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to the State the right of enhancing the Land Revenue on the very grounds mentioned in the Government Resolution. If canals increased the produce, the State was entitled to an increase of revenue. If railways raised the prices, the State could raise its demand. If “expanding resources” and “a higher standard of civilisation” caused a general enhancement of values, the State could enhance the Land Assessment accordingly. But if none of these grounds existed, the State should not arbitrarily increase its demand at each recurring Settlement. This was the argument of the memorialists. The argument has not been met or answered.
To the cultivator of India, all the benefit he derives from “expanding resources” and “a higher standard of civilisation” is represented by the increase of produce or the increase of prices. If canals have increased his produce, if railways and roads have increased prices—he is justly liable to an increase in the State-demand. If there has been no increase in produce or in prices, if his economic condition remains precisely the same as before, why should the Settlement Officer add to his burdens because his richer neighbour can travel by rail, or his money-lender has a civil court nearer at hand ? To enhance the Land Tax when the land does not produce more, and the produce does not fetch higher prices, is to tax the cultivator for a benefit he has not derived, and to make him poorer with advancing civilisation.
Local Cesses Rule.—From what has been stated in the preceding chapters, the reader will perceive that special taxes imposed on land, in addition to the Land Tax, are harsh and unfair,' and violate the Half-Rental Rule and the Half-Produce Rule, laid down in 1855 and 1864. The memorialists, however, did not suggest their withdrawal, but that they should be placed within fixed limits. The proposed limits were 64 per cent. on the Rental or ro per cent. on the Land Revenue. The present rates in
Northern India, in the Punjab, in the Central Provinces, and elsewhere, greatly exceed these limits. The people of India have some hopes of relief from the following. remarks recorded in the Government Resolution :
“There are grounds for suspecting that the distribution is often unfair, and that the landlords shift on to the tenants that share of the burden which is imposed by the law upon themselves. In the present backward condition of so many of the people, it is not possible effectively to redress this injustice. And the question presents itself, whether it is not better, as opportunities occur, to mitigate im posts which are made to press upon the cultivating classes more severely than the law intended. The Government of India would be glad to see their way to offer such relief.” 2
Two years have nearly expired since this was recorded. Two budgets with large surpluses were framed in March 1901 and March 1902; but not one of the special cesses on land, imposed since the Decentralisation Scheme of 1871, has yet been withdrawn.
It is a lamentable truth that the peasant proprietors of Madras and Bombay, paying the Land Tax direct to the State, have, at the present day, less security than the tenants of private landlords in Bengal. The Bengal tenant pays ii per cent. of his produce to his landlord; the Gujrat Ryot pays 20 per cent. to the State. The Bengal tenant knows the specific grounds on which his landlord can claim enhancement; the Madras and Bombay Ryot does not know the grounds on which the State will claim enhancement at the next Settlement. The Bengal fenant reckons beforehand the limits of his landlord's claims; the Bombay and Madras Ryot cannot guess what
1 The Local Cesses on Land in the Punjab, according to Lord Curzon's Resolution, "are equivalent to 5.2 per cent. on the Rental Value." But, according to a more recent Blue Book, "the cesses in the Puojab are restricted to 12 per cent. of the annual value.” Moral and Material Progress and Condition of India, 1901-2.
? Resolution ; paragraph 25.
the Settlement Officer's claims will be. The Bengal tenant can appeal to Courts against excessive demands; the Bombay and Madras Ryot can appeal to no Land Courts and no independent tribunal against unduly severe assessients. Certainty and definiteness in the rental make the Bengal tenant value his tenant-right, and enable him to free himself from the thraldom of the money-lender; uncertainty and indefiniteness in the State demand make the Madras and Bombay Ryot till his land without hope, without heart, without motive to save, and year by year he is sinking deeper in indebtedness. The Marquis of Ripon proposed to bestow on the peasant proprietor something of the security which the Bengal tenant enjoys, but the proposal was negatived by the Secretary of State in 1885. Friends of the voiceless cultivators of India again appealed for such security in the closing days of the century; the appeal was rejected by Lord Curzon in January 1902.
TRADE AND MANUFACTURE
ALL the old industries, for which India had been noted from ancient times, had declined under the jealous commercial policy of the East India Company; and when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 agriculture was left the only national industry of the people. Little was done to foster new industries after the Crown assumed the administration of India in 1858; and the last decades of the century still found the Indian manufacturer and artisan in a state of poverty and decline. A few experiments were made from time to time, but not on an adequate scale, and not in a manner commensurate with the vast interests at stake.
Cotton.-Spinning and weaving were the national industries of India down to the commencement of the nineteenth century. The spinning-wheel and the handloom were universally in use; and it is scarcely an exaggeration to state that nearly half the adult female population of India eked out the incomes of their husbands and their fathers by the profits of their own labour. It was an industry peculiarly suited to Indian village life. There were no great mills and factories; but each woman brought her cotton from the village market, and sold her yarn to the village weaver, who supplied merchants and traders with cloth. Vast quantities of piece goods, thus manufactured, were exported by the Arabs, the Dutch, and the Portuguese; and European nations competed with each other for this lucrative trade with India. But when the East India Company acquired territories in India, they reversed this policy. Not content with the
carrying trade between India and Europe, British manufacturers sought to repress Indian industries in order to give an impetus to British manufactures. Their great idea was to reduce India to a country of raw-produce, and to make her subservient to the manufacturing industries of Great Britain. How this policy was pursued, and how it ultimately succeeded, has been narrated in another work.
Later on, when power-looms had entirely supplanted hand-looms in Europe, Indian capitalists began to start cotton mills in their own country. This, again, aroused the jealousy of Lancashire manufacturers; and the fiscal policy pursued by the Indian Government in 1874 to 1879 has been told in a previous chapter. And the sad story will be continued to the close of the century in the succeeding chapter.
But hand-looms still survive in India to some extent, in spite of power-looms. The reasons are not far to seek. India is pre-eminently a country of small industries and small cultivation. Land in England belongs to great landlords; the agriculturists are mere farmers and labourers. But land in India belongs primarily to small cultivators who have their hereditary rights in their holdings; the landlord, where he exists, cannot eject them so long as they pay their rents. In the same manner, the various industries of the country were carried on by humble artisans in their own villages and huts; the idea of large factories, owned by capitalists and worked by paid operatives, was foreign to the Indian mind. And despite the great results which are achieved by capital, it is nevertheless true that the individual man is at his best,-in dignity and intelligence, in foresight and independence, —when he works in his own fields or at his own loom, rather than when he is a paid labourer under a big landlord or a wage-earner in a huge factory. And every true Indian hopes that
Economic History of British India, 1757 to 1837.