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“ Avoidance of Debt" is an ambiguous term. Nothing but positive “Reduction of Debt" should be shown under the last head. But taking the figures as they are given, the total expenditure fell short of the stipulated Famine Grant by over five and a half millions sterling. The Indian Dabt should have been reduced by that amount. Instead of that the loss incurred on the Bengal Nagpur and Midland Railways, amounting to £2,389,397 in the fifteen years, was shown as expenditure from the Famine Relief and Insurance Grant.
Then followed six years of almost continuous famines, and famine relief expenditure largely increased. The total expenditure for the twenty-one years, therefore, from 1881-82 to 1901-02 exceeds the total stipulated grant by a million sterling, as shown in the following figures :
We have excluded the loss on the Bengal Magpur and Midland Railways, which, in these twenty-one years, amounted to £3,280,334. It should be noted that recent famine relief expenditure has increased the liabilities of India; the original purpose of the famine relief taxes, to keep down such liabilities by reducing the debt in ordinary years, has not been fulfilled.
The total revenues of India, including the Land Revenue, and the total expenditure, including the Home Charges, during twenty-five years, are shown in the following table, compiled from Statistical Abstracts :
Expenditure Gross Expendi.
ture charged England. against Revenue.
Tens of Rupees. 19,891,145 22,323,868 21,861,150 21,112,995 21,948,022 21,876,047 22,361,899 21,832,211 22,592,371 23,055,724 23,189,292 23,016,404 23,981,399 24,045,209 23,965,774 24,905,328 25,589,609 25,408,272 26,200,955 23,974,489 25,683,642 27,459,313 25,807,584 26,254,546 27,432,027
Tens of Rupees. 61,972,481 65,194,020 68,433,157 74,290,112 75,684,987 70,278,337 71,841,790 70,690,681 74,464,197 77,337,134 78,759,744 81,696,678 85,085,203 85,741,649 89,143,283 90,172,438 90,565,214 95,187,429 98,370,167 94,129,741 96,442,004 101,426,693 102,955,746 112,908,436 114,516,788
Tens of Rupees. 66,234,521 83,059,922 69,661,050 77,921,506 72,089,536 69,603,500 69,692,313 71,077,127 77,265,923 77,158,707 80,788,576 81,659,660 82,473,170 82,053,478 88,675,748 91,005,850 92,112,212 94,494,319 96,836,169 95,834,763 101,801,215 97,465,383 98,793,811 110,403,130 107,091,423
We shall confine ourselves to the figures of the last five years to trace the exact results of the artificial appreciation of the rupee. The rupee had been raised to slightly over 150. in 1897-98, and to 16d. in 1898-99, at which figure its value has been fixed. We show below the total revenues and the total expenditure of India for these five years in pounds sterling for the convenience of British readers.
venues. 64,257,207 67,595,815 68,637,164 75,272,291 76,344,525 penditure 67,830,014 64,954,942 65,862,541 | 73,602,087 | 71,394,282
by incremount then
These figures disclose the startling fact that taxation in India has been increased by 12 millions sterling in five years mainly by the artificial raising of the value of the rupee. This was precisely the result which was foreseen by the Treasury in 1879, when the Lords of the Treasury condemnet in explicit terms the object of the Indian Government “to increase the amount they have to receive from their taxpayers” by increasing the rupee. It was “a benefit to English officers in India at the cost of the Indian taxpayer,” which the Treasury had again foreseen and condemned in 1886. It was a result which was foreseen and deprecated by several witnesses before the Currency Committee in 1899, including the present writer, when he pointed out that the artificial raising of the rupee “means a general increase in taxation.” And this result was deplored by the Hon. Mr. Gokhale from his place in the Governor-General's Council in March 1902; he condemned, in an able and luminous speech, the continuous raising of the revenue when the country was suffering from prolonged famines and distress unexampled in the previous history of British India.
This policy of fixing the value of the rupee at 16d. has now been permanently accepted; it is not likely to be departed from again. But the people of India may fairly claim relief from those additional taxes which were imposed on them before the value of the rupee was raised. It is a common saying that you cannot burn the candle at both ends. And, as the Government of India have decided to add to the taxation of the country by appreciating the rupee, it is not just or equitable to maintain those added taxes which were imposed before this step was taken. The Indian Budget now shows a's surplus, year after year, in spite of the extreme poverty of the people; it is possible to relieve that poverty to some extent by withdrawing those taxes which tell severely on the earnings of the nation.
Nothing presses so severely on an agricultural nation
as the numerous Cesses which have been imposed on the land, in addition to the Land Revenue, since 1871. The time and the occasion have come for their repeal. “The question presents itself,” Lord Curzon himself has declared, “whether it is not better, as opportunities occur, to mitigate those imposts which are• made to press upon the cultivating classes more severely than the law intended.”I It will be a real and much-needed relief to the cultivators of India, after years of famine and suffering, if these imposts be now repealed, and the Land Tax. be rigidly confined to the limits prescribed by Lord Dalhousie in 1855, and Sir Charles Wood in 1864 -one-half the rental on the economic rent.
The Famine Relief and Insurance taxes have also taken the form of additional imposts on the land. To keep these taxes is only to add to the poverty of the people, and the severity of the famines; to repeal them would be to give the agricultural population some relief. For the best insurance against famines is to permanently improve the condition of the cultivators, and to secure them against a multitude of imposts upon the land already severely taxed for the Land Revenue.
Lastly, the Salt Tax might be still further reduced. And the Excise imposed on the manufacture of cotton mills calls loudly for repeal. It is not a tax which the British Government in India can justly maintain on Indian manufactures, when the British Government at home are seeking by every means in their power to encourage and help home manufacture against foreign competition.
It has too often been the case in India that a handsome surplus in the budget has been succeeded by some needless and expensive war on the frontiers. It has also happened that such surplus has been swept away by larger demands from the Imperial Exchequer or the
. Resolution on the Land Revenue Policy of the Indian Government, dated January 16, 1902.
British manufacturer. As soon as the Indian budget showed a surplus under the new currency policy such demands were made. A sum of £786,000 has already been swept away, against the protests of Lord Curzon, for the increased cost of the recruitment of the British Army. Another demand of £400,000 was made for the maintenance of an army in South Africa, and was only given up when officials and the public, in England and in India, combined in a vehement protest. Lancashire manufacturers have once more referred to the Indian surplus, and demanded the repeal of the 3 per cent. import duty on cotton goods. Complications on the Tibet frontier are arising which create a just alarm that the Indian surplus may end in ambitious and useless military expeditions. The Persian Gulf question also looms in the distance.
All this is perfectly intelligible under the present constitution of the Indian Government. Every great interest, every section of British subjects, can bring pressure to bear on the Indian Government-except only the people of India. The British Cabinet can press its demands through the Secretary of State for India, who is a member of that cabinet. British manufacturers can use their votes and work through their representatives in the House of Commons, to demand and obtain concessions. And military men have an influence in the Viceroy's council which never ceases to operate. By an irony of fate the only section which has no representation, no voice, no influence in the Indian administration is the people of India. And thus a surplus in the Indian budget, obtained by increase of taxation, is swept away, time after time, without giving the people any relief. The danger at the present moment (1903) is great, the large surplus will not appear much longer. The Indian nation expects and hopes that it will not disappear without giving some real, tangible,