HL Deb 07 July 1882 vol 271 cc1773-5

asked the Under Secretary of State for India, Whether the Indian Government will soon definitely settle the rates on the Rajputana Railway for wheat and other produce; also, whether the Indian Government intends to give its attention to the reform of the management of the Indian railways, so as to secure better treatment of the third and fourth class passengers? The noble Lord said: My Lords, about two months ago complaints were made on account of the accumulation of wheat in Rajputana, as much, it was said, as 60,000 tons, which could not find an outlet because of the enhanced rates on the railway. These were reduced by the Indian Government; but they are still higher than they were last year, while the merchants still complain of insecurity and fear that the rates may again be raised, and wish for a more permanent settlement of the rates. The anxiety and insecurity on this score are increased by the fact that they have had good reason to apprehend that these high rates have been due to a desire on the part of the Government to favor the port of Calcutta at the expense of Bombay. The Bombay Chamber of Commerce memorialized the Government with respect to the favoring of Calcutta, but has not yet received an answer. The semi-official paper, The Pioneer, boasts that the officials have been able to hold the balance so fairly between the two rival ports. This, indeed, it has done, since wheat from Rajputana costs in Liverpool, when sent viâ Calcutta, 1,396 annas, and when viâ Bombay, 1,397 annas. This, The Times of India says, is red-tapeism, or grandmotherly legislation carried to an extreme. There has been of late years a greatly increased production of wheat in India, which is as beneficial to this country as to India; and it is inconceivable that the Indian Government should not devote all its efforts to foster and facilitate the exportation of Indian wheat. The other Question of which I have given Notice is in consequence of the general complaints with regard to the insufficient accommodation and ill-treatment of third and fourth class passengers by the Indian railways. They are made to wait for 15 or 20 minutes before the arrival of the trains in pens, exposed either to the sun or rain; sufficient time is not allowed them to come out of these pens before the departure of the trains. The fourth class passengers are placed in carriages more like cattle trucks than passenger carriages, and the passengers are compelled either to sit and stifle on the floor of these carriages, or to stand up all the time of their journey to obtain a breath of air. Complaints are also made of the great rudeness of the station masters and other European officials of the railways to these Indian passengers. Leaving aside all other higher considerations, it is clear that such treatment and the insufficient accommodation at the stations must check railway traveling and diminish the utility of the railways, and the profits of the Companies. It has been suggested in India that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into and remedy these abuses of railway management.


My Lords, the question of rates for the through traffic to Bombay from Delhi of grain by the Rajputana Railway is under consideration, and will probably soon be settled; but I cannot say positively when these rates will be definitely arranged. The charge for the present is 13½ annas per maund for the 889 miles from Delhi to Bombay, which is at the rate of about ½d. per ton per mile. If there is any ground for supposing that the third and fourth class passengers on Indian railways are not treated properly, the Government will, no doubt, take the necessary measures for improving the management; and I believe that the Secretary of State will cause an inquiry to be made on the subject.

House adjourned during pleasure; and resumed by The Lord MONSON.