페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

turn exact rents from their tenants. Cultivators pay their revenue or their rents by selling a large portion of the produce of their fields, keeping an insufficient stock for their own consumption. Exporting merchants have . their agents all over the country to buy what the cultivators are compelled to sell; and railways rapidly transport these purchases to seaports whence they are exported to Europe. India presents a busy scene to the winter globe-trotter when these transactions take place in every large town and market; but under the cheering appearance of a brisk grain trade lies concealed the fact that the homes and villages of a cultivating nation are denuded of their food to a fatal extent, in order to meet that annual tribute which England demands from India. ..

It thus happens that, even on the eve of great famines, the export of food goes on as briskly as ever, because the grain has to be sold to'meet a rigid Land Revenue demand. In 1876–77, when India was on the brink of one of the severest famines of the century, she exported a larger quantity of food grains, as will appear from the foregoing table, than she had ever done in any preceding year. And even a province, actually suffering from famine, will continue to export food to an extent which bears some proportion to the amount of the Land Revenue realised from the province during the famine.

There are other far-reaching results of the demand of Indian rice and wheat in Europe which it is interesting to watch. The demand has had some effect in extending cultivation; and where the Land Revenue is permanently settled, this means a substantial increase to the wealth of the people. There can be little doubt that the people of Bengal are more resourceful in the present day than they were a century ago, owing to the large increase of cultivation in Bengal. The same remark can scarcely be made in respect of Madras and Bombay, where extension in cultivation leads to increase in the Land Revenue, sometimes out of proportion to the benefits obtained. It is

sometimes forgotten that the lands last taken up are inferior in productive powers; and increase in the Land Revenue in proportion to the cultivated area is an increase out of proportion to the produce. When such blunders are committed, the extension of cultivation makes the people poorer, not richer.

Again, the demand of Indian produce in Europe affects the prices of the food grains. As the population of India is mainly a grain-producing nation, the rise in the price of food grains is an economic gain to the nation. But in this case also, a reservation has to be made. The signs of agricultural prosperity often induces Settlement Officers to screw up the Land Revenue, and the cultivators are left poorer when the prices fall again. All these considerations show the effects of a varying Land Revenue on the welfare of an agricultural nation.

The export of hides and skins went up from half a million sterling to three millions. This was an economic gain to the people in one way, but involved a loss in another direction ; for the export of so much of skins indicated the decline of the leather industry in India. The export of jute also went up from a million to three or four millions in the early 'seventies. Most of the jute was grown in a few districts in Bengal; and while this new article of export added to the resource of cultivators, it restricted the area of land under rice cultivation.'

The export of opium was steady, and even showed an imontese during the period under review; and as the Government had the monopoly of that article, the profits from the export was a gain to the revenues of India.

The export of seeds increased from two to five millions during the nineteen years, and this was a loss of manure. to India. The refuse of oil seeds, after the oil is expressed,

1 Mymensingh is one of the great jute-producing districts in Bengal, and nearly a third of the rice lands was under jute in the years 1887 to 1890 when I was in charge of that district.

is one of the best manures that can be used; and if the seeds had been used in India and the oils exported, an ample supply of manure would have been available for the purposes of cultivation. To export the entire seed is, in the words of Dr. Voelcker, “to export the soil's fertility."1

The indigo and tea exported were mainly grown and prepared by British capital and by Indian labour. The profits of the capital went to the shareholders in England; the wages of labour remained with the people of India. The many acts of coercion and oppression, by which an unwilling peasantry was forced to grow indigo by planters in Bengal, led at last to a serious disturbance and rioting in 1860. Dina Bandhu Mitra, an Indian writer, exposed the oppression in a drama of remarkable power; and the Rev. James Long translated it into English, for which public-spirited act he was fined and imprisoned by the High Court of Calcutta. The Hon. Ashley Eden, afterwards Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, supported the cause of the oppressed cultivators; and an inquiry made by a Commission disclosed the many evils of the system. The question came up through Lord Canning to Sir Charles Wood, then Secretary of State for India, and that strong and upright administrator exerted himself to remove the evils which had stained the history of this industry. Large classes of the Bengal cultivators freed themselves, and refused to grow indigo under compulsion. The figures given in the table above will show that the export of indigo steadily went down between 1859 and 1862, that it was not till 1869 that it showed indications again of a steady rise. A different cause—the invention of artificial indigo-finally ruined this industry in India at the close of the century.

On the other hand the export of tea showed no fluctuations, but a steady and rapid rise—the export increased fortyfold in nineteen years, from £60,000 in 1858–59, to over 2} millions in 1876–77. The rise was continuous

. ? Dr. Voelcker's Report on Indian Agriculture.

and uninterrupted—every year within this period ended in a larger export than the preceding year. Many wild wastes in hills and valleys have been thus converted into gardens, and hundreds of thousands of poor people have found employment in these gardens. But a dark stain is cast on this industry by what is known as the “slave-law” of India. Ignorant men and women, once induced to sign a contract, are forced to work in the gardens of Assam during the term indicated in the contract. They are arrested, punished, and restored to their masters if they attempt to run away; and they are tied to their work under penal laws such as govern no other form of labour in India. Hateful cases of fraud, coercion, and kidnapping, for securing these labourers, have been revealed in the criminal courts of Bengal, and occasional acts of outrage on the men and women thus recruited have stained the history of tea-gardens in Assam. Responsible and high administrators have desired a repeal of the penal laws, and have recommended that the tea-gardens should obtain workers from the teeming labour markets of India under the ordinary laws of demand and supply. But the influence of capitalists is strong; and no Indian Secretary of State or Indian Viceroy has yet ventured to repeal these penal laws, and to abolish the system of semi-slavery which still exists in India.

CHAPTER IX

RAILWAYS AND IRRIGATION

RAILWAY operations were commenced in India under an arrangement, calculated to lead to extravagance, and not calculated to secure the comfort of passengers. Private companies working under a State guarantee of profits at 5 per cent. or 43 per cent. on the outlay, were not likely to observe economy in the outlay, or to seek the convenience of travellers. If there was extravagance and waste in construction, the shareholders nevertheless got their guaranteed profit on all the money that was spent, wisely or unwisely. If traffic decreased and the earnings fell short of the guaranteed rate, the difference was made good from the revenues of India, i.e. from taxes paid by the people.

The experience of twenty years showed that these apprehensions were not unfounded. There was an extravagance in the construction of lines, and a disregard for the comfort of travellers, perhaps unexampled in the history of railway enterprise in any other country. And

these facts were proved by witnesses of the highest rank . and position, examined by the Parliamentary Committees

of 1871, 1872, 1873, and 1874, of which we have spoken in the last chapter.

Juland Danvers and William Thornton, who were examined together in March 1872, were, froin their position, the most important witnesses on the subject of Indian railways. Danvers was the Government Director of Indian Railways; and, while he admitted the extravagance and waste which had proceeded from the guarantee system, he nevertheless denied that “any other system would have enabled the Government at the time to have constructed

« 이전계속 »