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ductive' expenditure. What is prosperity to the Englishman may consequently be death to the native. I can conceive of no task more idle than the one laboured at so constantly in this book, with the object of proving that the burden of the State on account of public works interest charges is decreasing. It may be perfectly true that the exchequer at Calcutta is now paying less of the guaranteed interest out of the general taxes than it did years ago, but that makes no difference to the essential situation, which is, that the Indian people pay altogether more now than ever they did. More of the nett proceeds of their labour goes every year to pay the foreign debt charges, under one head or another, because the aggregate of these charges increases. This consideration goes to the root of the matter, and discloses the mischievousness of most of the official writings on India. The official mind has created a cloud-world of its own, and looks at all Indian affairs from a point of view so far above everything native, so conventional and entirely bureaucratic, that it is easily able to demonstrate to us à priori that Indian populations are happy and flourishing though millions of them be dead of starvation, or to gush about loyalty with a mutiny and massacre hanging over their heads. So was it in 1857, and we see nothing in books like this or in the ordinary official utterance to lead us to expect that it is otherwise
But, it will be urged, is it not a strong presumptive proof that the country is growing richer if the revenues of the railways and public works be growing larger year by year. By no means. This increased revenue may imply only a more complete stripping of the natives by the alien trader, who comes in as the complement to the alien Government. A very recent optimist correspondent of the 'Times,' one who saw in his dreams an India waking up from the sleep of ages, unloosing her bonds and preparing to develop her resources, has still, in spite of his optimism, to lament the absence of native capital from all enterprises, and well he might. It is strictly the truth to say, that nearly all the capital engaged in Indian foreign trade is in the hands of the alien race, the members of which cannot settle in India, but are there to-day and gone to-morrow, and hence eager to make the most of their time while they stay. And not the capital only. Every industry, the cultivation of every product which is profitable, is either directly in the hands of the Government or controlled in the interest of English capitalists. Opium is produced in Bengal exclusively for the Government; and if it is not so in Bombay it is because the cultivation there is confined to States not yet directly under our rule. Indigo is grown by natives for English planters, often under conditions of the greatest hardship, and so are cotton and tea. Cereals also will probably soon be so, if the export of wheat becomes a leading feature' in Indian foreign trade. For this reason alone, it by no means follows that the increased foreign trade of India means augmented native prosperity. It may, on the contrary, mean the very reverse. In order to compete in the English
or other foreign markets, the English merchant has to sell cheaply, and he, therefore, buys at his own price, pays what he chooses for crops and labour, no one saying him nay. I read the other day a statement to the effect, that the railway charges for bringing grain from the North-west Provinces to Bombay had been reduced to 408. per ton in June. What they were before I do not know, but at 408. per ton, adding freight and insurance charges to London, it would have been impossible for the exporting merchant to sell his wheat here at a profit unless he had bought it from the natives at his own price. For that 408. the wheat was carried about 800 miles, and for little more than that sum wheat has this year been brought all the way from Chicago to Liverpool. Where again, except in India, will you find a railway worked as the East India Railway is worked, for less than 35 per cent. of the gross receipts. It has its own coal mines,' men say, but it has against that to place its costly official service, its London board, and its heavy importation of stores from England. To work so cheaply, therefore, if the line be not starved, the company must underpay its native labour; and the merchants, to pay the high freights, must take the produce of the ryot's fields from him at their own price.
The truth of the matter is, that the natives of India are in no sense their own masters in the conduct of their trade any more than in the conduct of government. Our system of land revenue alone would bring, and does bring, them into a state of slavery and abject dependence, almost whether we like it or not. I do not indeed suppose that we like it, but the exasperating thing which besets us at every turn in dealing with Indian questions is that, with perhaps the best intentions in the world, the Indian official cannot be brought to see into what an abyss of ruin he and the country he tries, and tries in vain, to rule are being hurried. Surely it might strike him as strange, that the most visible manifestation of this prosperity,' so much vaunted, is famine, a population ever hungry. The two most independent members of the Famine Commission which went to investigate the state of India after Lord Lytton had brought the people to the brink of death with his wars and his reckless exactions, Mr. (now Sir Jas.) Caird and Mr. Sullivan, estimated that in the viceroyalty of Lord Lytton alone between five and six millions of our Indian subjects had died of starvation, and, as has been already mentioned, of that number over thirteen hundred thousand, the same Mr. Caird computes, died during 1878 in the smothered famine of the North-west Provinces. This, it must be confessed, is getting rid of the surplus population in a swift and wholesale fashion, infinitely superior to the ancient method of petty inter-tribal wars, whose beneficent effects are always harped upon in a regretful sort of way by Anglo-Indians. I doubt whether 100,000 people were slain in all Lord Lytton's Afghan campaigns. Famine, however, is, according to the Anglo-Indian official, a lamentable necessity, a result of the 'universal peace' which we have brought into India. In no other
country in the world that one has ever heard of is peace accused of murder in this wholesale way, but in all seriousness this is the European excuse most commonly made for Indian famines. If the people, it is in effect declared, were only permitted to kill each other off, all would go well. And in the very same breath with which our fellow-countrymen in India make this astounding statement, they will declare that India was never so prosperous as it is now, they will see visions of a glorious future, when iron and coal shall be king and queen of that fair continent, and fortunes pour into the laps of its happy conquerors. It should be unnecessary to do more than place side by side statements of this kind, in order to show the thorough warpedness of mind displayed by Anglo-Indians in treating the native questions, and the folly of believing anything the higher placed amongst them, at all events, may advance about the condition of our fellow-subjects there, but the matter may easily be brought to the test of facts.
The great source of imperial revenue in India is the land-taxor rent as Sir John Strachey prefers to call it-the name is not of the least consequence. Land, indeed, in one shape or other, may be said to supply at least four-fifths of the net revenue of the State. Now it is contended by Sir John Strachey-for he, it should be understood, is the sole author of all that relates to the finances of India, as apart from the 'public works' which are dealt with by his brother:(1) That the land revenue has increased in net yield during the last twelve years; and (2) that the weight of the assessment has been reduced.
As regards the first point I must confess to a total inability to follow Sir John's figures, or to discover where he gets them. They do not agree with either the Indian budgets of successive years in my possession, or with a parliamentary return furnished at the instance of Sir G. Balfour some two years ago, and called 'East India Net Revenue and Expenditure,' 279, ses. 2, 1880. Sir John's tables, at p. 37 of the work under notice, give the net land revenue as follows, excluding capitation tax-average for the years 1869–73, 20,617,000l., for the years 1873-77, 20,650,000l., and for the years 1877-81, 21,352,000l. These figures show a growth of about 700,000l. between the average of the first period and of the last, and were assessments lower in relation to the capacity of the people it would be a very satisfactory showing, especially as the whole period was one of famine.
When, however, we turn to the parliamentary and later budget accounts, we find a very different state of things. For the first four years covered by Sir J. Strachey's table, I find the average net imperial land revenue to be 18,450,000l.; for the second 18,431,000l., and for the third-taking the last two years' figures from the completed accounts instead of from the Regular budget' estimates, as Sir John was compelled when he wrote to do--18,590,000l. Thus the amount of the revenue is throughout more than two millions sterling a year less than Sir John Strachey puts it at, and the increase
of the last period over the first is only 140,000l.; while, if we compare the figures of the year 1869-70 with those of the year 1880–81, given in Major Baring's last budget, there is revealed a positive decrease of almost half a million. But this is not the whole case. We ought to subtract from the net figures arrived at after deducting the more or less arbitrarily fixed cost of collecting, which is about 3,000,000l., the amount spent in the famine period on relief.' In six years that was about 14,500,000l., or a rebate of fully 2,400,000l. per annum, upon the net revenue collected. Deducting that from the net land revenue of these years, as we ought in honest bookkeeping to do, we have an average available land revenue of only some 16,000,000l. over half the period embraced in Sir John's investigations. There is a contrast, capable of stirring many thoughts, between the exhibit of the book and this. Since the more acute manifestations of famine ceased in 1879, the land revenue apparently increased again, and it has unquestionably been stimulated by extra exactions wherever these have been possible, as witness the one per cent. added to the assessment of the North-west Provinces; but the increase was only for a year or two. The land revenue is once more falling away from the point to which it was raised by the increased taxation which was attempted to be imposed under the guise of a famine fund in several of the provinces. Nor is that at all to be wondered at when the truth about this revenue and its effects upon the population are known.
Following a Mr. Cunningham, the writers of this book seek to demonstrate that the weight of the assessment for land tax has been reduced of late years in Madras and Bombay. It is now, they say, 44d. per acre lower on dry land and 58. per acre lower on irrigated land in Madras than it was in 1852-53, and the reduction in Bombay is also 4 d. an acre. This is interesting if true, although one asks why so distant a year was selected for comparison; but one material point has been omitted. Both these provinces have suffered from hideous famines in the last ten years, and have consequently been unable to pay the rent they formerly paid. If the lower assessments are the result of utter poverty, reduced yield of the soil, or reduced population, what good do they do?
One wants to know a little more about these land rents and how they are collected than pretty summaries of this kind tell us, and the more so as from all parts of India the most disastrous accounts of the impoverished condition of the people continue to arrive. Only the other week a bill was passed by the Supreme Council sitting at Simla to relieve the landowners of the district of Jhansi from part of their load. This district adjoins Oudh, one of the most fertile, and, before we took it, one of the most flourishing provinces in all India. Just before the mutiny it became ours, and in little more than twenty years we have reduced it to such a state of poverty that its inhabitants are all in the grasp of the usurer, its estates encumbered, and its landowners so hopelessly ruined that the Supreme Government has had to inter
vene to save them. A Bill has been passed providing means to redeem the pawned lands, and this is how Mr. Crosthwaite, a member of the Governor-General's Council, describes the condition of our subjects there, and of the toiling millions of India generally, in his speech, recommending urgency' for the measure:
The Bill, it cannot be denied, is a confession of error. We propose to spend a large sum of money, not to improve the land, or open communications, or add in any way to the wealth of the country, but merely in order to place these Jhansi zemindars back in the same position in which we found them when we annexed their country. And in the meantime, during the five-and-twenty years which have elapsed, have these men of Jhansi had a happy time? Have they had cause to bless us? I am afraid not. The interim has been chiefly spent in making them pay revenue when they had not the means, and in harassing them for arrears which they could not pay. It is written in the records of the Board of Revenue. But if the Bill
is a confession of error, it is also an attempt to repair the mistake and to atone for an unintentional wrong. And that is why I dwell upon this matter, because I am afraid that the Bill, if the matter is left to it alone, will not be successful. I will not enter into a discussion as to the causes which have led to such disastrous results. Such a discussion would take a long time, and could hardly be brought to an issue here. But I feel bound to say this much, that having seen the flourishing state of the Central Provinces, where the same system existed under native rule, and where we pursued exactly the same course, I cannot admit that those persons are right who attribute the greatest share in the effects which we deplore to what they call the fatal gift of proprietary right.' The possession of the proprietary right no doubt was a condition which enabled these men to obtain money; but it was not the cause of their requiring it. We ought to look to our revenue system and our revenue administration. It is on record that after the mutiny we compelled these men to pay again to us the revenue which had already been collected from them by the rebels. It also appears that in 1868-69, when there was a severe drought and a scarcity approaching to famine, scant consideration was shown to them. And if this was done under such circumstances, what chance is there that they met with more liberal treatment when suffering under minor and less conspicuous difficulties?
It is quite true that during the last decade, since their state has become known, and their inability to pay has been recognised, the Government has dealt with them in a liberal manner. But it is a fault in our system that such knowledge comes too late, and that we hardly ever remit revenue, or revise an assessment, until the mischief has been done. . . . . I believe that until the revenue system is altered, there is no security against the recurrence and extension of the Jhansi difficulties.4
Is this, then, the true origin of reduced assessments? What a strange picture is thus opened before us of a native population of India grovelling in the vice-like grip of the usurer, because our 6 revenue system' drives him there. And on this we build our 'prosperity!' But our officials are ignorant,' Mr. Crosthwaite says,
Speech of the Hon. Mr. Crosthwaite, in the Legislative Council at Simla, on May 18, 1882.