§ Mr. NIELD
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware of the existence of shops for the sale of opium to the coolies employed in certain of the tea gardens in Assam and of the growth of the opium habit among them, especially at the Dejoo Company's Garden, opposite 1316 Joyhing, and the gardens of the Jokia (Assam) Tea Company, Limited, at Pathahpam and Derpai; whether he is aware that a new opium shop has recently been opened at or close to Panitola; and whether, either upon the information he has or the result of any inquiries confirming the above matters, he will cause the Government of India to take speedy measures to deal with the subject?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
The Secretary of State has no reason to believe that the opium habit is on the increase among the coolie population of the tea gardens in Assam. During the last four years the number of licences for retailing opium has been reduced from 632 to 381 in the five Assam Valley districts and the issue price of opium raised. The consumption of opium has also fallen. As regards the location of particular shops, the Secretary of State does not interfere with the discretion of the Local Government.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I have given the hon. Member the information at my disposal, which I think completely answers his question.
§ Colonel YATE
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he has any knowledge of any harm ever done in this district from the sale and consumption of opium?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Of course, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, another and more deleterious plant grows wild in Assam and some other districts, and therefore the question of the restriction of the consumption of opium is a very difficult matter in these districts, and you have to proceed very cautiously.