HL Deb 31 July 1893 vol 15 cc855-9

asked the Secretary of State for India whether his predecessor in Office had stated, in a Despatch to the Government of India on the Behar Cadastral Survey, dated 24th December, 1891, that one-half the cost of the recent survey and record-of-rights in the Benares Division of the North-Western Provinces "was defrayed from the unexpended balance of a special fund contributed by the landholders"; whether it was a fact, as suggested by the British Indian Association and other Native Associations of Bengal, in their Joint Memorial to the Viceroy on the subject of the Behar Survey, that this "special fund" had been contributed by the landholders for altogether a different purpose; that its diversion from that purpose had been concealed by the Government of the North-Western Provinces until divulged by the India Office Despatch; and that that Government had consequently been "at least technically guilty of a breach of trust"; and whether any Report or other Paper, to indicate the circumstances in which the "special fund" referred to in the Despatch was "contributed by the landholders," and subsequently used for defraying one-half the cost of the Benares Survey, could be laid before Parliament? He wished to make a few preliminary observations before putting the question on the Notice Paper. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal (Sir Charles Elliott) had admitted that the proposed Survey of Behar would be of advantage to the Administration, and had attempted to show the zemindars, or landowners, that it would be of advantage to them, as it would lead to enhancing their rents; but, at the same time, it was pretended that it would be a benefit to the ryots, or occupiers; and although the promoters of the Survey had not succeeded in persuading the ryots of this, they appeared to have persuaded Viscount Cross that it was for the benefit of the ryots. Nevertheless, the elections for the Legislative Council showed that both landowners and occupiers were equally averse to the Survey, for all the opponents of the Survey had been elected, and all its supporters rejected. Nearly all the Indian Press had opposed it, and only two voices had been raised in its favour. One was The Pioneer, a semi-official paper—though even The Pioneer admitted that it was not fair to throw nearly the whole expense of the Survey upon the landowners and cultivators; but the Bengal Government would not have entertained this scheme if it had had to provide the cost. The other voice was that of an indigo planter, and, no doubt, some of these planters were interested in the Survey; but a recent announcement in The Indian Mirror of June 30 showed that this planter (Sir William Hudson) had been decorated for his support. He said "some of the planters," because all were not interested in this Survey, for some of them were in the position of zemindars, and others in the position of ryots, and, therefore, sided with the other zemindars and ryots in opposition to the Survey. It was not, however, desirable to further the views of the remaining planters, for their attempts to force the cultivation of indigo upon unwilling cultivators, which had given rise to the Indigo Commission about 35 years ago, were not extinct, and a newspaper called New India, of July 3, related how a Hindu zemindar and banker of Muzaffer-pore, owning a village called Banerpore, had made it over under a perpetual Mukurri lease to Mr. Barklay, the manager of the Motipur Factory, with the result that Mr. Barklay obtained 2,000 bighas of land for indigo, and that 200 ryots had to depart and settle in some other village. These cultivators petitioned the collector, and it was said that he put away the Petition on the shelf, and that he was rather intimate with Mr. Barklay, and stayed every Sunday night in the factory. The acting Lieutenant Governor, or locum tenens of the Lieutenant Governor, had gone to Behar to inquire into the feelings and wishes of the population; and as he was a Bengal officer it was hoped that he would take a, more favourable view of the matter than had been taken by Sir Charles Elliott, who did not belong to Bengal, but had come from the North-West Provinces. The expense which the Bengal Government was going to put upon the agricultural class in Behar against their wishes was very great. According to the estimate of the Bengal Government it would be 8 annas, or 8d.; other estimates said it would be at least 11 annas an acre; and in experimental Surveys it had reached 17 annas, or 1s. 5d. an acre. Besides this, there would be the enforced labour of the putwarries, or village accountants. The cost of registration in England seemed to be 3d. or 3½d. an acre; but if registration became compulsory there would be little to choose pecuniarily between the lots of English or Behar landowners. He would ask the question in his name, and move for Papers.


My Lords, no Motion has appeared in the Votes, and I cannot agree to a Motion for Papers without having considered whether they can be laid. My noble Friend concluded his remarks by referring to the Bengal Tenancy Act, which is not a matter which is before the House; but as he has mentioned it, it is as well I should tell him that I entirely agree with, and strongly approve of, the Bengal Tenancy Act. It was passed at a time when I previously had the honour to be Secretary of State, and it was then very fully considered indeed. Lord Dufferin was then Viceroy. I made inquiries as to how the Act has worked, and I am told that, upon the whole, it has come up to the expectations of its authors. I am not saying that it has in every respect worked rightly; but, on the whole, it has worked well. It is extremely difficult and complicated, and is a measure of serious importance. I think it right to say that, in order that it should not be supposed I have any doubt on that matter. With regard to the Cadastral Survey, I agree generally with my predecessor, and I believe that good grounds have been shown for that Survey. The object of the Survey is to ascertain the various rights that exist in the Province of Behar. There is a strong feeling in the Province that in consequence of the absence of the Survey the ryots have been, in many cases, deprived of their rights, and that is regarded by the Government as a matter of great importance for the interests and good order of the Province. I am perfectly well aware that there is a considerable amount of opposition on the part of zemindars and others to the Survey; but I cannot hold out any expectation that the Survey will not be proceeded with. With regard to my noble Friend's question, the quotation from Viscount Cross's Despatch of December, 1891, is correctly given. As to the second part of the question, the suggestion that there has been any concealment whatever about the expenditure of this money is altogether groundless. The intention to spend the money in this particular manner was discussed in the published Reports of 1877 and the following year; and the Indian Legislature, by Act XIII. of 1882, subsequently authorised the Government to dispose of the balance of the fund in such manner as they thought expedient. Therefore, there was no concealment in the matter, and there could be no breach of trust, because the trust was that they should expend it in such manner as they might think expedient. In answer to the last paragraph of the question, I have only to say that I do not see any necessity in the circumstances to lay any further Papers on the subject before Parliament, because the noble Lord will find the whole matter described at page 16 of the North-West Provinces Administration Report for 1876–7, and at, page 17 of the corresponding Report for 1877–8. If my noble Friend wishes to see that Report at his convenience, it will be shown him at any time if he will look in at the India Office.


My Lords, I can only add my opinion that the Cadastral Survey has been of great use to all parties concerned. There were rights which required clearing up, and that was the only way it could be done. I entirely agree with all that has fallen from the noble Earl. I do not know whether he could answer me offhand; but I could not give notice, as I was not aware this was being brought forward. I wrote in one Despatch that it would be well if the Government of India could contribute more largely than they intended to do towards the expense of this Cadastral Survey. I do not know whether any answer came to that Despatch, but I think not in my time.


As far as I am aware, the noble Viscount has correctly stated what he said at that time. I think he said he could see no objection to an additional sum being paid by the Government of India.


My Lords, I only wish to say one word with respect to the Bengal Tenancy Act, which has been so strongly criticised by my noble Friend (Lord Stanley of Alderley). That Act was one of the most thoroughly-considered Acts ever passed by the Indian Legislature. The inquiry in respect of it was begun before I was Viceroy, and it went on the whole time that I was in India. It then passed through the hands of my noble Friend Lord Dufferin. No Act could have received more careful consideration in respect to the rights of all parties concerned. My belief is that it is one of the most beneficial measures ever passed by the Indian Legislature.

[The subject then dropped.]