrigation.
I have detained the House longer than I intended on these points. But, although I cannot in any way fall in with the suggestions of the hon. Member, we have a programme of improvements and alterations and arrangements which, if less ambitious, will, I hope, prove quite as useful as the suggestions advanced by the hon. Member. Mr. Dutt, a gentleman well known in India, sometime back addressed a number of letters to meand Lord Curzon on the subject of land assessment. His proposals have been carefully investigated; and the Government of India have issued in reply a resolution which I am sorry I did not receive in time to lay upon the Table of the House, but which willvery shortly be published. That resolution effectually disposes of a great many of Mr. Dutt's allegations, but it also makes certain reecommendations which I hope will be of great utility to agriculturists in the future. The resolution points out that a permanent settlement, which has been proposed as a remedy against famine, is no protection against the incidence or consequences of famine. It shows that:In areas where the State receives its land revenue from landlords, progressive moderation is the keynote of the policy of government, and that the standard of 50 per cent. of the assets is one which is almost uniformly observed in practice, and is more often departed from on the side of deficiency than of excess.It also points out that—In areas where the State takes the land revenue from the cultivators, the proposal to fix the assessment at one-fifth of the gross produce would result in the imposition of a greatly increased burden upon the people.It demonstrates—That over-assessment is not, as alleged, a general or wide-spread source of poverty and 311 indebtedness in India, and that it cannot fairly he regarded as a contributory cause of famine.It precedes that—For the future the Government of India will be prepared, where the necessity is established, to make further advance in respect of (1) the progressive and graduated imposition of large enhancements; (2) greater elasticity in the revenue collection, facilitating its adjustment to the variations of the seasons and the circumstances of the people; and (3) a more general resort to reduction of assessments in cases of local deterioration, where such reduction cannot be claimed under the terms of settlement.We have, in addition, a number of reforms in various stages of progress. We have an inquiry into railroads, by which we hope to get better returns than hitherto; I have already referred to the Irrigation Commission; and we have also a Commission on Education which, we trust, will result in more intelligence and wisdom to those who occupy land. We have also proposals in hand for trying the experiment of agricultural banks; and we have legislation in preparation which will extend our legislation as regards restriction upon the alienation of property. In addition to these reforms, which may appear humble and small alongside, the proposals of the hon. Gentleman, we have realised a larger surplus this year, and we hope for a very large surplus next year. We have balanced the advantages of remitting taxation with the advantages of making large advances of loans in distressed districts. I will not anticipate what the statement of the Finance Minister may be, beyond saying this—that the distressed districts will have a prior claim upon the surplus. If one reviews the financial and material conditions of India, much as we must deplore the misery and the loss inflicted by drought and famine during the last few years, one cannot deny that Indian finance has exhibited a stability and a recuperative power that nobody beforehand could have believed it possessed. We have fought this famine with ten millions sterling from revenue, and yet we have realised surpluses amounting to many millions; and it is impossible to doubt, considering the calamitous effect produced both on agriculture and industry in the parts affected, that elsewhere India has made progress. I 312 believe the wise policy which we have adopted for many years past of annually spending large sums of money on reproductive works, and the wise policy—the wisdom of which may be quite as much attributed to the Bench opposite as to this—of establishing a stable system of currency for India, have borne good fruit, and that we are slowly improving our position. I think it is no small feat for a Government such as that of India to have been able successfully to weather two such agricultural and financial storms as have recently fallen upon us. That India has been able, unaided, without loss of credit, and without increased taxation, to bear the full financial brunt of these disasters, and at the same time to emerge from the ordeal with a large realised surplus, is an indisputable proof that the mass of the people have benefited from British rule. At the same time we must never forget that India is a very poor country, and that there is within it a large proportion of the population whose standard of comfort and livelihood is below the level of the most backward of European nations; and this fact should always be present to us when we discuss Indian finance, and especially when we have to consider the arrangements which have to be made between the Imperial and the Indian Exchequers. Looking back, I think, therefore, we have every reason to be thankful. We have in hand a number of reforms which I trust will relieve the intensity of the distress caused by famine. We have tested and gauged every part of our system of administration. We have had the strongest and the weakest parts of our system of relief tried, and the very severity of the ordeal has caused to be initiated and expedited a number of reforms and benefits of a far-reaching character. Those reforms and those benefits will be under the control and direction of a Viceroy of boundless energy, knowledge, and tact, and great as have been the sufferings inflicted on India during the past two or three years by natural causes, I am sanguine enough to hope and believe that the memory of those disasters in the mind of India will be associated rather with the benefits which these disasters have expedited than with the sufferings which the people have endured.
(11.5.) MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
As I am fully aware that several hem. Members desire to speak to-night, I will be very brief. We shall all be glad to hear the views of the hon. Member for Exeter, who always speaks with authority on India and on every other question he touches. The noble Lord delivered, as he always does, a very interesting speech, but I cannot regard it, as in any sense a reply to the arguments and facts submitted to the House by hon. friend. The noble Lord began his speech by saying, as he had said a good many times before, that India is the lightest taxed country in Asia; but the question of the lightness of taxation depends entirely on the capacity of the taxpayers to bear it. When we remember the very small income, which it is admitted on all hands the great mass of the people of India have, the taxation cannot be regarded as light; and in my judgment, at all events, it is very heavy indeed. The noble Lord then referred to a comparison between the state of London and that of India—between what is generally known as "the submerged tenth" in this country, and the people of India. If there is a submerged tenth in this rich country, he seems to think that it is not very strange that there should also be a submerged portion of the population of India; but there is all the difference in the world between a submerged tenth and a submerged eighty per cent. as in India; and therefore London and India stand in totally different positions.
It is somewhat remarkable that we are tonight—a Government night very early in the session—debating an Indian question. That I think clearly proves that there is a general concensus opinion, not only on this side of the House, but on the part of the Executive Government of the day, that the question raised by my hon. friend is of great and serious importance. It is important in two ways. It is of vital importance to the great mass of the people of India, and I consider it also of real importance to this country and to the Empire at large. The noble Lord admitted that India, taken as a whole, was a very poor country. I suppose that the fact that he did not in any way refer to the estimate of the average income of the 314 population of India, given by Lord Curzon last March, means that he agrees with that estimate and that no change has come over his opinion regarding it. To my mind, the question of the average income in a great country like India is a very difficult question to get at. I agree with the noble Lord that it is, perhaps, not very wise to lay down dicta in regard to these matters, unless we have very full and accurate information on the subject; and the first point that I should like to press on the Government is that they should, through the means which they have at their hands, get at what can be reasonably regarded as accurate information on these points. What we want is truth, and for my own part I cannot see why we, as Members of this House, should not be put in possession of the methods by which the officials of the Indian Government arrive at the various estimates they make. A Permanent Under Secretary for India, about 25 years ago, if I remember aright, pointed out in a despatch or memorandum that one of the greatest difficulties in approaching Indian problems was the lack of accurate information; and, Sir, I hope that one of the results of this debate may be to create a greater and more ready disposition on the part of the Government of India to supply this House and the country with the needful facts in regard to the serious position of the great mass of the agricultural population in India. This question is an important one to India. I do not think the noble Lord has succeeded in disproving the main statement of my hon. friend, namely that things are not getting better but rather worse, for the great mass of the population of India in regard to their resources and material condition. I should like, if I may, to endorse what was said when the Indian Budget was being discussed last August by the hon. Member for Exeter, as to great importance of stimulating Indian industries. It is quite plain that so far as the resources of the land are concerned in India, we have about reached the limit—the full limit—of possible production, and if we are to increase the wealth of India substantially it must be by doing all in our power to develop 315 continually the natural resources of the country. I have not time to-night to go through item after item; if I had I think I could show the House that during the time of our rule in India, the policy of the Government, well intentioned no doubt, has been such as to practically paralyse the internal industries of the country. But it is absurd for any hon. Member to get up in his place in the House of Commons and state that it is not possible to very greatly increase the wealth of India through its industries, trade, and commerce. This question is important not only from an Indian standpoint but from our own standpoint. We are proud of India. We have given to India, as the noble Lord has said, our best during the last century; the life of India and our life are inter-blended in the closest possible way; and anything that is of interest to India must be of real importance to the House of Commons and this country. I am glad that we have to-night this opportunity of discussing this serious phase of Indian life, and my concluding words will be that, in looking forward to the future, our rule in India must rest upon the contentment and confidence of the great mass of a population. The Government of India is well-intentioned. I do not grudge a single penny that is spent on it. The only point with me is whether the money is spent in the best possible way for the development and improvement of the interests of that great continent. In looking forward to the future, is it not plain, from the standpoint of international policy, that there will be a growing importance in the position in the East of the various great Powers of Western Europe? Somebody has said that the pivot around which the history of the new century will turn will be the East, and not the West. Perhaps that is true; I think to a large extent it is. If it is true, is it not of the utmost importance that we should in every way possible strengthen the bonds between this country and India, and make it plain to the world that we will see see India through her various great difficulties? I am not a pessimist. Things are bad in India in many respects; but they can be made better, 316 and I believe that the only way in which they can be made better is by taking steps which will gradually—the thing cannot be done at once—improve the material condition of the agricultural population of that great continent.
§ *(11.18.) SIR EDGAR VINCENT (Exeter)
I agree cordially with the last speaker in what he has said with regard to the foundation of British rule in India—that it must repose on the contentment of the Indian people. I also sympathise with his position in urging the Government to increase the facilities for industrial development, and to open, to the fullest extent, the avenues for capital. The House will, I am sure, be unanimous in congratulating the hon. Member for the Camborne Division on having brought forward this subject. Whether we agree in his conclusions or not, whether the result of the debate be in consonance with his desires or the contrary, I am convinced that he has rendered a public service in ventilating the ideas which he has brought before us. The question of the increasing impoverishment of India must be faced. If the conclusions which the hon. Member has arrived at be correct, it is clear there is something radically wrong with our system of government. If they are incorrect, it is the duty of those who have some acquaintance with the subject to put forward their views and correct his miscalculations. In the hon. Member's speech there was a considerable amount of quotation of figures and tables, but almost all the figures he brought forward were not positive, not figures of fact, but estimates or conjectures. He gave various tables, drawn up by different administrators of India at various periods, professing to state the average income of the ryot per day. I agree with the Secretary of State in attaching very little importance to these hypothetical statements, by whomsoever they may be prepared.
§ * SIR EDGAR VINCENT
Whether they are approved by the Viceroy or by Major Baring (now Lord Cromer), these estimates are pure conjecture. I confess I view with regret the absence from the hon. Member's speech of positive figures relating to the trade and development of India. The hon. Member has put forward, with moderate feeling, the views of a large class of writers on Indian matters, whose main propositions are that the condition of the agricultural population of India is bad and steadily becoming worse, and who support those statements by reference to estimates made at various periods. They bring forward, first of all, the estimate of 1850, giving the average daily income of the Indian agriculturist at 2d. They then refer to an estimate of Sir David Barbour and Lord Cromer, made in 1882, which gives the daily income at 1½d.; and they complete the series by an estimate which they frame themselves, giving the income at ¾d. The estimate of 1850 is, so far as I am aware, not based on any positive figure, and has not been brought forward by any authority of weight or consideration. When we come, however, to the estimate of 1882, it is a more serious matter, and I shall say more later respecting the value to be attached to it. But I would say this at once, that the use to which it has been put appears to me to be altogether unfair. Those who had used it have stated in various places and frequently that this estimate is fallacious and exaggerated. But they have then proceeded to prove the increasing poverty of India because their present estimate of the annual income does not come up to the estimate of 1882—which they declare to be fallacious.
Upon what is the present estimate based? Mr. Digby, in his very voluminous work on the subject, states that the reports from the various provinces go to show that the average income does not now exceed 22s. per annum. The hon. Member gave us a slightly different estimate, which he quoted from the Viceroy, of 26s. 8d. But from both those estimates an amount has to be deducted on account of the richer portion of the population, so that the total average income which is arrived at comes down to between 13s. and 14s. per annum. Mr. Digby admits that this amount is not sufficient to afford sustenance, even on the barest scale, for more than eight months in the year, and that he allows nothing 318 whatever for the purchase of clothing and other necessaries. But this physical difficulty, this seeming impossibility, does not dismay him. He explains it in the following manner: That the entire population, which numbers 230,000,000, is fed for four months in the year, and clothed entirely throughout the year, by the beneficence of the money-lenders. I say "beneficence" advisedly, because Mr. Digby does not hesitate to say that these facts and figures refer not to one particular period, not to one district which is affected by famine, but that they apply everywhere and in all times. I believe the House will consider that a more probable explanation of the difficulty is that the data on which the estimate is formed are totally fallacious, that it is not supported by any single certain figure, and that throughout the whole calculation the only positive element is the unwavering malignance with which Mr. Digby distorts evidence to the discredit of his countrymen. ["Oh."] I may perhaps be pardoned if I do not go at length into the methods by which Mr. Digby arrives at his figures, which are in large part supported by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division. What he says is worth some consideration, however, because it shows how totally erroneous the basis of the whole estimate is. I quote from his work. He says—I have multiplied the land revenue the necessary number of times in order to arrive at the money value of the produce of the soil. Proceeding on the assumption that the Government revenue is intended to bear a definite ratio to the produce of the soil.This is a very extraordinary system to work on. The very moderation of the land tax becomes a factor in the impoverishment of the people. The less the tax, the greater the poverty of the taxed. This basis excludes the well-known fact that before the produce of the soil is estimated for revenue purposes a large deduction amounting in many cases to 25 per cent., and in some cases to more, is made by the revenue officers to avoid any danger of over-taxation. There is also the well-known and admitted fact that every allowance is made by the revenue officers of the Government for improvement, the result of the special industry of the agriculturalists, and that definite allowances are made for poorly 319 situated districts and for land of inferior quality. So that, reviewing the whole of the argument on this portion of the estimate, I would say that the Government deliberately under-estimates the produce of the soil, and it is on this under-estimated valuation that the larger part of the contention of Mr. Digby is based, and that he arrives at the figure of ¾d. per day as the average income of the agriculturist.
I now come to another portion of the question, viz., whether the impoverishment of the Indian population, its indebtedness, is or is not due to the system of land tax which is in force. The hon. Member for the Camborne Division stated that in his judgment by far the most important part of the question was the indebtedness to the ryots, and he quoted £230,000,000 as the nearest estimate he could make of the present amount of that indebtedness. That figure seemed to strike him with dismay. But, although it is the first time it has been brought to my notice, it appears to me to be a subject, not of dismay but rather of comfort, because £230,000,000 does not exceed one year's revenue, even on the basis which the hon. Member himself selected. I believe I am correct in saying that there is hardly any country in Europe which, as a State, does not owe considerably more than one year's revenue; and I believe that I shall be borne out by those hon. Members who have a profound knowledge of the agricultural districts of this country when I say that the larger portion of the agricultural population in this country, and certainly the landlords, owe considerably more than one year's revenue on an average.
§ * SIR EDGAR VINCENT
We are dealing with a big country, and we must comprehend these figures. It appears to me that these figures mean nothing unless they are taken into account and considered with regard to the vast extent of our territory in India. As to the argument that the 320 agricultural population in India require relief in time of famine, and the contention which has been urged that this weakness is due to the high assessment of the land tax, it appears to me to be totally disproved by facts in connection with the recent famine in the central provinces. It is in evidence, in the Report of the Famine Commission from which the hon. Gentleman has quoted briefly, that a very small proportion of those who sought relief belonged to the ryot or agricultural and farming class. Almost the entire number of workers in the relief camps consisted of the labouring class who are not directly affected by the amount of the land assessment, and it is further stated in that report that in no district, even of those most severely affected, does the number of ryots seeking relief exceed more than 10 per cent. of their total number within the district. Another circumstance which leads me to disconnect the question of assessment from the liability to famine, is the extreme disproportion between the small amount of the land tax and the amount of loss which is caused by one of these visitations in India. It is perfectly fair to argue from the statistics that no attenuation of the land tax could make a perceptible difference to the liability of the population to famine, or could affect, except in a very minor degree, their sufferings under those conditions.
Respecting the indebtedness of the ryots, various proposals have been made to remedy this state of affairs. I have already given reasons for thinking that undue importance has been attached to this, but I am so far in sympathy with what has fallen from one or two speakers, that I look forward with great interest to the experiments which are being made in the Punjab with regard to the agricultural banks, and also with respect to the experiments which have already been set on foot for restricting the power of alienation among the ryot class. I believe that great benefit may be derived from limiting, judiciously and prudently, the power of transfer and mortgage to individuals either of the same race or tribe as the original proprietor; or, at 321 any rate, of excluding from those transfers and mortgages men of the non-agricultural class. There can be no doubt that the creation of a small landowning class, not capable themselves of tilling the land, with no special knowledge of it, is not a desirable thing in India. This question of the value of land in India is so involved that it is almost impossible to do justice to it in the short time at my command, but I would venture to say that the history of the land revenue in India does conclusively show that the present Government are levying a distinctly smaller proportion of revenue from Zemindars than any previous Government. At the end of the last century the established proportion of ten-elevenths of the total net produce of India went to the Government, and there was only one-eleventh left. That proportion has been gradually altered during the course of the last century, and now the average proportion of the produce taken by the Government does not in any case exceed 50 per cent. and in some districts only 40 per cent. as compared with ten-elevenths which was taken a century ago.
There are several figures which will bear out this contention, and the most important of them is that the selling value of land in almost every district in India not recently affected by famine is steadily on the increase. I have been at some pains to take out figures relating to this question, and I find that the lowest selling value in any district of large area is 20 times the annual assessment of the land tax; this obtains in Bombay and some parts of Madras, but in other parts of India, particularly in Northern India, the ordinary selling value of land is between 50 and 70 times the annual assessment of the land tax. That appears to me to be a conclusive argument as to the moderation of the claim made by the Government upon the Zemindars, and similar conclusions maybe formed in respect of the ryots. The Secretary of State for India was absolutely correct when he said that diminutions of land revenue in these Eastern countries do not, as a rule, to a very large extent benefit the real agricultural class. The effect of them 322 is rather to establish an intermediate class between the Government and the cultivator, who do not treat the ryot with the same consideration as the Government treat him, and who do not assist the general system of land working in the country.
I pass now to the recommendations of the Famine Commission, and to that Report which the hon. Member for Camborne has made such frequent extracts from. In his recommendations the hon. Member has altogether omitted most of the advice given by Sir Antony MacDonnell. The main subject of that advice was, in the first place, that practical education should be given to the ryots to teach them to husband their resources, and to provide in good years something to set against bad years. The second important recommendation of the Famine Commission is one to which I hope the Secretary of State for India will direct very special attention, and it is that in the administration of the land revenue in India there should be greater elasticity, and more readiness to meet the requirements of the situation in years of want and famine. This brings me to a recommendation which I had the honour to submit to the House on a previous occasion and which appears to me to lie very deeply at the root of many of the difficulties which now beset the Indian Government. I believe that in the past—in some cases—the action of the Government in regard to land revenue has not been satisfactory, and I attribute this reluctance to suspend or remit taxation on the part of the Government to one inherent cause, and that is the financial condition of the Government itself. They are not altogether exempt from the financial weaknesses which characterises the system. Like many other people the Government are too much inclined in years of prosperity to spend up to the hilt and divide all their profit between increase of expenditure and diminution of revenue. I believe their action would have been very different in regard to land revenue, if they had been in a state of assured financial ease. It would then have been in their power to act without the fear, that by so doing they 323 would endanger the balance between revenue and expenditure. I believe that a new departure in Indian financial administration would conduce most powerfully to ease the situation between the Government and the cultivator. Hon. Members will ask me whether it is in the power of the Indian Government to create a reserve fund of sufficient volume and sufficient money to do this. I answer that question very positively in the affirmative, and I say that no moment can be more favourable than the present one for commencing the policy which I advocate.
We have heard from the Secretary of State for India that he anticipates a considerable surplus of revenue over expenditure, and he has stated that with the Government of India, he is considering in what proportion they will divide that surplus between reduction of taxation and increase of expenditure. I would venture to suggest to him a third way which I believe is better than either of the others which have been suggested, and it is that the Government should maintain their present state of taxation until the surpluses have accumulated into a sufficient and considerable reserve, and I would urge that a portion of this, at least, should be kept in gold, and another portion of it in non-Indian securities. I cannot repeat too often that the position of India is altogether different from a financial point of view to other European Governments. The Indian Government have infinitely greater fluctuations of revenue than obtain in Europe, and they have to meet demands for increased expenditure far more considerable than fall to the lot of most European Ministers. They have not the resources which Ministers in this country have used so freely, of increasing rapidly the taxation of the country. But further, I believe that every one who has knowledge of Indian administration will agree with me when I say that any large or sudden increase of taxation in India is impossible. That being so, I say that the wisdom of Indian administrators will be shown in the courage with which they depart from the ordinary financial laws, and with 324 which they strike out a new path by creating for India special financial resources, capable of meeting the emergencies which constantly arise. I hope the House will pardon me if I have spoken of the recent suggestions respecting the impoverishment of India with some warmth of feeling. There are two features in connection with this subject which have excited in me the liveliest feelings of indignation. The first is the attempt from which the hon. Member for Camborne dissociated himself—the attempt to asperse the high reputation of the civil servants of the Indian Government—a class of men to whom the Empire owes much, and who have given an example of probity and justice to the whole world. The second feature is the hypocrisy which sets forth tables and figures in pseudo-scientific forms under the mask of statistical accuracy—tables and figures which have no real value, and which no expert can examine for an hour without detecting their utter worthlessness. But they are so framed and so set forth that they may affect the judgment of the unwary. [An Hon. Member: There are no others.] There are the official figures of the Indian Government, which are positive figures. The other figures are mere conjecture, but they affect the judgment of certain people and by affecting it they damage the fame and the credit of the Governors of India and they create in the place of peace and order, a dangerous spirit of resentment, suspicion and unrest.
§ *(11.47.) DR. SHIPMAN (Northampton)
I should like to express my sympathy with the lucid and graphic speech made by the hon. Member for Camborne, because I represent a constituency which had in this House one of the greatest authorities on Indian questions—Mr. Bradlaugh. I listened very patiently, without any expert knowledge, in order that I might receive some information on this great subject, and I received a great deal from the hon. Member for Camborne. I then listened very carefully to the speech of the noble Lord, and I must say the impression made on my mind was that the hon. Member for Camborne had drawn 325 rather a moderate picture of the distress in India. I admit that the noble Lord alluded in glowing language to the material prosperity of India, but that prosperity related to India as a whole. He could not point out that the great majority of the inhabitants of India were at all prosperous, and with a candour which we must all admire, he admitted everything the hon. Member for Camborne said with reference to the wide-spread poverty of the Indian people. You may give reasons why you fail, but there remains this one great fact that you have failed in your rule in India. [Cries of "No."] Hon. Members must remember that there is this fact which you cannot deny—the fact of the terrible poverty of millions of the people of India. Certain reasons have been given why that poverty exists. I for one believe to a great extent with the noble Lord who said that we were too hasty in trying to govern India according to Western ideas. I assume that he meant British ideas. That has been the curse of more lands than India. It has been the curse of Ireland that we should persist in ruling that country according to British ideas. May I suggest that it is not too late to clean your slate. The noble Lord alluded to a certain speech which was delivered at Chesterfield. What he said was to me an example of how a speech like that could be misunderstood unless it was read in the right spirit. The noble Lord read the speech in a Conservative spirit. We should seek the co-operation of the Indian people. We know that India is a sort of nursery for the intellect of this country. The noble Lord confessed with a certain amount of sorrow that the best intellect of this country had gone to India and had signally failed. If we find that our intellect is of so little use in India, let us try the hearts of the people of India themselves. My suggestion is that we should have fewer British going over to India and bringing back a great deal of the material wealth of the country, and that we should look to the Indians themselves for co-operation in the Government. I think if we did so we should be able in the course of time to speak more heartily of the blessedness of British rule in India.
§ *(11.52.) MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W. R., Barnsley)
I think the Government is to be congratulated on giving the House so early in the session an opportunity of considering what measures should be adopted to avert famine in India, and what can be done to promote the prosperity of the country. I may be allowed to pay my tribute to the hon. Member for Camborne on his most moderate statement from his point of view of the position in India, and to the noble Lord for the sympathetic and statesmanlike way in which he approached and considered the subject. The special object of tonight's debate is to consider the recommendations of the Famine Commission for the benefit of the agricultural population of India. It is with pleasure that I note in the official Report evidence of the utmost care which has been taken by those composing the Commission in considering and dealing with this most important subject. There is evidence that they have considered the matter in an impartial manner, and hon. Gentlemen fearlessly stated the conclusions at which they have arrived. With the majority of these conclusions, which we understand from the resolution moved by the noble Lord, His Majesty's Government are prepared to recommend and carry out, I am in cordial sympathy. The financial condition of India to-day is, as we have heard, exceedingly good. Notwithstanding the expenditure of £10,000,000 in the last three years in famine relief, there has been a surplus of many millions on the income over the expenditure.
What I would urge upon His Majesty's Government is that the main thing to be grappled with is the getting rid of the money-lender in India. What the Government ought to do is to clean the slate of the cultivators of the land in India of the incubus of the money-lending class, and to that end the most practical suggestion in the Famine Commission's Report is their recommendation for the establishment of agricultural banks, coupled with the creation of co-operative mutual credit associations in the different villages of India, so that instead of having to pay enormous rates of 327 interest for the money they require to the lender, the cultivators may be able to obtain money through the agricultural banks at reasonable rates of interest, which would alter altogether their position, and convert a state of privation and poverty into a state of comparative prosperity. Not only is it desirable to deal thus with the agricultural interest in India, but there are other ways in which the general prosperity of the country can be decidedly promoted. First amongst these comes the further extension of irrigation works, and now that we know that there will be a substantial surplus in India, I would urge upon the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, that a largely increased amount should be spent on irrigation works. The irrigation works already in existence earn an average dividend of seven per cent., and even on the ground of finance alone, it is most encouraging to the Government to proceed with this work, which, by supplying water to the arid areas of India, would enable hundreds of thousands to settle in India where they would not be subject to privations by reason of serious droughts. Some doubt was expressed as to the wisdom of railway construction. There is abundance of evidence in the Famine Commission's Report that the railways were of enormous benefit in dealing with t the recent famine in India. The existence now of railways, which in bygone years did not exist, was of great service to those who had to deal with the famine in India. I speak with personal knowledge of their devotion and self-sacrifice in dealing with it. I came through part of the famine area two years ago, and I have recently had an opportunity in the Bombay Presidency of talking over this matter with one who was for many years a most respected member of this House, and other officials in that Presidency, where unfortunately, the loss of life during the recent famine was enormous. I found that they felt most painfully their want of success in some 328 respects in dealing with the recent famine in the Bombay Presidency, and that they were only too ready to adopt the recommendations of this report or other suggestions which would enable them to be more successful in meeting the difficulty they may be confronted with, if there should be a renewal of famine in the district.
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.