§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
On the last occasion when the Indian question came before this House, the discussion was, necessarily, of a somewhat perfunctory character, but it was promised that a full Debate would take place later. Up to now, those associated with me have hesitated to ask for the fulfilment of this promise, because we recognised the extreme delicacy of the situation, and we felt that a Debate might injure instead of improve the prospects of a settlement. To-day, the position is somewhat different, not because the delicacy has disappeared, but because there are evident in many quarters now signs of good will which, if rightly exploited, may lead on to a solution of this very difficult problem. Therefore, though it is still true that unwise or recriminatory words might do harm, we feel that helpful and constructive words may be fruitful 1014 of great good, and I hope very much that only wise and statesmanlike words will emanate from all parts of this House to-day. So far as I am concerned, I will certainly do my best to live up to the high standard which I am asking from the House. We all realise, I think, that superimposed on the great inherent difficulties of this problem, there have been psychological personal distrusts, which have greatly aggravated these difficulties. Is it too much to hope that this Debate will help to remove one, at least, of these distrusts, by showing to the peoples of India, and to the outside world, that all sections of this House are willing and, indeed, anxious that there should be self-government in India after this war is over?
In using the word "India," I realise that I am, to some slight extent, begging the question, because how far India will continue as single and undivided is one of the issues which are in dispute. Nevertheless, I am certain that it is of supreme importance that there shall be an India representing the great Indian peoples in the comity of nations, an India with whom the power of decision rests, and in whom the world will see a country destined to play a vital and important part in the whole history of mankind. Now, so far as that part of the problem is concerned, we in this House cannot solve it; it rests with the Indian peoples themselves. We can only note with satisfaction that in the last few months Mr. Gandhi has made a gesture of approach and good will to other sections in India. I will not put it higher than that because, in these very subtle matters, it is difficult for most of us not completely immersed in Indian politics, to be able to judge precisely how far Mr. Gandhi has gone, but that he has made some move I do not think will be denied in any quarter. When things have reached something like an impasse, even a small move—if, indeed, it is only a small move, for some people would say it is a very big move—at such a time may be of supreme importance.
If I leave for a moment the purely political aspect of the Indian problem, it is not because I do not realise that the political aspect is of supreme importance. No Government of a country, no social and economic condition in a country, can be sound if the political facts are unsound; if they are in dis-equilibrium or are on a wrong basis, the whole structure is wrong, and everything may come tumbling down. 1015 While that is true, however, it is also true that it is not directly the political issue, but the economic issues which affect the great masses, the hundreds of millions of the peoples of India. Therefore, I do not think it will be out of place if I turn aside for a few moments to look at the economic problems of India.
In the last few years there have been several events of immense importance in the economic sphere in India. In the first place, there was that terrible famine which took place in certain parts of India. That has brought home to us the grave danger with which India, with its very rapidly growing population, is necessarily faced. Of course, in olden days, local famines in India were a frequent occurrence, and it is one of the merits of the British administration of India that we have, until recently, kept down those famines and succeeded in keeping a constant supply of food available to the people in all parts of the country. I do not propose to go over the past, or to reassess the causes of what took place some 18 months or so ago. I will only say this, that if the population of India is to increase at the rate it is increasing at the present time—on which the hon. Member the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill) has expressed himself so eloquently in the study he made recently of India—then undoubtedly the question of famine in India may recur. I should hope that, behind all the political differences, this essentially human problem of feeding the mass of the population, terrible as it is, might provide an opportunity for coming together, as we in this House, in the days when party warfare was rife, sometimes came together upon some great human issue and took a common stand. I hope that the opportunity of acting in common will not be lost by any section of opinion, in this country or in India.
The second great event that has happened in the economic sphere, with regard to India, is the complete change in the position of India vis-à-vis this country in the matter of finance. When the war began, India was indebted to this country, for constructive work, to an amount running into several hundred million pounds. The position has been entirely reversed during the war, and now one of the great problems, which was referred to recently at the Monetary Con- 1016 ference in the United States, is in connection with sterling balances which are in the possession of India. In other words, from being a great debtor country, India has become one of the great creditor countries of the world. That, quite clearly, has a very important bearing on the economic future of the country.
Finally—and I think we may call it an event—there has been the publication of what has been called the Tata pamphlet, or "the millionaires' pamphlet." If that pamphlet had emanated from Transport House, I can well imagine that a large number of Members who sit opposite would pour supreme ridicule upon it as a "cloud cuckoo-land" proposal, but it emanates from a body of people who are concerned with the greatest of all steel plants in the British Empire and, obviously, cannot be so lightly brushed aside. It is not for me to express a detailed opinion for or against all the particulars of the Tata scheme. It deals with figures on a scale which hitherto have hardly been mentioned but undoubtedly, having once been put out, it provides a basis for discussion which cannot be entirely put aside. The economic issue is this: Can India, can the peoples of India, who are desperately poor, malaria-ridden, living on impossible standards of life, with an immensely high rate of mortality, be brought into line, economically, with the progressive countries of the world? Whatever may be thought, or whatever criticisms may be made of the details of the Tata plan, the suggestion that it is possible, is one of great and arresting importance. In that connection there is one other factor which should be mentioned. Not very far across the Northern borders of India, lies another immense tract of country, Siberia. It is very few years since that country was backward—a largely unknown land, whose peoples lived in primitive civilisation, illiterate, and with a very low standard of life. Again, without going into details, we all know that enormous changes have taken place in that land. Its peoples are now largely literate; education has begun to be a real thing in Siberia and a very large amount of modem industrialisation has already taken place. If that can come in Siberia, people are asking, and asking quite naturally, whether something of the same kind of thing cannot be done in India. All those points, taken together, show 1017 that economics are likely to play an exceedingly important part in the future problems of India.
But there is another aspect of the Indian problem which, again, is not strictly politics, and that is the military side. In the days before the war, it was assumed, not only in this country but in most other parts of the world, that Britain would look after the oceans around India. Well, we have seen a good many things happen during the war; one of those things has cast some doubt about the power of this country, alone, to keep the peace in the Seven Seas, and in no part of the world is that more the case than in the neighbourhood of the great sub-continent of India. The question some people are posing, and rightly posing, in my opinion, is this: What place will India take in the preservation of the future peace of the world? As I see it, India is a strategic bastion which lies between the territories of Europe and the territories in the Far East, and I do not believe that the peace of the whole world can be firmly assured, unless one of the strong pillars supporting the peace consists of India itself. Therefore, the whole question of the future of India does not concern only the principal parties to the present discussion—this country, and the other parts of the British Empire, and the peoples and parties in India. It also deeply concerns all the nations of the world and, particularly, the United Nations, who desire to place the military basis of the world upon a foundation, which will stand the tempests and shocks of national aggression and give to hard-pressed peoples the promise of real prosperity in the years to come. That consideration also must take an important place in our thoughts, in the thoughts of people in India and in other parts of the world, with regard to what is happening in India to-day, and what will happen in the future.
That brings me back to the political and racial aspect of the problem. I suggest to the Government that the time is coming, if it has not already arrived, when they can contribute to the solution by a new step forward. I notice that Mr. Gandhi has written that 1944 is not 1942, and that many changes have taken place in the objective facts and in views regarding them in those intervening years. Mr. Gandhi is careful of his words and we can put such interpretation as we like upon 1018 them, but I would put this forward for the consideration of the Secretary of State and the House. You cannot expect people who are kept in detention on political grounds to recant their past views. I, at one time, belonged to a militant organisation, whose members, from time to time, were clapped into gaol and could came out of gaol at any moment by giving some promise of good behaviour. On the face of it, there seemed no reason why that promise should not be given, but such a promise was associated in their minds with some recantation of their political faith, and no member could have given that promise without a feeling of shame at having gone back upon his loyalty to the cause. So it is with regard to those who are detained in India at present. I believe the Secretary of State realises quite well, and I am sure the Viceroy also recognises, that we cannot expect these people to stand in a white sheet, as the Home Secretary did the day before yesterday, and admit errors in the past. But I believe that most men of sense—and those who are detained in India are men of sense whatever their mistakes may have been—will recognise, with Mr. Gandhi, that 1944 is not 1942, and that a great many things have changed in the meanwhile.
One of the changes is that at the time when these people were originally detained, it looked to the outside world as though we were losing the war. It never entered my imagination that we were going to lose it and I believe very few people in this country believed for a moment that such would be the case. But in the outside world the position was very different. There were very few parts of the world in which it was considered that we had a dog's chance and no doubt that view was prevalent in India as everywhere else. That being so, it appeared to a number of Indians that we, drowning men, were clutching at straws, and promising India things which we had no intention of carrying out. That, of course, was not the case; I think it is apparent to the people of India to-day that it was not the case, and I am sure they recognise, with other parts of the world, that so far from losing the war, we are going to win both in the West and in the East, and that in no very long time. Therefore, the promise that we have made, and still make, of self-government—I think two years have elapsed since it was made 1019 —is a very much more real and substantial thing than it ever was before and that alone, if there were not other factors, must have a great influence on the minds of members of the Congress Party.
Further than that, Mr. Gandhi has made use of words which may fairly be interpreted as a measure of good will, and as a desire to come to a satisfactory solution, both inside and outside India, with regard to this problem. At some time or other, those who have been detained with him will, clearly, have to sit round a table, with representatives of this country and their fellow Indians of a different religious persuasion, to reach a settlement. It must be obvious to everyone in the House that, when a man is convicted of a crime, he is almost invariably sentenced to a specific term of imprisonment. When that is over, he comes out automatically, however serious the crime he has committed. When a man is detained preventively, no term is set on the length of his imprisonment but it rests with the executive authority to release him when the appropriate time comes. In the last resort it rests with the Secretary of State, and the very wise man who is appointed Viceroy of India, to decide the time and place and conditions of release—I do not mean by that conditional release; I mean the time, place and the arrangements suitable for his release. There are risks to be faced in releasing people who have been in detention. The risks are very real, and the right hon. Gentleman and the Viceroy will have to weigh them. But there are also risks involved in not releasing them, and those risks are very grave indeed—the risk of permanently alienating men who are not guilty of what has been described as moral turpitude, but who have been detained for political reasons—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not ignore the grave risk of continuing detention, however much he may see the risk of bringing it to an end.
I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to give an answer on this point to-day. It would, obviously, be impossible for him to make an important pronouncement on their release on this occasion. But I hope also that he will not feel it necessary, as a result of what may be said in this Debate, to make a positive adverse statement, which might 1020 tend to make the situation worse. We quite realise that the decision must rest with him and the Viceroy. We all realise that the time, place and method must be theirs, but we do ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the great importance of choosing a suitable and early opportunity of bringing to the life of liberty men who, in the end, must be parties to any agreement made in India.
We look forward to a wise decision being taken with a view to bringing about a real settlement. I hope that in saying that, I am not being too optimistic. I have great faith in the real underlying statecraft of the people of this country. Their government of India in years gone by has, in my opinion, not been wholly without fault. Things have been done which I certainly regret, but, I want us to-day to turn our backs upon the past. Let us get rid of the old distrust on all sides. Let us think of the future of this great country, containing in its population one-fifth of the whole human race, a great country which has been brought from a somewhat anarchic condition to its present great position, largely through the medium of this country, and a country that we here have the power, if we will, to help to speed forward on its path to a great future. I believe we can do that. I believe we shall do that. I believe that in doing that, this country will show the great British spirit of democracy and set an example to the world which will long be remembered as the greatest tribute to the genius for statecraft of the British race.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Before my right hon. Friend concludes, may I ask him a question? Is he not rather hard on his colleagues in the militant suffrage movement, when he suggests an analogy between their fight and that of Gandhi and his followers? As long as this country was at peace, the militant and nonmilitant suffragettes attacked the Government with all their force, but the moment it came to war and deadly danger, they put aside their case and rallied to the Government's support.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I was not pressing the analogy too far. I was trying to make only one point, and I must not be taken as assuming that the two cases are on all fours.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), I do not speak for any party, or after consultation with friends. Nor do I speak as an ex-member of any militant organisation, which I hope will exclude me from drawing down upon myself the wrath of the hon. and redoubtable lady opposite whom we are all glad to see back and restored to health. I can speak, therefore, with a greater freedom, although I hope with no less sense of responsibility, for I think that we must all have been struck by the wisdom and breadth of view which my right hon. Friend displayed in the remarks which he has just made. Speaking purely as an individual, I would say that I have had some opportunity of taking part in the course of Indian affairs in the course of my service in Parliament. After the last war I had the opportunity of taking part in the great Debates on the Government of India Act, and again, as a junior Minister, of taking part in the Round Table Conference many years later.
The fact that seems to stand out in the present position to the ordinary individual is that we are getting nowhere along these roads. Yet the problem is urgent. How urgent has been shown in the example of the Bengal famine, and still more in the situation underlying the Bengal famine. That situation has been brought most powerfully and simply before our notice by the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill), who has called our attention with the utmost emphasis to the fact that the population of India is increasing by about 6,000,000 a year. He has put it on record that the factor of safety in India as a whole, the margin above survival level of the average inhabitant, is very low. And the possibility of a much greater catastrophe cannot be removed from our minds. We had a situation like that on a smaller scale at our own door in Ireland almost exactly 100 years ago. Before the famine, the population of Ireland went up from 5,395,000 in 1801, to 8,175,000 in 1841. Competent observers, time and again, warned everybody of the danger that was coming. It came, and nothing was done. Then came the Irish famine. The population of Ireland was brought down to 1022 an equilibrium, but that equilibrium was reached at about 4,400,000—half the population of a few years before, at what cost to the world, to Great Britain and to Ireland, can scarcely be even envisaged. Over 4,000,000 people left the country in the second half of the 19th century—4,000,000 devil's advocates against this country and the system of things which had made that necessary.
There is no such open door for migration in the world now to absorb any great overspill from a crowded continent, such as the crowded sub-continent of India. History has been warped by that audit of population, and the end is certainly not yet. Yet it is interesting to note that, even in those days, some of our grandfathers had an inkling of the way in which to approach the problem. There were remedies adopted at the time, incorrect remedies as they were, as is now generally admitted. Yet even in this House proposals were heard of a much more constructive nature, which bore a singular analogy to those of the Tata scheme, which is one of the great new features of the present situation. Lord George Bentinck and Disraeli came to the House for an expenditure of £16,000,000 in Ireland on one branch of industrial development alone, the development of railways. That was £2 per head for the whole Irish population, men, women, children, and babies. The equivalent to this, in India, would be £800,000,000. These were far-reaching proposals to bring before the House of Commons at that date. It is true they were not adopted, but smaller proposals were adopted by the Government involving £620,000 for the railways. This, on a population basis, would be equivalent to an expenditure of £40,000,000 in India, even on present money figures, not mentioning the enormous difference that the token value of money has undergone between then and now.
We did absorb a similar population increase in Great Britain. No such great decrease took place here. It is a good thing for the world that there should be some 42,000,000 of people in this island, instead of the tiny population it would have had to-day if we had permitted things to take their course. We absorbed it, partly by improved methods of agriculture, and partly by the use of power on a new scale, the industrial revolution. To-day the House has been heartened and 1023 invigorated by the great scheme for the development of agriculture, which was adumbrated by the Government in a statement in another place, and we hope to hear some more about it when the Secretary of State winds up; but that is only one part of the problem, and that is certainly not enough.
There is a certain élan about the use of machines. It would be idle to deny it. Take Russia; the Russian revolution is the tractor, very nearly. The simple fact of the matter is that in the East it takes four families on the land, to feed one family in the town, and in the West, one family on the land feeds four families in the town. An enormous change is at hand in the economic set-up in China, where Henry Wallace has suggested that in far less time than it has taken in the United States in the past, it might come to 50–50 between industry and agriculture. That means for a population of some 400,000,000 people, that 200,000,000 would be undergoing the industrial revolution. We are faced with some of the greatest events in social and economic development that the world has even seen, and it is time to sit back and consider the impact of these enormous events upon the political and social problems of India.
The Tata scheme envisages that, by 1960, agriculture would only produce 40 per cent. of the net income of India: that is to say, that 60 per cent. of the income of India would be derived from other sources. Again, that shows that people are envisaging a change-over, not merely of tens but of scores of millions, or indeed higher figures than that. These are enormous new currents that are about to run through the world, and it is time that the House of Commons, and Parliament as a whole, should reconsider old problems in the light of such facts. India is only raising enough food to keep half her population alive after the age of 22, and yet her population, crowding into the world to take part in this jostle for bread, is going up at the rate of 1,000,000 every two months. You cannot cure that situation by putting more people on the land. You have to have great industrial as well as great agricultural development. For the present situation is the sort of situation that blows up.
The Indian suggestion is to spend £7,500,000,000 over a period of 15 years, 1024 £1,000,000,000 for the first five-year plan and £2,000,000,000 in the second five year plan. The authors of the plan say:We think that no development of the kind we have proposed will be feasible except on the basis of a central directing authority which enjoys sufficient popular support"—sufficient popular support, note—and possesses the requisite power and jurisdiction.Indeed, great popular support it will need to have, because the authors themselves say thatto remodel the agriculture of India on any scale which would produce food adequate for the people would require"—as they say in somewhat anodyne terms—some measure of compulsion.We know the enormous scar it made on the life of this country when our agriculture was reorganised and the enclosure of the commons took place. Such changes in India could not be made by a Government from outside, but only by those who realise, in their hearts, the urgency of the problem, and are willing to take the drastic and terrible steps which will be necessary to bring about a solution. It seems to me that to suggest that one single authority of 400,000,000 people can be brought into existence with adequate powers, in any time short enough to deal with this obviously acute situation, is to be expecting a miracle. We are nowhere near it in the British Commonwealth of Nations, or in Europe. The controversy which is arising, and which is likely to arise over, say, financial control and currency matters, even on the point of cooperation between the friendly nations, Great Britain and the United States, is sufficient proof of that.
The state of what he calls the progressive starvation of his people has moved Gandhi. I agree with my right hon. Friend that that is another vital fact in the position to-day, because it has moved Gandhi to a momentous decision. He has decided, as I read, to recognise the principle of partition.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
He has, as I understand it, put forward a proposal to set up a Commission to arrange voting areas. Then he suggests there should be a plebiscite in these areas. If the plebiscite goes for the independence of those areas, independence let it be. He is a 1025 master of language and I may not have correctly interpreted his views. But that seems to me, from this great distance, and looking at them as an ordinary individual, which is the only thing one can do, to be a fair summary of his views. They do not differ very greatly from the Cripps proposals, and this means that a great step forward has been made. These proposals cannot be left simply kicking about.
In the case of Ireland—and I admit that the right hon. Gentleman has already demonstrated to us that analogies are always slightly misleading, and occasionally dangerous—somebody had to delimit the areas and somebody had to declare the powers. Who was it? It was Parliament. What Commission is going to have greater authority or greater knowledge or better leaders than Parliament? What greater jury is there than this Parliament to sit and consider a proposal brought before it by, let us say, the present Government? Think of the experience that is in their ranks. Two of them were born in India, the President of the Board of Education and the Secretary of State for India. Two of them spent long years, among the best working years of their lives, in India, the Secretary of State for War and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Many of them have a wide general knowledge of India, the Minister of Aircraft Production, the Ambassador to Washington—who is still a Member of the Government—the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, and the Prime Minister, who spent many years of his formative life out there. We had no such body of experts here when we passed the British North America Act, and set up the Dominion of Canada.
It seems to me that the Pakistan solution suffers from the vice of over-simplicity. It seems to me to be over-simple and therefore wrong. A dual solution in India is a solution to perpetuate antagonism. The River Basin Scheme has been suggested——
§ Earl Winterton
As I made the interruption, perhaps I might be allowed an observation, although I want to speak later. It is not a question of whether Pakistan is right or wrong. Pakistan is put forward by a vast number of people, and has to be considered in conjunction with Mr. Gandhi's offer.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I would not deny that for a moment. My right hon. Friend has much greater experience in these matters than I, but the essence of the Pakistan scheme, as I understand it, is that the perpetual subjection of a minority to a majority, which it cannot change by any process of voting conversion, is to produce an impossible situation. Some means of escape must be found, whether by a dual solution, or a more than dual solution, by the setting up, it may be, of four or five units. That is why I said that the Pakistan solution seemed to me to be over-simple. To put all the Moslems on one side, and all the Hindus on the other, or as near as you can get to it, seems to be a way of producing an artificial antagonism which can never be reconciled, whereas a group of States—I shall refer to the powers I would suggest for these States—might dissolve or eat away the aspect of plus and minus, of light and darkness, of good and evil, as those dual States would inevitably personify themselves.
Therefore I was more attracted, in studying the literature on this subject, with a solution such as the River Basin Scheme. This suggests four great units, the Indus, the Ganges, the Delta and the Deccan. I have heard brought forward by prominent Indians suggestions for a five-State scheme. It would be quite impossible for me to do more than mention these schemes. On the great principle of two or more than two, it seems to me as I have said that two is a more dangerous solution than many, because two seems to me to make for antagonism, which will be exacerbated more and more as the years go on.
As for the powers of the States, I should say that they need to be from the start Dominions in their own right. The business of voting in, or voting out, is not their only nor yet their main task. Development and administration will be their main tasks; to put through these enormous changes, to go among the people, to handle the bringing of the industrial revolution, in leading-strings, let us hope, to those millions of people who know no more of it just now than what one in a million may have seen in a film about the United States. The greater the powers, I believe, the quicker will be the solution. The essence of Dominion status is responsible government. The setting up of the Ulster Government was the 1027 moving of the key log in the Irish jam. When that was done, we could go to Eire and speak, we could tackle the problems. Think what we may of Eire, it certainly has been able to follow peacefully its own line of development, which it would never have been able to follow, if it had been tied in a bag with another quarrelsome cat, the Ulster Protestants and the Southern Irish Firbolgs. You may have to allow for this in order, in the long run, to come to a greater amity. I am sure that in this way we may have had more actual support from the South even in man-power with Eire as an independent State standing out of the war altogether, than we should ever have had if we had insisted on our old position in that country. A friend of mine was speaking to an Irish major of tanks who belongs to Eire, and this major said "De Valera's men said Tom Cosgrave would have broken our neutrality. It was a lie; we would have been as neutral under Cosgrave, as we are under de Valera." That was his interpretation of neutrality. He was a major of British tanks.
People talk of this proposal as if it were partition, vivisection of the live body of India. If you can get units of the human race to live comfortably with each other by 100,000,000 at a time, and four units means 100,000,000 apiece, that is sufficient of a miracle. I would like to remind the House we have just seen Iceland declare that there is no one in the world, not even Denmark, she can live with, and setting up a pocket republic amid the glaciers. Stalin is devolving armies and foreign offices upon the separate parts of the Soviet Union. This is the way the world is moving. I would not put any limit on the powers of these States. I would, in particular, give them control of their currency. They cannot have finance unless they control currency. They must not be subject to one central bank, they must not be locked up together inside one customs union. It was a customs union which broke us off from America, and it is the lack of a customs union which enables us to live in amity with Australia, South Africa and Canada. Everything by agreement, nothing by compulsion. If you want friendship, that is the recipe. I suggest that the Government should announce in its next King's Speech an 1028 India Bill which will be an India Bill, which this House can get to work upon, and which will really enable advances to be made.
One last word. I do not think the last word has been said in regard to defence. We are moving into a new era in defence. There is local defence and world defence. We have seen American bases set up in this country. We have conceded to the United States treaty port rights in this country. An American soldier who murders a British subject in this country, is not tried by our courts of law. All over the world we have had to work out relations between bases of what we might call Imperial forces or what may be the world force of the future, and the rights of the local inhabitants. Defence is a big problem, and cannot be treated simply on the basis of the Indian Army. I am quite sure much bigger factors will have to be brought into consideration, but, again, I do not see that the difficulty about it should justify a deadlock in which nearly one-fifth of the world's population are locked on a dead centre, where half of them die of hunger before the age of 22.
We are witnessing in the new developing world one of the great battles of history. I do not mean the war. The battle I am thinking of is the coming of power, the new battle of the tractor with the hoe, which may bring great evils in its train. But the human population, given the choice, chooses the tractor. It is a strange irony of fate that makes Gandhi, the apostle of the spinning wheel, likely to be the protagonist in one of the greatest processes of industrialisation the world has ever seen. Half the horsepower in the world is in one country, the United States. Is that going to last for ever? Without doubt, no. The battle of which I have spoken will produce a problem as great as ever our distracted planet has had. I think it is impossible that this unified military despotism to which we have fallen heir, is the instrument to solve that. It is not the way in which a great military government passes from the stage. It does not hand over to a great civil government, covering all the same area and with the powers of the original government. South America is still a very definite unit. but it was not made so by handing over the powers of the Viceroyalty of Spain, to a single 1029 unitary civilian government covering the whole South American continent. We should be our own Bolivar and conduct our own revolution. It is a great task which we have before us, a task in which inevitably we over here shall have to take the lead. Only yesterday, in Madras, Rajagopalachari challenged British statesmen to produce an alternative plan for a communal settlement which would allay the fears of the Moslems and protect their interests properly. Solvitur ambulando—it will be done by the people of the soil, by beginning and going on, and the time to begin is now.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
In the two speeches which we have heard to-day, this House has had its attention called to the magnitude and significance of the Indian problem in a way that I do not think has characterised any of the many Debates on India to which I have listened in the past. I greatly welcome that, because I feel that it is time that this House realised its immense responsibility in relation to the handling of the Indian problem, which is really one of the major problems lying before the world to-day. I should dearly like to deal with some of the points raised by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), but I will not attempt to do so. I would only like, at this early stage in the Debate, to indicate a note of dissent on two of his points.
Although we recognise the communal difficulties in India and the need for devising new constitutional forms, which may allow to each of these communities a measure of freedom in their own administration, on which I feel sure they will insist, I hope that we shall say nothing in this House which will give a push forward to any move for the complete breaking-up of India. The unification of India is, perhaps, one of our greatest achievements. The future problem is of course a difficult one, but let us not, at this stage, adopt the attitude that we must face a breaking-up of that unity. I do not agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend that, merely because 400,000,000 people are concerned, there are not important issues that could be handled as though it were one unit. I do not agree with his analogy—and he recognised that analogies are always dangerous—with South America. India, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) 1030 pointed out, occupies one of the key strategic positions of the world, a position totally different from that of South America. I think it would be disastrous if anything were to happen that prevented India operating at least as one unit in the structure of the security of the world. The other main point, on which I venture also to indicate my dissent, is this. I know of the difficulties that exist in achieving agreement among the Indian parties, but I would not throw up the sponge yet. What we have to try to achieve is agreement between the Indian parties. To suggest, at this stage, that we should step in again with a new Government of India. Bill, before they have got together—as I shall attempt to argue that they should now—to consider their own future is, I think, a dangerous, and really not a timely, suggestion.
Turning to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh, I should like to endorse with my whole heart all that he said about turning our attention to the future, and not dwelling upon recriminations about the past. I would add, also, let us appreciate each other's real difficulties. How often have we been over this position in the last five years? I share my right hon. Friend's view that to-day that we can discuss it in a new atmosphere. We have five years of war behind us. It is surely not too optimistic to say that the period of the urgent war crisis is over, and that the end is in sight. That makes it more than ever necessary to look forward to a permanent constitutional solution. I have always felt very unhappy about all these discussions on intermediate, temporary solutions. I have never believed that any really satisfactory half-way house was possible. A great deal has been done to associate leading Indians with the Government of India. I think one should take note of the fact that really the whole constitution and working of the Viceroy's Council has changed in the last five years. A constitutional change, unwritten but none the less real, has, in fact, taken place. Nevertheless, all our attempts to bring the two main political parties into participation in the Government have failed. I think it is as well that we should face up to the fact, and recognise why.
All that we have been able to do is, in effect, to ask them to come into a coalition Government, because, until a new constitutional foundation is ready, to, 1031 which we could transfer our power, there can be no major constitutional change. To ask leading political parties, the main plank in whose political platform is opposition to the continuance of British rule, to come in and join a coalition Government, under a British Viceroy, is asking a great deal, and we in this House, who have some experience of the difficulty of forming coalition Governments and of the difficulty of keeping them working when they are in existence, ought to appreciate that. I believe that it is wise to recognise that fact, to face it frankly, and to focus our attention now not on manoeuvring for intermediate arrangements, but on the great question of the final Constitution. That is not the view of a reactionary who wants to hold on to British power over India; it is the best way, I believe, to achieve the transfer of our constitutional power as soon as possible, which is what we all desire to do. Therefore, while I should very much like to talk at length on the economic issues which have been ventilated, I want to say a few words on the immediate political position.
I feel that this Debate is a timely one, because, for many reasons, this is a fitting occasion to take stock of the position. It is a time when we should consider what are the tasks that lie before us on the British side, and in what ways we can render the best service. After all, although we may keep the vision of these great issues in our minds, we have to consider what are the next steps. We have three main tasks before us. The first is the obvious one of carrying on the war to a successful conclusion. The second, as I see it, is to do everything in our power to help the Indian parties to get together, to join in realistic constitutional discussions round the table, so that they may prepare, by mutual agreement, a constitutional foundation ready to take the weight of responsibility from us as soon as the war is over. Our third task is to use the remaining period of our own responsibility to prepare the way for the introduction of those economic programmes which we have already heard discussed—programmes without which there is not the slightest chance of maintaining the internal stability, or the external security of India, or of fulfilling the real purpose of us all, the advancement of the genuine welfare of the Indian people. 1032 I want to say a few words on those three heads.
On the successful conclusion of the war, there is not much to say. It is obvious that it is not only a question of forces in the front line, or even of making India an effective arsenal for their equipment: it is also a question of good administration—above all, food distribution and financial policy must be rightly handled. Famine and inflation will not only weaken India's immediate war effort, but will leave terrible problems after the war. These are matters with which not only the Government of India, but we in this Parliament, are concerned. We are concerned because we are still responsible for the good government of India, and because our own acts may powerfully affect the situation.
I want to say only a few words on food. I have faith in the Viceroy's determination, which is supported now in Bengal—the most critical area of all—by Mr. Casey, whose utterances do inspire my confidence. But the danger is not over, and I earnestly hope that the United States and the British Government will do all they can to give the necessary priority to the further shipment of food grains to India. As to financial policy and inflation, we have discussed that on earlier occasions, and I would only say, now—because it is a matter which, I think, should be debated in the House at some time—that I do feel grave doubts whether our policy in this war by which, while maintaining a fixed rate of exchange, we have expended vast sums of money in countries like India and Egypt, has not contributed more than was actually necessary to the inflationary price rises which have taken place. These are matters that we cannot discuss now, but, as I have said, I believe they should be discussed on another occasion.
Having said that, I turn to what I have described as our second task, the rendering of every aid we can to the Indian parties to get together. The Viceroy, in a speech last February, showed that he wished to encourage preparatory discussions. I hope that Parliament to-day will convey to him its very strong support in that intention, and indicate how strongly it would welcome any constructive measures that can be taken. I agree with my right hon. Friend in feeling that Mr. Gandhi's recent utterances have at least 1033 given a gleam of new hope. Of course, when considering this question of constitutional discussions between representatives of the main parties one is brought straight up against the difficulty, to which my hon. Friend has referred, that many of the leaders of the Congress Party are still in prison. I have very definite views on that matter, but one must speak with great caution, in which respect my right hon. Friend has given us such a notable example. The ultimate decision must, of course, be taken by the Viceroy, who, with his Government, is carrying all the time, day and night, the terrible responsibility of preserving the peaceful and orderly administration of India. No one who has not worked and carried responsibility in India can realise fully what that means, how thin is the crust on which orderly administration rests, and how easily it might be broken and precipitate the whole nation into disaster and chaos.
I speak, therefore, with that thought very prominently in my mind, and I would say only this: The Viceroy I regard as a man of courage and of a generous liberal spirit, and I hope we shall say nothing in this House to-day to embarrass him or to hamper his discretion in any way at all. But if he wants to know whether he could count on the support of Parliament if he, in his discretion, thinks the time has come to take a bold step and to release political prisoners, so that there might be a start with full political discussions, then without any reservation I would give him my support. I would add that such action would have very much greater value if the ground had been prepared in advance for such discussions, so that there was a recognised opportunity ready to hand. In referring to such discussions I am thinking in terms of confidential talks, designed to prepare the way for the more formal proceedings of a constituent assembly.
Before I leave this subject there is one other point we must remember. Congress is not the only important element whose proper representation is difficult in the present situation. Great changes are taking place in this war. Millions of Indians are in the Armed Forces, and they will come back with new ideas of life and an appreciation of the realities of the present world which may not be fully shared by those whose attention has been turned inwards all the time to India's 1034 domestic problems. No one can say what influence those millions will have on the course of Indian national opinion. But that they are entitled to a hearing no one can deny, and it is one of our chief responsibilities to see that they get it. That is a matter to be borne in mind, but, in spite of that difficulty, I would still press urgently that the time has come for starting the process of discussions and that we should do everything in our power to promote it.
Those discussions will last a long time and we must recognise that there is no time for delay. It is not unrealistic to imagine that a year from now, on 27th July, 1945, the British Government might be able to say to the Indian leaders: "Gentlemen, the day has come. We have finished our task of carrying India through the war. Now we can turn our eyes to the future. In accordance with our pledge, we are ready to take the mantle of responsibility from our shoulders and transfer it to yours. Tell us how you wish it placed. Are you prepared to put it on?" Will they be ready with an answer, or shall we find men still quarrelling together, and ready only to tear the mantle in pieces? The mantle may have, in some way or other, to be divided, but even so such divisions must be prepared for. Mr. Jimiah wants Pakistan. Will he be ready with a plan showing just how a Moslem State is to be set up? It will not be any good for him on that day, to go on saying, "I do not like the Congress plan. I will fight rather than accept it." India in the future cannot be governed by Oppositions. Indian politicians have had too long an experience of working in Opposition. That is not their fault. It has left them with a very great heritage of difficulty, but they have to cast it off. The welfare of the people of India cannot be provided for in the future merely by parties who say "No." Therefore, I beg them to realise that we on our side mean business; that the period of manoeuvring for position is nearly over; that the day is near when each must play his own part in the responsibility, and that all the parts must fit in together.
I come now to what I have described as the third British task—to use the remaining period of our responsibility to prepare the way for a constructive economic policy. Those who feel, as I 1035 do, that the true function of a Government is to provide for the welfare of the people, must regard this as the most important question of all; but we have to be realistic, and my right hon. Friend put the matter very well, I think. It is often said nowadays, and particularly with reference to India, that it is the economic problems which matter, and that if only politics could be forgotten, and men's attention turned to economic tasks, it would be much better for everybody. Perhaps it would; but we cannot evade political issues in that way, and certainly not in India. The economic problems must be handled by Governments and Governments depend upon political support. What is practicable and what is, above all, needed in Indian interests, is that economic problems, the "welfare of the people" questions, should take a front place in political discussion. The political parties should concern themselves more and more with these matters, and less and less with their barren communal controversies.
I believe that is possible, and that there are signs of an awakening consciousness of that in India. That is why I, for one, share the right hon. Gentleman's feelings in welcoming the so-called Bombay or Tata plan. That has been prepared by men who are leading industrialists, and some of whom are also leading political figures. They knew quite well what they were doing when they put up that plan. They knew they were putting it into the political arena. I welcome their courage. Though we may query some of the details, I think they have made a most valuable contribution, and I believe they are inspired by a genuine love of their country and a genuine desire to promote the welfare of its people. For that reason I welcome very much the light which has been shed in this country on the realities of the Indian problem by what has been written and said by my hon. Friend the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill). I hope that he will speak later, and will deal much more fully with these vast problems of nutrition and population. I should like to have spoken on them myself, because that is the aspect which interests me most, but, as I have said, I would rather confine myself on this occasion to the political side of the problem.
1036 The one point I do want strongly to urge in regard to this important part of the British task is that here there is a special opportunity for the Government of India to collaborate with Indians, even with those Indians who have not been able for political reasons to join the Government. Here we are dealing with preparations for measures the actual handling of which will, I hope, fall on a truly national Indian Government. Therefore, I want to see as wide a collaboration as possible. By all means, of course, let the Government of India be preparing data and working out their own plans. Incidentally in that connection I welcome most cordially the inclusion of Sir Ardeshir Dalal, one of the authors of the Bombay plan, in the Government of India as Member for Reconstruction. But I have seen signs in the Indian Press of an impression that there is to be a "Government of India plan" as a sort of rival to the Bombay plan. I do hope that there will be the minimum of controversial rivalry and the maximum of cooperation in this matter—the maximum of genuine co-operation between the Government of India and all outside groups, whatever their political complexion, that are genuinely working for India's future welfare. I should like to suggest that if a preliminary all-party conference on the constitutional issue could be started there might be, as part of it or parallel to it, an all-party conference on economic plans.
In this matter of co-operation in the economic field it is not merely a question of what the Government of India can do. We in this country have also a great part to play, and in that connection I Would mention another matter of great significance, the proposed visit of a group of leading Indian industrialists to this country. I believe there lies before our two countries a really bright prospect of fruitful co-operation in the industrial development of India, but to see that prospect and to bring it to reality will need on our side courage, generosity and vision. We shall have to change many of our old conceptions. Some of our industries will have to suffer painful adjustments. But that there is a chance for co-operation which, in its broad results, will benefit both our great nations, I have not the slightest doubt. This is a very important matter, which must be rightly handled. Rightly 1037 handled, it can do great good; wrongly handled, it may lead to great bitterness. It is clearly connected, of course, with the great problem of the utilisation of India's sterling balances after the war, to which my right hon. Friend referred and which I shall not attempt to discuss fully to-day.
What I would chiefly urge is that there should be complete frankness in our approach to these matters, and an unreserved recognition that Indians have a right to be masters of their own destiny, and that their power to achieve a destiny worthy of their nation depends largely on her proper economic and industrial development. I should expect Indians, on their side, to appreciate what our difficulties will be after the war, and to realise that it is in their own essential interests that British democracy and all that it stands for should be strong and powerful and able to play a part in international councils. I believe that Indians will see that and recognise it in their hearts, and that that recognition will be freely expressed when they are regarded as masters in their awn house. They will need our friendship and help; they will be glad to have that, if it is friendship between equals. Let us do everything in our power to give that help, in that spirit of equality.
There are many difficulties in the way, on which I should like to say something, but I believe that the best contribution we can make to-day, is to lift this discussion away from detail and to show that this British Parliament has a great vision of India's destiny in the world. If we say to Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah, or any other leaders: "We beg you to turn from manœuvring and clever formulæ to a concerted effort to find a basis of agreement so that we, with a good conscience, can transfer our constitutional responsibility to Indian shoulders," that does not mean that we belittle the difficulties. We who, in this House, know so well the difficulties of political manœuvring, should say: "No; we realise your difficulties, we sympathise with you; but we, standing thousands of miles away, can see your problem as a whole—the desperate need for lifting the Indian masses above the level of starvation; the fact that the surge of national enthusiasm which is needed to carry your plans through, can only be inspired by 1038 a truly national Indian Government; the great opportunity which now, after two centuries you have of launching smoothly, and without the horror of bloody revolution, a new-born great Eastern democracy. Seeing all this, we beg you to get together, so that you may be ready for the day to which we look forward as fervently as you."
It is not merely a question of Indian interests, as my right hon. Friend so well pointed out. We hope the United Nations will be able to build a structure of security for the world. That structure cannot be anything but insecure unless the Eastern half of it is strong. That Eastern half cannot be strong, if India is divided and a centre of chaos. This is of vital interest to the leading nations of the world. These are great issues and these are the things to which we should turn our attention, and I beg Indians to turn their attention to them, believing in the honesty of our purpose.
There is only one other word which I would like to say, in conclusion—rather a personal word. I have served for six years as a Member of the Government of India. When one serves as a Member of the Government of India, one feels oneself to be a servant of India, representing the Indian people. It is apt to be a painful position. As the Secretary of State will probably know, there have been occasions on which I have had to represent Indian interests and see British interests gravely damaged. That was a painful experience, but, still, the memory of those six years has become a real part of my life; indeed, I feel myself partly an Indian, because I sat for six years looking at these things from the Indian point of view. So I feel deeply that I want to see India take her place as one of the great nations of the world. When it is said to-day that there are four great Powers, including China, it hurts my Indian feelings that India should not be mentioned. China can be a great power for peace in the world, but India can be just as great a power. India ought to stand forward as the equal of China. So, with the deepest feelings, I pray that we may shake off this tangle of detailed controversy and strife, and that with the help of this House our two great nations may stand side by side as pioneers, in the march of civilisation throughout the world.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I hope the House will tolerate my intervention, because, although I have not, I think, addressed the House on Indian matters before, I feel very deeply the responsibility which is on all of us for the government of that great country. It is inevitable that the Indian Debates in this House, running, as they have in the past, very much on lines concerning constitutional issues and political controversies, too often fail to deal with really urgent problems, namely, the needs of the humble Indian workers and peasants. I am not very much interested in the latest move of Mr. Gandhi. His views, clearly, are undergoing changes, and I think they may be allowed to develop further. I do not see any reason why the Government, at the moment, should take any very definite line in the matter. But I do think it extremely important that the Secretary of State and the central Government of India should make use of this opportunity to rally opinion in India on issues that really do matter, particularly, at the moment, the economic issues and the problem of raising the standard of living of the Indian people both in industry and agriculture.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) made a very interesting speech, but I must say that I really could not agree with what he seemed to be advocating, namely, the breaking up of India into a number of Dominions. I understood him to mean a kind of bastard Pakistan. I think that is what he was advocating, and it seems to me it would be a very backward step. We must try to keep India an economic unit. The general trend of the world to-day is towards large economic units, and to split up India, as my right hon. Friend seemed to suggest, with the existence of customs barriers, is something with which I really could not agree. On the other hand, my right hon. and gallant Friend threw out an idea of regional grouping based on the river basins of India, for dealing with economic problems now. I think that is a very useful idea and one which might reasonably be explored, because one must realise, in dealing with a gigantic Continent like India, the geographical problems. If you want to deal with foreign problems, you must study geography. As Lord Salisbury once said, "Use large maps." The working-out of an economic policy for dealing with the 1040 problems of India, might be better done along those lines.
I wish the Central Government of India and the Secretary of State would take action now, in this time when politics in India are in a state of uncertainty, to give a lead to public opinion in India so as to rally it to deal with the really urgent industrial and agricultural problems, which have been made all the more urgent because of the disastrous famine of last year and the possibility of a recurrence in future. I believe that, if that were done, this barren communal controversy between Hindus and Moslems would be seen in its true light, and public opinion would tend to concentrate upon the really urgent problem. New political alignments may then come into being, which I think would be to the advantage of the general political outlook. Incidentally, looking at it from a narrow British point of view, the solution of the problem of poverty in India would be an enormous help to us here in dealing with our post-war economic position. Our export trade could be immensely assisted if the purchasing power of the population of India were raised even by a small amount, and very much so if raised by a large amount, and so we are all clearly bound up with the welfare of India.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. PethickLawrence) referred to what is going on in Northern Asia, in Siberia and in the U.S.S.R. There are great industrial and economic developments taking place there, but I would refer to something even nearer to India than that. On the Northern side of the Hindu Kush mountains, in Russian Turkestan, there are now autonomous republics federated with the U.S.S.R., where the native populations. freed from ancient racial and religious feuds, are now co-operating with their Russian comrades and developing their social and economic life. I know the problems there are not as difficult as they are in India. In the main, there is only one religion—Mohammedan—though there are different sects, and you have not got the same colossal communal difficulty that you have in India. Racial animosities there have been, and they have been solved, and the real problem of raising the standard of life is by way of being solved. Is it too much to hope that, by co-operation between ourselves and the people of 1041 India, we might move along the same lines?
What is the problem as I see it? The population in India to-day is increasing at the rate of 6,000,000 a year. There is a terrible infantile mortality, but I understand that it is going down over those areas where at least there is no famine, and the introduction of welfare centres and health work will, in the course of time, reduce it still further. There is reason to believe that before very long the increase of the population will be very much more than 6,000,000, and we may even get to 10,000,000 and 12,000,000 a year. If that increase goes on, in 30 years' time, the population of India will not be what it is now—400,000,000—but something like 730,000,000. The production of Indian agriculture is not sufficient at the present time to feed even the existing population of India and keep it in a reasonable standard of health. What is to be the problem when the population of India is 730,000,000 is a terrible nightmare at which all of us in this House can be frightened. What is really needed is the immediate raising of the productivity of Indian agriculture by 50 per cent., and, if the present trends continue, in 15 years' time the doubling of the production of Indian agriculture, otherwise what happened last year after the Bengal famine will be mere child's play compared with what will happen in the future.
A great deal is said about industrial development in India and the so-called Tata scheme. That no doubt is a very desirable line of development, but the point about which I would like to warn the House is, that there is no use in pushing industrial development alone in India. There is no use raising the standard of the population of India working in industry, if at the same time you do not increase the standard of living of the Indian peasants, who, after all, are the vast majority in the country. In the few minutes that I am asking the House to listen to me, I mainly want to refer to the problems of Indian agriculture. They can be divided into two heads, first, the question of land reform and rural indebtedness, and secondly, agricultural technical equipment. In regard to land reform and rural indebtedness, it is not too much to say that over a very large part of India, except the Punjab, where a different land system prevails, any great improvement 1042 in the standard of agriculture which should accrue to the Indian peasant will in fact accrue to the so-called zemindari or Indian landowners. These people pay now a fixed sum to the Government of India and that sum was based on the arrangement made in 1782 under the so-called Cornwallis Settlement. I understand that this fixed sum, which was settled all these years ago, is still paid irrespective of the intervening century and a half of industrial and technical development.
It is absolutely essential that that settlement should be revised. As things are, if there is any improvement in the state of the Indian peasants, it can automatically, and in fact does, go, over a large area, to these big landowners, and it is high time that that was looked into. No laws should be allowed to go on indefinitely irrespective of the circumstances in which they were made, and if it is necessary that the condition of the peasants should be raised, then that law must be looked into. Incidentally considerable funds could be derived by the Government of India from this source for agricultural development. Then there is an enormous difficulty in the way which is not the fault of the Government of India. The whole question of the parceling out of land between peasant families, meaning smaller and smaller holdings as the family gets larger, makes the process of agricultural improvements extremely difficult, but I would remind the Secretary of State that this matter has been gone into by some of the provincial Governments of India. I understand that in the Provinces of Behar, Madras and Bombay the Provincial Governments have made inquiries into the land systems of their Provinces and have appointed commissions, who have made recommendations. These recommendations have been along the lines of the reform of the land system which would modify very considerably this so-called Cornwallis scheme of settlement made so many years ago.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
May I, in order to save the hon. Member from pursuing an argument which may be erroneous, point out that the permanent settlement applies only to Bengal and a small area in Madras. In the United Provinces and the Central Provinces there is the zemindari and malgazari settlement, and over a great part of India the ryotwari tenure prevails.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
May I remind my hon. Friend that there was a very comprehensive inquiry throughout Bengal?
§ Mr. Price
I agree, but in those Provinces where Congress no longer operates and where the Central Government are responsible, I think there is a heaven sent opportunity to take up this problem now. The Central Government are responsible now, and the Secretary of State is responsible, owing to Congress having gone on strike and it is open to them to look into this matter. I believe that they could come out now in the form of champion of the Indian peasant in this very archaic land system, which still continues to hinder modern agriculture.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
Is the hon. Member aware that by far the biggest handicap of Indian agriculture and the Indian peasant is the system whereby practically all of it is in the hands of the Indian moneylenders? They are the people who really get the money out of it.
§ Mr. Price
Certainly, that is the whole point—the landowners and the moneylenders, many of whom are mixed up together, are the same in many cases. I mentioned the fact that it was land reform and rural indebtedness that needed attention. Another point I would like to make is that these commissions reported to the Provincial Governments and the Congress leaders took steps to see that these reports were never implemented, for they themselves were in the hands of some of these landowners and moneylenders. We on these Benches have no reason to be particularly concerned with Mr. Gandhi and his Congress Party having regard to their attitude on the reform of the Indian land laws. In any case, I hope that this matter will be looked into.
I come to the second point, namely, agricultural technical improvements, and here I know we are up against the immense difficulty of the backwardness of Indian peasants. But we have a chance, through the wireless, of making it clear 1044 to the Indian peasant that livestock improvement is a matter of urgent necessity for the maintenance of the fertility of the soil. I know that there are religious difficulties with the Hindus, but I believe that there are ways of getting over them. In the Indian villages there are peasants who are not Hindus who will buy these old cows which roam about the villages and whose presence and existence are a great hindrance to the improvement of livestock. Certainly, until there is a great improvement in the education of the Indian peasant, this very difficult problem cannot be solved, and I recognise that it does not rest solely with the Government of India how far this problem can be solved. The agricultural problem in India is only a part of the general world problem of maintaining the fertility of the soil in countries where soil erosion and loss of fertility through inadequate methods is becoming an acute problem. It is the case in the Western States of America, over large parts of Africa and in India too, that these methods of proper balanced cropping, the use of fertilisers and the use of livestock provide the key which will raise the fertility of the soil and make it possible for them to deal with the problem of increased population and recurrent famine.
There are signs that the Government of India are aware of this problem, as a special committee of the Imperial Council for Indian Agriculture has issued a report recommending the spending of £750,000,000 over a term of years for the development of Indian agriculture. I hope that the Secretary of State for India in his reply will say something about this report and what he proposes to do in the way of taking practical steps to implement it. It will mean the provision of large sums of money, a large staff and a good deal of time, but India has now a large credit balance and the financial question will not be as difficult as it was. It is along these lines of land reform and the improvement of agricultural technique that we must try to show the Indian people the way to save themselves from the immeasurable disaster which will take place if something is not done. Our task is a very great one—to try and show the Indian people this way out, now, in these times, just when we are on the threshold of great political developments, when perhaps it will be 1045 possible for us to hand over to the people of India the government of their country. They will then obtain their real independence, we hope, within the framework of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we must make use of this opportunity to show them the way now. I believe that we can do it, otherwise, great disaster will threaten the very ancient Indian civilisation.
§ Professor A. V. Hill (Cambridge University)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) said, a new motif seems to be apparent in this Debate to-day: and I personally feel that this change of motif is one which is greatly to be welcomed, one which holds out great hopes for the future improvement of Indian life and of our relations with India. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. PethickLawrence) said he hoped that only wise and statesmanlike words would be uttered, and I think he certainly gave us a good example of the way in which such a Debate as this should be conducted. Several hon. Members have mentioned the Bombay plan, to which he referred. When I was in India recently I welcomed the appearance of this plan for three special reasons—firstly, that the plan considered all aspects of development of Indian life, not merely one or two special ones; secondly, that it attempted to make the considerations quantitative, to give figures, not merely vague ideas; and thirdly, that it thought in terms of the right order of quantities, it envisaged a really great plan for overcoming a really great difficulty.
The right hon. Member for East Edinburgh, I think, did wisely to emphasise that so large a part of the problem is economic and not merely political. I thought also that he was wise in referring to the military aspect of the future development in India. I would like to refer to that again later. It was also referred to by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). It is of great importance in relation to India to preserve some reality of unity there. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove referred to the urgency behind the present situation and other hon. Members too have referred to that. That is a matter upon which I feel most strongly. I 1046 believe that India is living on, the edge of a precipice. The factor of safety is so low that any disturbance, even a comparatively minor one, may send her over the edge. For that reason we must regard this not as a matter which can be thought out slowly; it is not one in which time is on India's side. It is a matter of great and extreme urgency.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove referred to partition. I must say that, with the hon. Member for Walsall, I have grave doubts about the wisdom of us urging from here that any consideration should be given to partition. Devolution, yes; self-government, like we have in this country, within limited regions, yes; but partition, in the sense of having five separate Dominions, or whatever it may be, in India could, I think, only lead to what I myself in my less polite moments refer to as the Balkanisation of that great peninsula. He also referred to defence, and in that I agree with him that this matter must not be left out of consideration. He referred to the communal differences as though they were more important than honestly I believe they are. I believe that a large part of these communal differences is a got-up agitation by politicians. We heard about communal differences leading to bloodshed and physical violence. The total number of people killed and injured in communal disturbances is a very small percentage of those we kill on the roads. That, I think, gives a true picture of the importance of communal differences in the Indian countryside. It can be manufactured but it is not as serious as some political people would pretend.
I agree most warmly with the hon. Member for Walsall that it is not for us, so far as we can avoid it, to intervene in settling these differences. The differences are a matter for them to settle themselves, but we must not allow ourselves to be obsessed by their magnitude or their real importance. He referred also to his belief—with which I most warmly agree—that it is not possible to maintain both the internal stability and the external security of India without some kind of economic planning for the future of India now. He quite rightly referred to the thin crust on which the administration of India and the maintenance of order rest. He did not emphasise however, and I would like to do 1047 so, the frightful penalties which would result from disorder if it occurred. The machinery in India is heavily overloaded, and if we were to take liberties with it by allowing disorder—as some people lightly speak of it—bloody revolution, then the disaster would be not a minor one but a major catastrophe. This is no time to talk lightly of disorder in India as a possible way of solving differences.
The hon. Member for Walsall referred to the importance of economic policy and he said quite rightly that this depends fundamentally upon political systems. With that, naturally, we all agree but, unfortunately, "politics" is generally used with quite another connotation from that given in the Oxford Dictionary. There, "politics" is defined as the "science and art of government," and it is quite obvious that the economic development of a country must depend upon its political system and upon the art and science of government. Unfortunately, and more particularly in India, politics is apt to mean misrepresentation and recrimination, and if that can be avoided, and if we can devote our minds to economic welfare rather than to misrepresentation and recrimination, then the welfare of the people is assured. He referred also to the visit of the Indian industrialists this autumn, and I might add that I hope a group of Indian scientific men will also be coming then. There is a chance of co-operating with Indian industry if, as he says, we show courage, generosity and vision, but the alternative to our not showing those qualities is not that Indian industry will not develop at all but that the Indians will turn to America and not to us for help. They would rather turn to us, and, if we can help them, they will co-operate with us but, naturally, only on terms which seem to them reasonable. Occasionally it is asked in this country, Why should we help our competitors to take our markets? That seems to me to rest upon a totally false assumption of where the future of British industry lies. Our function should be to make those higher-class things requiring more skill and experience and plant which, for many years, Indian industry will not be able to make. Unless we concentrate on making those things, and are content to let the bread-and-butter production of the more ordinary things 1048 go, we shall never get markets in the countries that are now developing. I believe that we have everything to gain in the end, by the kind of co-operation with Indian industry which they themselves would like and would be very willing to offer.
The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) emphasised very strongly the importance of the development of Indian agriculture. He speaks with some knowledge of that, and with some special knowledge also of the Soviet Union. He referred to the lead which developments in the Soviet Union might give to developments in India. It is perfectly true that thoughtful people in India have seen in Russia a great example of what can be done by modern, determined, scientific and technological development. They are perfectly well aware that Russian methods are not directly applicable to all their concerns, but what can be done by Russia in one way may perfectly well be possible, though perhaps more slowly in India, in another way, and the example of other countries has undoubtedly created a great ferment in the minds of thoughtful people in India. The hon. Member was quite right in emphasising that the agricultural problem is not only a technical and a scientific one but that a whole history of social difficulties and customs and prejudices is apt to interfere with the proper use of Indian land. He referred to the value of radio in helping agriculturists, and I would like to point out the extreme value which radio might have, not only in connection with agriculture but in connection with education in India as a whole. Education in India by the ordinary methods is bound to be very slow. Through wireless a certain moderate amount of education, and introduction of the Indian population to the ideas of the outside world, could be done. That, of course, will require technological and engineering development on a large scale, but I feel that any encouragement that is possible should be given to the development of radio as a means of education in India.
Several right hon. and hon. Members have referred to my own recent preaching—if I may so call it—about the subject of population, food and health. In what I have said lately I have deliberately set out to make people's flesh creep on this subject because I think that needs to be 1049 done. The situation is not one that can be tolerated for a long time. If I may-I hope the House will not feel that I am giving a lecture, which a professor is too apt to do—I would like to repeat a few of the facts relating to this matter. The average new-born child in India has an even chance of living to 22; in Britain and America the same child has an even chance of living to nearly 70. This is not, as is commonly suggested, solely a matter of a high infantile death rate; it is due to a mortality which is four to eight times higher than ours right up to the age of 55. Corresponding to this high mortality, sickness is widespread, with consequent inefficiency, poverty and misery. Nutrition, also, on any reasonable standard, is for the most part appallingly low. No doubt there are tens of millions of people who are well fed, but there are hundreds of millions of people who are ill-fed, and even among those who are comparatively well-fed the standard is much lower than we ourselves would tolerate.
I had the privilege one day last winter to go to a Jat high school in the Punjab. We saw this morning in the papers about a Jat soldier who won the Victoria Cross. The boys in this Jat school were mostly going to be soldiers. I went with the headmaster into the matter of how much food they had and with him was distressed to see that these lads, many of whom were to be soldiers, were being given a diet which we in this country would regard as quite inadequate for building a healthy and athletic body. Taking account of quality as well as quantity I would say—and I think this is rather under-stressing the situation—that food in India is now no more than two-thirds of what would be necessary for a decent standard of life. Disease and malnutrition, working together, produce a vicious circle, making a situation so near the margin that any internal strife and disorder on the one hand, or any serious epidemic, like that of 1918, on the other, might produce a major catastrophe.
Yet in spite of this the population of India is increasing by 15 per 1,000 per annum, or about 6,000,000 a year. This, it is necessary to emphasise, is no new thing. The Indian population has always been living right up to its income, in the matter of health and food. If health measures are improved, and food production and distribution bettered, then this 6,000,000 will, as has been said, become 1050 7,000,000, 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 per annum. How can food supplies catch up and keep pace with so riotous an urge to reproduce, particularly in a population which is living for the most part in poverty, and not infrequently in misery,. and is so ill-educated that even to-day only about 8 per cent. of the female population of India over 5 years of age can read and write? Many of these things will depend mainly for their solution on the women. That is the real problem of India as I and many others see it. It depends upon the six terms—health, food, population, agriculture, poverty and education. That is the sort of problem which will not yield simply to political dialectic, or to the manufacture of political machinery It requires complete and deliberate co-operation all round, hard thinking and hard work.
No doubt there are many reasons for the Bengal famine of last year, some of them real and some of them imaginary. Among the imaginary ones are attributing it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The fundamental reason for the Bengal famine is that the factor of safety in India is almost zero, and tends to be held there all the time of excessive reproduction. Blame is thrown about for this. In Germany nowadays if things go wrong the blame is put upon the Jews or the Bolsheviks, or lately on the "blue blooded swine." Mussolini's scapegoat was "the pluto-democracies." In England it is fashionable to place the blame on the Government, on the bureaucracy, or on Socialists or capitalists, according to taste, while in India it is customary, to put the blame on the British, or, more particularly, on my right hon, Friend. Those who know my right hon. Friend are aware of his deep concern for the welfare of India and know what absolute nonsense it is to charge these things against him. Having been in India and heard these charges, and knowing my right hon. Friend's interest, I would like to make a protest here against attributing to him things which are so completely remote from his being. To attribute blame to other people is an easy and pleasant way of evading one's own responsibilities; it gives one a wonderful glow of self-righteousness, but does not get one very far towards solving problems. The important question is not the attribution of blame, but what our friends in India and we at home intend to do 1051 about this real problem. If they and we do not do something, and quickly, then, in spite of all the political dialectic that may be indulged in, I can see nothing but calamity, misery and poverty ahead.
In saying this, I want to make one thing quite clear. As an unrepentant Englishman, and an impenitent believer in the British Commonwealth, I am wholly in favour of repeating in India, when conditions allow, the experiment which has been so successful hitherto—amazingly successful except in Eire, where people's eyes are turned backwards instead of forwards—of handing over to Indians the government, including the defence, of their own country. I would like to say a word or two later about defence. I realise that this is an experiment and an act of faith on our part, and that one cannot be sure of the result. If it fails, and it may fail, and if strife and misery follow, that will be too bad but it will not be our fault. At any rate, I am sure that the mere continuation of the present system will certainly fail. If it succeeds—and the chances, I think, are rather better than evens that it will—India may become, after a few years, a proud and contented member of the British Commonwealth. But success will depend not chiefly on political arguments or machinery but rather on avoiding faction and communal strife, and on the widespread conviction among everyone who matters, that the welfare, health, education and prosperity of India and her men, women and children are things to which we must pay chief attention. There are 400,000,000 people to-day in India; by 1960 there will be over 500,000,000. The problems of most of those 400,000,000 will remain the same under any Constitution. They are health, food, education and a reasonable degree of comfort.
Public attention has been too much concerned in recent years with political aspects alone, and these other aspects of welfare, health, food and education have tended to be neglected. One of the greatest kindnesses we can do in India to-day is to refrain from interfering with affairs that are primarily her own responsibility, matters of purely domestic concern. We should refuse to be drawn into recriminations about Indian party politics or communal strife. We must remember 1052 —and some are apt to forget it—that India is already largely self-governing and could be more self-governing still if she wished. It is better to remain aloof as far as we can from this bewildering tangle and see if our experience, good will, resources and the confidence we have in our friends there can help India, on her own, to solve some of the real problems that affect the life and welfare of her people.
There is quite enough dumb misery in India already without adding to it by recriminations and folly from here. It is literally true of India that "where there is no vision the people perish." That vision must be of the health, prosperity and happiness of the common people of India. With that vision agreement would be much easier in formulating a plan for national development by using the vast potential resources of India for the public betterment, than in devising acceptable details of political machinery. If people will turn their minds and hearts to the needs of the common man, and how to satisfy them, we are more likely to reach a level of good humour and decent commonsense at which political difficulties can be solved. Rhetoric, argument and recrimination here will not solve them and, as undue attention is paid to what we say here by those in India, can only make things worse. We here can help by avoiding this folly, by making it clear that we are deeply and sincerely concerned for India's real needs and are prepared ourselves to help to meet them in any way we reasonably can, taking the long view and not merely providing a sentimental palliation of each petty crisis as it comes up. Fortunately, Lord Wavell is recognised in India as a man of vision and courage, and India is warmly conscious of his deep concern for the welfare of her people.
Perhaps I might illustrate that by a story of what happened in Delhi last January. The Indian Science Congress was meeting there and was inaugurated by the Viceroy. At the end, Professor Mitra, of Calcutta, rose to thank the speakers. He referred to the fact that all Indians knew that the Viceroy was deeply concerned for their welfare and began a sentence with the phrase, "Our fighting soldier Viceroy—." At that point the audience, three-quarters of whom were Indian scientific men and women, broke into cheers which lasted for half a 1053 minute. When they had stopped Professor Mitra resumed, "I would like to finish that sentence," and said it again. That gave one a clear idea of the sympathy that exists in India for Lord Wavell and the hold which he has on the Indian imagination. India is looking to him now for a plan to get her out of her present horrible impasse. A bold and creative plan from him, for all-round development, by every method and device of modern science and technology, would gain widespread and instant support. A sense of National Purpose, with a capital "N" and a capital "P," is wanted in India. Such a plan for the welfare and development of her people would give that sense of national purpose which is at present lacking, and would create an atmosphere in which political differences would be solved.
A great deal, in fact, has been going on in India in planning future developments and in examining the various aspects of such developments. We read, for example, of the new plan for agricultural development and the large amount of money it is expected to cost. The Bhore Committee is examining the whole of the medical situation in India now and their Report, when it comes forward, will demand a drastic improvement and invigoration of the whole of the medical services of India. Such details are largely unknown to the public and scarcely appeal to public sentiment. The more experienced Indian is apt to assume, and not without excuse, that nothing will get done and that it will all be stopped by the Finance Department.
For that reason, nothing better could possibly have been done than the recent appointment by the Viceroy of a Member for Planning and Development to the Executive Council, whose duty it will be to see that proper and co-ordinated plans, not neglecting any of the more important aspects of Indian life, are duly made. Sir Ardeshir Dalal, who has taken up this appointment, has the highest possible qualifications for the job. Perhaps the House will excuse me for a certain paternal pride in speaking of my constituent. He took a first class degree at Cambridge in national science, in biological subjects—and it is in biology that India's needs chiefly lie. He then went into the Indian Civil Service, where he had a distinguished career, and then for a good many years has been managing 1054 director of the Tata steel company. The public know that he is not the sort of man who would have accepted such a post unless he were very sure that a determination exists inside the Government of India that national development should be given a proper chance. He would no more take on a sinecure than would Lord Woolton. If we here can make it clear that Britain is determined to see that Sir Ardeshir Dalal, and the Viceroy behind him, are given the best possible chance of success in improving the health and welfare of the Indian people, we shall do more good than by arguing forever about political machinery. The machinery will grow of itself and adjust itself to the need as the need is more clearly seen and appreciated.
India is ripe for a great technological development of all her resources. I can see little hope for India of greater prosperity apart from going with the stream of modem life and seeking her prosperity in that kind of development. The essential condition for success is a reasonable degree of economic and political unity. The Balkan peninsula, with its feuds and its frontiers and its petty sovereignties, is a very poor example for India. The machinery of production and distribution, particularly of food, is so overloaded already that it is not reasonable to make it bear the strain of splitting up the country into a patch-work of non-co-operating communities.
Another aspect of unity is that referring to defence. India urgently desires self-government, and those of us who can put ourselves into the position of intelligent, thoughtful Indians can understand that feeling: but the first condition of self-government is external security. No country can be independent which depends upon other countries for her defence. India has a vast coast line, it has extensive land frontiers and many potential enemies. If India really achieved a high degree of prosperity but had no adeiquate unified defence, she would be an easy prize for any aggressor. Thoughtful Indians know this. They realise that the Balkanisation of India would leave her defenceless against external aggression; yet, curiously enough, Even those who postulate self-government as part of a plan are apt to leave out defence altogether from their calculations and to take no account of the cost of it. As a self-governing member of the British 1055 Commonwealth, a unified India with reasonable provision for her own and the common defence would be secure for as long as human foresight can look ahead. Divided against herself, and even not cooperating within herself, or with us, she would find the defence of so great a region impossible. One of the first duties of any country desiring self-respect and the respect of others is to secure her own people from the fear and the horrors of war. That would be impossible in a geographical unit of the size of India without some form of unified defence. For internal prosperity, therefore, and for external security alike nothing but inefficiency and disaster, to my mind, can result from disunity and strife and internal disorder.
I spent five months recently in India and had an extraordinary opportunity of seeing what the needs of India really are. There is a very great ferment in many people's minds, and they look forward to great developments such as we also are thinking of for our own future. They know that we can help them in their task, and the majority of them look to us for help. I received an extraordinary welcome, so warm a welcome from my Indian scientific friends and others that it made one feel quite ashamed—a welcome which was due partly, I was told, to the fact that I never said a word about politics but took every possible opportunity of discussing with Indians the real urgent needs of India for health, food and the improving of the life of the people, for all those things that make for a better and more civilised existence. If I may read a few short passages from letters that I received just before I left, I think they illustrate the feelings of Indians towards us—and these are typical Indians—better than much that appears in the newspapers. Some of it may seem to be sentimental but the Indian is apt to say frankly what he thinks and feels and, at any rate, that is what three of them said. The first:I trust that you will be able to convey the impression to your colleagues in Parliament that the bitterness in this country is mostly on the surface and is confined to a few and that, in the main, goodwill and cordiality towards the British are great.The second is from a distinguished scientific man:You and I agree with respect to the future organisation of research under the 1056 Government. These views are shared by all thinking and nationally minded Indians and will have to be adopted some day.I have no doubt that. the British Government and people will help us in realising our dreams of a prosperous and contented India. India is sound. Although things may look unpleasant to the casual observer, they are not really so bad. Most of us trained to think in an international way will be glad to be members of the Commonwealth as equal and friendly partners. I hope you will bring home to those who count in England"—I am trying to do that to-dayour great desire to be your partners in your joys and sorrows. Bringing India and England together by science and industry will lead ultimately to a solution of the larger issues.This is from the third letter:May, as times pass, India and England come together; but they can only draw together if both feel the need of serving each other and recognise that the future of the world, and of Britain and India in any case, depend on a growing sense of unity.Such letters may sound sentimental perhaps but they are genuine. If that neighbourly feeling which they represent exists towards us among thoughtful, highly-intelligent and patriotic Indians. as these are, there is no need to despair of a happier and brighter future and of happier and brighter relations between us and our Indian friends. There are many people, not only those who are British themselves, who regard membership of the British Commonwealth as a high privilege. In offering it to a self-governing India we do not feel that we are forcing something unpleasant and disreputable on an unwilling victim, or that we are selling something cheap and nasty at too high a price. There are—I am sure of it by knowing them—many men in India whose sincere conviction of that is the same as ours.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I have now been a Member of this House for over 15 years and I have listened to every Debate on India and Indian affairs, but I do not remember such a note of unanimity as I have heard to-day, or such a single current of opinion running through all the speeches. The Debate seems to be summed up in this—that there is everywhere, not only a genuine desire but a genuine anxiety to see these problems settled satisfactorily. There is also this note which was emphasised in the first speech that we heard—let there be no recriminations, let the dead past bury its dead and let us look forward to 1057 the future. With good will and co-operation a settlement can be achieved. Then, very rightly, two great questions were raised—the political question and the social and economic question. On the political question, there is complete unanimity that India desires self-government, that India is entitled to self-government, and that India should have self-government at the earliest possible moment. Any suggestions that have been made, even if they have not been acceptable to everyone, have been made, I am sure, in an honest and sincere desire to be helpful in this matter and to get this problem finally settled. With regard to the social and economic side, there are two problems, one the immediate question, with which we ourselves have to deal, because we are at present trustees for the Indian people, and the other which could only be settled by a longterm policy. With regard to that longterm policy there is a sense of unreality in discussing it because it should be, and really can only be, satisfactorily settled by the Indians themselves under self-government.
I agree that it is right to call attention to the enormous growth of the population, from 300,000,000 to 400,000,000 in about 30 years. The increase to-day is somewhere between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 annually, and unfortunately the increase in food production has borne practically no relation whatever to the increase in population. Therefore, there are wanted new agrarian policies, new industrial policies, and a tremendous effort is needed to increase the productive capacity of the soil of India, to bring into cultivation that which has hitherto not been in cultivation, and to raise the standards of living, health and education. These, however, it seems to me, are matters of long-term policy which can only be linked up with the settlement of political policy. Reference has been made to the remarkable plan of economic development for India which has been signed by nine or ten leading industrialists. Again, I would emphasise what has already been mentioned, because it is right that we should stress this matter, as we certainly do. In the second paragraph of the introduction to their plan, they say:Underlying our whole scheme is the assumption that on the termination of the war or shortly thereafter, a national Government will come into existence at the centre 1058 which will be vested with full freedom in economic matters.They and they alone, according to these people—and they are right—can deal with the long-term policies. They go on:The maintenance of the economic unity of India being, in our view, an essential condition of any effective planning, we have assumed for the purpose of our plan that the future government of India will be constituted on a federal basis and that the jurisdiction of the central government in economic matters will extend over the whole of India. We should, however, explain that this does not preclude the possibility of a reġional grouping of provinces and States as an intermediate link in a federal organisation. Such regional grouping will not disturb the economic unity of India, provided that in important matters affecting economic development, the authority of the central Government is not impaired. We draw attention to this aspect of the problem because we think that no development of the kind we have proposed will be feasible except on the basis of a central directing authority which enjoys sufficient popular support and possesses the requisite powers and jurisdication.The two matters are linked up together—what I may call the spiritual and political one with the social and economic one, which will deal with the conditions of the people. I dare say that in many instances in the past too much emphasis has been laid upon the political side, but that is inevitable. It is so in every country. The first thing that occurs to man is his spiritual liberty. That is possibly why we are fighting in this great Armageddon to-day; we prefer liberty to any material benefits that can be conferred upon us. We must also bear in mind the whole way through the conditions of the people, and one is glad that more and more emphasis is being placed now upon the conditions of the people, not only in India, but throughout the world. That is why we ourselves, in the middle of a great war, are paying a great deal of attention to what is to be the future of the people of this country. Therefore, it is right that more and more attention should be paid now to what can should be done to raise the standard of living of the people of India.
May I say one other thing before I come to the present position? I want to say it as plainly as I can. Britain has a record with regard to India of which she is entitled to be justly proud. I wonder, if fate had decided that some other nation should co-operate with India as Britain has had to do for 200 years or more, what would have been the posi- 1059 tion of India to-day. Britain has brought immense benefits to India. She has brought toleration and understanding, and has tried to inculcate law and order. She has done her best to try and manage India for Indians, bearing in mind the whole time that her policy clearly was, "We are looking forward to the day when we can say we have played our part and can hand over the responsibility to you to look after yourselves. It has always been our policy that every nation shall look after its own affairs, stand on its own feet and enjoy its own liberty. We are looking forward to the moment when we can say not 'Good-bye,' but 'Good luck, the responsibility is yours.'" England has a proud record with regard to India. Of course, there have been mistakes, cruel and tragic mistakes, and it is easy to put one's finger on them. Let us forget those and try to see whether we cannot work together for the general benefit of Indians and of the world.
Recent events have brought me in closer contact with Indian matters than ever before. Owing to the famine which occurred in the last 18 months, I, much against my will—I wish it had passed to somebody much more capable of undertaking the duties—was asked to become the President of the Relief Committee formed to try to bring a certain amount of alleviation to the people who are suffering. That famine was due to a whole concatenation of events. As has already been pointed out, the margin of safety, if it can be so called, in India is so thin that any cataclysm, any change whatever, brings with it inevitably some tremendous disaster. Two hundred million out of the 400,000,000 people in India do not get enough to eat in any event. They are all the time on the verge of a bare existence. Then came bad harvests, a tremendous storm, the loss of 1,500,000 tons of rice from Burma, the taking away of the boats from fishing, the congestion of traffic because of the military situation and needs. All these coming together brought about this tremendous disaster.
May I pay another tribute here? When Lord Wavell arrived a change took place. We ought to acknowledge the debt we owe to that great man and great Viceroy. He at once relieved the tense situation by getting the Army to assist and Army 1060 stocks distributed, and above all, by relieving the transport congestion and bringing things into order. Arrangements were made for a certain amount of food, at any rate, to be given every day to everyone who needed it. The worst part of the famine has, for the moment at any rate, been relieved. It was followed by epidemics, which always follow under-nourishment and malnutrition, and which took as heavy a toll as, if not heavier than, the famine. I understand there is still a great shortage of medical supplies, a great need of doctors and nurses, and a great need of assistance in the villages.
With regard to the future, I am sure everyone hopes that every effort that can be made will be made so that there can be no recurrence of these troubles. We know the difficulties. For instance, the wheat is in Australia; 800,000 tons have already arrived, and more is required. The difficulty is the allocation of ships. Let me utter a word of caution. I hope that there will not be—I almost hesitate to use the word now—undue optimism with regard to the future, and that an effort will be made to build up stocks which can be better moved from one part to the other, so that the danger of famine will disappear.
I want to pass to the political situation. Everyone to-day has emphasised the urgency of dealing with this matter—an urgency from every point of view. The main thing which they have had in their minds is that the true remedies for the social and economic problems can only be found by a popular Indian Government, and that the sooner that popular Government got to work the quicker would come the settlement. I have listened to every Debate on India, but this is the first time I have ventured to address the House on the subject. Each one of us would like to end the deadlock. I am not speaking to-day on behalf of any party. I am venturing to put forward suggestions entirely "on my own" in the fond hope, not that they will offer a solution—I could not possibly think that that would result from them—but that they might lead to new negotiations, new talks, a getting together again, the opening of a door to negotiations which will ultimately result in a settlement of all these matters.
There are two sides to the matter, one the immediate and the other the longer-term side. The first thing is to bring 1061 India, as India, into the war. One recognises the tremendous contribution she has already made—an Army of 2,000,000 and more, all volunteers, the only volunteer Army in the world; the tremendously increased production; the wonderful contribution made by Indian leaders everywhere, especially in the Council of the Viceroy. India, as India, however, as one conglomerate whole, is still not in the war. Might I suggest, and I will do it in a most general way, without entering into details, because time will not permit, that the South East Asia Command should be extended to include India and the Indian Seas? I do that because India is at present excluded from the South East Asia Command, which is, of course, under Lord Louis Mountbatten. The Commander-in-Chief would be an Allied officer, and might be the one who is now Commander-in-Chief in India. It might be someone else. I should have thought that, irrespective of nationality, that would be a primary step to take.
The next step would be to have an Allied Council for South-East Asia composed of representatives of the principal Governments concerned, namely, the home Government, China, the United States and India itself. Then there should be consulted in all these matters representatives of the other countries interested, like the Netherlands, Indo-China and the Dominions—the Union of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The Commander-in-Chief in India should be appointed by the Government of India in concurrence with His Majesty's Government. An All-India Defence Committee should be set up, and I suggest that its members should consist of the first men of the Viceroy's Council, the Commander-in-Chief, the Chief of Staff, the Minister of War and the Minister of Defence and be presided over by the Governor-General himself. Then, the Provisional Government of India should declare, together with the United Nations, its adherence to the Teheran and Cairo Declarations. Those are the preliminary steps.
What are the aims and the proposals? There should be the minimum of formal and constitutional legal changes, but the organs of the Centre, executive and legislative should be re-ordered and reconstituted. The Viceroy's Council should be reconstituted to render it, in effect, a National Government. I am aware of the 1062 changes that have already been effected, but the Council should be composed of men and women in the public life of India. and should not include any members of the public services, as hitherto. All administration should be vested in the members of the Council. The method of their appointment is the difficulty. We can only suggest various proposals, whatever may be the one that is most suitable. They would be appointed, of course, by name by the Governor-General, but after consultation with other parties or leaders. I make just one suggestion from the many alternatives that could be put forward. The Governor-General might invite the leaders of the principal political parties to submit to him the names of representatives whom they would desire to see sitting upon that Council; or it might be that they themselves would elect them. Another method would be that no single community should hold more, say, than 40 per cent. of the seats, or that one-third of the total agreed strength of the Government should be nominated by the Congress or the Moslem League respectively, the remainder to be added by agreement among, the other communities.
Those are only some alternative suggestions I can make without entering into detail. Surely we are not so sterile of ideas that some working method cannot be adopted to deal with the situation. If that were done, the Governor-General would function, of course, as the constitutional head of the popular Government, holding quite definitely to himself special responsibilities in relation to the Armed Forces and in respect of Crown relations; and, by virtue of his office, he would be a member of the South-East Asia Allied Council and of the All-India Defence Committee. The National Defence Council would be reconstituted so as to enlist representatives of the vital elements of Indian life in British India and Indian States. Then, later on, new elections could be held for both Houses within a reasonable period after the establishment of the Provisional Government. In the Lower House, the communal proportions existing at present at the centre need not be disturbed, but extension of the franchise might be considered by general agreement. In the Upper House, the Council of State should be reconstituted, but the present figure of 66 members could be adhered to, that is six members for each of the Provinces. 1063 That leads one to the relationship between India and London. The Secretary of State for India would, in my view, become more important if possible than he is to-day. As I visualise it, he would then occupy a much more important position than is occupied by the Secretary of State for the Dominions as between the Dominions and the Home Government. The Government of India would no longer be represented in the War Cabinet, because it would be represented in the South-East Asia Command. The present office of adviser of the Secretary of State should be declared redundant. Provision could easily be made for the settlement of any disputes. The Crown's relations with the Indian States could be maintained as hitherto by representatives of the Crown and the appropriate Departments of the Government of India. With regard to national defence, the Indian States could be brought into co-operation in the conduct of the war through such other bodies as might thereafter be set up. The future of the Indian States is part of the settlement effected by the establishment of a National Council, which should be free, as the Indian States are free, to find the best way of proceeding for the union of Indian States and Provinces. Finally, provision should be made for the protection of minorities, for determining what is reserved legislation, and for the setting up of a national tribunal to settle any differences.
That is all provisional, and merely a suggestion. It would be no good putting it forward unless one also put forward other suggestions for the future, after the Provisional Government had been in existence and had started upon making the new Constitution. We have all emphasised the need for unity in India and recognised that there should be one whole, which should be a federal whole. The idea I have is something on the lines of the United States. The individual Provinces should be sovereign ones, reserving to themselves full rights but transferring to the Central Federal authority such rights as they agreed should be exercised by the Central Federal authority.
The Constitution should then be drawn up which is to bind each one of them, but each State should have a complete right to contract itself out. I would like to begin by having all in, nevertheless re- 1064 serving the right for anyone who is not satisfied to contract out, subject to certain terms such as a plebiscite, with a certain majority vote, whether it be an absolute majority or bare majority. Probably the most difficult matter would be the Boundary Commission to settle what should be the unit which should decide the fate of each area within the Constitution. This is all too hurried but I did not want to take up the time of the House unduly, nor did I want to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's." If one entered into too much detail, somebody might say that he would not come in and would not talk. What we are anxious about is that this deadlock should end as quickly as possible.
When I turn towards the future, which I shall not see, and of which probably no Member of this House will see more than the bare outlines, I foresee great and glorious possibilities for Asia. Looking at what Asia has done in the past, I realise how much the world owes to Asia, beginning in Syria, Arabia and Palestine and going to the far confines of China. I acknowledge the contributions that they have all made to the civilised world. Now, in Asia, there are big masses of population, 400,000,000 in India and about 300,000,000 in China, and great numbers still in Siberia. It may be that they will occupy a much greater and more prominent part in the future than they have done in the past. What the right hon. Gentleman has to do is to seize the opportunity now being presented to us, after this tremendous world upheaval, by extending to India the chance for her to settle her own affairs for the benefit of her own people.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
We all remember, I am sure, some years ago now, the late Speaker of this House pleading rather plaintively for rather more of the "cut and thrust of debate." I remember that, because one hon. Member has already commented on the fact that we have secured a high degree of unanimity in this discussion so far. Am I, therefore, still to breathe that same atmosphere, or to follow the words of the late respected Speaker of this House, and enliven the proceedings by engaging in cut and thrust? Certainly, I would have an excellent precedent. What I intend to do however is to emphasise the amount of agreement but also, possibly some dis- 1065 agreement, and at the same time, I hope in a not unfraternal way, to issue certain warnings. After all, anyone can have unanimity and equanimity but it may be at too great a price. We need a creative atmosphere, not a passive one. When someone on this side mentioned the fact that there was far too much politics about India, and therefore implied the need of concentrating more on the economic side, I was interested to notice that one hon. Member on the other side expressed hearty endorsement of that sentiment. That is largely, I think, because he did not want the sort of politics in which I happen to believe. So long as politics are passive politics all is well and good, but if one starts to deal with new and challenging ideas it is a different matter altogether.
I venture to suggest that we are confronted in India with something much more than the question of providing food. I agree, having studied that side of the question, that food is certainly a primary consideration. Here, I am reminded again of the old arguments in which some of us used to indulge years ago, regarding what used to be called the materialistic conception of history, now called, perhaps more ambiguously, dialectic materialism. Whatever truth there may be in that philosophy in either of its terms there is obviously a dialectic in life and there is a dialectic regarding India. At one time we swing towards considering the economic side, and at another time the political side. I submit that the two in India are interdependent, just as they are in this country. To try to consider the economic side of India's problem, without paying due regard to the political side, is to carry out a divorce which is injurious to both elements concerned. You cannot deal with the economic side without dealing with the political side, as I hope to show in a moment. I agree that men of all parties who are interested in the problem of India's teeming millions, and recurrent food shortages, and who know that in fact a quarter of the population of India always live on a starvation diet, are inclined to say at first, "What matters except the feeding of these people?"
The economic factor is there for primary consideration. And I must comment on the interesting fact that in to-day's Debate Members of all parties have seemed to 1066 stress that economic fact. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) devoted a great deal of his speech to dealing with the economic side. The Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill) drew attention to the terrible economic and physiological distress in a way which, had it come from me, would not have merited anything like the grave attention it certainly received to-day. Other Members have said the same thing, that the economic factors are supreme; we must attend to them. Here I am bound to issue my first warning, which is that we must be concerned not to give the impression we are taking that attitude, in order to frustrate India in her demand for political liberty. We need not dc so, but there is that danger. I remember being taken by my father to the circus. He did not want to go but I did. He tried to bribe me by buying me ice cream, then oranges, nuts and all sorts of things. I had all these things, but I still insisted on going to the circus. So it is with the Indians who are politically conscious. They may be a minority, but if so that applies to this country as well, because the majority of people in this country are politically conscious only in the most elementary way. An illustration of that is the very small proportion of men in the Forces who have troubled to sign the election register forms. It applies all the way round.
The great problem of the world to-day is how to secure that political democracy is attached to a basis of economic security. Unless we have the two, we shall find that democracy merely becomes a meaningless slogan and on the other hand security becomes simply the gratification of the mediocre mind. This applies to India. The great need of India is for all peoples and parties to unite in order to face this awful problem—the population increase of 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 a year without at present a commensurate increase of subsistence. It would seem that, from one angle, the Malthusian claim of years ago was justified. I remember the right hon Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), speaking in an Indian Debate some months ago, elaborating the point at great length, and pointing out that India, increasing her population in this way, was bound to be confronted 1067 with recurrent dearth and famine, and that only the natural check through such famines would prevent recurrent disasters. What he did not sufficiently recognise was that in this country our population increased from 1908 to 1931 by 350 per cent. although not with the result that the people of this country were poorer. On the contrary the wealth of this country as a whole increased at a far greater rate than 350 per cent. It does not necessarily follow that a rapidly increasing population must mean dearth and famine. It will mean that, unless the mind of man can devise a means of increasing subsistence. And this can be done.
Tentative plans and suggestions are in the air now with regard to tackling the economic life of India now. Certainly the need is grave, but again it is well to recognise how admissions are now being made that formerly were either not sought for, or if sought for and found, were certainly not publicised. We learn now that of 610,000,000 cultivable acres in India, only 360,000,000 are actually being cultivated. Again, I find in a Government publication that the average yield of rice is only 800 lbs. per acre there, as against 1,400 lbs. in China, 1,450 lbs. in the United States, 2,000 lbs. in Egypt, 2,300 lbs. in Japan and finally 3,000 lbs. in Italy, which means that even where cultivation is taking place, the yield is far less than it need be. These are factors which must be considered, and considered carefully.
I would endorse what the last speaker said regarding the possibility of famine recurring. The famine we had in India last year has not entirely disappeared, though we are very glad to feel that it is far less than it was. In fact, famine is perhaps not now the correct word to apply. But scarcity there is, and there is corroboration of that. The Secretary of State offers corroboration of that, and many serious warnings have been issued from responsible quarters, regarding the possibility of return, in some measure at least, to the terrible tragedy of last year. Meanwhile, apart from the dearth, there are the other social conditions of the Indian people. Epidemics are constantly rife. I notice Dr. P. C. Roy, Chairman of the Medical Co-ordination Committee of Bengal, estimates there are 20,000,000 people in Bihar and Bengal, out of a 1068 population of 75,000,000, suffering from epidemics. No wonder that the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University has come back and given us an impressive, almost mordant, report, and endorses what previously only propagandists were declaring. Now it is stated, with all the weight of his scientific knowledge, and his dispassionate outlook, that though there are millionaires in India, it is, for the most part, a poverty and disease-ridden country. I would say nothing to detract from the desire of anyone to deal with that situation.
I am glad that certain plans have seen the light of day such as the Tata or Bombay plan. There are others. We have had excellent proposals, still not implemented, ranging from one on education to which a late Director of Education in my own county, Mr. John Sergant, gave considerable service. What with that, and the report of the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University, and the plan which has been discussed, we are at least being awakened to the need of laying a sound social and economic foundation for the future of India. Having recognised all that to the full, and emphasising still further that this economic transformation must take place by a plan not merely imposed from above but one which must receive the endorsement of the toiling masses of India itself, we must not divorce any of these plans from political development and political freedom. We who propose to assist India to develop her economic resources and economic needs, are still confronted by considerable suspicion which undoubtedly exists in many parts of India. I regret it, but it is there. If it is not that, there is an appalling apathy.
As regards the masses of India, I would admit that many may not be any more politically conscious than the equivalent people in this country. That is part of the difficulty. Any Indian economic plan which is to be implemented cannot be implemented unless there is a drive in India which awakens the minds and souls of Indians themselves, so that they are willing, ready and able to give more devotedly their service to the new plan than they were in the past.
The previous speaker referred to the introduction of the Bombay plan, in which it is laid down emphatically that underlying the whole scheme is the assumption that, on the termination of the 1069 war or shortly after, a national Government will come at the centre, with full economic and political freedom. It is essential to recognise that no economic plan can get the confidence of the people unless there is confidence in the people and the Government at the centre. I do not agree with much that has taken place in Russia, but I will say that whatever great economic transformation has taken place in Russia—and it is considerable—would not have taken place, had there not been a central Government commanding the confidence of the masses of the Russian people. The same is true of India, and whatever excellent intentions we may have, however disinterested we may be, we have to meet these two facts—that there is persistent suspicion on the part of many Indians that whatever emanates from us may have an ulterior motive, and that the great masses of people will remain undeveloped until their own people vested with responsibility can call to them and call to them not in vain. Closely allied with this is that, for good or ill, Mr. Gandhi, whom many have criticised in this House and who certainly is not an infallible person, and with whom I do not agree in every respect, is recognised as being, in India, not simply a man above the average, but one of the great souls of the Indian race. Even those who are frankly hostile to Mr. Gandhi respect him as one of the few great men that the world has thrown up in recent years. One who is related to him by marriage, for instance, Mr. Rajagopalachari, who broke away from the Congress because of differences on policy, himself recognises the outstanding significance of Mr. Gandhi. That is why I am glad that Lord Wave11, and such advisers as he had, thought fit to release Mr. Gandhi, not only on grounds of ill-health, but, I hope, on other grounds as well.
I hope that that will be followed, before long, by the release of other Congress leaders. If Mr. Gandhi can be released, and can negotiate, debate and discuss, as he is now doing, when he is generally looked upon as the villian of the piece, why cannot the others be freed as well? Mr. Gandhi's views on non-violence do not commend themselves to Members of this House or indeed to members of the Congress, whereas Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru has always made it clear that, while he will accept non-violence as an expedient 1070 for internal agitation—and we ought to be grateful to him for having done so—he will agree to taking up arms against the Japanese enemy. But Nehru is still kept in detention. I cannot understand the lack of logic in these matters. Having released one who is looked upon as the arch-agitator, the worst of them all, I suggest that we should accept the smaller risk of releasing the others as well. Unless there are leaders to rally the masses in India, all the economic plans that we have devised for India will prove abortive.
Reference has been made to the £1,000,000,000 that has accumulated in this country since the beginning of the war. Indians are asking what is to happen to that sterling. The Tata plan partly relies on the realisation of those balances. It has been suggested that it is not for India to decide; and perhaps it is not for us but some international body to decide. If the Tata plan itself partly depends on the realisation of the sterling balances accumulating in this country, we have to be very careful how we deal with the matter, lest we aggravate the political atmosphere. If we want our own conception of reconciliation to be fulfilled, we should realise that the politically-conscious life of India, which is now gagged and bound, may perform tremendous service both to India and to ourselves, and to all those people of good will who want to see a bridge built over the gulf between our 47,000,000 in this country and the 400,000,000 beyond the seas, and therefore we should be careful what we say respecting those balances.
But, although the Tata and other plans visualise a drastic economic development—some say that it cannot be done, and some say that it can—all will agree that the major portion of Indian life for many years to come must remain agrarian. Although I want to see an expansion of industrial life in India, I submit that the desire of Mr. Gandhi to popularise the spinning wheel and handicrafts, and to develop the life of the villages of India, 730,000 of them, is not so unwise as some assume. We should do well to heed the warning that has been given, not only by Mr. Gandhi but by our own thinkers in the country, against the worship of economic man. Every warning we get of the flying bombs may be just a warning of the Nemesis of economic man. While economic development must 1071 continue, while there must be industrial expansion, there must also be the reconstruction of village life. That is not economically unsound, and it is certainly not spiritually unsound. Those who believe that we should seek the kingdom of economic security, and that all these other things will then be added unto us, may be entering a perilous road. We must recognise that economics in itself is not an end, but only a means to an end. Our purpose must be to realise the soul of India. I want to get rid of this curious divorce between two necessities. That is why I am pleading that the reconstruction of India's economic life must be associated with the solution of the political ferment, which is still there, even though the signs of it may not be so obvious as they were yesterday.
We ought to be profoundly grateful to men like Gandhi for stirring India out of its stagnation. We ought to be grateful wherever there are men and women who try to rouse men out of their natural inclination to take the line of least resistance and just lie down and die. As I have often said, if you go to the average man, and say, "Which would you rather have: a vote and no job, or a job and no vote?" the majority will hastily seize the job and no vote. We have to see that India has the opportunity of great economic advancement, but not at the expense of political advancement. I hope that Members of this House will consider, more sympathetically than they have done up to now, what has taken place since Mr. Gandhi's release and since his adoption of what were apparently Mr. Rajagopalachari's original views regarding the internal settlement of the Moslem-Hindu deadlock. I have always contended that the Moslem League should not be regarded as necessarily representing the whole Moslem community, although, of course, it is an important part. Mr. Gandhi suggests that:After the end of the war a commission shall be appointed for demarcating contiguous districts in the north-west and east of India, in which the Muslim population is in an absolute majority. In the areas thus demarcated a plebiscite of all the inhabitants held on the basis of adult suffrage or other practicable franchise shall ultimately decide the issue of separation from Hindustan.I could read much more of his suggestions, but they are, no doubt, familiar to the House. I seriously suggest that to 1072 brush that on one side is not doing justice to the matter. It may be said that Mr. Gandhi has altered his position; but whether he has or not, here is a sign that the deadlock, which previously seemed unresolvable and unbreakable, is giving way. I hope that the Secretary of State will not just brush it on one side, but will give an indication that there is evidence in what Mr. Gandhi has said that there may be some move away from the deadlock, and some hope for the near future. I must refer to two other extracts. I find, for instance, that Mr. Rajagopalachari, who, as we know, is the former Congress Premier of Madras, said only the other day:If the deadlock should continue only because of the Viceroy's reserve powers, as claimed by Lord Munster, it is not more insuperable than that which was overcome by a working arrangement when the provincial governments were formed by the Congress Party in 1937.I find that Mr. Gandhi said, only yesterday, according to a cable received to-day:I have read the Debate in the House of Lords, on the Indian question, with great interest. I must confess that I am disappointed. …Lord Munster has correctly summarised my proposals. It is the most constructive suggestion that I could conceive. If it is not suggested even as a basis for friendly discussion, and for permission to be given to me to see members of the Working Committee, who alone can speak with authority—then I must reluctantly come to the conclusion that the British Government does not want a solution of the political deadlock.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Mr. Gandhi made it clear that it was an offer to the Moslems. What has it to do with the British Government?
§ Mr. Sorensen
I have read a cable received to-day, according to which Mr. Gandhi said that if a statement made in another place last Tuesday indicates the position of the Government he is very disappointed. He would like to see a more encouraging response.
§ Mr. Sorensen
By the Government—because the Government have a responsibility. They could give a positive indication that they are glad to see that Mr. Gandhi has made these proposals to the Moslem League, and they can also say that they hope the Moslem League will respond. I hope the failure to make 1073 that statement a few days ago in another place will be compensated for by the statements that are made here to-day. I am very much in earnest when I plead that we should not ride the high horse in this matter. No doubt, much blame could be laid on Mr. Gandhi, the Indian Congress, and on the other parties in India. No doubt, we could engage in recriminations. There has been a plea made to-day, that we should not do so. I entirely endorse that plea, but I think it should be made to all sides. Not only should we plead that Indians should cease their recriminations, but we must also do so ourselves, and seize the opportunity which presents itself at the present time. It is a good opportunity, and an encouraging one. To some people, Mr. Gandhi's mind may seem tortuous, labyrinthine, and rather difficult to follow. At the same time, he is a leading figure in India. We need fully to appreciate that fact.
We have also to consider that numbers of men in other parties than the Congress, and some belonging to no party at all, are pleading that a fresh approach should be made, and that the Congress leaders should be released, not because these men agree with the Congress, but because they believe a new opportunity is here. It seems to me that, with the economic proposals, the nutritional and medical proposals, the educational proposals, and the political proposals, we have reached a new situation, a situation which we can ignore or explore. I hope that we shall vindicate our capacity to reason things out again. We have had enough violence in the world. I appeal to the Government, and particularly to the Secretary of State for India, who, I am sure, is thoroughly in earnest on this matter, even though I, as a mere amateur, may venture to disagree with him, that he should strike a note to-day which may bring forth from India an equal response. I plead with the Secretary of State that he will emphasise that the situation is more hopeful than it was, and that Mr. Gandhi is at least opening the door a little way. I earnestly plead that, on our part, we will see it is not slammed in his face.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I agree with at least two remarks made by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). I agree profoundly that 1074 economic and industrial man is not the sole aim of civilisation, and I agree with my hon. Friend in making a political speech on this occasion and not confining himself to economic and social matters. This is, indeed, an interesting Debate. Our attention has been constructively directed to social, economic and scientific aspects of the Indian problem which we have been inclined to overlook, but, as the last speaker has said, all these problems have a political background. More than that, they have a political framework. Everything in the ordinary daily life of man, getting his daily bread, doing his daily work, marrying and having children, depends on political security and political stability, and we, as a political body, must never forget that our main bent is political. What India expects from us to-day is a solution of the political problems facing India and the world, and not solely lectures on economic and social policy, greatly though I value them, and as I think most hon. Members value them, from the point of view of instruction and learning.
The principal trouble of India to-day is not starvation and malnutrition, but profound uncertainty as to what is going to happen. It is political uncertainty, and the message that I would like to send to India is that we are applying our minds clearly to the consideration of first principles and ultimate objectives. The Junior Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill) used the venerable but respectable quotation:Where there is no vision, the people perish.I interpret that as meaning that the people perish where their leaders are not certain of first principles, and ultimate objectives. I believe the time is coming when we shall be forced to make up our own minds about what we are trying to do in India, what we conceive our duty to be and how we mean to do it. Our goal is freedom; our means are the methods of the Cripps offer. We must face facts. The Cripps offer has been rejected, and that is most significant, for that most amazing offer was made to a country which was alleged to be in a political ferment, and that offer has been in the shop window for over two years. The prospects of the necessary agreement being arrived at for the acceptance of that offer, do not get any better; to my mind, they are daily growing dimmer. 1075 I think we have to consider how far the Cripps offer and the methods tried so far can constitute the only means by which we hope to bring India her freedom. We must define freedom and define our methods. I think the first requisite that we must have is courage. We must have the courage, if necessary, to reach decisions which will lay us open to criticism and every vilification in India and, possibly, in this country and in the United States. The first decision which I ask the House to reach is that freedom, without security from abroad, and without stability at home, is a poisoned chalice, and not a gift we should offer to those we love. We cannot just look for somebody to take delivery of India, and feel that we are achieving our goal of Indian freedom if we clear out at the most favourable opportunity and with the minimum disturbance. I would remind the House that political freedom is not the only freedom in the world. We have heard something lately of the Four Freedoms—freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I am not laying down to the House what our decision should be, but I ask the Government and the House to think whether our responsibilities towards India may not comprise some of these freedoms, as well as purely political freedom or, it may be, a purely nominal political freedom.
We have a wide responsibility and we have always considered ourselves as having a wide responsibility. In the early days, it was considered that we carried out that responsibility if we gave law and order, justice and tranquillity at home and security from abroad. To-day, neither we nor India know how we interpret our responsibility, and that is what is serious and what is causing the sense of uncertainty and unreality, the sense of being in a complete backwater, which prevails in India to-day. We must remember that democracy, as we understand it, is not universally accepted in India to-day. Constantly, we have gibed and jeered at the Congress Party for being totalitarian. That is a reproach on Congress, but it is a reproach that can be levelled against almost every political party in India. It is not fair to reproach Congress alone with being totalitarian. 1076 The make-up of the Indian political mind is predominantly totalitarian.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Does not that also apply to the majority of people in Europe—that they have preferred totalitarianism up to now?
§ Mr. Nicholson
Indeed, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the reminder. I am not blaming the Congress Party for what, it may be, is inevitable, but, if we do come to the conclusion that our responsibilities comprise something like the Four Freedoms, we should not forget that totalitarian bent in Indian politics. We must make big decisions sooner or later and we must take them with courage, and I am going to suggest the line which I think those decisions should take. Before doing so, I should like to say that, above all, we must avoid giving the impression that the Indian advance towards freedom depends on our judgment and not upon Indian action. The key-note of our policy must be that the Cripps offer remains open. It is not an offer made with a term to it. As soon as Indian politicians and statesmen get together and agree to a Constitution we must accept that Constitution in this House, and we must conform to its provisions, but, until they have accepted that offer and a representative constituent assembly has met and reached agreement, what shall our policy be?
Our policy must be based on reality, and these are the realities which I ask the House to face. First, it is a deep problem and not one to be solved like a jig-saw puzzle by putting in the different pieces in the Indian political puzzle. It is not one to be solved by a paper agreement between Gandhi and Jinnah. It goes farther than that. I am not very much interested whether Gandhi and Jinnah come to an agreement or not. What does interest me is whether that agreement will be implemented and carried through by the people whom they profess to lead. I deprecate the use of the word "deadlock." It implies something that can be resolved if you find the proper key to it. It is not a deadlock that we face in India. We face a whole series of incompatibilities.
What India is facing is a series of claims which are incompatible. That is not a deadlock. There is no solution possible of the Indian political problem from the 1077 point of view of Indian political parties unless they abate their claims. It is not a question of reaching a formula or a compromise. That is what we have to remember. That is why I say that it is a deep problem. Time and time again I have heard speeches made on each side in this House implying that, if only we put our heads together and think hard enough, there is some magic solution, some formula, that can be applied that will immediately bring the dawn. It will not. This problem goes far deeper than that. It may be insoluble. Far be it from me to say that it is insoluble, but it is insoluble along the lines as they are at present conceived by Indian politicians and many politicians in this country. That is why I say that it is a deep problem and why I fear that it may be an enduring one. That is the first reality.
The second one is—and it is the lesson we might and should have learnt from many of the speeches to-day—that, in the long run, India is an administrative problem. If a Government, however composed, whether composed of Britons or of Indians or of both, cannot carry on the administration and cannot guarantee external security and internal stability, if it cannot guarantee at any rate a modicum of law and order and of justice, then that Government has failed and that Government will not last and cannot last.
Thirdly—and this is important—if we are to succeed, we must carry India with us, and if we are to carry India with us there must be no doubt of our intentions. I fear that in India to-day there is doubt about our intentions and that hope deferred has made the heart sick in many cases. I fear that on the other side there is doubt as to our intention to remember our responsibilities towards the people of India. Sooner or later—I do not wish to hurry the Government or my right hon. Friend—we shall have to make a re-statement of our intentions and that must include a repeated pledge, a pledge from the highest possible quarters, that if responsible Indian statesmen can agree upon an Indian Constitution, we must accept it. Fourthly, as I said before, we must face the fact that it is a very long job and it is not a question of just clearing out and washing our hands of it.
It is not a matter that can be looked at from the point of view of saying, "We 1078 cannot stand being unfairly abused and unjustly criticised, for goodness' sake let us get shot of the whale business." If it is a long job, we must make preparations for a long job. We must see that Englishmen are bred and trained in this country who will be prepared to devote their lives with the utmost self-sacrifice—Britons of the finest possible calibre. And lastly, let us face the fact—I have already said this once—that there is one quality above all which is needed in our relations with India and that is courage—courage to carry through in face of misrepresentation.
I have struck a pessimistic note so far, but I am not a pessimist. I do not believe that British or Dominion statesmanship is bankrupt or that our record in this country or anywhere in the world, or in India in particular, shows that we are likely at this point of time to have reached political bankruptcy. I do not believe that the record of Indian politics shows that Indian statesmanship is bankrupt. The record of Indians in Provincial and in Central government has been good. There are many able Indian statesmen and politicians in all sections all over the country. The great hope in the Indian situation lies in the dictum that "Nature abhors a vacuum," by which I mean that, if we hold the door open, first, for Provincial self-government and secondly, if we hold the door open for some form of Central government—personally, I would like to see a federal government on 1935 lines—in the course of time, whoever boycotts political life, whatever Gandhi and Jinnah do, Indians will come forward and take the reins and will take up office.
If I were a citizen in a borough of this country and the borough council had a quarrel with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Health suspended the borough council, and then said, "Let there be new elections," and the old borough council stuck their noses in the air and said that they would boycott the elections, I could not really think that for all time the citizens of that town would be content to be the victims of the boycott. I would hope that young people would come forward and would say that, however they were governed, they were not going to be governed by delegates from the Ministry of Health, and that they themselves would fill the offices of 1079 mayor and aldermen and councillors. It is exactly the same in India. Do not let us be rushed. Do not let us talk as if there is complete deadlock. I have heard hon. Members say to-day that the situation is urgent. Is it as urgent as all that? I think it was Lord Palmerston who said that when he heard people saying that something must be done, they were going to do something damned silly. If we let ourselves be put into the position that something urgent must be done we may do something damned silly. The French have a proverb:"It faut Bonner du temps au temps.""You must give time to time." India is an old country. Give the situation time, keep the door open, let us define in our own minds what we mean by freedom and what we mean by the Cripps offer. Let us make up our minds as to what exactly we conceive to be our duty in India. When our decision is made and is ripe, let us make that decision known to the world, and then let us have the courage to carry it through whatever the consequences. As I said, I am not a pessimist. We are not bankrupt in statesmanship, India is not bankrupt in statesmanship, but for goodness' sake let us have courage.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) has spoken with his characteristic honesty and frankness and he said some things which some of us may regret, although he spoke them, I am sure, with the utmost sincerity and with desire for the good of India. I am not going to deal with any point in his speech with which I have some measure of disagreement, because there were a number of points which were most valuable as food for thought, but I will emphasise the importance which I feel we should put upon words of his, coming after he had spoken of his sense of disappointment at the failure of any effective step forward being taken during the last two years. He reiterated the great importance of the Cripps declaration for the future of India and that it was desirable that the Government should emphasise that, and, if necessary, explain it more fully, so that Indian opinion might feel quite secure in its planning for the future. The Government did do that in another place only a few days ago and 1080 I feel sure that we need not doubt that the Secretary of State for India will reaffirm the Government's decision in that connection. But we ought to-day to try and take a more cheerful outlook on the situation than my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham has felt able to do.
Throughout the Debate, until his speech, there ran a common thread. It was most remarkable. I have never taken part in any Debate on India in this House which has had the same atmosphere. If we could only get our friends in India to realise it, it would be a very great thing for the future relationship of India with this country, and for Indian internal development itself. I can remember how years ago in India I was asked sneeringly, after a lecture, by one of the interested students there whether it was true that, when India was discussed in the British Parliament, very few Members were present, and a large number of those were asleep. I am sorry to say that I had to admit that attendance was not always very large and that sometimes a Member might have been seen asleep. I think that if some of our Indian friends could have been present to-day and could have heard the different speeches and felt the intense sincerity, for instance, of a speech like that of the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), who has given years of his life to India, they would have gone away with a sense of trust in the intention of this House and of our country towards India and its future. No one who heard the noble speech of the hon. Member for Walsall would doubt that he is typical of all that is best in the history of our relations with India. He feels himself to-day, after years of absence from India, at one with its people, for whom he lives and is continuing to work and plan to-day.
Surely we can survey this field and see signs of hope. There is hope, I think we must agree, however much we may differ from the particular proposals that have been made, in the fact that Mr. Gandhi has come forward with these concrete suggestions to meet the claims of the Moslem League. They may be suggestions that cannot be accepted, but they are the first great move in that direction which has taken place, and that is something which we must welcome and which I hope the Secretary of State will welcome, without expressing any opinion 1081 about the proposals themselves. It is the fact of coming forward with an attempt to meet the Moslem position which is of the utmost importance, and I hope that we may have some response from Mr. Jinnah and from the Working Committee of the Moslem League that is meeting tomorrow. Mr. Jinnah is a very remarkable man and I hope he may feel that the eyes of many are upon him at this moment, that people in England are looking to him to make a great step forward from his point of view towards meeting the need of his country. He will do a great service not only to Moslems and to India, but to the whole future of civilisation, if he can help to bring about some measure of understanding.
It has already been pointed out what a great thing it is to have had this vast plan for the economic development of India which was made so recently—the Tata plan—and the important thing is that it was made entirely by Indians. It was a great move by experienced Indian industrialists and economists for the future of that country. We should welcome the visit that a number of them are about to pay to this country to confer with economic and industrial experts here. If, on our side, we can do anything towards co-operation in this matter, it will be a privilege and a duty to do it. We want to encourage every step towards co-operation both on this side and in India, and I hope that there, again, the Secretary of State, without going into details, may make it clear that he welcomes every move towards co-operation, either inter-communal co-operation in India or co-operation between Indians and this country.
I think my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. PethickLawrence) spoke with extraordinary wisdom and delicacy upon a matter on which some of us would venture to make an appeal. In doing so I would not ask for any immediate response, if response is not expedient at this moment. I do not think I could better the words in which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of those leaders who are still in internment. I will just associate myself with them, and, at the same time, express my thanks that the Government of India have already this month released from internment the Congress ex-Premier of Bombay. That is a very great step for- 1082 ward towards understanding. Not that one expects that as an immediate result, but we can get the beginnings of those informal conversations on the basis of which agreement may be built. It is surely tragic that a man like Mr. Nehru, with his extraordinary ability, with his deep interest in the welfare of China and Russia, as well as in the welfare of India, should be eating his heart out, unable to take part in constructive work for the good of his country and of the United Nations as well as the good of the whole world. We may say it is his own fault, but we can surely hope that the way will be made easy for him, and we ought not to stand upon ceremony.
I think the Secretary of State will remember an incident in Indian history which I think is a parable in itself, when Sivaji was persuaded to visit the court of the great Mogul. It was known that he was not prepared to make obeisance, and the courtiers supplied an archway with a very low arch under which Sivaji must pass and perforce bow his head in the presence of Aurangzeb. The wiry, athletic mountain chief, instead of bowing, managed to lean his head backwards and pass underneath the archway without having made obeisance. Aurangzeb did not rise to the occasion and realise that here was a man of resource whom he might compliment on his ingenuity. He treated him contemptously and Sivaji went away from the court embittered. Later in life Aurangzeb came to regret intensely that he had treated this "little rat," as he called him, in the way that lie had, because it was the beginning of the fall of the great Mogul Empire. We do not want to have personal misunderstandings and bitterness imperilling the relations of the future which mean so much to the good of India as well as to the good of our country and to the good of the whole world. It is true that economic causes can be traced as great factors in the movements of history, but along with those there are always the personal factors expressed in the personality of leaders and of obscurer people, too.
Surely it is of immense importance that at this juncture we should not imperil the healthy development of the future relationship of India and our country by the way in which we rouse personal resentment, and make possible the prolongation of these old bitter memories that 1083 have so prejudiced relations in the past. Let us start afresh. Let us cease quarrelling over what has happened in the past; let us look forward together to a future in which England may co-operate with India in fellowship for the good of the world.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) has made, as he always does, a very eloquent speech to the House, has addressed a further plea to us for our cooperation with Indians and has asked the House to ensure that the tone of the Debate, which has characterised it from the beginning, should continue. I gathered, also, that he would deprecate any suggestion that the courses we had open to us might not necessarily be approved by the Indian people. I am sorry I am not able entirely to follow his view and respond to his appeal. I am considerably disturbed and somewhat surprised at the tone which the Debate has taken to-day. I am the last person to wish in any way to indicate that we are not anxious to co-operate with everybody in India, but I have heard the phrase, "necessity for our co-operating," at least 20 times to-day.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
My Noble Friend is probably right. What we must really do is deal with this matter in a practical way. What is it we can do? It is no use Members getting up here one after another and saying, "Let us cooperate." Surely the whole world knows that we are more than anxious to co-operate with India. Yet the suggestion is put forward here, over and over again, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should say something to show that he is willing to co-operate with India. With great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities, I feel that that is a suggestion that might have been made by somebody who had come into the House only yesterday. Take the Cripps plan. No other nation in the world has ever put to any other country, which has been in the same relationship as this country is to India, such a remarkable far-reaching proposal. I have taken for 1084 some years a part in trying to hasten forward the time when India would be self-governing, but that plan amazed me by its generosity when it was put forward by our Government. To say now that what is wanted is for this country to show our willingness for co-operation seems to me to be an amazing attitude. Let us get down to what it is we can do. I do not disagree with practically everything which has been said—there is so little one could disagree with—but no practical suggestion has been made since the Debate started, except the plan put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and a statement made by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), with which I hope to deal in a few moments. In connection with this demand for our co-operation I want also to refer to an extract from "The Times" to-day which, to some extent, was quoted by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). It appears under the name of Mr. Rajagopalachari and says:Lord Munster's argument that we are where Sir Stafford Cripps ended is no reason against a settlement. On the contrary it is reasonable that we should begin where we broke off.I read that "we," to be the people of India. Surely it should be so. The extract then goes on:I can only hope that the Commons Debate will reflect a more statesmanlike approach to the recent political events in India.What approach, I wonder, is expected? In a quotation from Madras the following day, which appears in the same paper, it says:Mr. Rajagopalachari has challenged British statesmen to produce an alternative plan for a communal settlement which would allay the fears of the Moslems and protect their interests properly.What on earth does that mean? What is the plan we are to produce? What more can we do?
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
In November last, speaking in a Debate on India, I said I feared that the parties in India would be divided and would not be able to agree, and that, unfortunately, the matter would have to come back to this House, that we could not get any kudos for our further efforts. Is that the best that can 1085 be produced from India? Is it their view that the British Parliament should be asked to put forward another scheme? And if we were asked to do so, do we know of any better scheme to put forward than something like the proposals under the 1935 Act? As conditions are in India to-day, whatever they may be to-morrow or 10 years hence, there is no Member in this House, no thinking person in the country, who would be prepared to hand over India to one faction alone. Yet that is what is demanded of us. Let us make it clear. There is no question of any other proposal having come from India.
I welcome greatly the proposals Mr. Gandhi has made to the Mohammedans, and I hope very much that the negotiations with Mr. Jinnah will continue. But let us face the fact that so far as we know at the moment they have unfortunately broken down. I am not saying that because I am gratified; far from it. I want them to continue. But they must go on there, not here. On the question as to whom we should hand over, a very considerable change has been taking place in India in recent years, which is in accord with the changes which have been taking place in the rest of the world. It is true that there are people who could vote and do not there as here but how often do people who speak about the necessity for democracy in India realise that only about three per cent. of the population there would vote in present circumstances? But as that figure rises, with it will grow the realisation of the value of the franchise and a demand for a real voice in the future of India on the part of millions who never thought of these matters before. I have no brief for any political party in India as such, but let me point out that a part of the Indian Press, which represents the views of 80,000,000 people, does not agree at all with anything that Mr. Gandhi wants. I have nothing against Mr. Gandhi. I had the privilege of knowing him years ago and know the. wonderful work he has done far India especially in his earlier days, but the point is that there are many people in India, who are only beginning to be vocal, who do not agree at all with what Mr. Gandhi and Congress have put forward. Further, they do not agree at all with the Bombay plan. I welcome the Bombay plan, because I welcome any- 1086 thing which will make for the economic development of India.
That development must come mainly from Indians themselves, and therefore I welcome it, but let us realise the position. Here you have the President of the Indian Federation of Labour rejecting the Bombay plan altogether and claiming that it is a plan to exploit the Indian workers for the benefit of the Indian industrialists. The Federation want self-rule for India, the same as Mr. Gandhi does no doubt, but they do not want Mr. Gandhi's plan.
I am putting this forward not in order to throw a spanner into the works or destroy the tone of this beautiful pat-a-cake discussion, nor to try to put an antagonistic attitude before the Indian people. Far from it, but I do not think they are such fools that they would like us merely to get up and say, "We all want to co-operate." That does not get us anywhere. We have to realise that it is impossible for this country to do anything which will really help beyond what we have already done, and that the real move must come, as I believe it will come, from India. I am sure the Secretary of State does not require any advice of mine, but I would suggest that it would certainly do no harm for him to respond to the appeal of the hon. Member for West Leyton and say, "Of course we are full of anxiety that you should work together; of course we are full of anxiety that the Mohammedans and Hindus should agree." If that is going to be of any use to India, let us all get up and say it in unison. Let us honestly face the actual facts of the situation. What is it that the House can do? Is there anything that we can ask the Secretary of State to do, any declaration we can ask him to make, which has not been made already on behalf of the Government and of the country?
We have been misrepresented in many parts of the world in the past regarding India. To-day I think the world realises more than it did how far-reaching is the offer made. India is not a Dominion, but that is not our fault. We all want her to be a Dominion. We want her to have her independence if she likes. What more can we offer? The situation in the last 25 years is very remarkable. Although she is not a Dominion, you have two Indian Members sitting in the 1087 War Cabinet. Even in the last war you had India signing the Treaty of Versailles, sitting at the Peace Conference, and later a member of the League of Nations. Only conditions in India itself have prevented her taking that greater part as a free independent member of the British Empire that we should all have liked to see. We want her to be in that position in the future.
Now I want to deal with one or two of the remarks of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove. He spoke most cogently on the subject of the famine in Bengal. He said it showed the necessity for action. I quite agree. It shows the necessity for the right action above everything else. It shows the necessity, no doubt, for a change in the agricultural system of India. But the fundamental change that must take place before agriculture can be put on a really satisfactory basis is a change in the Hindu family system of inheritance. It is that which makes for the terrible fragmentation of the land—the basis of half the difficulties in that connection from which India suffers. My right hon. and gallant Friend gave as an example of the desire for self-government the very interesting example of the action that had been taken in Iceland to decide their own future—exactly what we offer in India—but it is not in the power of the British people or the Government or Parliament to bring it about. It is in the power of the people of India and no one else. I hope and trust that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to satisfy all those who want some statement from us—I do not envy him his task—but there is no Member of the House who requires to say in these days that he is anxious to co-operate to bring about peace, advancement and independence in India. We have said it; it does not require repeating, but it requires action by Indians, and I do not believe India is the gainer by our ignoring that fact or pretending that it is action taken here which will remove the deadlock.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
I speak from this place because I do not want the slightest suggestion to be made that I am committing anyone else. For that reason I have become a back bencher for the purposes of my speech to-day, I 1088 propose to confine myself to one particular point that strikes me. It seems to me that it is about time the people of this country—and in the people of this country I include the Labour movement—woke up to the fact that there is a working-class in India and an organised trade union movement. There are thousands of people who have a vague idea that one political party in India is elected upon some kind of universal franchise and is a kind of shadow Government which this Government in Britain is continually desiring to crush. Thousands of people have that idea about the position of the Congress Party in India. I do not wish to attack the Congress Party, but it strikes me as a remarkable fact that Debate after Debate can take place in this House and the depressed classes, the workers, organised and unorganised, and the untouchables are never so much as mentioned. Not until the organised workers were referred to by the hon. Member for Kidderminister (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) a moment or two ago have the workers of India been mentioned in this Debate and it seems to me to be an exceedingly deplorable thing. After all, the vast majority of the population are not enfranchised, and they will have to be enfranchised some day or other, and when a political party comes along and says, "You can trust us; you can get out so far as effective control and interference in Indian affairs is concerned; we will see that justice is done to minorities," there is surely something to be said about that and it is rather fundamental.
I suppose no one imagines that we can impose democracy upon India right away, but we are democrats, and we are talking about Indian democracy, and certainly Congress is talking about democracy. Democracy is not the rule of the majority. It may mean the final decision of a majority. If there are differences of opinion, democracy means not that a majority can rule, for majority rule may mean hopeless tyranny for minorities. It means that the final decision of a majority shall give all minorities the full right of discussion and advice and persuasion and participation in the affairs of the State and in the government of the country. That must come first before any decision of a mere majority is implemented in affairs of State. That fact, surely, applies to Great Britain. 1089 Democracy is not the rule of the majority, but the rule of all, and surely this country is entitled to ask any political party in India what they propose to do and what guarantees they have for the rights of minorities. The working-class of India are not a numerical minority, although they are a political one.
We have heard in the Debate of the approach of Mr. Gandhi to the Moslem League. I welcome it. Like the last speaker, I do not want to interfere or to make any difference to the tone of this Debate. It has been an excellent Debate, and I hope it will do good both in this country and in India. But we have to face facts. That approach to the Moslems is only part of the politics of India. What about the depressed classes and the organised labour movement of India? What about those who are not content with the mere domination of the Hindu majority who, after all, have not yet all been converted away from the principle of the caste system? We want some idea of what is going to happen, and this country is justified in asking before it gets out and under for the benefit of one political party in India. [Interruption.]I am sure that the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) does not disagree with what I have said. I feel that I am stating the unexpressed views of large numbers of Members of the Labour Party, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that we, as the Labour Party, should first be concerned about the conditions of the working-class in India and about the political situation in respect of the working-class.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the foremost Socialist in India is Mr. Nehru, and that the Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Joshi, who is greatly honoured in India, is a supporter of the Congress objective?
§ Mr. Montague
I realise that, and I have heard the hon. Member say it over and over again. There was a time in the history of British politics when people got up in this House and talked about Messrs. Burt and Fenwick and the Lib-Labs. The Conservative and Liberal Parties in those days thought they were generous to Labour. I hold the view that these two bodies in India are the capitalist parties in India and are comparable with the position of the capitalist parties of the immediately post-Reform Bill age after 1832.
1090 I am a member of the Labour Party, and I am concerned about the fact that the Labour Party does not think it of importance to recognise that there is a working-class movement in India. I deplore that fact. Two members of the organised workers of India came over to this country at the beginning of this year. They addressed a small meeting of Members in one of the Committee rooms. That was all we heard of them. The organised workers are not heavily financed; they are a poor body. There were no Kings-way meetings, no receptions, no fuss made about them. Practically no attention was given to the statements they made about the Indian political situation which were not favourable to Congress domination, in spite of Nehru and the rest of them who can be quoted by the hon. Member for West Leyton. I do not want to put a spanner in the wheel or slow up the development that is taking place. I hope that the Hindus and the Moslems will get together, but I want the workers to get together.
§ Mr. Montague
Certainly I do. We should remember the fact that the membership of Congress is about one-fifth in a country that has over 400,000,000 inhabitants, and to call that body so representative that all the reins of government should be handed over to it is not realism so far as the politics of India are concerned.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Could my hon. Friend give any sort of evidence to support his statement that Congress wants the government of India handed over to it?
§ Mr. Montague
I spoke to a large number of people at Cambridge a little time ago. It was a meeting of university undergraduates at which there were a large number of Indians, and that opinion was certainly expressed. It was, "Get out quick." That may not be evidence, but if it is not let us know where we are. Is it proposed to give guarantees to minorities in India?
§ Mr. Montague
What kind of guarantees? What kind of guarantees to labour? Do not forget that the people 1091 of India are very highly exploited. They have always been terribly exploited. By whom? Not by the British alone. They have been very much more exploited by Indians. Many of the Indians who exploit their own people to-day are not only members of Congress, but great financiers of Congress. I am not satisfied merely to sit by and let Congress think for me about Indian politics. I do not want to offend them. They are the most important political body in India, but I doubt whether they represent anything like the majority of the Indian people. The Indian people politically are in a nebulous condition, and they occupy the position that the common people occupied in this country 100 years ago. We have to look at the problem from that angle. I plead only for some realisation of the fact that there is much more than a religious question in India, important as that question is. The Hindus and the Moslems have their religious difficulties and their religion and politics are hopelessly entangled together. But there is a growing labour movement in India, a growing trade union movement, and it is not satisfied with the idea of Congress domination. We ought to take account of that fact, and I expect Members of the Labour Party to show a little more interest than they do show about that aspect of the Indian problem.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I think I am expressing the feelings of all in the House when I say that they have listened with the greatest interest to my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). I shall disappoint my hon. Friends on this side if they think that I am going to use the Tory arguments. On the contrary, I am going to give chapter and verse for agreeing in toto with what my hon. Friend has said and to controvert the point of view that used to be held by die-hard Conservatives represented by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox). It is a curious coincidence that I who seldom speak from notes made some on exactly the lines of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington. Before I come to them, I would like to say a word on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). He brought some properly conditioned fresh air into that 1092 world of illusion in which this House always wraps itself, especially on the Liberal benches, when we discuss Indian affairs. We get the old phrases such as, "We must turn over a new leaf," "We must explore every avenue," and "I do beg the Government to make a move." We get all the old phrases without one practical suggestion.
I thought that no speech was more permeated with the old Liberal illusions which were finally blown away when the guns first barked across the Danube in August, 1914, than the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster). It was a typical example of the kind of stuff to which we have been listening in this House for the last 30 years and which leads to no end whatsoever. I rise mainly for the purpose of trying to put in this House what I think everyone, including the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor Hill) usually omits. He said that he went to India, but took no interest in politics, which I think must have been a very self-denying ordinance.
§ Earl Winterton
It must have been a self-denying ordinance. Had the hon. Member not been a world famous scientist, and more famous as a scientist than as a Member of this House, he might have taken a different view. It is not so easy as he thinks. It is rather difficult not to take an interest in politics in India. As the hon. Gentleman has just pointed out in his speech, with absolute truth, we are faced with a situation in India in which two parties, mainly political but with a religious basis, are confronting each other, I agree frankly, very much like the Whigs and Tories soon after the Reform Bill, when they were completely, or largely, ignorant of what was going on beneath the surface. In all the speeches made on India there has hardly been a single reference to the Moslem League. I know that the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) will not mind my saying it, but he invariably gives the impression that he is the spokesman in this House of the Congress Party and that he is here to represent their point of view.
§ Mr. Sorensen
May I assure the Noble Lord emphatically, and I am sure he will accept my word far it, that there is not a 1093 word of truth in that suggestion? I have no connection with the Congress Party. I am simply interested in the fact that the Congress Party happens to be the largest single political party in India, just as the Noble Lord himself is a member of the numerically largest party in this House.
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should have regarded himself as insulted by that suggestion.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am sure that the Noble Lord has not the intention to insult me and would not do so.
§ Earl Winterton
The extreme reverence which the hon. Member always shows for what he regards as the slightly saintly figure of Mr. Gandhi, had led me to believe that he was a whole-hearted supporter of the Congress Party. At any rate, he is very successful in putting the Congress point of view and he seldom makes a reference to the position of the Moslems. I would like to say a word or two about the opinions of the Moslems, but I want to make it clear at first, that I do not necessarily identify myself with a single one of their ambitions. I think it is just as well that their views should be put in this House because the Moslem League is one of the political parties, and it is not right that only the views of the Congress Party should be represented.
What do the Moslems say about Congress? I challenge the hon. Member for West Leyton, or any other hon. Member who is a supporter of Congress and believes in Congress, to deny what I am going to say, which is that Congress is predominantly Hindu and anti-Moslem. It has a membership of no more than 500,000 in the whole of India. How fantastic it is for Pandit Nehru and Mr. Gandhi to talk as though they represented all India. How can they expect us to take them seriously when they talk nonsense of that sort? I quite agree that Mr. Gandhi meets with great respect from many people in India as well as from many people in this country, but it does not alter the fact that Mr. Gandhi is a leader of a political party consisting of fewer than 500,000 people.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Can the Noble Lord give us a comparative figure of membership of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party?
§ Earl Winterton
What on earth has that to do with it? India has a population of 1094 300,000,000 people, and 500,000 of them support Mr. Gandhi. Whatever proportion membership of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party bears to our population, and whether it bears a larger proportion in relation to the whole than——
§ Earl Winterton
I have not the least idea, and they have nothing to do with the point. This is a most inefficient interruption.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman has not listened to my speech. I am sorry if he should not find it to his liking that I agree with his hon. Friend who has just made a speech, and not with himself, particularly as he always appears to be so popular with his Labour colleagues. The Congress Party and the Moslem League are, as the hon. Member for West Islington has said, roughly, like the Whig and Tory Parties after the Reform Bill. I do not deny that they are a political party. All I say is that they do not represent all India.
I come to the third point which the Moslems make, and it is one made by the hon. Member who preceded me. Mr. Jinnah has said again and again, and so have supporters of the Moslem League in their speeches, and it has never been denied—at least, it is constantly ignored by the supporters of Congress in this country, including all the Labour supporters of Congress, and the extreme Socialists, but not the Communists, who see the real constitution of Congress a little more clearly than do the Labour party—that the Congress Party derives its principal financial support from wealthy industrialists. Hon. Members may say that I should have no objection to that on grounds of principle, but that would be equally true in these days of the Labour Party, particularly when one remembers the ownership of the "Daily Herald." There is no harm in that. The Moslems make a further point, which is that many of those employers of labour 1095 in India—I do not know whether Messrs. Tata make any contribution or not—are pretty poor employers of labour. This is taken directly from speeches of a very prominent member of the Moslem League. He said:Little as the British Government may have done or rather the existing Governments with British influence, they think"—"they" being the Congress supporters among the wealthy industrialists—that if the British left India, it would be easier for them to resist the march of social reform in industrial matters.That is the Moslem point of view. They go further. I have had it put to me by a prominent Moslem. He used this argument, and he said: "You can use it in the House of Commons. Look at some of these big firms whom you praise up to the skies as great industrialists. Some of them want to get you out of India because you are their business competitors there. They are the people who are supporting Congress." Broadly, that is the attitude which the Moslem League takes up. I believe that in the near future both the Moslem League and Congress will meet with growing opposition from organised labour in India, as the hon. Member who last spoke remarked. I am convinced that that is true. At present, the Labour movement is no bigger than a light cloud in the sky, but it can easily become a mighty thunderstorm which will wash away Congress as it stands to-day.
Let me quote something from Mr. Jinnah, as it puts what I have said in a much more objective form, but in language which I would not dare to use, as some Leftists would be horrified and would say: "Listen to this reactionary Tory lord talking in this way about Mr. Gandhi, whom we all regard as such a saint." This leader of an Indian party, in an interview which he gave to the daughter of the famous scientist, Madame Curie, said:How can you ever dream of Hindu-Moslem unity? Everything pulls us apart. We have no inter-marriage. We have not the same calendar. Moslems believe in a single God and the Hindus are idolatrous. Like the Christians, the Moslems believe in an equalitarian society, whereas the Hindus maintain the iniquitous system of castes and heartlessly leaves 50,000,000 untouchables to their tragic fate at the bottom of the social ladder. Again, the Hindus worship animals. They consider cows sacred. We, the Moslems, think it non- 1096 sense. We want to eat them. Another thing: no Hindu will take food from a Moslem. No orthodox Hindu will even touch Hindu food if the shadow of a Moslem or the shadow of a Hindu of a lower caste has touched it. Indeed, when you look at the problem you see there are only two links between the Moslems and the Hindus, British rule and the common desire to get rid of it.Let us make no mistake about Mr. Jinnah. I know him, and it is true to say, and I do not think he would resent my saying it, he dislikes the Hindus only a little more than he dislikes us. He has said, quite frankly, he does not want to see us in India, but he has said, equally frankly, that if we leave India—I will quote something on that—without an arrangement having been reached between the Hindus and the Moslem League this will happen:So far two different nations have lived together in an India garrisoned by British troops. Their unity was and is artificial. The minute the British transfer the power to the peoples of India—as they should—the question will arise: To whom should they transfer the power? You must understand that the 'democratic' programme of the Congress is nothing but a camouflage.He goes on to advocate his well-known Pakistan theories, but ends on this note, and I challenge any speaker in this Debate or any subsequent Debate to deny the essential truth of what Mr. Jinnah says. Though I do not agree with his principles I entirely accept his argument:If we get two separate Indias—Pakistan being the Moslem India and Hindustan the Hindu one—the United Nations will get both of them as Allies in the war against Japan. The belligerency of the two Indias will work in the same direction. But if independence went to a Congress-ruled India, this would mean that the Moslems—who incidentally, give to the Indian Army, most of her volunteers—would be asked to fight for a Hindu-dominated country. They won't. They will rather fight the Hindus.I have heard it said that there is a very complete comparison between the position existing before the Government of Ireland Bill was passed and that existing in India. Though I must not go into that subject, in the days when some of us were fighting for the rights of Ulster we were jeered at and sneered at by the then Liberal majority and the Labour Party. They said, "Your people will never fight. You are encouraging civil war." We said, "We are not but we have said that Ulster will not have it." I repeat that what was true in those days is equally true to-day, and that Moslem 1097 India, under its leader, Mr. Jinnah, will not have a Congress-dominated India. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey), the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and others, have said that we must not split India up. You cannot avoid doing it if you are going to avoid civil war. Some hon. Members rather jeered at the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) for suggesting that the solution must be on these lines. I say that is a concrete suggestion to make though I agree most fully with the hon. Member for Kidderminster that it is not for us to make suggestions; it is for the Hindus and Moslems themselves.
With regard to Mr. Gandhi, I acknowledge the fact that he has undoubtedly come a step forward to try and meet the point of view of the Moslems, because his position is not as strong as it was vis-à-vis the Moslems. None of us would say anything to prevent an arrangement being reached. Let us suppose that there was an arrangement as visualised by my right hon. and gallant Friend. It would work, I think, this way. We should make a clean cut after the war and give Dominion status right away. I could not disagree more than I do with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery about some sort of suzerainty remaining. The Indians would say, quite rightly, "If you give us Dominion status it must be on the same lines as for other Dominions." It must be a clean cut. I can visualise three or four Dominions, in the general sense of the word, bound together by the same Customs, united, and entering as Dominions into the closest possible arrangements with us on certain matters. In defence, for example, it is not a matter of keeping large forces in India. What we require are sea and air bases.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I hope my right hon. Friend will say something about the Indian States. He has spoken about suzerainty. I hope he is not over-looking the fact that we are bound by inviolable treaty to the Indian States.
§ Earl Winterton
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, and I may say that as one who has been on practically every Round Table Conference and Committee as well as seven year 1098 sat the India Office I fully recognise that. I think that some of these States would attach themselves to one or other of these four or five units. We should have to do something to try and protect their interests but it is physically impossible to go the full step which they would like us to go. It would be impossible for us, if there was Dominion status, to say that we were responsible for a small State in the middle of India. It would be physically impossible unless we were to have forces everywhere. I would prefer not to pursue that, but I myself think the Indian States would themselves come to tenns with these new Dominions. I think it is going to be very difficult for us to maintain—I see my hon. Friend shakes his head. I will ask him this: Is it really possible to visualise 30 years hence—supposing there are these four or five self-governing units in India—in the middle of that a State with a rather archaic system of government, with us being responsible to protect that State in every way? I do not think it is a practical possibility. I am not suggesting that we should force these States to enter these Dominions against their wishes but I think I am on strong ground when I say it is all very well for them to say, "You must give us protection." In that case, surely we have the right to say, "Upon what terms? Are you prepared to modernise your Constitution, to enter into Customs arrangements with a neighbouring Indian unit?" It is a matter which requires great consideration.
§ Mr. Molson
My Noble Friend will remember the Harcourt-Butler Committee went into this matter and made it quite plain that we could not, without breach of our Treaty obligations, hand over the responsibility of the British Government in India towards the States to any Government responsible to the British Indian electorate.
§ Earl Winterton
I can only say I hope that arrangements can be made. A good many things have happened since the Harcourt-Butler Report. We have been plunged into a tremendous war in which we narrowly averted defeat. No one will deny that this country has great courage. They will also accept the fact that we have a regard to political possibilities and practicabilities. I prefer not to answer the question directly, but I think it can be solved. I am grateful to my hon. Friend 1099 for putting it. I have endeavoured to put what I know to be the Moslem case. There has been, in the speeches we have heard, rather a lack of tribute to the magnificent services of the Indian Army. One of the most foolish things about the Congress leaders is that they persist in denigrating the Indian Army. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru gave an interview to the author of the book to which I have referred, and, when this American lady said, "What about those 500,000"—that was the number then—" who joined the Indian Army?" he said that they were only mercenaries. That is just the sort of thing that irritates the Moslems beyond endurance. There has never been any political feeling of any sort in the Indian Army. They have fought magnificently. They would certainly fight, under proper conditions of service, for a Dominion India, in the same way as they fight for India under its present constitution as part of the British Empire.
Then there are the Indian civil servants. It is often forgotten that the great majority of the civil servants in India, entirely in the lower grades and mainly in the higher grades, are not British, but Indian. One of the most fantastic charges against us is that which is constantly brought by a small minority of opinion in America. How any American can bring such charges against us in view of the position South of the Mason-Dixon line and the fact that no coloured soldier is allowed to dance with a white girl, just beats my comprehension. When I have said this to my American friends, they have said, using a word that I cannot mention in this House, "It is only a——who ever says anything of the kind, and we do not think anything of him in our own country." One of the charges made against us is that we govern India by a highly expensive British Civil Service. The total number of British civil servants in India is not more than 500, I think—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will correct me if that is wrong.
§ Earl Winterton
I thank my right hon. Friend. A tribute should be paid to the Indian members of the Civil Service. They are constantly abused by some of 1100 their own people. They represent all the religions, and I think you may say all the different castes, in the community. It is our bounden duty, when this new order comes into India, to do everything we can to safeguard them. I do not think we need despair in the slightest degree. We shall not despair if we realise that India to-day, like China and like Japan—my hon. Friend did not include Japan just now when he spoke of Asia—is not only a part of Asia, but is a part of the world—a part of the world in which, in future, immense developments of every sort, economic and otherwise, may be expected to take place. I refuse to believe that if this House creates a Dominion or Dominions in India an India of the archaic kind visualised by some members of Congress will exist for long in the modern world. Men of the splendid types to which my hon. Friend referred, one of whom he said he was proud to have had as a pupil, have no sympathy with the kind of flatulent political propaganda in which the Congress Party engage, but they are as anxious to see India a free member of the British community as we are, and as anxious to work with the rest of the Commonwealth and with us for a free and prosperous India.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I do not think my right hon. Friend intended to do so, but he appeared to suggest that there was only a small minority of Hindus in the Indian Army. There are such people as Rajputs, Dogras, Jats, Mahrattas as well as Madrassis in increased numbers, who form a large part of the Indian Army and are magnificent fighting men, apart from the Gurkhas, who though not British Indian subjects, are Hindus.
§ Earl Winterton
I apologise for putting the point badly. I intended to say that, outside the Punjab, the majority in the Indian Army were not Gurkhas.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
In the very few minutes for which. I shall ask the attention of the House, I would like to refer to just two points. I should like to bring this Debate back to the level to which it was raised by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. PethickLawrence). I think that everybody in this House has studied the recent messages from India with a very earnest hope of 1101 finding in them some definite approach towards a more stable Indian settlement. When I read them at first, I came to the conclusion that, although everything had changed, everything was the same. But that would not be entirely just. There is a move from the sterile attitude of non-co-operation, civil disobedience, and "Quit India." There is a recognition of the fundamental right of the Moslem community to security for their own religion, their own economic future and their own culture. That may be Pakistan or something else, but it is essential to any Indian settlement. But these policies must be developed in India itself by Indians. They cannot be imposed by a dictate from this House or this country.
When that settlement comes, it will not be, as we have been very wisely reminded to-day, a settlement only between Mr. Gandhi, representing Congress, and Mr. Jinnah, representing the Moslem League. There will be the 60,000,000 of the scheduled castes, the great army of the trade unionists, the growing body of organised labour in every direction. All those are entitled to full consideration and security under any constitution, and we must see that they are respected. I would like to remind the House how easy it may be for the wise action of this House to be disrupted in India itself. In the great Act of 1935, this House decided that the scheduled castes should have specific representation, through representatives elected by themselves. What actually happened? When that measure went back to India, Mr. Gandhi wrecked it by a threat to fast to death. The result is that the scheduled castes can be represented only in the general body of the Hindu community.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) asked what we can do now, getting away from flapdoodle and sentiment, to help forward an Indian settlement. This House did the greatest thing in the history of any civilised State. It voluntarily surrendered in the Act of 1935 an immense power, which it was capable of exercising well and for the benefit of India. In the message taken by the Cripps Mission to India, there was a still further willingness to surrender power, and to transfer it to any agreed body in India. Yet recognising these great steps there is one thing we can do and have not done. I have 1102 impressed upon my right hon. Friend for five years, and must press it on him again now, because it has the full endorsement of the Viceroy of India and others—there is no authoritative body in India to study these various constitutional questions and political issues and help to instruct Indians and ourselves in the basis of a new Indian Constitution. "The moving finger writes"—and it is moving rather rapidly and we are getting very near the day when, under our pledge, we have to establish a constituent assembly in India to frame their Constitution. What are we doing to prepare the material for that assembly to come to a workable conclusion? We know nothing more clearly than that a constituent assembly meeting without preparation is bound to stumble, or, indeed, come to an unworkable improvisation or an alleged settlement which is no settlement at all. I ask the Minister to consider that point now; otherwise, I see the very gravest prospects ahead.
Much has been said about the famine in Bengal. If time permitted, I could prove conclusively to this House that there has been no famine in Bengal—not in the recognised Indian sense. What has happened is a symptom of the gravest economic problem any country ever had to face in its history—a colossal growth in population, without any corresponding expansion in the food supply. Look at these figures. In the 20 years from 1901–1921 the population of India increased by 22,000,000. In the next 20 years, it increased by 84,000,000. That is a natural growth of the population, which was controllable, but is now entirely out of control. Why have these menacing conditions arisen? In the first of the two decades there was famine in 1897; famine in 1899; with plague and later, the great influenza epidemic, and many other social tragedies, but, in the next 20 years, there were none of these disturbances. We are in India, facing this problem, the victims of our awn good administration because we have swept away those forces which kept the population within reasonable proportions.
I warn this House that what happened in Bengal may happen in any time in the years which are ahead of us, and that some disturbance, some failure of the rains or other cause, will mean an acute scarcity which might possibly begin in 1103 any part of India and which will grow in intensity as the years go by unless there is some check. What is the remedy? There have been various proposals by authoritative bodies to increase the productivity of the Indian soil—irrigation, fertilisers, modern implements and other things of that sort. These can only touch the very surface of this problem. The real basis of the problem is the Hindu law of inheritance and also the Hindu caste system and practice. The Hindu law of inheritance has split up uneconomic holdings—the average Indian holding is only three acres—into tiny fragments scattered all over the villages, Until there is a consolidation of holdings we shall always be faced, and any Government in India will always be faced, with this fearful responsibility—I would almost say—of keeping this growing population alive in a time of any seasonable disturbance. That goes right down to the roots of Hindu society. Then there is the sanctity of the cow, which keeps alive a great horde of useless cattle battening on the scanty herbage. These affect the whole structure of Hindu society and can only be solved by a strong national Government.
The third point I want to make is this. We have had what is called the Bombay plan for the development of India. Some of the industrialists who framed the plan are coming to England next month or very soon. What is going to be our attitude towards them? Something very big indeed fop the future of this country and its relations with India depends upon our reception of that plan and our attitude to those who are coming to father it. Remember this. India is determined upon her own rapid industrial development and India has ample resources with which to do it, both inside and outside the country; how that plan will be developed and how India's resources will be used depend on ourselves. I welcome this plan. Whatever may be any theoretical defects, it is a comprehensive plan for India as a whole, and I think everyone will recognise the wisdom and foresight of the Viceroy in bringing one of the authors into his Government to work out the details.
But what are we going to do? What are the industrialists of Britain, the Government, the Board of Trade and the Department of Overseas Trade, which we 1104 were rather surprised to find still existed the other day—what are they going to do? Are we going to approach this scheme in a casual manner or are we going to say, "We welcome you with open arms; we are going to co-operate with you in every possible way in the development of your country and use of your resources. You do not want our money or our business experience; you do need our technical knowledge and our scientific advisers. They are yours, and we shall be glad to co-operate with you to the utmost of our power"? If we do that, and we associate our industries, and the Government and the Board of Trade, with India's industrial growth we shall be doing something by which we may hope to see India rise in the economic sphere, and gain a greater prosperity for her people.
§ The Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery)
We have been listening to a most interesting Debate, one in which sincere good will to India has not been incompatible with a certain amount of frank speaking. To deal with all the great issues which have been raised to-day, as well as to make certain statements about the present handling of the food situation in Bengal and India, and some of the plans of reconstruction that are before the Government of India, will I am afraid compel me to encroach at some little length upon the time of the House. The Debate was opened by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) in a very wise and thoughtful speech which I thought was a most admirable opening to our discussions. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), in one of those speeches in which he is so often wont to go deep to the very heart of problems, launched what at first sight may seem to be merely a daring paradox. I agree with my right hon. and gallant Friend that a division of India into two may be more difficult to reconcile with co-operation than a division into a number of units. I also agree with him—and indeed it underlies not only the present situation in India but any Constitution that may be formed—that economic development, to be effective, must have support and not merely passive acquiescence of the people. It must enlist something in the nature of 1105 patriotism. Therefore, to get economic development for India as a whole you must have behind it something like an All-Indian patriotism.
On the other hand, when he held out South America to us as an example of the solution of India's problems, I confess that I was not altogether able to follow him. When the present nations of South America came into existence over 100 years ago, that Continent, nearly five times as large as India, was an empty Continent, not only empty of population but, even more important, empty of history, with all its memories of conflict and interlocking ambitions. The colonists who revolted from their European mother countries were scattered all along the coast line. They had no serious frontier difficulties. They had no communications to enable an effective central Government to be set up. They, each of them, dealt naturally in commerce more with Europe and the outside world than with each other. If we want a narrower parallel to India let us come nearer home to Europe, and more particularly to those regions of Central and Eastern Europe which have not been shaped by long history into clearly separate nations but where Teuton and Slav, Moslem and Christian have been fighting it out for 1,000 years, where the disappearance of two great autocracies, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, have left behind not peace and progress, but two terrible conflicts for which perhaps the only ultimate solution is some possible form of European unity.
Therefore, I would hesitate to say that we should of deliberate purpose jettison that Indian unity which geography and 250 years of British influence have brought about. But it is to this very inherent and inescapable complexity of the Indian situation, which both precludes rigid unity and yet forbids complete severance, that His Majesty's Government were bound to address themselves when they framed the proposals which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production took out with him to India just over two years ago. The whole objective of those proposals was to enable India, after this war, to attain to complete freedom, to unfettered control of her own destiny in the world, whether within the free partnership of the British 1106 Commonwealth or even without it, under an agreed constitution of her own devising.
It was obvious to us that only in an agreed constitution could at any rate some measure of Indian unity be preserved. Any constitution which was based on the coercion of such a powerful element as the Moslem majority in North-Western or North-Eastern India clearly could not have lasted but would have been bound to break down in disruption and civil war. It was just in order to secure unity, by agreement and compromise, not because we favoured partition that we insisted on the right of the predominantly Moslem Provinces—a right already conceded to the Indian States—to stand outside any constitutional scheme which imperilled their culture or way of life or lowered their status. The same stipulation made it equally clear that we were not prepared to make non-agreement an excuse for indefinite postponement of Indian self-government. It is against the background of these indispensable conditions for the solution of the major problem of India's future constitution, that we were further prepared for a bold immediate advance by inviting Indian party leaders to form a provisional Government. Such a Government would necessarily have been under the existing Constitution, that is to say, subject to the Viceroy's reserved power, a latent power which has never yet been exercised in the course of the last four years, but which was essential not only as a guarantee of continued loyal support to the war effort but also as the only guarantee to the minorities, not only to a great and powerful element like the Moslems, but, as the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) reminded us, for elements not so powerful as the Moslems. It is the only guarantee that a provisional Government once in power would not use that power to prejudge the constitution of the future to their detriment.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined. English Universities (Mr. Harvey) asked for an assurance that the promises we made two years ago should still hold good. I will readily give that assurance. His Majesty's Government stand by the proposals that we then laid before India and before the world in all their generous amplitude. We shall stand 1107 by them in the hour of victory as we did in the days of adversity. The shifting fortunes of war played no part in their inception and they cannot limit their fulfilment. But we also stand, and for the sake of India's peace we must stand, by the indispensable conditions which accompany them.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. WardlawMilne), I can say that on the main issue there is no other declaration that we can make. That brings me to Mr. Gandhi's recent initiative or gesture, call it what you will. The House will remember that as far as India's future constitution is concerned Mr. Rajagopalachari, former premier of Madras, was the only Congress leader at that time prepared to admit the justice of our stipulation that an agreed constitution could only be arrived at if the predominantly Moslem provinces were free to adhere or to stand out. It is a signal vindication of the statesmanship which at the time led to his expulsion from the Congress ranks, and of the patient persistence with which he has continued his advocacy of an agreed solution, that he has succeeded on this issue in securing, in principle at any rate, Mr. Gandhi's support. How far the formula in which that support has been embodied is likely to be acceptable to the Moslem League, which I understand, is meeting in the next few days, or indeed to Moslem, or, for that matter, to Hindu opinion generally, is not yet clear. What is clear to my mind is that neither meticulous criticism nor uncritical commendation of Mr. Gandhi's proposal in this House would help what we all have at heart, namely, the removal of what is undoubtedly the greatest stumbling block in the way of an agreed foundation for India's constitutional future. We shall be wise to be content with the fact that an approach has been made.
Apart from the particular issue which affects the future, Mr. Gandhi has in Press interviews and statements recently expressed his views as to what he conceives to be an immediate solution. These statements are not free from obscurity and reservations on particular points. I do not think I need go into those, for they are, in any case, all bound up with and dependent upon one central demand on which he does not leave any room 1108 for ambiguity, that is the demand for the immediate recognition of India's independence under a provisional Government in which the only powers reserved for the Viceroy are those which deal with the control of active military operations. All the reserve powers indispensable to ensure that the various functions of administration are co-ordinated with the war effort—which are also no less indispensable, as I have said already, to safeguard the future constitutional position of the minority elements—are to disappear. Well, that is after all just the demand upon which the negotiations with Congress broke down two years ago, and were bound to break down. I will only invite hon. Members to read Mr. Gandhi's statements side by side with those which were then issued by the Congress leaders to see that, in this respect at any rate, there has been no real advance. Indeed, Mr. Gandhi now adds the further stipulation that India is to bear no part of the cost of her own defence. So long as that is the basis of his proposals, they obviously do not form even a starting point for profitable discussion, either with Lord Wave11 or with the interned Congress Party leaders. They are in no sense a response to the Viceroy's invitation to Mr. Gandhi to produce constructive proposals. All we can do is to continue to hope that the time will come when we shall have before us proposals which conform to conditions which have not been imposed by us arbitrarily but are indispensable both because India is at war and because no future agreed Constitution is yet in sight.
If I may turn for a moment to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who produced a detailed plan of his own for the immediate solution of the Indian problem—he will certainly not expect me to go into details of the plan. It was, however, a plan based on bringing India under the South-East Asia Command. I must remind the House that the South-East Asia Command and India were one not so long ago, and were separated because it was more than one organisation could manage, to deal both with operational needs and the immense problems of administration involved in making India the recruiting and supply base for those operations. The operations are, indeed, already under international control. They are directed, in the first instance, by the Com- 1109 bined Operations Staff in Washington. They have as their background the Pacific Council, which at the times when it has met in this country has been attended by the representatives of India at the War Cabinet. But none of these things can get away from the fact that India as a base is a single administrative unit in which all the elements of Government must come together and, in so far as it is such a unit, then those essential difficulties to which I have already referred in connection with the proposals of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production are still there and are, I fear, not brought any appreciably nearer to a solution by my hon. and learned Friend's suggestion.
However, if I may turn from that point, if the deadlock in the political field has not yet been resolved, there are other fields in which India has made great advances as well as encountering grave difficulties. Political leaders and their followers do not, after all, cover the whole varied range of India's life. Let me turn for a moment to India's fighting forces, for they too are India. They have a long and glorious tradition of valour and loyalty, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has paid his tribute to them. India's Army has expanded from a nucleus of some 200,000 to over 2,000,000—the largest voluntary Army in the world—an expansion which has involved a stupendous task of equipment and supply, of organisation and of training which could only have been accomplished by untiring devotion to duty and by the resource and ingenuity of all concerned—British and Indian—in every grade of responsibility.
I will ask the House to consider how that effort has stood the test of war. No one has stated more emphatically than Lord Wave11 what he owed to his Indian Divisions and to Indian supplies in that first campaign in which, against overwhelming odds, he saved the Middle East, and, with it, the Allied cause. Those Indian Divisions in this war have fought their victorious way from the mountains of Abyssinia to the Apennines, from the waters of Damascus to the Arno. Those who fought with them, and those who fought against them, alike have acknowledged their quality. Indian troops have held for the Allied cause the whole vast area of Iraq and Persia. They have borne 1110 the brunt of our ill-fated retreats from Malaya and Burma, and to-day they are effectively repaying old scores against the Japanese on the Burma front. Apart from those on that frontier, some 250,000 Indian troops are serving overseas to-day.
That Army—my right hon. Friend drew attention to the point—is a unit in which communal differences between Indians and, I might add, racial differences between English and Europeans, are transcended by one common brotherhood in arms. There is no racial distinction in that Army to-day. Some 35 per cent. of its officers are Indian and their numbers are steadily increasing. Those young Indian officers have stood up well to the exacting demands of modern war. Some of them are already in command of units and qualifying by their war experience for the highest commands in future years. Has that fact no bearing upon the one essential underlying all India's future freedom, namely, her power to defend herself by her own Forces under their own leaders? Has it no bearing on India's future that, on demobilisation, something like 500,000 Indians will return to civil life who have been trained for technical services during the war? What I say applies, of course, no less to the Royal Indian Navy, which has expanded some 1,500 per cent. during the war, and to India's Air Force, which has grown from a personnel of 200 to one of over 23,000. They, too, are not only part of India's war effort, they are also essential elements in India's future freedom.
It is equally true of India's immensely developed output of all the equipment and supplies essential to modem war. I wish time would allow me to go at any length into the immense contribution which India has made to the Allied cause in munitions and military equipment of all kinds—in military stores, in textiles, cottons and woollens, leather goods, parachutes, steel, in fact every conceivable element that enters into modem war. I would only sum it up by saying that, measured in terms of money, that material contribution of India has already amounted to some £500,000,000. It has been a contribution of value; it has incidentally made a great contribution to India's industrial capacity. But it has also involved an immense strain upon India's relatively primitive economic structure, her limited transport facilities and, not least, upon 1111 that mere handful of senior civil servants, British and Indian, to whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing paid a well deserved tribute. How they have stood up to their work over all these years is something which this House ought to recognise. An immense strain has been put upon them.
The ever increasing difficulty of furnishing India with the imports of consumer goods to match the ever growing production from outside, as well as the diversion of her own industries to war purposes from consumer goods has steadily increased the disparity between expenditure and consumption. In the first 2½ years that was held in check, and wholesale prices rose by only 50 per cent. But after the entry of Japan into the war a new and more difficult situation arose. Prices advanced, in the course of 12 months, by something like 100 per cent., and the difficulties were accentuated not only by a lack of goods but by the loss of confidence, by hoarding and by civil disturbance. It is to meet that situation that the Government of India have taken very vigorous measures over a wide field.
Last year the Budget increase in India's revenue was something like 33 per cent. In the last two years India has borrowed £326,000,000 internally, a small sum judged by our standards but by no means contemptible when judged by the extraordinarily limited surplus of wealth that really exists in India. Everything has been done, despite the immense difficulties, to increase the import of consumer goods, to provide large quantities of standard cloth and take drastic steps to see they get on the market. Large amounts of gold have been sold on the market in India on account of His Majesty's Government and the United States. America has lent 100,000,000 ounces of silver for coinage purposes and to ease the inflationary strain. As the result of these measures price levels have been held for 12 months and are lower than in any country in the Middle East. The position, however, is one which still needs watching with the utmost care. By far the gravest consequence of the strain imposed on India's economy, has been the strain on the food situation. That has been, and will continue to be, quite apart from the war, an increasingly serious problem. It has, of 1112 course, been greatly aggravated from 1942 onwards by the war, by the cessation of the normal import of rice from Burma, by overstrain on the railways, by general uncertainty as to the military situation, by political disturbances and by the effect of inflation on the vast population of rural consumer-producers, sellers only of their surplus, who have been reluctant to sell when their ordinary needs for consumer goods could not be satisfied at a reasonable price, or even satisfied at all.
In a previous Debate I explained how, from the autumn of 1942 onwards, anxiety on this score as regards Southern and Western India preoccupied the Government of India and His Majesty's Government. That difficulty was effectively dealt with, but on it there supervened a far graver situation, precipitated by the failure of the Bengal rice crop at the beginning of 1943. The causes of the Bengal famine were fairly and eloquently stated by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery. Its cause and the epidemics that followed are to be investigated by a Commission, whose appointment and terms of reference were announced the other day. Its chairman, Sir John Woodhead, has had exceptional local experience both for many years in the Bengal Civil Service and also as Acting Governor of that great Province. He is supported by three Indian members with special agricultural knowledge and by Dr. Aykroyd, Director of India's Nutritional Research Laboratory. The terms of reference cover not only the past but, what is far more important, the future. In regard to both administrative and agricultural methods its investigation will subsequently cover the wider problem of famine and its prevention over the whole of India. But in any case there can be no dispute as to the broad fact, the dreadful fact, that in Bengal last year about 700,000 human beings died as a consequence of that famine, either directly of starvation or, to a much larger extent, from ever present endemic diseases which break out in a large scale where there is malnutrition.
The House will want to know what measures have been taken to check these calamities and prevent their recurrence in Bengal itself, and more generally in India as a whole. Thanks to a record rice harvest in January, the fear of a recurrence of famine such as there was last 1113 year in Bengal has definitely receded. To make assurance doubly sure, and to overcome the loss of confidence among cultivators, as well as the loss of the normal carry-over, the Government of India have relieved the Bengal Government of responsibility for feeding the city of Calcutta, with its 4,500,000 inhabitants, a responsibility amounting to 640,000 tons of grain. Following on Lord Wavell's own bold and decisive intervention—the very first act of his Viceroyalty—and the ability and energy of the new Governor, Mr. Casey, which have been at the disposal of the Bengal Ministry in their efforts to grapple vigorously with this situation, real progress has been made. The invaluable help of the Army, particularly in regard to transport and distribution, has been continued. The river and canal boats which were removed in 1942 for fear of the Japanese invasion have been restored and repaired, and a large programme of rebuilding by civil and military authorities is in hand. This has been an essential condition of the efficiency of the system of procuring rice which has been procured by the Government in surplus areas to be removed to deficit areas.
The target in that respect has already been nearly reached. Not only have Calcutta and the larger cities been rationed, but a rural ration scheme has been initiated over the whole Province. A variety of measures have been taken to increase the efficiency of agriculture in the Province. Legislation has been passed to enable cultivators to recover the holdings which they were forced to sell for a mere song under pressure of famine. On the health side there are now 530 special hospitals, with 18,000 beds in the districts, and 650 beds in Calcutta hospitals, for the treatment of persons suffering from the after effects of famine. Forty-five medical units are touring the villages, and 1,300 satellite centres are working in conjunction with existing dispensaries. The House knows only too well that in the wake of the famine there followed epidemics of cholera, smallpox and malaria. By the end of the year cholera had waned, and in March deaths due to it were below the normal for this time of year.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
Has most of this action been taken by the Provincial Government of Bengal or by the Central Government?
§ Mr. Amery
I am referring to Bengal. Between 1st November and 15th July, 15,000,000 anti-cholera inoculations were carried out and some 28,000,000 vaccinations against smallpox—some attempt at any rate to make up for the neglect of previous years. A very liberal allocation of quinine was made to the Bengal Government in 1943–4. For the new year Bengal has had allocated 65,000 lbs. of quinine, 30,000 lbs. of chinchona febrifuge, and 100,000,000 tablets of anti-malaria synthetics. These allocations are enough to provide an average course of treatment for well over 10,000,000 people. The great bulk of it has already been supplied. Last year there were undoubtedly serious local shortages of anti-malarial drugs owing to inadequate distribution arrangements. I will not claim that even now, arrangements are entirely satisfactory but, at any rate, the situation in this respect has been greatly improved.
Let me turn now to the work of the Central Government. Under Lord Wavell's inspiration, and under the administration of Sir Jwala Srivastava, the able and energetic holder of the Food Portfolio in his Government, the Centre has worked away steadily at creating an effective and reasonably uniform control and of prices and distribution throughout India. The difficulties which originally delayed, or impeded, effective co-operation between the Central Government and the Provinces have been progressively overcome. Rationing is now in force in 226 towns and cities, with a population of 35,000,000, as well as in many rural areas. Prices are being controlled. Most of the procurements in surplus provinces and areas are being actually carried out by trade agencies on behalf of the Governments concerned, but the question of organising a Governmental purchase monopoly is being closely studied in case existing measures fail to meet the situation.
No measures taken within India's own confines would be wholly adequate to secure the best possible distribution of the internal resources, and the confidence which is essential for that purpose, without some measure of help from without. It is not only that India was already an importing country before the war, and that its population has since grown by 20,000,000, but the immense increase in the Armed Forces, more particularly from 1115 this country and the United States, has added, in effect, another province, a consuming but not a producing province, to the problem of India's food supply. The House can rest assured that neither the Government of India nor His Majesty's Government has failed to realise that aspect of the question at any moment over the last two years. The House has been informed that 800,000 tons of wheat will have been shipped to India in the year ending this September. I fully realise that the Indian Central Food Advisory Council has expressed disappointment with these figures as compared with their own standard of 1,000,000 tons a year of imported grain for current consumption, with 500,000 added for reserve. That disappointment is natural in view of India's own grave anxiety.
The preoccupations of His Majesty's Government over an even wider field are no less anxious and critical. There never seems to be a limit to the urgent demands for shipping for military operations, and it is only by the closest scrutiny of the situation, from quarter to quarter, that those responsible can manage to scrape together the ships required for any given task. All I can tell the House is that the question of finding ships for further consignments of grain to India is under active consideration by the technical services directly concerned. In addition to the measures of procurement, price control, and rationing, the Government of India have also been active in steps to increase the acreage of food crops and to improve cultivation and to secure the better use of natural and artificial fertilisers. At this moment an expert mission from this country is in India to advise on measures necessary to increase India's output of artificial fertilisers to a target of 350,000 tons a year.
That brings me to the problem which has been raised in more than one speech, the greatest of all problems for India, namely, how to enable her natural resources and an increased efficiency in their utilisation and the development of new industries, to raise the standard of living and production. There is no other way of bringing happiness to her teeming millions, or of giving to India as a whole the material strength and revenue, without which political independence would be little more than nominal. Mere numbers do not constitute either wealth or 1116 strength. Unless they are matched by increased efficiency, they are, indeed, the greatest menace to all efforts to raise the standard of living or to sustain political freedom. I heartily agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill). There are, we all know, elements in the problem which depend on social customs and religious preconceptions, which can only be dealt with by the slow process of education and a gradual change of outlook.
That is all the more reason for bold and prompt action in the field in which the Government can hope to produce early results. How urgent this is has been shown, not only by the recent famine and the anxiety about the food situation generally, but also by the progressive deterioration of the position shown by statistics. Someone stated in the Debate that in the last 20 years the population of India increased by 27 per cent. The increase in acreage under crops was 10 per cent. The increase in acreage under food crops was only 1 per cent. Another speaker pointed out that, as compared with other countries, that limited acreage is not compensated for by efficient production. On the contrary, there is a woefully inferior standard of production per acre. Nothing in the production of export crops in India or in the development of Indian industry can sufficiently balance these grave deficiencies.
It is in the light of these facts that the Government of India are consulting the Provinces, with whom the primary responsibility for agriculture rests, on a plan which is designed to double India's agricultural production over the next 15 years. In that plan are included extension of irrigation, the combating of the devastating spread of soil erosion, the improvement of seeds and of breeds of livestock, and the extended use of natural and artificial manure. Last, but not least, is research and the training of instructors. I might add that by no means least important in this connection is the extension of forest areas, both to combat erosion, and also to supply firewood and so save the appalling waste of some 200,000,000 tons of cow dung a year used for fuel. Let the House judge of the scale of what is in contemplation by the fact that the increase of forest area in view is 100,000 square miles, nearly double the total area of England and Wales. Again, the total capital cost of 1117 this agricultural plan is estimated at £750,000,000, with a recurrent cost of £15,000,000. I do not think that the Government of India can be charged with lack of courage and imagination in facing the problems of India's agricultural development.
§ Mr. Amery
These plans are to be carried out in co-operation between the Central Government and the Provinces, regardless of whether the Provinces are self-governing, or administered under Section 93. I think that in this respect there will be no difference. The Government were bound to turn to agriculture first and foremost, because it has always been and always must be the mainstay of the great majority of the Indian population, and it is in the prosperity of that population that India's growing industries must find their best and most assured markets. That does not mean——
§ Earl Winterton
Before my right hon. Friend leaves this question of agriculture, might I make one suggestion? I think it is important to emphasise what speakers in the Debate did not apparently realise, that the production of crops in temperate climes such as England and the United States is utterly different from that in tropical countries. I may not be the only person in the House who has been engaged in tropical agriculture, but it occurs to me that a lot of what is proposed to be done might meet with very great disappointment and that the application of large scale farming to India is very largely in the experimental stage.
§ Sir S. Reed
Does the scheme cover consolidation of holdings and take into account the fact that large areas in India have been disforested because they were uneconomic?
§ Mr. Amery
That is just one of the problems on which the Woodhead Committee will report. On the other point, I would not dissent from my right hon. Friend. The last thing I would suggest is that Western methods should be applied indiscriminately, and without the most careful consideration to India's conditions; nor would I overlook the fact that, in a tropical country the prospects depend upon 1118 the difference between a good or bad monsoon. That is one of the reasons why industrial expansion may make an immense contribution to the problem of balancing India's economy by furnishing a market which can absorb the output, or a great part of the output, of Indian agriculture.
India is already the eighth industrial country in the world. Her industry and the trained skill behind it have been amazingly expanded to meet the needs of war. It stands to-day, undoubtedly, as more than one hon. Member has pointed out, on the eve of a great industrial advance, which I hope will be accompanied by a corresponding advance in the handling of social and labour problems, not by some of the terrible mistakes which accompanied our own industrial revolution.
To that advance we here can only wish well. The days have long gone when British industrialists tended to look upon India as their own preserve and to look upon Indian industry as an uneconomic intrusion in their domain. On the contrary, I have found, whenever I have discussed this problem with our own industrialists, a universal readiness to welcome India's industrial progress, and a universal desire to lend their co-operation in helping forward that progress, in the confident conviction that in the growth of India's prosperity there will always be an opportunity for British trade, provided that we supply India with what she needs, and not simply with what we have been accustomed to sell in the past. I am quite sure that the Indian industrialists who will shortly visit this country will meet from every quarter in British industry with the kind of reception I have just indicated.
How strongly that vision of India's industrial future has appealed to her imagination is shown by the eager reception accorded to the plan put forward by a group of Bombay industrialists which aims at doubling the standard of life for the whole of India within 15 years at an expenditure of £7,500,000,000. An even bolder plan, which lays greater emphasis on agriculture and social reform, and involves an expenditure of £11,250,000,000 in ten years has been put forward by the Indian Federation of Labour. What is significant in these schemes is not the detailed figures; they are not estimates for criticism, but illustrations of an inherently 1119 sound argument. What matters in these schemes is the, boldness of their conception. It is only those who have set their target high, as Russia has shown, who are at any rate not unlikely to get somewhere near it. From that point of view I think the Government of India has shown no sign of failure to appreciate the greatness of the opportunity before her. Nothing could be more significant of Lord Wavell's outlook in this respect than his invitation to Sir Ardeshir Dalal, one of the ablest of the authors of the Bombay plan, to take up the Portfolio of Planning and Development in the Viceroy's Executive Council. Nothing could be more significant than Sir Ardeshir Dalai's acceptance of the post which he would only have thought worth taking because he believes that in it he will find the whole-hearted support of his Chief and of his colleagues of the Viceroy's Executive.
The reconstruction plans of the Government of India over and above the great agricultural scheme to which I have referred include, as an essential instrument for full industrial and agricultural development, a great increase in hydroelectric power. India is a veritable paradise for the hydro-electric engineer, and something like 90 per cent. of her definitely ascertainable sources of power are still unused. Even more important is the power of the human brain. A sum of £750,000 is to be allocated for establishing a series of research laboratories by the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. To that sum the great firm of Tata is adding another £150,000. Many of the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University in the course of his most fruitful visit to India, are being taken up, and I look forward to the forthcoming visit of a number of distinguished Indian scientists as calculated to be of the greatest benefit to both countries.
The whole problem of industrial training, with which great progress has been made in the war, is being fully investigated. Behind that lies education. Mr. John Sargent's proposals aim at the provision, over a number of years it is true, of universal education for all boys and girls from 6 to 14, at a cost rising from £7,500,000 to an eventual total of over £200,000,000 a year. Such a scheme can 1120 come to fruition only in the course of time. Teachers, of whom 1,800,000 will be ultimately required, could not be improvised, even if the requisite buildings were available. Again, the Health Survey Development Committee under Sir Joseph Bhore is now studying the whole field of public health, nutrition, maternity and child welfare, housing and water supply, and malaria and other endemic diseases, and it is expected to report this year.
If these reforms are carried out, they must be brought within reach of the people scattered in India's 700,000 villages, and, therefore, a great improvement in India's roads, especially her rural roads, is an indispensable concomitant of reconstruction. A plan is being worked out, at a cost of £340,000,000, over 10 years, for 400,000 miles of road. These are all big figures, and the Government of India have to take into account the financial possibilities and limitations. These, and even more the availability of trained staff and technicians, will inevitably extend the period over which these ambitious plans must be carried out. It is significant that the Finance Member, Sir Jeremy Raisman, in his last Budget speech, anticipated that £750,000,000 might be available from revenue and borrowing for reconstruction over the first five years after the war, in addition to the reconstruction funds which some Provinces have accumulated, and to private capital investment and that important element of India's war time saving represented by her accumulated sterling balances.
I have dwelt very fully on these plans for reconstruction, not because they can supersede, or even postpone, the need for finding a solution to India's problems. I quite agree with the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) that there can be no question of using economic development to sidetrack the political issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh truly said that progress in other directions cannot be fully sustained if there is a fundamental disequilibrium in the political structure. All I would say is that these reforms are essential to provide the material foundation of individual standard of living and of collective resources without which Indian freedom would mean very little, either at home or in relation to the outside world. At any rate, there could be no 1121 reason for not pushing ahead with these reforms while conditions for a political solution are maturing, so that, at whatever stage a new constitution comes into being, no time will have been lost in giving it the best possible start. Nor is it too much to hope that, in the light of the practical difficulties and the immense opportunities of Indian reconstruction, even political difficulties may find a truer perspective in relation to the immense political opportunity for Indian statesmanship.
I think I am voicing the general sentiment expressed in this Debate if I say that we look forward undoubtedly to the satisfaction of India's natural aspiration to the unfettered control of her destiny as a partner in the British Commonwealth, and a member of the comity of nations of the whole world, standing as the equal of any nation in the world. I am glad that the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) suggested that India is capable of playing a leading part in the future destiny of Asia and the world as the equal of China. We all look forward to that, but we also wish her to start off that new chapter of her history under the most favourable auspices possible, at peace within herself, to begin with, secure from aggression from without, with some measure of unity, which is essential for that purpose, able to play her part in contributing to the peace of the world and make her own contribution to the welfare, the culture and the thought of the world, and enjoy, in ever-increasing measure, prosperity, health and happiness.
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
Committee upon Tuesday next.