HC Deb 02 November 1916 vol 86 cc1791-3

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the fact that in July last urgent appeals for help were sent to Calcutta from individuals at Wellington and other smaller stations at Nilgiri Hills on behalf of the wounded and sick soldiers arriving there in large numbers, and for whom no provision had been made; is he aware of the hardships and privations undergone by the wounded and sick from Mesopotamia at that date, that the early arrivals found no mattresses or pillows on their iron beds, that all they had to lie on was coir, that although it was cold the men had very few blankets between them, that they were drinking out of empty, cigarette tins and empty condensed milk tins, that the supply of drugs was hopelessly inadequate, causing much suffering among the patients; will he say what is the situation to-day; and whether the officers and officials responsible for this condition of affairs last July are still in the employ of the Indian Government?


A report reached me from a private source in August last that the provision made for soldiers at Wellington had been inadequate, and I at once telegraphed to the Viceroy a request that he would make full inquiry. The Viceroy was satisfied by an exhaustive inspection carried out by the G.O.C., in company with the Governor of Madras, that there were nothing more than inconveniences of a temporary character, which were quickly dealt with. The Viceroy added that there was no dearth of comforts or stores, and that private relief was merely supplementing official resources. In particular, I am informed that, with some 1,500 patients arriving at short notice, the deficiency of beds was limited to three men for one night each; that the shortage of crockery affected only twenty men for a few days, and that there was no lack of medicines at any time. All articles of clothing, bedding, or other equipment of which the patients were found to be in need, were at once drawn from the reserves, hired or purchased locally, or ordered by telegram from the nearest source of supply. The House is aware that I have not sought to conceal or excuse faults of administration where I believed them to exist, but I do earnestly deprecate uncritical condemnation of the Indian Government and of officers serving under it, who feel deeply the unjust aspersions cast upon them, to which it is not open to them to make any reply.


Does the right hon. Gentleman mean the House to infer that the statements which I have made and which I have asked him to verify are not common knowledge in India?


They are common gossip and rumour, but I mean to imply that they are not facts. They are grossly exaggerated. Of course, it appeared in print. I know where my hon. Friend has got it from. It came to me from a private source which I thought | ought to be well informed. The moment I get information of the kind I communicate it to the Government of India and ask for inquiry. Inquiry has been made. The hospital has been visited and inspected on several occasions by the General Officer Commanding, and also by his Excellency the Governor of Madras. His Excellency authorised the Government to inform me that he was satisfied that the shortage was purely temporary, that the position is now satisfactory, and that the complaint made was grossly exaggerated.