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The export of Indian sugar already began to show a decline in the last years of the Company's rule, and dwindled into a very small figure, under £170,000 sterling, by the close of the century. On the other hand the export of jute steadily increased, specially from the time of the Crimean War. The large supply of flax which England had obtained from Russia before was interrupted during the war, and Indian jute thus obtained a start which it has more than maintained since. By the end of the century the export of raw and manufactured jute from India rose almost to ten millions sterling.
The export of indigo was also large; but it is painful to state that acts of lawlessness and coercion stained the records of the industry. Such acts on the part of the European indigo planters of Bengal caused much irritation among the people, and at last brought their own remedy in most parts of Bengal. Cultivators struck; many indigo firms failed ; and the manufacture of the indigo declined, as will be explained in a subsequent chapter. And the discovery of a chemical equivalent in Germany towards the close of the century gave the final death-blow to this old industry.
MUTARFA Tax. Speaking about Indian industries it is satisfactory to note that the oppressive and harassing Mutarfa Tax on trades and professions had been abolished by 1853 all over India, except in the benighted Province of Madras. The Madras Native Association in their Petition to the House of Commons 1 described the Mutarfa as a “tax upon trades and occupations, embracing weavers, carpenters, all workers in metals, all salesmen, whether possessing shops which are also taxed separately, or vending by the road side, &c., some paying impost on their tools, others for permission to sell-extending to the
1 Commons' First Report, 1853, Appendix 7.
most trifling articles of trade and the cheapest tools the mechanic can employ, the cost of which is frequently exceeded six times by the Mutarfa, under which the use of them is permitted.” And the Association went on to state that “it falls more heavily upon the indigent than upon the wealthy, while the discretionary power under which it is collected affords a wide field for the perpetual practice of inquisitorial visits, extortion and oppression, as suits the pleasure or the cupidity of the irresponsible collectors, with whom it is no unusual thing to resort to imprisonment and fetters in order to compel their sexactions.” And “the whole sum raised by this impost is but little above £100,000 sterling."
There was no exaggeration in the above statement. A witness, J. W. B. Dykes, who was a magistrate and revenue officer, and had himself collected the tax in Madras, spoke in stronger terms of its oppressiveness.
Q. The tax is only levied upon those who are engaged in commercial dealings?
A. It is levied upon every one almost who does not cultivate land. . . . If an old woman takes vegetables to market, and sells them at the corner of the street, she is assessed for selling vegetables. If a man is a cloth merchant, he is assessed. But no tax is levied upon European traders. Perhaps, next door to this man who is making a few rupees a year, there is a European trader making hundreds, but he pays nothing.?.
Such an invidious tax could not be continued in any part of India after the Parliamentary inquiries of 1853 ; * and it was accordingly abolished. And the Income Tax, which was imposed shortly after the administration of India had been assumed by the Crown, was more just and equitable, because it was imposed on all classes of men, and because, eventually, people with poor incomes were excluded from its operation.
* Commons' Fourth Report, 1853.
IRRIGATION AND RAILWAYS
GREAT irrigation canals, constructed by Mahomedan rulers in Northern India, had fallen into disrepair during the wars of the eighteenth century, and attracted the notice of the servants of the East India Company shortly after they had acquired Northern India in 1803. A Committee of Survey was appointed under Lord Minto's administration in 1810 to inquire into the state of the old canals both east and west of the Jumna; but the Chief Engineer and the Surveyor-General were divided in opinion, and “poured over the survey report such a flood of contradictory learning” that the first scheme of restoring the canals perished under its weight.
Lord Hastings approached the question in a more practical manner. As a result of his tour in Upper India in 1815 he wrote hopefully of the scheme of restoring the old canal west of the Jumna :
“I will only say that my own inspection has fully convinced me of the facility and the policy of immediately restoring this noble work. Setting aside the consideration of its certain effect, in bringing into cultivation vast tracts of country now deserted, and thereby augmenting importantly the landed revenue of the. Honourable Company, the dues to be collected for the distribution of the water from it would make a most • lucrative return." ?
1 Sir John Kaye's Administration of the East India Company (1853), ? Minute dated September 21, 1815.
Lieutenant Blaine accordingly commenced the restoration of the West Jumna Canal, and saw the waters return to Delhi after a suspension of half a century, but his work did not go much farther. In 1823 Colonel John Colvin was appointed General Superintendent of Irrigation at Delhi, and the work proceeded rapidly towards completion. During the great famine of 1837 the gross value of the crops saved by the water of this canal was estimated at a million and a half sterling. The main line of the canal was 445 miles in length.
The East Jumna Canal then attracted attention. That work, too, had been constructed by Mahomedan emperors, and the fame of two British engineers, Colonel Robert Smith and Colonel Baird Smith, is connected with its restoration. The first-named officer, Robert Smith, completed the work according to its original design in 1830; but much still remained to be done, and many serious defects were discovered. Captain Cautley rectified these errors; and he was succeeded by Baird Smith, whose high administrative work in another department will be referred to in a subsequent chapter. He completed the necessary improvements and additions ; and the completed work, 155 miles in length, has been described with a legitimate pride by Colonel Baird Smith himself in the pages of an Indian Review :
"Most beautiful in all parts it truly is, with its broad road, smooth as an English lawn, its double rows of trees drooping over the stream, its long graceful sweeps, its rich bordering of the most luxuriant crops, its neat station houses, and the peculiar care with which all its • works are maintained. It is certainly one of the most interesting and attractive of Indian sights."
The history of the Ganges Canal belongs to the last years of the Company's rule. The great work was commenced by Lord Auckland, but was unfortunately suspended by his successor, Lord Ellenborough. Lord Hardinge, however, recognised the merits of the magnificent scheme, and gave it his sanction and approval; and the Court of Directors, encouraged by the financial results of the East and West Jumna Canals, consented to the expenditure of over a million sterling over this great enterprise. The rule of the East India Company was swept away before the work was completed; but what was done in their time is described in their own Memorandum :
1 Memorandum of the Improvements, &c. Being a Return to an Order of the House of Commons, dated Febrnary 9, 1858.
•« The total length of the Ganges Canal and its branches, when completed, will be 8981 miles, and it will furnish abundant irrigation for an area of 41 million acres. The canal, in the words of the LieutenantGovernor of the North-Western Provinces, presents a system of irrigation unequalled in vastness throughout the world; while the dimensions of the main channel, and the stupendous works of masonry which occur in its course, more particularly in the section between Roorkee and Hardwar, render the work eminently one of national distinction and honour. The amount expended on it up to the ist May 1856 had reached the · sum of £1,560,000; and, when completed, the total cost will fall little short of two millions. The canal has but just begun to be brought into operation; but it is estimated by Colonel Baird Smith, the Director, that the annual produce of the land already watered by it is of the value of from £150,000 to £200,000; and that when the canal is in full operation, the value will ultimately reach the enormous sum of seven millions sterling. From the 30th April 1856 the canal hado been carried so far that the water flowed continuously through 449) miles of the main trunk and terminal branches.” 1
The Punjab was annexed by Lord Dalhousie in
Memorandum of the Improvements, dc., 1858.