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blessings and earned a corresponding reward.” This is no half-hearted friend of British rule who writes thus. And he endorses the words of the Government of India which has declared that to educated Indians “any idea of the subversion of the British power is abhorrent, from the consciousness that it must result in the wildest anarchy and confusion.” India is not strong enough to stand alone, and it is for her a choice between England and Russia. Educated Indians know this well. And they have no wish to exchange the rule of England, the freest and most enlightened in the world, for that of Russia which is one of the most barbarous and retrograde. This was once strikingly expressed to me by an Indian friend of mine. Speaking of the Russian advance towards the North West frontier, he said to me, “ If India is lost, it is we Indians who are the chief losers. You can go to your ships and will be safe in your distant homes. We, on the other hand, should lose all, our country, our liberties, and our hopes for the regeneration of our race.”
All this is gospel truth. But would it not be common sense to take the bitter with the sweet ? to hear what Mr. Naoroji and his friends have to say regarding the defects and dangers of our rule as well as its merits ? Here are well-informed and candid critics, who desire the good of India in the first place, but who also desire the good of England. Should we not rejoice if they are willing to tell us what they know of the real situation ? Are we such babies that we cannot bear to hear the truth ? We are the possessors of a splendid inheritance in the distant East, and know little of its real condition. Our paid agents on the spot say that all is well. But others, who claim to be equally well-informed, tell a different story. These speak of extreme poverty and serious discontent among the masses. They tell us that }th of the whole population go through life with their hunger unsatisfied ; that over 5 millions of people died of starvation in the last great famine; that, in spite of the excessive poverty, taxation in
India is in proportion double what it is in England ; that the fertility of the land is becoming exhausted ; and that year by year the people find it more difficult to live. Now what does Mr. Naoroji say on these points? He tells us that all this is true; that though our principles are good, our practice is bad ; that the pledges given by Parliament and the Crown are sufficient, but that they are not fulfilled ; that the official system of administration in India is such that these principles and these pledges are not carried out in practice; nor ever can be, so long as the system remains the same. Aye, there's the rub. It is the system that is in fault. The intentions of the British people are all that could be wished, and the instructions given to their official agents are admirable. But the professional interest of these official agents is in direct antagonism to the reforms they are required to carry out. And no redress is possible so long as the only appeal lies to the official authors of the grievance. This is the gist of the complaint made, calmly and loyally, by the leaders of public opinion in India. Mr. Naoroji puts their case well and truly when he says, “I am not writing this in any indignation, nor do I mean to blame any individual official. I take it for granted that every official does his duty as required of him. It is the system which the British Indian Government have adopted and persistently adhered to, that is in fault. . The Indians have given up all hope from the officials. They appeal to the British public; and they ask the British public to insist that the pledges and word of the British people shall be faithfully carried out.”
What then is this official system which is thus condemned, so dispassionately and yet so emphatically, by those whose interests are chiefly affected ? The British public may naturally wish to know some of the facts at first hand. So with due humility I offer myself as a witness, as one who knows the Indian public service by experience from the bottom to the top of the ordinary official ladder ; not an unfavourable witness, but one who, from hereditary association, was inclined to view the profession in its most favourable light. My father entered the Bombay Civil Service near the beginning of the century, and served in India for 30 years. My eldest brother followed him, in the Bengal Civil Service, and lost his life in the Mutiny of 1857. And when I went out 3 years later to join the Bombay Civil Service, I felt very proud to enter what I believed to be the finest service in the world. If therefore, I now hold an opinion unfavourable to the system, that opinion has been painfully forced upon me by personal experience of its working. I will briefly give a sketch of this experience.
But before doing so it may be well to indicate the general surroundings among which the young Indian Civilian finds himself when he takes up his duties. As the key to successful administration in India, we must in the first place bear in mind the fact that in that country there are very few large towns; that 'ths of the population is rural, grouped together in village communities; and that it is within those village communities that the best part of the administrative work is done. To use the phrase of Dr. Max Müller, " the political unit or the social cell in India has always been, and, in spite of repeated foreign conquests, is still the village community.” And the late Sir James Caird, in his Famine report, calls the village organization " the sheet anchor of Indian Statecraft”; and regards the
disruption of the mutually helpful bond of village society as the most fatal misadventure that can befall the people in their struggle for life. From Sir Henry Maine and other writers the constitution of these village communities, self-contained and self-governing little republics, is pretty generally known. The village is the property of the resident cultivators or “ryots,” who form the village Council, and are careful that the crops are raised and distributed, and the village affairs administered, according to the ancient local usage, which is the fruit of immemorial experience. From the crop is paid as a first charge a certain share,
under the name of Land Revenue, to the “ Sirkar” or government of the country. And smaller shares go to the village officers, including the Headman or Patel, and the village Accountant; to the village servants, such as the watchmen and messengers; and to the hereditary village artizans, the carpenter, the blacksmith, the potter, the barber, and the rest, who work for the ryots during the year, and receive their dues in kind at harvest time. And in the same way the village organization carries out the other branches of the village administration :—the settlement of disputes by arbitration, the detection and prevention of crime, the trial and punishment of petty offences, the repair of the village walls, the temples, and other public buildings, the entertainment of strangers and care of the poor, the removal of dead animals and other sanitary work, the management of the communal forests and pastures, the distribution of water from the irrigation tanks :--all these and other similar matters have always been managed with marvellous precision and skill by the village officers, the whole body of villagers jealously watching and checking any deviation from the ancient custom, which for them is the unwritten law.
Under the Native Governments to which we succeeded, these villages were grouped together for administrative purposes, perhaps 3 or 4,000 of them being included in a Zillah or District, which was the unit of the central imperial administration, having its local headquarters at some notable town, like Ahmedabad, Surat, or Poona. The Tehsildar or chief officer of the District, was responsible for the villages under his control. But under the easy-going methods of native rule the village communities were little interfered with. And this was what best suited them. In order to be happy and prosperous, all that they asked was to be protected from external violence, to be taxed moderately and in accordance with custom, and to be let alone in the management of their internal affairs. And under the best native rulers not only were these conditions fulfilled, but active steps were taken to improve the general condition of the District. Thus under the good Emperors, like the great Akbar, provincial governors were expected to promote agriculture by works of irrigation and reclamation, to open up communications, and provide generally for the welfare and progress of the people. The results of this policy are exemplified in the noble reservoirs and water-works which still remain, a monument of the skill and wisdom of our predecessors. This beneficent tradition dates back from the earliest times of which we have record. For we see from the ancient rock inscriptions that, even before the Christian era, King Asoka appointed a Minister of Justice and Religion, and maintained officers to promote education, among the women as well as among the youth ; he caused wells to be dug and trees planted along all the high roads, while a system of medical aid was established throughout the kingdom for man and beast.
The above was, roughly speaking, the sort of system we inherited from our predecessors; and in the earlier period of our rule the same system was continued. The collector with his English assistants represented the “Sirkar” or central authority in all departments, and exercised a paternal despotism in each District, dealing with the village communities through their Headmen and Elders, but interfering little in their internal affairs. And this patriarchal method gave satisfaction on the whole, the Pax Britannica, and the improved purity of the administration making up for the defects arising from imperfect knowledge of the language and usages of the people. But it was quite evident that this was only a transition stage. For it was not in the nature of things that such a system should long continue under a government inspired by western official ideas. And soon our present purely bureaucratic system began to take shape, the change being marked by the decay of personal influence and authority, and the rise of the great centralized departments which have now usurped practically the whole authority in the administration ; and