Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding :47,401, be granted to His Majesty, to compete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid." —[NOTE: :39,000 has been voted on account.]
This is the fourth occasion during the last four and a-half years on which I have had to present these Estimates to the House. I have endeavoured on these occasions to submit an accurate and unembellished portrait of the situation. To-day, happily, it is my task to present a picture in almost every respect the most satisfactory of the four. I say this in no spirit of foolish optimism; it is merely the sober fact that, whereas in the dark days of 1921 and the early part of 1922, hopefulness glimmered but never died, to-day it shines over almost the whole sphere which I have to survey. At the same time it is almost more dangerous to make predictions about India than about any other country, so that while I cannot conceive that despair will take the place of hopefulness in the estimate of any instructed person surveying the course of events in India now or in the future, it may well be that a number of untoward events may occur again to reduce that hopefulness by very considerable anxiety. India, for example, has enjoyed a series of good monsoon's with all the attendant advantages, not confined to the sphere of economics, which such a series brings. In the natural course of events years of bad monsoons, with their attendant evils, will eventually occur. Again, communal dissensions among a section of the population, which are very acute at the moment, may easily arrest the slow but steady growth of prosperity and sense of security. I shall have more to say on this topic later, and would only add now that in India, as in this country, no Government, however powerful, can prevent the evil effects of sustained and bitter struggle among different sections of the population from injuring the well being of the whole population. The Government can, it is true, do its utmost to prevent that struggle from becoming one of illegal violence, and the Government of India is doing its best, as I shall show, to prevent that, but it cannot prevent the sources of bitterness and distrust from polluting in degrees varying with its intensity, every department of human endeavour with which it comes into contact. So much by way of introduction.
It is my task to compress into reasonable limits a statement of events in a subcontinent, which in their variety and picturesqueness would require many hours adequately to recite. I propose to deal with the following subject—the political situation, communal disturbances, finance, trade, agriculture, the Army and the Civil Services. And I must claim the full indulgence of the Committee in attempting to present each subject in a form which, on the one hand, affords adequate information, and on the other gives it in the shortest and most concise manner. So rapid a review leaves little time for rhetorical or epigrammatic trimmings, and I ask the Committee to accept my view that even a mere recital of facts and figures about the politics, commerce, finance, and defence of India, has something of romance about it, if one can realise the millions of individuals, the variety of climates and conditions, the vast distances, the enormous resources, the number of ideas, ideals, aspirations, hopes and beliefs which the term India comprises—a vast territory so difficult to comprehend, so easily misunderstood even by Indians themselves, and their numbers are enormous, who only know one part of it. Taking the subjects in the order I have given, the political history of India of the past nine months—since the adjournment of the Assembly in October, 1925—has been that of the progressive disintegration of the Swarajist party, whose resolution, carried with the aid of the independent votes, rejecting the Muddiman Committee's Report, setting forth in detail "the principles" which should guide the convention, demanded to frame a new constitution, was the main feature of the September Session of 1925.
The autumn of 1925 saw the dissolution, on reaching its age limit, of the first Council of State and the election of a successor. In it the Government has in fact so far received support hardly less consistent and decisive than from its predecessor, despite the difference of its composition. At the close of the September Session there had been some canvassing among the members of the idea of wholesale resignation from the Assembly by both Swarajists and Independents, by way of emphasising the demands of their Constitutional resolution, but it was soon apparent that mutual disagreements and doubts as to the practical wisdom of the step would lead to its abandonment, as in fact it did. Then a Congress Committee meeting was held. This was the first definite split in the party due to the insistence by the majority, in the face of growing dissent, on the reaffirmation of uncompromising non-co-operation, to culminate, if Swaraj were not attained, in universal civil disobedience, which, I may say in passing, is regarded by most sensible people in India as the most unsubstantial of all threats. The immediate practical duty imposed by this Session of the Congress upon its adherents in the Legislatures was that, failing a satisfactory announcement by the Government as to its decision on the series of resolutions on Constitutional revision which had culminated in that which I have already mentioned, that is, the resolution of September, 1926, the Swarajist members were to absent themselves from the proceedings of every Council except to the extent required to preserve their membership, for the purpose of avoiding the risk of non-Swarajist successors, and also, when possible, to refuse supply. A minority objected to this programme as sterile and al ready discredited and the result was resignation from the party of three fairly prominent leaders from Bombay and the Central Provinces and the initiation by them of a policy of "responsive co-operation." By this expression was indicated abandonment of the embargo on acceptance, of office as Minister in the Provinces, assumption of power and influence through office, and subsequent cooperation with, or obstruction to, the official Government according to the merits of each individual issue; in other words, an approach to the position hitherto held by the so-called Independents.
The proceedings of the Liberal party, by which I mean the organisation of the Moderates and to sonic extent of the Independents, contained nothing remarkable and merely re-stated the position of the party—whose ultimate objective, I confess, it would be hard to distinguish from that of the Swarajists—towards the chief topics of the day, which was already well known. Without question, the political event of this period which created the greatest interest and stir was the presidential address to the All-India Muslim League meeting at Aligarh of Sir Ahdur Rahim, who had relinquished his office on the expiry of its term as a member of the Executive Council of the Governor of Bengal only a few hours before the speech was delivered. The general drift of this speech, which attracted a good deal of attention in this country at the time, and may have been read by members of the Committee, was a militant appeal to the Muslims to be up and doing, to resist all progress in reform which would leave the rights of the Muslim minority inadequately safeguarded, to insist on the maintenance of communal representation, and to counteract, by propaganda and otherwise, the recent activities of the more orthodox Hindu associations. The speech was, in fact, a startlingly open and authoritative ventilation of sentiments which had been known to he agitating Mohammedan minds to some extent ever since the institution of the reforms, and of late with increasing persistence, but which had never been so prominently voiced or from so high a quarter. Naturally this speech did little to allay the tension between the two communities, which for two years now has been uncomfortably acute. It is interesting to note that the Muslim members of the Swaraj party in the Assembly refused to obey the party decree of abstention from its proceedings when the Debate on the question of reforms for the North-West Frontier Province was in progress, the very initiation of which by them constituted a definite revolt from the policy of the Hindu majority, so that we thus see two very definite landmarks in the political history of India.
In the February-March Session of the Indian Legislature, the Government probably had, on the whole, less effective opposition to contend with than at any other time since the reforms were instituted, and as regards the Budget, none of the previous post-reform Budgets met with so little criticism. This was partly due to the nature of the Budget itself and the financial situation it disclosed, and partly also to Swarajist abstention. That party took no part at all in the general Debate on the Budget, and on the. first day of the voting of supply, in pursuance of the Congress decision to which I have already referred, they offered, through the mouth of their leader, their final manifesto, on the conclusion of which they left the Chamber in a body, and their example was followed by many members of their party in the Provincial Councils. As regards the legislative output of the Session it was considerable and useful, and the Chambers showed their usual discrimination in the matter of the private-member Bills which were allowed to pass.
As regards the Provinces, politics on the whole pursued the even tenour of their way, the Swarajist walk-out, to which I have already referred as having occurred in several provincial councils, producing hardly a ripple on the surface. Bengal and the Central Provinces, as the Committee will he aware, maintained the distinction of having "destroyed diarchy" inasmuch as they were, and are still, without Ministers or transferred subjects, a condition which will persist at least until the inauguration of the new Councils following upon this winter's general election, but in these two Provinces the administration has meanwhile proceeded according to plan. Bengal appears to have enhanced its reputation for exhibiting definitely pathological conditions politically, a rather disappointing admission in respect of a population which, I think it will he generally admitted, is as alert and resourceful intellectually as any in India, but here also the local repre- sentatives of the Swarajist party have almost always displayed ineptitude and lack of constructive ability, conditions which were clearly demonstrated by their unsuccessful motion to unseat the President on the allegation of bias in suspending a Swarajist member for disorderly conduct—a contest out of which the Swarajists came off most decidedly second best.
There is one matter, before I leave my political survey, which I think will interest the Committee. It is the fact that throughout these vicissitudes to which I have been referring the personal relations, at all events at Delhi—and I think the same holds true of the Provinces generally—between the Government representatives and the non-official members, not even excluding the Swarajists, have been marked by the cordiality which has increasingly characterised them during the past two years, in spite of apparent cleavage of view, and although the Press which caters for the Indian reader in both vernacular and English professed, true to its traditional outlook, to find nothing but cause for satisfaction in the termination of Lord Reading's Governor-Generalship and grounds for nothing but censure and abuse in his actions, both Lord Reading and Lady Reading were the subjects of remarkable tributes in the course of formal proceedings of the Council of State, despite the fact that the composition of that Council, as I have already stated, had the appearance of being much less representative of right wing or pro-Government views than its predecessor.
For the immediate future, interest centres in the general election for the Assembly and the Provincial Councils,, which is due in the autumn. I will not attempt here to give a forecast of what the electoral results of all this are likely to be. It is bad enough to have to do, what we all do at election times here, and that is predict on every platform, with every appearance of, but with no possible reason for, confidence, the electoral fortunes of our parties and ourselves—[An HON. MEMBER: "Speak for yourself!"] I am speaking for myself, but I do not speak for myself only, but for everyone, I think, who has had experience, and probably for the hon. Member himself who interrupts me. It would be wholly infructuous to prophesy the results likely to be obtained in India, but present indications certainly seem to point to an appeal to the electors being made on this occasion on frankly communal lines-not, of course, in the sense of Hindu and Moslem contesting the same seat (for that, the existing arrangements for communal representation afford little scope), but in the appeals to the advancement of the interests of the followers of a creed rather than those of the population of the country in general. But though it may not be expedient to prophesy, it is permissible to hope, and what all who have the interests of India at heart must hope for is the emergence of a strong and united party—under what name it emerges matters little, provided that it is prepared—without surrendering any ultimate constitutional ideals-to work with the Government in carrying on the administration. The administration will be carried on, whatever happens. How, then, is India benefited—how is anyone benefited—if some of the best brains in the country decline to make their contribution to the common welfare? That is obviously a question for India herself to answer; all that we can do is to hope that the answer will he clear and definite.
I will next give a short summary of the causes and effects of violence and crime based on alleged political or religious grievances and differences. Taking the Punjab first of all, where I had to report, speaking at this box four years ago, rather a serious state of affairs, it is the fact that to-day, as a matter of concern to the Government, the question of the Sikh shrines is for the time being practically settled. The line that the matter has taken is that the Sikhs are discussing among themselves, with some liveliness, the best method of controlling their religious endowments.
Next I come to a very important matter, namely, the position in Bengal. The terrorist movement in Bengal has received a definite set-back. The Government have made it perfectly clear to those who were inclined to adopt terrorist tactics and to those who were conspiring to terrorise by assassinating or attempting to assassinate Government officials, that they were prepared to take whatever steps were necessary to combat these conspiracies, and further that they possessed the information to enable them to strike swiftly and surely to this end. The cases of the persons detained under the Act of 1925 have been periodically re-examined, several of them have been released, and there has been a continued modification of the strictness of confinement. On the other hand, one or two absconders have been arrested. The numbers reported about the end of May—which are the latest figures I have got—as under detention are 16 under the Regulation of 1918, 49 under the Act of 1925 in gaol, 54 domiciled under that Act in villages, and 12 in their own homes. The total number restricted is 131.
The persons accused in the Kakori train dacoity case at Lucknow were committed for trial to the Court of Session, and the trial began on 1st May. The ease developed into a charge of general conspiracy to violent terrorist crime. Burma during the last few years has been rather a bad spot as regards crime. Efforts which have been made, and still continue, to reduce the volume of serious crime have had some effect, and almost all types of such crime are less numerous than in 1925. At the same time opposition to the payment of the Capitation Tax appears to have ceased and the leader of the extremist revolutionary section has been convicted and fined on a charge of sedition. There is one bright spot in Burma among many which I would like to mention, and that is the success of the efforts made to procure the emancipation of slaves in the unadministered country of the Hukawng Valley. This valley was visited by Sir Harcourt Butler in January, 1925, and Mr. Barnard has recently again been sent there. All slaves to the number of 3,487 are reported to have been released. The Government of India have congratulated Sir Harcourt Butler and the officers concerned on the great success which has been attained.
I next turn to the Bolshevist activity. There has not been any important developments in Bolshevist activity in India in the year under review. There was a conference of Communists at Cawnpore at the same time as the National Congress meeting, but it was a futile proceeding, and the subsequent action of those who attended it have been disruptive rather than constructive of a Communist party. There was a strike in the Bombay cotton mills which was in progress in November last, but it was ended after the suspension of the cotton Excise duty, although this suspension benefited only weaving mills, and not mills of other classes. Next I come to a very important part of my task, and that is to tell the Committee quite frankly about communal tension. Communal tension has steadily increased during the past four years, and it now constitutes the gravest menace confronting the Government. The temporary union of Hindu and Mohammedan politicians under the non-co-operation banner hoisted by Gandhi and later the Hindu Muslin pact carried through by C. R. Das have broken down when brought to the test of practical application. Friction between these two communities assumed an acute form first in the Punjab early in 1922, since when religious riots have steadily spread and increased in intensity throughout the Punjab, the United Provinces, notably at Saharanpur in September, 1923, the Central Provinces, North-West Frontier Province—the city of Kohat being laid waste in September, 1924—Behar, and last but not least, Bengal, where serious rioting has recently occurred on more than one occasion in Calcutta, with its inevitable repercussion in the surrounding districts. The number of actual conflicts between members of these two great communities during the last four years is formidable, but they constitute but a fraction of the total number of cases of communal friction which might have developed into actual hostilities but for the unceasing precautions taken by the magistrates and police officers. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that at the present time no religious festival, Hindu or Mohammedan, is carried out in Northern India, or in the lower Provinces, without necessitating, both before and during their ceremonies, elaborate precautions with a view to ensure their peaceful celebration.
In pre-reform days the two communities had learned on the whole to live and to let live side by side; disturbing elements existed below the surface which came to life sporadically when their festivals synchronised—the Muslim sacrificial festival of the Bakr 'Id was always a potentially dangerous period — the political awakening which has followed the reforms has exacerbated this feeling and kept the two communities in a state of friction which finds expression during occasions of religious fervour. More- over, the devolution of authority into the hands of Indians has been more rapid than either Hindus or Mohammedans anticipated; its effect is growing more apparent, and as official control is slackened in the Central and Provincial Governments and the services generally, the struggle for place, for privilege and even self-preservation among the rival communities is intensified. As numbers mean votes and power, organising and proselytising agencies are at work, for example, the Hindu Sangathan and Shudi, and the Mtislim Tablig and Tanzim. The activities and successes of these movements, particularly the former, have caused much heart burning and irritation in the opposite camp. Then there is a new and dangerous feature of the situation. The leaders of the two communities have exacerbated the situation by indulging in open recrimination. It is idle to look for reconciliation among the rank and file when the leaders are openly at variance. I spoke just now of the effect of the Montagu-Chelmsford Act in increasing communal tension. But that in itself is no condemnation of the Montagu-Chelmsford Act, unless one takes the extreme view that the progressive devolution of function from a predominantly British Central and Provincial Government in India to Indians themselves, which has in fact been going on since the time of Lord Mayo, is a wrong policy. Not even the most rigid opponents of the Act, such as Lord Sydenham, Sir Michael O'Dwyer, and the "Morning Post" take that standpoint, so far as I am aware.
Their objection as stated is to the Act itself, and its provisions, not to the progression to which I have referred. I am well aware that it would not be in order to discuss the Act itself on this occasion, but the point which I want to make is that the natural result of gradually increasing the power in the hands of Indians themselves, and thus augmenting their interest in practical politics, is a tendency at least 50 years old and brings out more clearly the very real depth and sincerity of the cleavage existing between Hindus and Mohammedans and it therefore follows that that result could not have been avoided by any system of extension of self-government. I think I shall have general assent to that view. I am glad to see a right hon. Gentleman opposite nod his head in assent. It is for Indians themselves to show how far they can overcome in the future this great obstacle to their progress and unification, the greatest obstacle which exists to-day. Meanwhile, two assertions can with confidence be made. The first is that the impartial third party—the British and the British troops in India—constitute the most effective safeguard against communal tension developing into wholesale massacre; the second is that the monstrous accusation made by extremist organs in India to the effect that the British members of Government and British officials in India either instigate or refrain from taking effective steps to prevent communal riots and violence, is devoid of all foundation. I only mention it because I believe it has been repeated in some British circles which are notoriously hostile to British prestige in India and elsewhere. I cannot close without making a reference to the very remarkable and very eloquent speech delivered by Lord Irwin a few days ago and would respectfully express the hope that his wise and weighty words will he acted upon by leaders and their followers throughout India.
I now turn to the brighter side of the picture which I am trying to paint, that is, to trade and finance. In dealing with these subjects I would like to refer to what I think is the innate foolishness of the cry of "exploitation" which is invariably raised by the Swarajists and extremists in India whenever the Question of trade between India and this country is mentioned. If these gentleman would take the trouble to study simple economic laws and the statistics of the immense export trade from India to this country, they would realise how absurd their contentions are. The Swarajist party are constantly accused in Indian newspapers owned and run by Indians, by no means hostile to the Swarajist cause, of deliberately ignoring common sense and facts and thus injuring their own case. One could not find a better example of this tendency than is displayed in this exploitation cry. As the Committee is aware, and as I shall show in detail in a moment, the Government of India and the Secretary of State have put no obstacles in the way of the protection of Indian manufactures, despite the criticism of British and other external traders.
India has enjoyed in the last few years what may, on the whole, be regarded as a series of good seasons, with the result that the export trade has, generally speaking, been satisfactory. The exports for 1925–26, valued at 385 crores of rupees, were slightly lower than the figure of the previous year, which constituted a record. Imports in 1925–26 also show some decline from the figure of 1924–25. To appreciate the figures, however, it is necessary to consider them in the light of the changed level of prices since 1913–14, when the figures of exports and imports were about 250 crores of rupees and 180 crores, respectively. If the figures for 1925–26 are re-calculated with reference to the pre-War level of prices, exports work out at approximately 260 crores of rupees, and imports at 120 crores of rupees.
It will thus be seen that exports have recovered to the prewar level, but that imports are considerably behind the 1913–14 volume. This position is to be largely ascribed to the fact that the rise in the price of India's exports, mainly raw materials, is considerably less than the corresponding rise in the case of imported articles. I could if I had time, give some really striking examples from my own experience, particularly dealing with cotton. But it is a fact that the high price of imports supplies a commentary on the economic situation in the country where the high cost of production is one of the principal factors impeding the expansion of the British export industries and aggravating the unemployment problem. Undoubtedly if this country could manage to get down the cost of production, it would find in India a ready market for a far greater volume of manufactures than she is prepared to take at the present level of prices. While, as I have indicated, Indian export trade has been generally satisfactory, reference must be made to certain important fields of industry where the position is not yet satisfactory, namely, the iron and steel industry, the cotton industry and the coal industry. In these cases measures have been taken with a-view to assisting the industries concerned to overcome the difficulties which it is confidently hoped are only of a temporary character.
As regards the iron and steel industries, which is mainly represented by the important Tata Iron and Steel Company, the Legislature has given assistance by means of protection and bounties after careful investigation by the Tariff Board. The period of protection was fixed under the Act for three years expiring in 1927, before the completion of which period a further investigation will be held. Protection has also been extended to the wagon building industry, and the tin plate industry. The cotton industry, which is largely centred in Bombay, has been going through difficult times, but these difficulties, as we know from conditions at home, are not confined to India. By suspending and subsequently abolishing the cotton excise, the Government of India and their Legislature have shown their sympathy with the industry in the troublesome transition period through which it is now passing. As regards the coal trade, it is hoped by reduction of railway rates to stimulate exports. It will have been observed that the conditions regarding these three Indian industries are somewhat similar to those prevailing in the corresponding trade in this country.
With regard to the financial position, I have again satisfactory figures and facts. The Government of India were among the first Governments to take steps by drastic curtailment of expenditure and increase of taxation to free their finances from the disturbances brought about as a consequence of the War and connected events. The period of deficits was closed in 1922–23, since which date satisfactory surpluses have been realised, namely, 239 lakhs of rupees in 1923–24, 568 lakhs in 1924–25, and 130 lakhs (estimated) in 1925–26.
During this period there has been important remission of taxation, and a noteworthy reduction of the contributions required by the Government of India from the provinces under the scheme of finance introduced in connection with the Constitutional Reforms. In 1924–25 the increase in the Salt Tax imposed in the previous year was taken off. In 1925–26 Rs. 2½ crores of provincial contributions were permanently remitted, the Bengal Government's contribution of Rs.63 lakhs was remitted for a further three years, and Rs.50 lakhs of contributions were waived for one year only in favour, mainly, of those provinces which have not benefited from the permanent reliefs. In the course of 1925–26 the Cotton Excise Duty which had for so many years been a source of embittered feeling in India, was suspended, no collection being made as from let December last, with the result that the receipts from the duty in 1925–26 were Rs.71 lakhs, less than estimated in the Budget. The suspension of the Cotton Excise Duty to which I have already referred in the course of the financial year was an exceptional measure adopted by the Government in recognition of the special difficulties attending the cotton industry in Bombay and seeing that this step involved the surrender of a substantial amount of budgeted revenue it was all the more gratifying to find that the revised estimates foreshadow a surplus as large as Rs.130 lakhs. On the basis of the taxation in force at the beginning of 1925–26, the Budget for 1926–27 worked out as follows:
|Surplus||Rs. 3.05 crores|
In my country all Finance Ministers look and are unhappy, but you look quite happy.Sir Basil Blackett has every reason to look and be happy when we compare to-day's financial position with that of a few years ago.
Members will expect me to say a word on the subject of the credit of the Government of India. As regards this, I can hardly give any more striking information than the particulars of the rupee loan floated in India this summer. The loan took the form of a 4 per cent. security, issued at a discount, with the result that the yield to the investor, after allowing for deduction of Income Tax, was in the neighbourhood of only 4¼ net. This shows a very satisfactory position, and a striking contrast to the situation prevailing a few years ago. The loan which was partly a conversion operation, was for the considerable amount of 25 crores, but the pressure of applications was so great that the lists for cash subscription and 1926 bond conversions were closed almost immediately on the first day of subscription. The lists, I understand, were only open for about half-an-hour. The fact that the investor was content to take a security offering so low a return, shows the high esteem in which the Government of India's credit stands. Members are, of course, aware that it is not only in India that this improvement in Indian Government credit has manifested itself. At the present time, the yield on representative Indian Government securities in London is in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent. which, I think, shows that her credit in this market stands fully as high as that of the Dominions, and is, in fact, only second to that of His Majesty's Government itself. That is a very satisfactory position, surveyed over the whole field of finance. With regard to the currency position—
I am going to say a word about the railways later. I shall be pleased to tell the Committee as much as I can in the very limited time I have allowed myself in which to deal in tabloid form with a large number of subjects. With regard to the currency position, the Royal Commission on Indian Currency presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Hilton Young) signed its Report a few weeks ago. There has been some unavoidable delay in its publication owing to the necessity for insuring that issues should be made simultaneously in India and this country. I hope that the Report will be in the hands of Members before the Recess, and meanwhile they will not expect me to anticipate its contents.
Now I come to the railway position, to which the hon. Member has just referred. It is highly satisfactory. The deterioration in the lines due to the War and the defects in working brought to notice by the Acworth Committee have been largely made good, with the result that in the last three years, after all charges, including interest on capital have been met, there has been a net profit averaging £6,750,000 sterling per annum. The results from the railways have been so successful since the scheme was introduced two years ago, of separation of railway from general finance, that after contributions of £5,000,000 in 1924–15, and £4,000,000 in 1925–26 had been made to general revenue, the railway reserve stood at about £7,500,000 at the end of 1925–26. In view of this, it has been decided to make reductions in fares and coal freight this year. Ultimately, these reductions will, no doubt, produce a substantial increase in the earnings, but the immediate effect w ill probably be a falling off. For this reason it has been felt desirable to postpone the reductions until now, when the railway finances have reached a favourable position.
In 1926–27 the falling off due to reduccd fares and freight is expected to be about £1,500,000, and the amount available for transfer to the railway reserve in 1926–27 will be diminished pro tanto. On some lines, third-class passengers will now be able to travel over long distances, at the rate of less than d. ¼d. per mile—a very remarkable result. [HON. MEMBERS:"Why not try it here?"] Because the conditions here are wholly different from the conditions in India, and if I had time to do so, I would explain why that is so. On the capital side, an expenditure of about £16,500,000 is contemplated in 1926–27. Of this, about £11,500,000 will be spent on improvements to existing lines, and additional railway stock, and about £5,000,000 on new construction. Among the works of improve- ment may be mentioned the electrification of the railways in Bombay and its neighbourhood, and schemes of electrification in Calcutta and Madras are under examination. I may mention that nearly £1,500,000 will be spent this year on improved facilities, and additional rolling stock for third-class passengers. This was another longstanding grievance in some parts—whether an alleged or a real grievance I am not prepared to say—but the rolling stock was bad and it is being remedied. As regards new lines, always a matter of interest, the length of new line opened in 1924–25 was 233 miles, in 1925–26 it was about 264 miles, and it is expected that 239 miles will be opened in 1926–27, the average for the three years being just under 250 miles. In his speech on the Budget for the current year the Chief Commissioner of Railways said that he saw no reason why India should not bring its total yearly mileage addition to something in the neighbourhood of 1,000 miles in a few years.
I have said nothing so far about ports, but I may mention that there is a new port in progress of construction at Visagapatam on the east cost of India. The work is getting on well, and this port will be connected by a new railway with the Central Provinces and will, it is hoped, provide an outlet for the trade from that. Province.
In regard to wireless telegraphy I hope wireless communication will be established in a few months' time between India and England. A company has been formed in India for the purpose and is engaged in the construction of a station, which will work on the beam system and will be capable of transmitting messages to and receiving messages from this country.
I now come to an important matter on which I have to make an announcement-that is, in regard to the Bombay Back Bay Reclamation Scheme, which has been the cause of controversy. The Government of India, with the approval of the Secretary of State, have appointed a committee to inquire into the history of the inception and conduct of the scheme, and to make recommendations as regards future operations. The Chairman of the Committee is Sir Grimwood Mears, Chief Justice of the High Court at Allahabad. The members are Sir M. Visvesvaraya, Sir Frederick Thomas Hopkinson, and Mr. S. B. Billimoria. The Committee will meet at Bombay on 2nd August. All these gentlemen have at one time or another rendered distinguished service to the public either in official or private life.
I now turn for a moment to a matter which must be of the first importance in India. That is the question of increasing agricultural productivity and improving the economic condition of the rural population. For some time past the Secretary of State and the Government of India have been anxiously considering what steps could be taken for the development and improvement of India's premier industry. In November, 1925, the Secretary of State and the Government of India came to the conclusion that the questions to be investigated were of sufficient importance to require the appointment of a Royal Commission. As the question of agriculture is a provincial and transferred subject, local governments were consulted on the proposal, and on the suggested terms of reference. The local governments favoured the proposal, and, as has been announced, the appointment of a Royal Commission under a distinguished Chairman was accordingly approved. Its terms of reference include generally the improvement of agriculture, and the promotion of the welfare of the rural population and, in particular, the promotion of research, experiment and education, the compilation of statistics, the introduction of new or better crops and improvement in agricultural practice as well as the existing methods of transport and marketing and of financing agricultural operations.
I next turn to a matter of some international interest—perhaps I may say of considerable international interest—and that is the decision of the Government of India to extinguish their exports of opium, except for medical and scientific purposes, by progressive annual reductions. Since the intention of adopting this policy was first announced, resolutions in support of it had been passed by both Chambers of the Indian Legislature and the Government of India have been able to decide on the comparatively short term of 10 years as the period within which the process of extinction will be completed The total exports of 1926 will accordingly be reduced by 10 per cent. in each subsequent year, so that the last export will take place in 1935. The decision of the Government of India, which has been taken with the hearty concurrence of the Secretary of State, must not, of course, be regarded in the light of a death-bed repentance. On the contrary, it is the culminating point of a series of measures taken in the past years for the regulation and restriction of the export of opium from India.
Last year I mentioned India's recent record of industrial and social legislation. An important addition has been made to the list with the passage of the first Indian Trade Union Act. This enables trade unions in India, at their option, to be registered under easy conditions, one of which, however, is that their rules must provide for the safe custody of their funds, and an annual audit. Registered unions are granted a number of advantages and immunities—most of those, in fact, which have been obtained by trade unions in this country through a long series of years. The object of the Act is to encourage and assist the responsible trade unions which take the trouble to register, and thus to foster the growth of a healthy trade union movement. Besides the Trade Union Bill which has been passed, a further Bill, setting up machinery for the settlement of trade disputes, will, I hope, come before the Indian Legislature shortly.
I should have liked to say something about the industrial workers of India, the conditions under which they work and live, the question of their efficiency compared with that of the Western worker, and so on, but I have not time adequately to deal with the subject. But I should, in passing, like to emphasise this fact, on which I do not think there will be any difference of opinion—that the Indian worker has an entirely different outlook from the Western worker. Owing to the fact that his industrial life is often but, a passing phase, it is quite illogical and unfair to compare his efficiency with that of the Western worker. No such comparison can be made until there develops a definitely professional class of workers in India, and until the various things which comparison involves are more or less equal. At the present time, comparison in terms of money is meaningless, for as often as not it involves the comparison of elements which, from their very nature, are not comparable at all. One of these elements is the standard of life, a, subject on which it is almost unnecessary for me to touch. I would venture to point out, however, that in India there is no such thing as a standard of life; there are dozens of standards of living, standards for north and south, standards for Hundus and Mohammedans and so on. Western observers are too ready to compare these standards with those of the West. They may come to Bombay or Calcutta, and see the chawls or buntis with their simple accommodation and furniture, and perhaps, also, unfortunately, their ex-cessive numbers of inhabitants. They compare these with a row of houses in a good industrial town in England. Here. again, no really useful purpose can be served by comparing East and West. The habits of the Indian worker never will be the same as those of Western workers; nor will his style of living. If a comparison has to be made at all, let it he made with the standard to which the Indian worker has been used, either in his own village or in previous generations. One must deprecate the overcrowding and disease which have followed in the wake of industrialism in some Indian cities, and no effort can he spared to better those conditions; but at the same time one must pay tribute to the many excellent housing schemes which enlightened industrialists in India have developed, and hope that there will be no respite in their good work. Above all, the Indian worker himself must be persuaded that overcrowding is bad for him, morally, physically and mentally. For at present it must be confessed that the will to take advantage of better conditions does not always exist. Only education can create the will to improvement, and this cannot be done in a day.
It is not necessary or, indeed, desirable that I should say more than a few words regarding the difficult question of the position of Indians in South Africa, but I ought to say something. A year ago this question had again reached a critical stage, and opinion in India and among the Indian community in South Africa was excited and alarmed. The whole situation has since been changed as a result of the visit of the Paddison deputation to South Africa, and, as has been announced, a Conference between the two Governments will be held towards the end of the year for the purpose of exploring all possible methods of arriving at an amicable solution of this most difficult problem. I think the Committee will agree that the Government of India are much to be congratulated on the ability and patience with which they have conducted the prolonged negotiations. These qualities, together with the friendly and conciliatory spirit displayed by the Union Government, have at least made possible the meeting of the Conference to discuss the whole problem, and, whatever the result of the Conference may be, it can at least be hoped that it will meet in a far more favourable atmosphere than until recently seemed possible. More than this it is undesirable for me to say, lest any unguarded word should tend to dissipate the atmosphere of conciliation and reasonableness which has gathered round the problem, and I would venture to take the unusual course of asking the Committee to follow my lead in that respect, having regard to the improved chances there are of a settlement.
I should like to say a word about military matters. The training of the Army has continued during the past year on very satisfactory lines. In November, 1925, there were manœnuvres on a large scale in the Northern Command in the tract of country between Rawalpindi and Peshawar. A complete Field Army Division and two Cavalry Brigades were mobilised as for war, and it was possible from these manœuvres to ascertain whether our administrative arrangements for mobilisation and for a campaign were on a sound footing. The manœuvres were carried out on strictly field service conditions, and the troops went through a very strenuous time, for the infantry had to carry packs, which was an innovation. The physical fitness and the training of all ranks showed that they were quite fit to take the field. The feeding, transport and other administrative arrangements were carried out as they would be in war, and the test showed that, as far as those troops were concerned, our administrative arrangements were on a sound footing. Without. making invidious comparisons between these manœuvres and those which took place in India prior to the War, I think it can be said that, probably on the whole, they were the most complete manœuvres that have ever taken place in India. Army expenditure has again fallen from 56¼ crores to just under 55, and this is without loss of efficiency. A good deal more has to be done before the Army in India can be said to be properly housed, and the barracks made more comfortable for the rank and file. For, unless the amenities of life in the barracks are all they should be, one cannot be surprised at the men preferring to visit doubtful places of entertainment outside, with all the innumerable evils that such visits bring in their train. As regards Waziristan, all reports on this part of the frontier show that the policy which was decided on three or four years ago is the correct one. A great change has come over this country. Raiding has practically ceased, and the civilising effect of our road-making in Waziristan is extraordinary when we know what the state of the country was a few years ago. I see no reason, if we continue to carry out our present policy, why that country should not become as peaceful as Baluchistan.
So far as the Civil Service in India is concerned, a word and a word only is necessary about the recommendations of the Lee Commission. The bulk of these recommendations, including almost all those of a financial character, have been implemented, and, as Members will remember, an Amendment of the Government of India Act recently carried through Parliament has secured the emoluments of the superior services from the Vote of the Indian Legislature in so far as they were not already exempt. The principles to be applied in this election for financial relief of officers out side the regular services, but of comparable status, have been decided. Owing to the wide area effected, and the necessity both for co-ordination and for separate examination of each individual case, a decision as to the degree of relief to be granted in each instance has inevitably taken time. But I am pleased to say a decision has now been reached in the case of almost all officers appointed by the Secretary of State in Council; most of the recommendations of the Government of India and local governments in respect of officers appointed by them have been received and are being considered, and the rest are expected shortly. All possible steps are being taken to expedite a decision. The Public Services Commission, analogous to the Civil Service Commission in this country, has been established. The Chairman has already proceeded to India in connection with preliminary arrangements, and it is hoped that the Commission will meet on 1st October.
The position in regard to recruitment for the Indian Services continues to improve in a satisfactory manner. Twenty-one Europeans with high academic attainments were appointed to the Indian Civil Service on the examination of 1925, as compared with an average of five foe the four years 1921–24. Of the total European entry last year of 70, 19, a number almost four times the average of the five years before the War, were candidates for the Indian Civil Service only, and did not enter also for the Home or Colonial Services. Those who are familiar with these examinations will appreciate the significance of that fact. The figures for 1925 thus represent a very marked improvement on previous years. But the entry for the Indian Civil Service examination to he held next month represents a still more marked improvement. The total entry is 183, as against 134 last year. Of this total, 93, as compared with 71, are Europeans, and of the 93, 31, as compared with 19 last year and an average of five in the five years before the War, have entered for the Indian Civil Service only. There has been no falling off as compared with pre-War in the academic attainments of candidates selected. I need not enlarge on these facts and figures, which speak for themselves; they reflect the removal of misunderstandings at Universities and the great improvement which has taken place in the attitude of officers on leave. I may say, however, that it is not only in academic attainments that the present-day candidates are holding their own. On the personal side, in all-round fitness for a career in India, the candidates now coming forward appear to be equal of those who were appointed in pre-War days. I was told over the telephone only this morning by a friend of mine, a Noble Lord, that in a certain school, of three boys who in three successive years headed the school, all decided for various careers. Within the past six months, however, all three have resolved not to enter upon the careers which they had previously determined upon, but to become candidates for the Indian Civil Service examination. I hope that fact, and the others which have been mentioned, will correct any feeling of pessimism with regard to the Service which may still remain.
I have just seen a most favourable report on the calibre of the candidates who have presented themselves this year for the police service, a service which needs men possessing all the finest qualities possessed by the inhabitants of these islands, which has obtained such men in the days gone by, and which is still obtaining them to-day, in the smaller numbers in which, as a result of Indianisation they are required. I would here like to make a reference to the great loss sustained by India by the death of E. C. Handyside, the Commandant of the Frontier Constabulary, whom I had the honour of meeting at Peshawar, on the North-West frontier, when I was in India in 1922. He was in charge of what is perhaps one of the most difficult jobs in the whole of India. His was a true type of Elizabethan chivalry and courage. During 14 years' service on the frontier he established a reputation for personal bravery, tenacity and chivalry that has rarely been equalled. His innumerable feats of personal daring and endurance in pursuing or lying up for bloodthirsty raiders have long been epics in the brilliant records of frontier endeavour. Utterly careless of his own life, he showed the greatest care for the lives of others, and seldom did his men incur much loss in their expeditions. And now he has gone; three months ago he fell, shot through the heart in a successful round-up of outlaws in a frontier village. In the words of a former chief, he has now entered the immortality that frontier tradition and frontier story confer only on great bravery, great generosity and great honour. There he will stand with John Nicholson and George Roos-Keppel. Handyside is no more, but I am sure that this country will continue, as she has done in the past and is still doing to-day, to send such men, her best, to the fields of honourable and onerous service that are open to her in India.
I have nearly ended my task but, before doing so, I must allow myself the luxury of retrospect. When first I became Under-Secretary, rather more than four years ago, the Government of India and the then Secretary of State were being hotly assailed by two very different sets of what I may call prophetical critics. The one set, the extremist politicians in India, said: "If you do not give us what we want"—though few of them knew what the really wanted—"we will in a few months make British India ungovernable.' The other set of critics, which comprised many who had had distinguished careers in India, but who were perhaps less representative of European opinion in India than they thought, said, "Your new and premature constitution has caused administration to break down; if you do not modify it or withdraw it, in a few months the Government of India and the Provincial Governments will melt away and disappear." Some of them, who were Noble Lords in another place, made speeches in support of this gloomy contention; innumerable letters and articles in the Press were written to prove its truth. There were not wanting timid people here who were seriously alarmed by this view, presented as it was by men of distinction and experience. The first set of critics were really revolutionaries, because, even if their ultimate aim was constitutional which is doubtful, they wished to achieve it by other than constitutional means, by, in fact, paralysing Government through passive resistance.
The second set of critics were really Defeatists. They urged the abandonment of a course decided upon by His Majesty's Government and Parliament, in the House of Commons without a Division on the Second and Third Reading stages of the Bill and after fullest consultation with India opinion because of opposition and difficulties encountered before the scheme had had a chance to work. Both alike mistook temporary for permanent circumstances. Excitement, disorder, the unsettlement of men's minds, the breaking of old ties, were no new things in the East and in India. They have happened before, they will happen again; they are usually followed by periods of peace and calm. Government in. India, whether All-India or Provincial, can always face such situations and maintain its authority when it acts, as it did in this case, with wisdom. courage, moderation and common-sense, and when it has, as it has in this instance, the unwavering support of His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State. I have concluded my task. I must apologise to the Committee for speaking slightly over an hour on a subject which, before the War, was never dealt with by the Secretary of State under an hour or two hours' speech, and which in earlier days occupied about two and a half hours. I could not believe any person much more competent than myself could possibly have compressed within a shorter duration the large variety of subjects I have dealt with in regard to so important a country as India.
I am glad that the Government on this occasion has allowed us to have this very important annual statement on India delivered in the House of Commons, instead of another place by the Secretary of State. But I feel I must condole with the noble Lord for having to make a statement so purely non-controversial. His undoubted talents do not find Full scope in such a. non-controversial statement. This is perhaps the first occasion on which we on these benches have not been taken severely to task by the noble Lord in an Indian Debate, and I would warn Sir Michael O'Dwyer and others that the noble Lord, as he gradually approaches to our point of view, may on future occasions have jest as controversial a statement directed towards other quarters. But I am a House of Commons man and in opening this. Debate. I would say that, as a good House of Commons man, I think all on these benches are delighted to have in India, now under prosperous conditions, an old Member of this House as Viceroy. I believe that this House is a school for teaching responsible Governors, and I can only wish that not only the Viceroy but every Governor in India had cone from the House of Commons. Indeed, I would stretch that principle beyond India. When you have got, as in India, a large number of budding democracies it is better to have guiding them men who have real experience of democracy rather than the ordinary official, who is hound to have got moulded into an autocratic shape as he goes through the various grades of his purely official career. I see in Lord Irwin and Sir Leslie Wilson in Bombay, first-rate examples of the successful transferment of the ordinary Member of Parliament into the Governor and Director of the new democracies that we are building up throughout the world.
Lord Irwin himself is, during these present troubles in India, perhaps an ideal man to have as Viceroy. He is not merely democratic but also has that curious vein of religious sincerity which is able to make at the present time so profound an appeal in a land such as India, torn with these various religious dissensions. He is a man to whom religion comes only second to pride in our country's traditions. That is exactly the sort of control and guidance that India wants at the present time. In his speech, which I was glad to see reported in full in the "Times" yesterday, he looks at the communal troubles of India almost entirely through religious spectacles. I want to look at the same troubles from rather a different point of view. It has been said by Sir Michael O'Dwyer and others that communal unrest in India is due to reforms. If it were, that alone would be no condemnation of these reforms. If it he our mission to extend the bounds of freedom throughout the Empire and throughout the world, then that work is far more important than any little communal friction that may take place. I remember Lord Kitchener, when remonstrating with Lord Hardinge, who was then the Viceroy of India, for refusing to allow troops to come to Europe to fight, saying "it were better to lose India than to lose this War." In the same way I say it is better that sonic people should lose their heads and that some should lose their lives than that we should not do our duty to humanity by not developing self-governing institutions in India and elsewhere.
But what is the real reason why these troubles are coming upon India to-day? I think it is the growth of self-respect, the growth of a common conscience that is really causing the trouble. In a race of slaves where all are equal in degradation, all devoid of self-respect, you get no strife and no politics. Now in India, through our action, you are getting, after centuries of more or less a slave mentality, people who feel they ought to stand up for their dignity, rights, position and manhood. When the Hindu blows trumpets outside the Mussulman Mosque, it is not because he is a religious enthusiast; it is because he says to himself: "These bullying Moslems despise me. I will show them I am not afraid." When the Moslem hears these bands outside his Mosque, he does not go out to maintain his religion. He says: "These Hindus, scum of the earth, are doing this to insult me." Every man as he comes to manhood feels it is his duty and right to resent insults and show that he cannot be despised with impunity. So naturally, as the spirit of self-respect rises, you are bound to get an increase in trouble arising out of animosities which previously produced no strife. I, for one, would rather see in any man's eyes the light of fanaticism than no light at all.
Therefore I am not one of those who view the present situation in India with disgust or with hopelessness. It is the mere cutting of the wisdom teeth and the gradual wakening up. The Mussulman has always been the more virile race; the Hindu has always been the cleverer race. As they come nearer a position of responsible Government, they naturally are jealous of one another, but the cure for that is that the Hindu should become more virile and the Mussulman should be better educated. Thus there would cease to be any sort of distinction. But it is said that the British Government and the British administrators in India unduly favour the Mussulman in these communal struggles and that we are profiting by them and therefore do not stamp them out to the best of our ability. It would not be in human nature if the British Administration in India did not sometimes chuckle before a. communal disturbance among the people who were previously determined to remove that administration. But I think there is something more than that—something that the British Administration in India should guard against. We have an instinctive admiration for the virile character of the Mussulman. Whereas the Christian or the Hindu, when he calls on God, calls for help and for mercy, the Mussulman when he calls "Allah ho Akba,' is not calling for pity or mercy. It is the proudest cry—some of us have heard it on the battlefields—and you know it is not a cry for mercy. We know the Mussulman, with his back to the wall, with the murderous lathis at his head will never call for mercy but will keep his head upright to the end and face his assassins. I may despise the Mussulman for his bigotry, arrogance, and bullying, but it is impossible for me, or any administrator in India, not to respect that man and, not to have an instinctive leaning towards the pride which keeps up his head.
Let the Hindus learn the lesson. It is well that Pandit Maleviya should train the Hindus in physical exercises and physical drill, should inspire them with a capacity for self-defence, should exterminate that slave mentality and create self-respect. He is not thereby increasing their hatred towards the Mussulman or their love of massacre to which we have become accustomed in India. I must regard the present disturbances as a calamity delaying the march of freedom, but not destroying hope. But do not let Indians blame the British Government for not putting a stop to these riots. It is impossible for any Government to put a stop to the isolated sudden riots. What is possible is that both sides shall begin to respect each other, and that they shall learn, what we have learned, that a man who cannot defend himself is always likely to be in a difficult position. As time goes on, and as the Moslem gets better education, as he gets more acquainted with what reforms mean and to what democracy leads even the Moslem may come to see that this communal representation to which he now attaches so much importance is not really of any value as a protection.
Is there any Roman Catholic in this House or in this country to-day who would prefer to have our electoral system based upon community representation? Would they, if we had special representation of Catholics, for one moment imagine that they were going to get better treatment and better terms than they get from Parliament to-day and from every Member of Parliament? The Catholics of this country know that so long as there are half-a-dozen Catholic voters in the constituency that they will get better protection than if we had special voting, and 20 Catholic Members of Parliament! They realise, as does every Catholic minority and every Protestant minority in Europe, that their best safeguard is having a common electoral roll where everyone putting up for their suffrage will have to satisfy their wishes and meet their policy. That is the best safeguard. Communal representation means that the minority has a spokesman in Parliament, in the Assembly, and in the Legislature. He must use every occasion to emphasise the fact that he is the best representative of a particular religion! Communal representation, in fact, accentuates every point it is desirable to forget, whereas the representation to which we, are accustomed in this country, a. common electoral roll, reduces differences to their proper level, and accentuates common ground.
It was said in 1908 and 1919, when the original Acts were passed, that communal representation was demanded by every representative in India and that, therefore, we had to accept it. Because rigging is demanded by various interested parties that is no reason why we should do I do not conceive it as absolutely essential that we should perpetuate for all time communal representation in India. Particularly do I welcome the words on this matter of the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, who said he hoped
that the present system might eventually disappear"—
that is the communal system—
by mutual agreement.
It may be some time before we shall be able to inspire consent in India in the ordinary British point of view. Meantime, to help in that direction, I would draw the attention of the India Office to the system quite recently introduced in Ceylon. Here there was the same claim for communal representation that we had in India. This very difficult matter was got round in a very skilful way. There was one list of voters for the whole of the country, and then, in addition, every Mohammedan had a vote for his community. This applied to various others, the Burgher Dutch, the English, and so on. You had the common roll and, in addition, the minority had special representation. I can conceive that in this lies the solution for India. Certainly in Madras it would not do the slightest harm if the Mussulman had two votes, one on the general roll, one communal. When you have the common roll you get that community of interest such as we desire to see develop in India. This system in Ceylon has worked well—Tamil, Mussulman, Burghers and Cingalese are satisfied.
Any change of communal voting must, of course, await the revision of the
Government of India Act. When is this to take place? Might I ask the Noble Lord whether he does not think that it is nearly time that the Royal Commission was appointed and that that inquiry started? We know that the Government of India Act, passed in 1919, was to last for 10 years. I understood, and I think most people in India understood, that at the end of that 10 years a new Act would be passed. But I see that Lord Birkenhead was at the luncheon party the other day, and there to the Maharaja of Alwar said:
If he were Secretary of State in 1929 it would be his duty to seek out for the Royal Commission the ablest body"—
If he does not seek out an able body before 1929, that body will not certainly report for a year or 18 months, and it will not he 1929 but 1931 or 1932 before we get the Amending Act. I was hoping that we might get this Commission set up this year, or next, so that we might then be ready when 1929 comes along to take the next step forward. I should like to hear from the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary that his Noble Friend is not losing sight of that aspect of the matter. There are other reforms due that have to be carried, even before we come to this question of setting up the Royal Commission for the purpose of the new Government of India Act. The Reforms Inquiry Committee made certain recommendations which have not yet been carried out. One of the most important was that there should be at once additional representation of Labour and of the depressed classes on the Legislative Councils and in the Assembly. The Noble Lord, answering a question the other day, seemed to indicate that there was going to he additional representation of Labour on the Legislative Council, bat he said nothing about the Assembly.
It is in the Assembly that the most important Labour legislation is going to be carried out. After what I have said on the question of communal representation I cannot be taken as desiring special representation for Labour or special representation of any particular class. If anything of the sort is done it ought to he a temporary solution till 1929 only. The only way to get Labour or the De- pressed Classes safely represented on the Legislative Council or in the Assembly is by a reduction in the franchise qualification so that they may have votes like ally other citizen of the commonwealth. That is the real safeguard. Special representation may mean nominated and undesirable representatives to the Councils. Unfortunately, such representatives are not impervious to more direct temptations. Give me the British system in which all men are represented on an equality, and you have the best safeguard for Labour or for oppressed peoples. Meanwhile I do think it is possible to act upon the report that there might be special representation given to these bodies on the strict understanding that such representation should not continue after the Constitution is altered, and that no permanent steps will be taken to introduce any more sectionalism.
I am glad to say that I believe there is a chance, even with the present franchise, of a Labour party being represented in the Assembly after the next Election, and I cannot help thinking, and hoping, that the mere emergence of the Labour party will quicken interest in the better use of the Assembly. This will do more to break down the boycott of the Assembly, and the evasion of responsibility, than any form of Government pressure or expostulation. Directly the utility of the councils is shown, whether to the Labour party nr to any other sectional interest, the right results should follow. Before leaving this question T would offer to the Noble Lord one other hint. We want to make the Indians appreciate the value of their Parliamentary institutions, to make the best of them, to appreciate the position of an Indian Member of Parliament. I would like to see the old system of titling Members of the Assembly—giving them the title of "honourable"—revived in India. Under the pinto reforms an Indian in the Assembly was the Hon. Mr. So-and-so. By some misfortune that title was done away with when the new reforms came in, and the enlarged assembly came into being.
They were "Honourable" outside the Assembly. The title "Honourable" was to be applied to every Member of the Assembly. It is the same now as it is with us here—they are "Honourable" in the Assembly, just as we speak of "the honourable Member"; but they have no distinction outside.
It was extended to the Assembly under the Minto Reform. I have no doubt that hon. Members are right, but that does not alter the fact that if we want to exalt the importance of these Councils and of the Assembly it would be useful to offer this title to a man who has made a position for himself in politics.
I would like to tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that I shall feel it my duty to bring his suggestion to the notice of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State. The suggestion struck me as a curious one to come from these benches. Does the hon. and gallant Member speak on behalf of his party? Are they in favour of titles?
I speak not so much on behalf of the party as on behalf of democracy. In India to-day, as in many other countries, there is a stiff struggle going on between democracy and autocracy or bureaucracy, or whatever you may like to call it, and I wish to see every incentive, including a social incentive such as this, given to Indians to take part in the responsible government of their country.
Before I sit down I wish to say a word about the native States. I admit that the greatest questions in India to-day are the loosening of the communal tension, and the revival of agriculture; and let me tell the Noble Lord that the Agricultural Commission which is proposed will be of no service, because tenure and ownership, which are vital questions to the productive use of land, have been carefully barred out. But there is a growing interest in the position of the native States. We in this House think of the native States as being dominated by men like the Jam Sahib of Nawanugger or the Gaekwar of Baroda, or the Maharajah of Alwar people whom we know and whom we see, who are obviously civilised, educated men. But there are others, and there arc in India 700 native rulers ruling independently of Great Britain, whose people have no representative in the Assembly or the Legislature, and who are not subject to our laws. They are, in fact, foreign countries whose rulers are protected by as. Over and over again—too often of late—we have had examples of what goes on in those States, of how people are deprived of all rights and are back in the medieval age of Europe. In many of those States people are living under conditions as to freedom which are comparable with the conditions prevailing in Europe in the fifteenth century. Our role control over these native States is exercised through the political agent. Many of these States are lumped together so that one agent controls a great number.
I apologise to the natives. I should have said "Indian States." There is a Resident in some of them, and others are collected into groups under one Resident. Those Residents have powers which are ill-defined in dealing with the Indian rulers, and, human nature being what it is, the tendency of the Residents is rather to fall into the frame of mind of the ruler. It is particularly desirable that there should he some form of general instructions some stiffening-up of that element of British control, to secure greater humanity and justice in those States. It seems to me that a mistake is being made at the present time. As T understand it, the Indian princes certainly it is true of those whom I have met—can easily he made the most powerful agencies for the uplift of India. They represent something very deep-seated and fundamental in the Indian population. It is foolish to treat them as ornamental nuisances whose one function it is to provide shikar. They might be of great service to this vast experiment that we are carrying through in India. We want to make them feel that they are active partners in the job upon which we are all engaged of grafting freedom on to an old country. If we take them into our confidence and ask their advice— they know more about British India even than those people who have been in British India know—we shall soon find native India leading British India in many of the things that most matter. In Patiala there is free education from the elementary schools to the university. Baroda has in many ways a more liberal constitution than some of the British Indian Provinces. Mysore has a better system of compulsory education than the rest of British India. We ought to treat them with far greater consistency and greater honesty, and that can be secured only by having a better political department. If we are really to turn the Indian princes into an agency to help us in the task of democratising India, we will need a department very different from the political department we have at the present time, and may I say in passing how deeply I regret that J. P. Thomson was made K.C.I.E. Such a department ought preferably to be headed by a trained diplomatist. We need somebody with traditions different from those of the present political department in order to deal with the question from the new point of view, and to get them to work with us in spreading in Indian territories the principles and system of government that we have in British India.
We ought to get rid of the bogey of prestige. We wish to get rid of a system which resents any departure from the attitude of slavish subservience. This change can only come from ourselves. If the change were made by the political department, the princes would respond with alacrity. In a word we must treat the princes like men and not like schoolboys: respect their treaties, and not whittle their rights away because those rights may be inconvenient; respect their institutions; show honour to their officers; encourage them to co-operate; and incite them to raise the level of their administration. This is not a question which has been discussed before in this House, and we are discussing it to-night as much in the interests of the Indian princes as in the interests of the British Government, because it will be impossible to turn 240,000,000 out of the 320,000,000 of people in India into democratically-governed people while leaving the other 80,000,000 in the 15th century. Somehow or other we have got to get this co-operation, and I believe in a com- plete change of attitude being brought about under a trained diplomatist placed at the head of the department at Delhi, a change in attitude which would lead to co-operation and to reform in place of the die-hard attitude of "What was good enough for our grandfathers is good enough for us." I believe such a change would bring enormous benefits to the 80,000,000 of Indian people who really are under our control but who find themselves utterly helpless to make any change in their system of government; and we should be bringing about that real union in India which, whether we look at it from the religious point of view, or from the point of view of the people, or from the point of view of carrying to a conclusion that great work of extending liberty, justice and responsible government to which we have set our hand, is obviously essential. We cannot divide and rule. To do that would be to stand still, but we can unite the princes and the British Government in showing to the world an example of what India can do in establishing freedom under the British flag.
I generally find myself in considerable agreement with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has to say about India, and to-day is not an exception so far as the first part of his speech was concerned. I think everyone will agree with what he said regarding the necessity for co-operation and for sinking past differences; but I found great difficulty in following him when he came to deal with the necessity for a change of attitude regarding the Princes and independent rulers of India. In one breath he suggested that we should "raise the level of the administration" in these States, and almost in the next breath he commented on the tremendous advance which has been made in education and other matters in some of those independent States as compared with British India. I find it rather difficult to know where the right hon. Gentleman stands. In the case of the independent Princes—independent though under the suzerainty of the Government of India—we have left them alone to manage their own affairs, and, on the whole, they have managed them extremely well and efficiently. We have brought them into close co-operation, by the Council of Princes, with the Government and where, as in some cases, we have found that their methods are better than ours, I think it can be said that we are endeavouring to follow the example which has been set for us.
I think the House as a whole will agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Under-Secretary of State for the statement he has made to-day. There can be no doubt that that statement is extremely satisfactory, and it really gave to the Committee a clear and distinct view of the progress made during the last 12 months. Personally, I feel that he need have made no apology for taking up Parliamentary time with A review of such importance, and I am sure all hon. Members will be grateful for this opportunity of raising various points in connection with India.
There is one matter with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme dealt with which I find myself in agreement-that was the question of the terms of reference to the Agricultural Commission. I am extremely sorry that it is impossible, and perhaps injudicious, at the present time to give any such Commission the right to go into the terms of land tenure in India. The reason is because I feel that the tremendous sub-division of land in India is one of the greatest obstacles in the path of agricultural progress. An inquiry which was held, I think, in the Bombay Presidency, dealt with the average holding for India, and they found that the area a man generally worked was three acres, and he had only 150 days' work, consequently the agriculturist does not have work throughout the year and cannot earn sufficient to raise his standard of life. The agriculturists form 72 per cent. of the total population of India, and it is not therefore difficult to see that any obstacle such as this great subdivision of land prevents the progress of the ryot and holds back the entire progress of India.
I do not wish to appear to anticipate what may be the result of the Agricultural Commission's Report when it comes, but 1 think the Government of India might move a little faster than they are doing in the way of co-operation and in the way of development of agriculture. They could do more in the way of agricultural banks, loan societies, land banks, and similar institutions, and these things would do a tremendous lot towards helping the ryot out of debt, and debt is the one outstanding feature of the life of the Indian peasant. He is born in debt, lives in debt and dies in debt, and as long as 150 per cent. interest can be charged for the advances which unfortunately the conditions of his life seem to force upon him, he will remain in debt. Every daughter of his family who goes through the marriage ceremony may cost, and generally does cost, the ryot something like 250 rupees, or nearly two years' earnings. If the man has to spend that sum on the marriage of his daughter, and another 50 rupees on the funeral of some member of his family, it is manifest that his chances of getting out of debt are extremely remote on an average income of probably Rs.150 per annum.
A great deal has been done in the way of co-operation and loans, but a great deal more might be done if the Government of India would press forward with a strong policy in the shape of agricultural loan societies, agricultural banks and other methods by which the ryot could definitely benefit. It is not as if there is any lack of money in India, because she is still hoarding money and there is no reason why the money should not come from India for these operations. The noble Lord gave us an extremely pleasant and interesting picture of the prosperity of India from a. trade point of view. I do not know that we generally realise the enormous part which India plays, not only in the trade of this country but in the trade of the world. At the present moment I think India is the fifth largest trading country in the world, and is only beaten by this country, the United States, Germany and France. She is by far the largest buyer of goods from Great Britain, and she buys millions more than anyone else. Yet it is not wrong to say that these facts are-very little realised in this country. It is perhaps only in parts of Lancashire, when the shoe pinches very badly, that a real interest is taken in the progress of Indian affairs.
I do not want to make too much of it, but when we realise that to-day India's total debt is only £500,000,000 or £600,000,000, half of which is immediately productive, and that taxation amounts to 5s. per head, not in the £, undoubtedly India is the most prosperous country in the world outside the United States of America, and possibly even including it. In these circumstances, it is not difficult to see that we are distinctly interested in the progress India is making year by year. There is one aspect of our own trade and the trade of India which is worthy of special mention, and that is the competition she is experiencing from Japan. I was sorry to see that the figures of exports of yarn from this country to India had fallen very considerably. In 1913 we exported 27,500,000 Ills., while Japan exported 384,000 lbs. in that year. In 1924 our total was 16,000,000 lbs. and in the case of Japan 32,000,000 lbs. These are very significant figures, and if they lead Lancashire to a realisation of the fact that a large part of her prosperity must come from the prosperity of India, it may be of some value to call attention to them. Japan purchased 37 crores worth of raw cotton from India a year ago, and although she is a great competitor in piece goods with the Bombay mills, Japan only sent back to India 12½ crores of yarn and cloth, and so she is still, on balance, rather a good customer for Indian produce.
I was pleased to hear what the Noble Lord said about the Excise duties, because that is a matter which I and other lion. Members have on previous occasions advocated and while I welcome the removal of that duty and I hope it will help the position in Bombay during these times of considerable depression, I do not think it is unfair to say that the removal of the Excise duties alone will not bring prosperity to Bombay. There are other aspects to be considered very fully. The principal point is the fact that last year—there must be a reduction this year—the ordinary clothing which the ryot purchased in India cost him 169 per cent. over pre-War values, while the price he was getting for his grain was only 35 per cent. above pre-War prices. When a man is only getting 35 per cent. above pre-War values for what he sells and when he buys things he has to pay 100 per cent. or more above pre-War cost it is not very satisfactory.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) asked a question about the conditions of labour. He is, I know, specially interested in that subject. I admit that the conditions of labour in India are appalling, and I do not think there is anyone in this House who does not wish to see them better paid. I do think, however, that the warning which the Noble Lord gave us in the early part of his remarks is one which should not be forgotten. The conditions are appalling and bad for India, but there is no useful object served by exaggerating the picture, and trying to compare them from the point of view of earnings or expenditure or actual conditions of living with the conditions existing in this country or any other part of Europe. In the first place, if you do wish to compare them in that way, although I think it would be unfortunate, the first thing to do is to take what proportion of earnings actually is spent by the Indian labourer and the amount spent by a labourer in a similar occupation in this country. The figures have been taken out and will be found in the labour report of the Bombay Labour Office. From those figures it will be found that the proportions spent by the Indian male worker on food, clothing, fuel, light and so on are very much the same as the proportion spent in this country by a man doing similar work. The actual figures are 52 per cent. on food in India as against 60 per cent. in this country; clothing is a little less; house rent is much the same, fuel is less, but the other items arc a little more. I have all the figures but 1 will not trouble the Committee with them now. The figures are very much the same for India and for this country and indeed for other European countries as well.
The reason I say the conditions are appalling is not because the Indian labourer is not living in better conditions than he was and having a great deal done for him. This Committee knows what is being done in the way of the construction of houses and health services, and in many ways the people of India are better off than they were before. The real reason why the Indian people are not really well off and why their conditions are bad is that their whole standard of life is too low. It is to the raising of that standard of life that industry in India in the same way as industry at home must devote itself. Not only must we endeavour to raise the standard of life because it is the right thing to do, and because it is the path of progress and what we are all looking forward to, but also because the raising of that standard is the only way by which India and also Great Britain can prosper. Apart from any question of any copybook maxims or any desire to uplift, a desire I assume we all share, the raising of that standard is the only salvation for the trade and prosperity both of India and of Great Britain. The difficulty we are up against, and the difficulty which sonic of my hon. Friends opposite do not always appreciate, is that you cannot readily help in the uplifting of any human being who is not willing to co-operate with you. Therefore this movement in India is much slower than many people realise, and it cannot be much hastened. I do not suggest you should not try, but it is extraordinarily difficult. It is very difficult for many people to realise chat there are in India a very large number of people who do not want to live in better conditions, partly because they have never been educated to anything better—they have never seen anything better, and do not understand anything better. Gradually and slowly, no doubt, we shall educate them to appreciating the luxuries and other things that they do not appreciate just now, but it does not alter the fact that the path of progress is very slow, and that if you cry to rush it you do no good at all. It has been proved over and over again that larger wages in some of the industries in India do not result in saving or even in expenditure on luxuries; it often merely means less work. That is a very natural condition when people are in a state of great ignorance and are not educated to the desire to save or to better themselves. As a result of higher wages, in some instances, as a temporary measure, it will probably only mean, sometimes, slacking and a desire for idleness.
A great deal has been said in the House from time to time with regard to the hours of work in India, but I do not want to enter into that subject beyond saying that India has, as a fact, set an example to a great many other countries. She has set an example in the way of putting into operation the Washington Agree- ment, and in other ways with regard to hours of work, which it would be a very good thing if many other countries would follow. Compared with Japan and some other countries which have similar sets of conditions, the conditions in India are very satisfactory.
I do not want to enter into the results which we shall see from the appointment of the Commission which has just been announced in connection with the Back Bay scheme. Personally, I am sorry that that scheme is not being carried through. I do not know enough of it to criticise what has happened, nor shall I attempt to do so. All I want to see is that Bombay, where the conditions of overcrowding are probably as bad as anywhere else, does get a chance to expand, and, if she has to push out to the north, I hope the present—temporarily, as I believe—depressed condition of industry in Bombay will not in any way stop or hinder development in housing and in other directions for the benefit of the people of the city.
My Noble Friend referred to the communal disturbances which have been taking place in India, but I do not know that he made any mention of one outstanding feature of those disturbances, and that is the welcome—for no other word is suitable—that was extended to the British troops. In the old days, we have heard it said, it would have been inadvisable even to have used British troops at all in such riots. Now we are faced with the fact that in. Calcutta and other places where there have been riots, British troops have been welcomed, and the fact of the necessity for keeping them in reserve and for occasionally using them does not seem to me to synchronise well, although I do not pretend in any way to be an expert, with the reduction of a crore and a half in the military expenditure of India. I do not the least want to increase the military expenditure of India; I am delighted to see it go down; but I do think that, considering these facts, and the difficulties of the present communal position—which even though they may be only temporary, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), and although they may possibly pass away in the course of a few years, arc there to-day—and considering also the Bolshevist activities that are going on all round the border, and the fact that India may be eventually raided from the north by States controlled or influenced by the Bolshevists, one is inclined to wonder whether the safety limit has not been reached in the reduction of military expenditure, and whether it would not have been wiser to pause a little before increasing the rate at which it is being reduced.
I do not think my hon. Friend is quite doing justice to what I said. I pointed out that the reduction has been entirely in the cost of administration. I do not think it can be suggested that safety would be lessened, or the chance of communal disturbance made greater, by saving in administration a considerable sum of money. Surely, it is the duty of the Government of India, as of any other Government, to save money, if possible, in administration.
I am much obliged to my Noble Friend. I was just going on to say that I was glad to hear his statement that this reduction had in no way interfered with the efficiency of the Forces, and, of course, every one will agree that a reduction in costs of administration is desirable. My only point was that the very natural desire which has been expressed over and over again in Indian circles for a reduction in military expenditure, should be considered carefully in reference to the absolute basis line of safety and of protection, internal and external. My Noble Friend also referred to the opium policy of the Government, and I entirely agree with what he said on that. I think, however, that India is not giving enough publicity to her policy in this direction. I found in Canada and in the United States last year that a very great deal of interest was being taken, and that. a great many misunderstandings had arisen, regarding the policy of the Indian Government and I think the wonderful progress made in India towards meeting the general desire of the civilised nations of the world—involving, as it has, heavy losses of revenue—should be made more widely known than it is at the present time.
My Noble Friend also referred to the Report of the Lee Commission, and the extent to which its recommendations had been carried out. I entirely agree with all that he said in that connection, and only want to make one further observation about it. I hope that before long the time will come when the Government of India will be able to consider the extension of the principles laid down in that Report to other European services. I do not want to go further than that. I think we want to be sure, just as we want to do everything we can for the people of India, that we are securing to our own people all those allowances which are necessary for the life of a European in India. When I am told, as I was the other day, that a prominent member of a junior service in India had to go out as a deck hand on a tramp steamer, because he had not enough money to pay his passage, I begin to wonder whether something more could not be done which in the end would help to benefit India as well as ourselves, by making our own people secure in their service, and satisfied with its conditions. I do not think there is any Indian statesman of any party who is not in agreement with the principle that we should first of all look after those in the service of India and who look to this country as their homeland.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme spoke of the year 1929 as the next date at which we should consider the reforms, if the remarks of the Secretary of State the other day in the House of Lords were to be taken literally. I think, however, I am right in saying that the Act of 1919 lays it down that the Commission shall be appointed in or before 1929, and, therefore, it is possible that it might be appointed then or at an earlier date. There has been since last year a considerable change in the attitude in India. At one time, after the Reform Act was passed, the whole political agitation was aimed at the British Government and the British people but that is rather past. Now we have a position in which religious bias has been used, and one religion is against another, one sect against another. I am not sure that we quite appreciate why all this has come about. I was interested in the references made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to the position of Roman Catholics in this country, but, surely, here again he is making a great mistake if he compares conditions in the East with conditions in the West, for the religious conditions as between Moham- medans and Hindus in India cannot be expressed in any simile which applies in Europe or in other Western countries.
The basis of all political movements in India is to-day, as it has always been, religion, and it may be, and possibly is, the case that that is to some extent being used for the purpose of gaining political influence. The new aspect of Indian life—the conversion of Mohammedans to Hinduism—is something which I believe has been hitherto almost unknown. What reaction that will have, and what its influence will be, I do not know, but of one thing I am perfectly certain, and that is that the proper attitude of Great Britain, the Government of India, and the British people, is, as ever, to stand apart from all these religious feuds and differences, to hold the scales perfectly even, to take no part, but to endeavour as far as possible to preserve peace and give every sect fair treatment. This recent discontent is not, perhaps, anything to be wondered at, or, perhaps, to be regretted. It is, perhaps, only a stage in the path of progress which we in Great Britain have undoubtedly, and through out recent years particularly, held out to India. To-day, as in the years since 1919, and, indeed, long before that, we are saying to India, "The path of progress lies in front of you. We want you to co-operate with us, and we will do our utmost to help you. But no amount of intimidation, no amount of non-co-operation, no amount of class prejudice that may be raised, will move us one iota from the path we have laid down." It is perfectly clear that the people of this country are anxious and willing to help India along the road that she eventually must go, but the rate of progress is not and never can be, fixed in this country; it must be fixed by India herself. She will have to fix it, and if she realises, as we in this House realise, that it is only by co-operation and good will that she can make. progress, there is no reason to doubt that a happier future will have dawned for the new and greater India which is to come.
I do not wish to detain the Committee for an undue length of time, but, as the right hon. and Noble Lord said, this is a subject which can well stand even a lengthy dissertation. I at once admit that, as the opening remarks of the right hon. and Noble Lord indicated, I, as a native of India, am not standing in this House in a very happy position at the present juncture. I quite admit the different positions of the various political sections in India, especially the Swaraj party, for which I have a greater partiality than for any other section; but I do admit, as a native of the country, the most deplorable state of affairs with regard to these conflicts which are arising out of religion, and which are probably blamed for various other motives for which, not only officials, but even selfish politicians, may be equally responsible. I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. and Noble Lord to one point. I myself saw the remark in the Viceroy's Speech with regard to the very emphatic denial on the part of His Excellency as to any share in the exploitation of this religious movement, either by the Viceroy or by the officials generally. That may be quite true, and I do not take it as a hypothesis, but admit it as a fact, that the Viceroy, as he has gone out with a fair and open mind, would certainly be absolutely innocent of any such desire or any such complicity.
But it cannot be said throughout that there is no ground even for a reasonable suspicion in thin direction. I think if the authorities here had been more alive than the newspapers of the country they would have found a greater readiness on the part of the people of India to receive such assurances. I was at Newcastle-on-Tyne in Easter week, doing my wild propaganda work, as the Home Secretary might put it, and I went to the Independent Labour Party Conference. As I am speaking from memory I will not be unfair and mention the name of the newspaper, but I will pass it on to the Noble Lord. A morning paper with a notorious title had an editorial article which I passed on to the late Minister of Health at the conference. It deliberately takes credit for the cleverness with which the British officials have separated the solidarity between Hindus and Mohammedans in India. It claims full credit for undoing, within a very short period, the work that was done by Gandhi and Das on sentimental grounds. Not only that, but these are almost the sentences in the article in which they say that though it may seem bad news, an intelligent Englishman who knows the real situation in India will look on it as the best news that has come to this country for the last three years. It deliberately puts it forward that peace between Hindus and Mohammedans would mean the end of the British rule in India, and they say that not only is there no peace to-day, but they feel thankful that there is no hope of peace and that every Britisher rejoices in his heart. I commend that article to the Noble Lord. if you have a vigilant Government Department with responsible Secretaries of State here and you allow such articles to go scot free and then come along at critical moments and put forward an apology that you are not responsible for this, that it is not your wish, your desire nor your policy, then you naturally will not obtain credit for sincerity when you put this forward. I do not identify myself with any remarks against the present Viceroy, who is a new man and whose innocence I would take for granted. That is one of the positions.
Throughout the whole Debate the main feature is still lost sight of. There are conditions in all countries which become not merely a measure of political reform or political alteration to be studied by Ministers, but become human problems which require to be studied by the whole nation. We talk of the British Empire. There is not the slightest doubt that it is the association of India which makes, technically, an Empire, and not the over-sea Dominions as such. Even His Majesty's official title as Emperor is associated with India and not with the Dominions, and not with this country. I have urged in the past, and I urge again, however much it may appear ridiculous or unnecessary, that you would get rid of a great many difficulties for yourselves on a good many occasions and avoid placing yourselves in an illogical position if you changed that title and called yourself an Indo-British Empire, where there is Indian citizenship apart from British citizenship. May I refer to what is going on in South Africa? I do not take the view, as my Indian friends do, that Indians in association with this Empire will ever receive the same treatment and the same rights as blood and flesh citizens of the Dominions associated with Great Britain, and while putting forward this false political title that you are all British citizens and you are a British Empire, 300,000,000 of those British citizens are to be treated in a manner in which not a man, woman, child or dog in this country would agree to be treated. To put forward such theories of life is in itself in the long run rather obnoxious. I again press that point that if you call yourself an Indo-British Empire and candidly and frankly put forward a sort of British standard and a sort of Indian standard which as long as it is your power to impose on India you will insist on imposing, you will perhaps take away from the minds of the people many inconsistent and illogical actions of the Government. I am also again putting forward my favourite theme about the Union Jack on the same ground, not with the slightest intention of being offensive, that every Britisher who realises here his sentimental, his religious, historical social association with this flag must understand that in the same proportion and in the same degree such a flag, with an alien, historical, religious and social condition attached to it, and having nothing in common with the people there, is hound to raise greater disaffection. disrespect and bitterness in the hearts of the people, however much you might find some few Maharajahs or political leaders, out of their personal anxiety to flatter you, to speak to the contrary. I put it to the Committee to state these positions in a rational and realistic spirit instead of in the old rampant, Imperialist style that our words shall be law in the conquered territories.
On a previous occasion I put to the House the position that the responsible British Government of India, in which the Indians themselves have no part, were the largest employers in the world of human labour, and I put it, and I repeat it, that the Government of India are employing hundreds of thousands of human beings at less than a month wages. An hon. Member below the Gangway, with due notice to me, but when I was unavoidably absent, tried to refute that argument. He did not refute it. I said the Government of India were paying hundreds of thousands of human beings less than £3 a month, and that the same Government had in front at them a report by a British official pointing out that the cost of living of the lowest type of labourer and his family is much nearer £4.
It was the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson). He said he was paying his chaffeur as much as £5 a month, but that is no argument as to what the Government of India is paying. He said he was paying a clerk, in his office at Bombay, £7, but that has nothing to do with what the Government are paying to teachers and policemen and men on the nationalised railways. My efforts have failed in asking the Under-Secretary for India to put forward the actual figures of these low wages. That is not the only problem. The Government have set the standard, and the industrialists have followed it. There are not only the railways, there are even coal Mines associated with these railroads which are under Government control, and there are docks under Government control, and when the Government themselves pay such wages, the same wage holds good in the whole of industrial life, and agricultural labourers arc still worse. We can see this standard set by the Government of £3 a month to school teachers, to hospital assistants, who take the place of doctors in cases of emergency, and to men working on railways and in coal mines. When the Government set this standard, the industrial wages go a little below that range and agricultural wages go still further below it. The Noble Lord was giving a hint when he was making his lucid speech that India can become a still better and larger market if the cost of production in this country would go a little lower than it is. That is exactly my objection. The association of India with Great Britain may be perpetuated as the greatest blight and the greatest curse to human society, and especially to the working classes of Great Britain, or the association between Great Britain and India, in a spirit of international labour co-operation, can he turned into a great advanced movement for the civilisation of Europe itself and the salvation of Great Britain herself, as well as for the betterment of England. Unfortunately, the Government are still making a wrong choice of the two paths. That is exactly the struggle. India under British protection, as is generally put before this Committee, is no longer a country that provides raw material for Great Britain, but is becoming a country which produces coal fields, jute and cotton factories and ironworks in rivalry with this country. You are up against this problem in all industries as the industrial movement in India grows. You will have, first of all, in order to maintain your markets, as well as your other export trade, to tell your citizens in this country that their trade is in danger unless the cost of production goes lower and lower. Your European competitors do not compete against you directly. They compete against you in your Imperial possibilities. The Italian and German cotton mills do not look at Lancashire and say: "We will go so many points below Lancashire." They look at the Japanese and Indian cotton mills and go so many points lower than that in order to knock out British trade. That is exactly what is happening in the coal trade. However much you may argue, or pretend, that the standards of the East are different from the standards of the West and people roust live on a low standard, the reality of life is that here in British India, under the protection of Ole British Army and Navy, with the full blessings of the British nation there are miners employed at 8d. and 9d. a clay underground. While that situation lasts, the Polish miners and the German miners, who are affected by the Dawes Report and other ramifications, have to look not to the mining of coal in Great Britain but to the mining of coal as produced in South Africa and in India, and they have to brim; their prices, their wages and conditions accordingly.
There are four large mining areas in Central India which are directly under the Government control, associated with the Government railways for the provision of coal. I am giving this as an illustration of how the relationship between India and Great Britain can be turned into a curse instead of a help. The cure is not in coining to the workers of this country and saying, "You must bring your cost of production down." When they bring the cost of production down, they bring their standard down. The output becomes lower, and they have not only lower wages but they are brought down in their capacity and intellect. They are human beings, and they suffer. The conditions of this country will not be improved by lowering the standard of living of the workers. It is not a rotten country that wins the race but a united country. The real cure is for the British rulers of India to say, "We are British. We shall remain British. We shall look at human good and human standards from the British point of view, and if we cannot afford to do it, we shall be honest and march out bag and baggage."
This is an interesting argument. May I tell the hon. Member that, in regard to what I said about the British manufacturers selling more goods in India, I was not taking into consideration wages or anything of that kind. Whether he does it by cutting down wages or foregoing profits, I am not concerned with that. There is an alternative method by which he can sell more goods in India, and that is by our being prepared in this country to give more money for the raw materials of India. If the British people, employers and employed, would pay more for the wheat, the cotton and other goods produced in India, India would be able to buy more British goods.
I am glad the Noble Lord has put that argument. If this country, under the existing state of society, gives more money for wheat and cotton, the money will go into the pockets of the European merchants in Bombay and Calcutta, and not into the hands of the workers.
The Noble Lord shakes his head. Let me give him an illustration from the case of manganese. The men and women of India who dug out the manganese were receiving five annas a day. The manganese was, at the first; priced at 40s. a ton. When the Russo-Japanese War came and Russian manganese stopped, the Indian manganese commanded 120s. a ton, whereupon the Peninsular and Oriental freight went up from 12s. to 52s. a ton, although the people who were digging the manganese were still getting from. 4d. to 5d. a day. That is a result of the operation of the capitalist system and the Imperialist system.
The people to whom I am referring are the cultivators owning their own land and selling their own goods. If it is the middleman the hon. Member is attacking, I sympathise with him, but he is receiving the cheers of people behind him who are in favour of the abolition of the capitalist
So they are. I am glad to be in agreement with the Noble Lord on one point, and I assume that if I convince him on the general principle he will approve of it.
The problem which I am discussing is one of human life, human population and human powers. The British rule in India is responsible by its methods for the abject poverty which prevails in that country, and by that same policy the Government in this country are responsible for enforcing a similar standard of poverty upon the people of this country. Let me put a few points to the Noble Lord. Will he not agree that if the jute workers of Bengal—350,000 of them—each received at least 25s. a week instead of their present wages of 5s. to 7s., that if every cotton operative in Bombay received at least 25s. a week, if every one of the million miners in India receive at least 25s. a week, if every one of the million railway workers received at least that amount, and if the policemen, the postmen, the teachers, the civil servants and the clerks were all receiving at least that wage, does he deny that India would be a better market for us, even at the present cost of produc- tion, and that there would not be the necessity to be continually asking people to bring down their standard of life?
The question is, how can it be done, and I again put forward the argument that you can only adopt it by being true to your own standards and principles which in Britain are the results of your civilisation. I saw the Viceroy of India as he was going out, and I said, "You are going out to India to protect human life arid to protect property." During the last lock-out in Bombay—it was not a strike as the Noble Lord put it; it was a, deliberate lock-out of the cotton workers in Bombay—the Government, by force of arms, and with all the resources of the State at their disposal, protected warehouses and factories. Even if a few panes of glass were broken or a stone was thrown, rifles would be used to protect property. The Noble Lord has admitted that. It is a plain fact, known throughout India, that wherever European and British capitalism is progressing the infantile death rate is increasing. In the insanitary village parts of India the infantile death rate is 200 per 1,000, whereas in manufacturing cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Allahabad and other centres it has risen to a rate of 600 to 800 per 1,000, so that from 600 to 800 infants per 1,000 born are dying every 12 months. While the British are out there protecting the property of merchants, European or Indian, they are grossly neglecting their task of protecting human life.
I would point out to the hon. Member that public health and sanitation is a transferred service, for which the Ministers responsible to Legislatures in India are responsible.
I am not asking the Government of India to create a death rate and then to appoint doctors to cure it. I ask the Government to abstain from creating a policy which produces murder, and to increase the work of the Health Department. I am introducing the matter as one of policy which creates conditions which ought to be stopped. I appeal to my Swarajist friends, to Hindus and Mohammedans, to this Committee and to the Government of India to study the problem seriously, and to clearly visualise that it was a mistaken policy to stop Western Bolshevism, Socialism or Labour politics from entering the Eastern countries. My Swarajist friends made that mistake. They neglected the policy of relying upon the strength of the working classes and upon the agricultural workers, and organising them and looking to them for support in their political struggles, while the bourgeoisie are trying to get one over the other. The Hindu and Mohammedan riots will never cease under present conditions. The Noble Lord has admitted that they express themselves in a worse and worse form as the struggle of the bourgeoisie becomes higher and higher for official positions, and the Hindu and Mohammedan see them getting positions to which they consider they have a claim. If they will forget their religious differences, as the people of Europe forget them, in the mass, and realise that the mass of the workers must form themselves more closely into a united family, and not look upon each other as Hindus or Mohammedans, and if instead of these blood-curdling manifestoes and steps to prevent Bolshevism and Socialism from entering India, it will be all to the good.
When Britain goes out to the East, for her own protection and for her own future welfare she must lay clown the principle that the lowest ranks of society there have equal rights with the Maharajahs or, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) put it, the members of the Councils. We say that Bolshevism, Labour programmes, Socialist programmes, following on the general activities in the West, and Labour movements trying to overthrow capitalist and ruling classes is the only salvation of Indians. Great Britain, which will alway be starving for raw materials, will find a. permanent and lasting solution only in a proper understanding between the Indian agriculturist and the British worker. The middleman, the merchant and the capitalist will otherwise exploit the workers, and work for their own advantage and the detriment of the workers. It is on these grounds that I appeal to the Noble Lord to remember that: we are living in an age after the great civilising revolution in Russia, and not before it, and to frame his policy accordingly. [Laughter.] If I may be allowed to reply to the laughter of hon. Members opposite, I would say that for 150 years the Government of India has been struggling and have pretended to spread education in India, and to-day there is only 7 per cent. of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much is there in Russia!"] I In the Tsarist time it amounted to 6 per cent. In Russia the population is largely Oriental, in habit and mentality, and while the Government of India have only been able to spread 7 per cent. of education in India, through its subsidised Press and other ramifications, the Russian Soviet Government, in spite of all that is said against Bolshevist Russia, has been able to spread education from 6 per cent, to 96 per cent.
No, but when he claims that the Government of India have done so much for the well-being and education of the people of India., I am surely entitled to point out what the wretched Bolshevists are doing for the education of the poor peasants and other workers in Russia.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken into gill the details of his argument, the purport of which I confess I do not completely understand. I am quite certain of one thing, that you, Mr. Chairman, could have interrupted him more often than you did had you been familiar with the detail of Indian administration. The subject of education is a transferred subject, and, if India has not made very much progress during the last three or four years, it is worth noting that the responsibility for education now rests with the Indian people and it is for their Ministers to accelerate the progress if they are able to do so. Every one of the economic arguments which the hon. Member has put forward could be traversed if one desired to do so on the basis of the quasi-facts which he gave. He asserted that Indian coal is competing in foreign markets with British coal. As a matter of fact the Indian coal trade has never been so depressed as it is at this moment. There is no export trade, and, bunkers apart, India has lost such export trade as it once had. Then as regards the conditions in the coalfields. Anyone with the most perfunctory knowledge of the coalfields is able to overturn the whole of the arguments of the hon. Member. The wages he quoted would appear to English ideas to be low, but we are never told that while the average wage of the underground worker is a matter of perhaps four rupees, twelve annas, we are not told, and it is always carefully concealed, that these miners arc without exception agriculturists, and that they have at home anything front five to 30 bighas of land, and that on three bighas—for each of which they pay only two rupees rent per annum—they can grow sufficient rice to feed themselves, their wives and families. Thus the miner, by putting aside only six rupees a year out of his 250 rupees' wage, can provide for himself and his entire family. He goes to the mine just for as long as lie wishes to work.
The maximum time the men are allowed to work is 54 hours per week. Let us take the trouble to be accurate when we are dealing with these questions. In actual point of fact, he is so well off as an agriculturist that he rarely troubles to work more than three or four days in a week. He does a great deal of work—possibly intensive work for long hours for two or three days—but, after a few weeks he goes back to his land and again becomes an a agriculturist at his pleasure. I have no desire or intention of following the hon. Member in any of the details of his argument, but they can all be traversed, and traversed quite easily. The effect of British rule in India is good, and it is steadily elevating the standards of life of the workers wherever it is in operation. The British factory in India, so far from degrading the worker, is the one hope of his securing a better standard of living in that country. There are only 1,500,000 factory workers at all in India, and' hon. Members on the Labour benches seem to have a distorted idea of the economic conditions of that country. The factory workers' standard of life, their wages, and their comfort are very much higher than the average standard of comfort of the agricultural classes.
What pleased me most in the speech of the Noble Lord was his encouraging report on the position of the services in India. The future of that country is hopeless if it cannot retain the services of the fine class of administrators which it has been its good fortune to secure in the past. The Noble Lord's statement was very satisfactory on the subject of the Civil Service, and in his allusion to the police I thought he made a very touching and sincere tribute to one particularly noble policeman, Commander Handyside, who was recently killed on the Frontier. May I use the fact that he has alluded to Commander Handyside to draw his attention to a matter of extreme urgency, in spite of what the Lee Commission has done, and in spite of what the Government have done in carrying out the recommendations of the Lee Commission. If Commander Handyside had been a married man and killed in the exercise of his duty it is true that there would have beers no support for his widow other than the dead officer's accumulations in his provident fund.
Committee after committee has recommended that this most serious lacuna in what is an essential branch of the services in India should be attended to. As long ago as 1901 the Curzon Police Commission dealt with it, and suggested that there should be a family pension. In 1913, before the War, the Islington Commission again recommended that it should be attended to, and after the war, in 1924, the Leo Commission expressed surprise that nothing had been done in the matter up to that time. A previous predecessor of the Noble Lord, and one who has left his mark on India for the rest of time, for good or once described the machinery of the India Office, and the Indian Government, as too iron, too wooden, and too antedeluvian. A somewhat mixed metaphor, but Mr. Montagu did something to speed up things. I suggest that there is still a little woodenness, a little ironness, and a little of the antedeluvian character in this procedure, if two years after the Lee Commission's Report is out, and so many years after the Islington Commission and the Curzon Police Commission's findings have been made available, the authorities have failed to deal with this most serious omission in the terms which should be offered to officers in the police service who are running these great risks on behalf of good government and British ideals. I appeal to the Noble Lord to give us a definite answer on this question of family pensions for the police and the uncovenanted services. We have been asking time after time that the specialists and the men who have been lent to-the Provincial services should come under the Lee Commission's recommendations. I know this point is receiving careful, if slow, attention, but these men are anxious and want the matter attended to; to get some definite announcement in regard to their status.
The topics I really want to touch on are two, and they seem to me to represent the most important tendencies in India during the past 12 months, and indeed, during the past three or four years. I am sure that the House does not realise the point to which this terrible communal conflict between the two great communities in India has been carried. The Calcutta riots in April, and since, have been a very much more serious affair than the people of this country realise. The number of killed in the two riots in Calcutta alone during the month of April was 102. That is in the streets of the second city of the British Empire. The number of wounded was returned at 873. Those who know anything about India will not be too certain that these figures which are officially returned are really the actual numbers of dead in these occurrences. Our general strike at home lasted 10 days, but the disturbances in Calcutta were, in so far as they affected life and property, on a more serious scale, and it is wise to visualise the conditions in the second city of the Empire in point of population, a tremendous port with a, colossal trade, distracted to the degree that these figures suggest; and, unfortunately, the acrimony and hatred is speading farther afield. We have had repetitions of this trouble in the Punjab as far north as Rawal Pindi. I have a statement here made by the acting Governor of Bengal, Sir Hugh Stephenson, to this effect:
We fully realise that the present situation is the most serious we have been up against during the 30 years I have been in this country. The position, as I understand it, is that there is extreme communal feeling from top to bottom of both communities.
We have heard a great deal about the sources of this struggle, and it is very largely true, as the hon. and gal-
last Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) suggested, that they are a symptom of the development of healthy progress and political awakening, but I should like to be fully satisfied that the British administration in India are not in some measure directly responsible for all that has happened, and may happen in the future in this connection. If this hatred and misunderstanding between these two communities is to be grappled with we have to make certain that the administration, both central and provincial, are doing everything that is necessary to bring the communities together, and at any rate to prevent matters coming to such a pass as they have during the past few weeks. When I was in India there was present an anti-Moslem communal feeling. There had been this feeling, of course, for generations before, but it had been very sporadic, and the British Raj had always been considered to be synonymous with the suppression of this feeling, so that the two religions could live side by side. We have got very far from that. The British Raj is not achieving the old success in inducing these two faiths to live side by side, and it is a dangerous feature of the position that one of the feathers in our cap has been plucked from it. From a shallow estimation of the position it may appear as if the growth of communal feeling is a reaction in our favour.
There is a certain security implied, the cynic may say, in the divisions between the two great truths, but sooner or later a reduction of British prestige is involved in the, fact that there are those differences. Sooner or later they must react against British prestige. The best and only guarantee we can have for peace in India in decades to come is the success of British administration. I should like to be sure that, as in the old days, those troubles are grappled with immediately they arise. Then, there was rapid mobilisation, and a sufficient number of police and troops were drafted in. There was no withdrawal until peace had been restored. Gradually the little shops opened again and, people began to return to their regular avocations. The extra police and the auxiliary troops were taken off. I cannot help thinking that of late we have lost just that determina- tion in our administration which would enable us to stop those troubles at the outset. A modicum of strength at the outset in India is better than a great development of strength later on.
The other topic to which I wish to refer is one on which the Noble Lord also touched. He referred to the trade position, and he gave us figures of exportation and importation, and so on, and I think he said enough to show us that in many ways a rather inexplicable position is arising in India. I should like to carry the Noble Lord's suggestion a little bit further. The total imports for 1913–14 were returned at 191 crores of rupees. That is roughly about £125,000,000 in pre-War currency. The crore is two-thirds of a million. In 1925–26 India imported 224 crores; that is to say there was an addition of 33 crores over that period, a rise of 16 per cent. Exports in 1913ߝ14 were 249 crores and these have now risen to 385; almost 51 per cent. Importation showing only a 16 per cent. nominal rise, based on the money of the day, is, I cannot help thinking, a very serious economic fact for India and more especially for this country. There should have been according to the previous rate of progression in that period a 25 to 30 per cent. increase. India takes something like one-eighth of all the exports of this country's manufactured goods. I am not sure that Englishmen who have not lived in India quite realise what a very large proportion of the wealth of this country has been derived during the past and down to recent date from our Indian trade. It is still a matter of one-eighth of our exports for the year. There is this serious decline which is going on steadily. In 1913–14 the United Kingdom share of India's importation was 62 .80 per cent; in 1923–24, 57 .8; 1921–25, 54 .1; 1925–26, 51. It is still going on very steadily. Three or four years ago no one would admit it was serious at all. We have now this visible decline from 62 .8 to 51 per cent. in that period of 12 or 13 years. As the Noble Lord suggested, it is a question of the cost of production in this country, and it often occurs to me to wonder why, when so much has been said about deputations to America to find out why the industrial position in America is so very much better than it is here, why the output per man per hour is rising and the contrary taking place here, that, so far as I know, no delegation of working men has ever been sent out from Lancashire to see their biggest market and find out what is wrong with the position in India,.
I would like to remind the hon. Member of the fact that on more than one occasion the Cotton Spinners' Association endeavoured to place before certain interests in India the need of protection
That goes part of the way to meet the case. Quite apart from any protection she might give us, it does seem to me desirable that the working men of Lancashire, who, in the Indian section of their trade, are only working one week on and one week off, should know the circumstances. Half of their working weeks are completely washed out. India is by very much their largest market. I am not quite sure of the total percentage of Lancashire output which India consumes. It is very large. The suffering is mutual as between India and Lancashire as the result of those high prices of cotton. Speaking from memory, the position is that the Calcutta index figure for cotton niece goods was still 226 last month, although you had the price of raw cotton down to 160. You had the fall in the price of the raw material. Many things have seemed to tell in favour of Lancashire for months and years past among them the higher exchange value of the rupee. But in Lancashire there is still this unplumbed depth, and we seem to get no nearer to a solution than we were in 1920 when the slump set in. If Lancashire working men's deputation could go and see the suffering these high prices are entailing for the mass of the Indian consumers as well as for their own wives and children in Lancashire, I cannot help thinking there might be some possibility of approximation between Lancashire's and India's needs.
I am not quite sure that I would be permitted to debate the increasing part in the depression in the Indian import trade, which is played by the protective system, in the iron and steel trades at any rate, recently inaugurated. It plays a very considerable part. The Noble Lord has referred to the fact that absolutely no impediment at any time has been put in the way of the Indian Government in conceding the protectionist demands of the big industrial class in India. In that connection may I just refer to this steel question. Steel protection has been accorded at the instance of, and for the sake of, the support of a single iron and steel factory in India, the great firm of Tata's, from which my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) drew a salary until recently. The figures of revenue derived from the duties imposed exclusively in the interests of that firm in 1924–25 was 215 lakhs. That is nearly £1,500,000. In 1925–26 it was 281 lakhs. That is imposed on the consumer of iron and steel goods in India in the interests of this one large firm. Very large subsidies are being paid to the firm, and it is a common complaint in India in the vernacular Press, that the masses are suffering most acutely from this new policy. I have the figures of the money actually paid in respect of galvanised sheeting, which is the house-building material of the poorest classes in large parts of the country. This particular factory produced some 20,000 tons of this material a year, but something like 180,000 tons are imported and have to pay a duty of 45 rupees or £3 a ton to snake this colossal experiment of steel manufacture in India possible. So far at any rate the Montagu canons are satisfied. My hon. Friend's Department has not in any way intervened. I suggest that sooner or later this very expensive experiment in the protection of a single monopolistic factory—because it is nothing more—will demand review both in India and here in London.
I join in the general rejoicing that there has been great improvement in India of recent years. The improvement in the financial position is truly amazing. Five or six years ago India was being forced to borrow in the London market at 7 per cent. No one rejoices more than I do in the great improvement which has been effected. regarding the railways, but I should like to make it quite clear to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) that this improvement is not, as he supposes, due to the adoption of nationalisation. The Indian railways, with one or two small exceptions, have been the property of the Sate for 30 or 40 years. It is true that they have recently handed over two of the railways to national management, but the important fact is that a complete separation has been made between the general budget of the country and the railway budget. This profit of £7,500,000 sterling which the railways have succeeded in making, is nothing like so great as the amounts which were exported from the railways, in relief of taxation, during the War. Sometimes the figure raised was as high as 18 to 20 crores or £12,000,000 to £15,000,000 sterling. Much, naturally, has been due to the very great courage of Lord Reading and his financial advisers in putting into effect the policy advocated by committee after committee and commission after commission for 20 years, and the economic effect is bound, sooner or later, to be felt in the general prosperity of the ryots and the masses of the people in India. If we can only get rid of the terrible communal hatred and the troubles between the two great religious communities, we shall be ready to make one great further step on the road of progress in India.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in what he has said upon the commercial and trading side of this great subject. I propose to deal in the main with the chief problem before India at the present time, to which the Noble Lord referred in his opening statement. It was a pleasure to hear from him that, after all, conditions in India from his point of view had improved a little. He said there was a complete disintegration of the Swarajist party; that the legislative Chambers had shown unusual discrimination; that there had been no growth of Bolshevist activities and that the finances of India, on the whole, gave great promise. Following upon that expression of satisfaction, he said that the chief problem which we had to face now was the problem of communal tension. I could not help feeling that, in dealing with that subject, the Noble Lord—if I may say so without disrespect —gave rather a mechanical view and interpretation of that difficulty. We were asked by the Noble Lord to believe that politics had exacerbated the difficulties, that there had been open recrimination between leaders, and that the only thing which stood in the way of Indian progress, was this communal tension—this religious difficulty.
It is' upon that theme I desire to address the Committee and I ask them not to exaggerate the importance of what is, of course, a very grave problem. These things have happened throughout the history of the world, not in India alone and not in the East alone, Vet in nearly all countries. This ancient subject of difference between man and man will persist in the future as it has persisted in the past. You cannot suppress differences of view upon a subject which touches man more deeply and, perhaps, more vitally, than any other within his experience. If you cannot suppress these difficulties, which I admit are grave, it may be possible to supersede them. I cannot help feeling, from my own reading of history and my own experience among men in my own time, that it is possible to enlist both parties in a common view of life, for a common end, which would give one and the other a new interest in life, something to work for and strive for, allowing the older differences to sink into abeyance. Are we not able to put before the people of India the idea that these age-long differences, while they cannot be forgotten, might, at any rate, be allowed to subside, in order that attention might be devoted to duties which are common to all parties? Idleness, as we know, is the parent of mischief and when we have nothing else to do, we are likely to do something which we ought not to do. If we can get the interest of this greet people centred in the future of their own land, that I am sure would be the quickest way of securing the unity which we seek, a unity in the service of that land which is the mother of both parties and which is waiting for their help.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I point to an illustration in another land. We used to have perpetual religious differences expressing themselves in the Irish nation and yet, directly the Irish nation has its own life to administer and work for, we find those ancient differences subsiding and the people of Ireland acting together for the common purpose of building up a great nation. When I was in Africa a year or two ago, I could not help noticing that the ancient differences between the British and the Dutch races were subsiding and the young African was now trying to become a good South African. If that principle operates among people of the Western world, it will in my judgment also operate among the people of the East. India is a great civilisation and would respond to a gesture of that kind. Therefore, I think that we ought not to take these religious differences as something too tragic to be spoken about. At the worst they represent probably but the birth pangs of a great new era. It has always been my own practice and I have found it to be right, in my own experience, that if you want to believe that which is truest about people, you have to believe that which is best about them. If that be true in our relations with each other as individuals, I am sure it is true of our relations as a nation with other nations.
The people of India, I believe, are really concerned to administer the life of India, such as is within their power, in an efficient way. One illustration of that is the demand by the people of the North West Province to be brought within the provisions of the Reform Apt. I do not know if hon. Members are aware that, for some years past, there has been a continual demand by the people of the North Western Province to be brought within the terms of the Act, and I had hoped that the Noble Lord might say something about that subject. Whilst our responsibility in India for the good government of that people so long as we are uncontrolled is immense, yet we are bound to recognise that the Indian people, like every other people, is in a state of development in regard to the use of administrative machinery. If we are not perfectly satisfied with their first attitude towards these great problems, we must remember how difficult it is for us, who have centuries of experience behind us, to see the right way in which to face great problems affecting our own national life.
Personally, I approach the Indian problem with great hope for the future, and with great trust in the ability of the Indian people to develop along the right lines. They are right to demand a much fuller expression of their life through their own institutions. They are right to demand self-government, as soon as it can be given to them. If they were uninterested in the problem, and merely accepted what we give to them as a final gift, we might have reason for despair. When a people ask that the things which have been given to them should be added to, in order that they may take another step in the direction of self-government it is a healthy thing. It is a thing to be commended, and ought not to be a reason for any fear. The terms of the Reform Act which is due for reconsideration, it is said, in 1929, might well receive the attention of the Government before that period. Let us remember that the constitution which we ask the Indian people to work, is mainly a Western instrument, end we are asking an Eastern people to operate it. It may be that within the last two years serious faults have been discovered in it. If the Indian people are to have any extension of self-government in a couple of years' time, we should begin to inquire into it now, or very shortly. If the Indian people feel that this problem, is being faced in an impartial way with a desire to give India the full benefit of the experience she has gained, that, in itself, should be a most composing thing for the Indian people at this time. I ask again that we should not exaggerate the difficulties which these unfortunate religious differences have created. I believe that they are temporary, and that out of them great good may come.
Like several other speakers this evening, I heard with great interest, the more optimistic picture of the political conditions in India. But my noble Friend very wisely, as it seemed to me, warned us not to think that political problems had passed away. Is it possible that they have to some extent broken up, and that behind what were the primary problems of a. year or two ago are now being offered for our solution certain secondary problems that were there all the time? There was, for example, the problem always of communal tension, another speaker brought forward a secondary problem that has always been there, the problem of the native or Indian State, and there is, lastly, this problem of the development or rather the application of scientific knowledge to India, about which I have to be careful in speaking to-day, as so much of that process belongs to the transferred subjects, which you, Sir, have ruled out of order. But it does seem to me that quite definitely there is very much that can be done by English people here and in India, attached to the Government of India, in helping on the workers, often under very great difficulties, in those very transferred subjects. I believe hon. Members with more experience of India than myself would agree with me in that.
I would safeguard myself at once by saying that the assumption that one sometimes encounters, that because a subject is transferred to a provincial Government, it will be inadequately undertaken and administered, is one of which there is no proof, and from which I desire entirely to dissociate myself, but looking at the question of these scientifically administered services from the Indian point of view, whether from the point of view of the Indian public or the Indian officials and scientific experts, I should imagine that no one of them would contemplate with equanimity the severance or isolation of their activities from the best, the most modern Western thought. In nothing so much as in technical and scientific work can the contact with one's brother workers which inspires and concentrates effort tend to touch individual genius into successful action, and in the medical, scientific, industrial, and agricultural research fields it would be a thousand pities if we were to find that we had landed these services in purely watertight compartments. Therefore, I would like to ask the Noble Lord, or the representative of his office now upon the bench, one or two questions which have been exercising me, and others more familiar than myself with this matter, for some time.
First of all, what is in future to he the relation between those scientific and technical activities under the Government of India and the provincial parallel activities? Take, for example, the Medical Research Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Imperial Institute of Veterinary Research, all of which are under the Government of India, and, therefore, directly under the control of this House. What is their position? What is the relation of the officials in these Departments with the various technical people in the Public Health Department of the Province of Bombay, or, let us say, the Agricultural Department of the United Provinces? Is it that the central organisations are going to fade out of the picture? Are you to have a state of affairs that is very common in federal countries, and one that exists to some extent in the City of Washington, where the central departments of that kind, in subjects which are reserved to the management of the States, form little more than a registering library for the activities with which they are, in a somewhat hampering fashion, charged? Again, what steps have been taken or will be taken to retain that very desirable touch on the part of the various Indian activities with that process by which in the Empire various bodies today, such as the Committee of Civil Research, the Department of Scientific and industrial Research, the Royal Society itself, are, by a slow process, but none the less sure, I believe, gradually developing some method and order in the research work now being carried on in this country?
Let me ask the Noble Lord, or his representative, whether, for example, in appointing the members of this Agricultural Commission, about which we have heard to-day, any one of those bodies, either the new Civil Committee of Research of the Cabinet, the parallel body to the Committee of Imperial Defence, or the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, or the Royal Society were consulted in any way about the composition of that body. It is a very small point, and I do not know that it is very significant if they were not, but you have got at the present moment a terrible tendency, with the transference of new subjects to the provinces, towards a lack of co-ordination, towards isolation, and any step that can be taken by the Government, now or in future, to draw those activities together is surely a step which it is desirable to take.
Of course, one cannot exaggerate the importance of scientific work in the future for the peoples of India. The very conditions about which we have heard to-day on all sides can only yield to that treatment. We have won India by the sword; we want India for her commerce; but we must woo India by her and our scientific methods. In urging, as I do from year to year, a number of young men, many of them pupils of mine, to go out into the Services in India, I sometimes wonder whether we are sending out into the Civil Service men who are conscious of the immense part which scientific work has to play in that country. I have heard—and the Noble Lord has referred to them—a series of recruiting speeches for the Indian Civil Service from a number of very eminent persons, but I never remember hearing from one single one of those, that India was lauded as the Paradise of the scientific researcher, the wonder-spot for anyone who wishes to conduct experiments into botany, physiology, various forms of disease, and so forth. We were told that they wanted a succession of Galahads. I am glad to say that they have got them—I am all for having Galahads—but I want to have a Galahad who is handy with a test tube.
It is a very interesting fact that in the last "East African Standard," that has just come, in the speech of the very remarkable and energetic Governor there, we are seeing that the various technical subjects are being put, in the matter of pay, in the Educational Department in particular, on a level with the pure Civil Services. Well, Sir Edward Grigg is a man who gets results, and is going to get them, perhaps, by that one step more than any other that he has taken. Yet I wish we could see throughout our Civil Service, and our recruits for the Civil Service, a realisation of the side which I have been emphasising to the Committee. There is splendid material. What steps have the Government of India taken, I ask the Noble Lord, to bring in particular that side of the work in India before the young men in the various universities in this country? We have got, in a very remarkable, change by the Civil Service Commission, an examination which does now cater for that type of man in a way that we did not have some 15 or 20 years ago. I hope the India Office will remember that, and that they will welcome that kind of man and make known the scope we have for him.
There is one other way in which I think, if I may make a small suggestion, the Government of India can help. It was my lot for some time to see and to welcome all the various research workers who came from the various universities of the Empire and proceeded to Cambridge to work for three years for what is called the Doctorate of Philosophy, and among those men, whom I got to know very intimately, of whom there were some 200 or 300, I can count among my friends and among the men whom I admire most many of the graduates from the universities of India. They struck me as some of the hardest workers and some of the most sensible men, men whom one admired, and of whom one expected, in this work that is to be, undertaken in India in scientific institutes, results of very great weight and worth; and sometimes one wondered, with a certain pang of the heart, to what they were going back. Are the Government helping those men sufficiently?
Let me tell them one small way in which they can help. The demand for entry into the universities of England, of Scotland, and of Ireland at the present time on the part of the Indian students is terrific. I believe there were something like 400 applications to get into the University of Cambridge alone this year, and only perhaps a quarter or less of that number can be taken. It is not merely a case of rejecting just those who will not make use of their opportunities—the profligate, the idle, or the debauched—but you will have to turn down a lot of men who have got a fairly good case. If just one word came from the authorities in India, from the High Commissioner's Office, or from the India Office, it would secure a reasonable priority of entry for this kind of research workers, one of the most hopeful materials offered to us at the present time. I do not feel that the India Office have really handled this with all the imagination that is possible. I believe that they can do it, and after listening to that speech from the Noble Lord, one feels that he would be sympathetic.
There is another point. It seems to me that the bond of scientific inquiry is an Imperial bond. In the dedication to science men of all parties can meet from every part of the Empire—the Swarajist, the Conservative, the Nationalist, the Labour, the Liberal, and so forth—and I wonder whether there might not be greater opportunities for giving the Empire a greater interest in India, and India a greater interest in the Empire, by means of scientific work. Would it not have been a touch of imagination to have got a Canadian expert on the co-operative movement in farming on to that Agricultural Commission? It would have brought one Canadian at least, and probably an influential one, in touch with the Indian problem, and have made India just that much more of a reality to Canada. I am sure that those two eminent members of the Commission, Mr. Calvert and Sir James McKenna, experts in that particular subject, would have been the first persons to have welcomed such an appointment.
Lastly, I would point out that we get every year that remarkable publication on the annual progress of India. It tells us a great deal, it stimulates our imagination, but there is very little in it about research work, scientific work, agricultural work, mining work, and so forth. At the recent congress of the Universities of the Empire one of the things that was most complained about was the isolation of one research worker from the other, and the demand for information to know what the other fellow is doing. I make this suggestion to the noble Lord in all humility that that annual report on India henceforward might carry a little further information with regard to the scientific work which is going on in India. That report certainly is a very great relief and it takes one away for a moment from some of the narrow issues of the day and puts one into the atmosphere of the India of the Lawrences, of Lord Curzon, of Professor Cowell and Bishop Lefroy. If there was a wider circulation given to that publication there might be people in various parts of the Empire—in Alberta and Saskatchewan just as much as in Ottawa, and in Western Australia just as much as in Sydney and Melbourne—to whom that document might offer a similar relief.
We were all very much impressed with the account given by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) of the idyllic conditions of the Indian miner. So far as I can gather from what the hon. Gentleman said, the Indian miner, after spending a few pleasant hours in cultivating his plot has really earned more than is sufficient to keep himself and his family, and then he says, in a kind of casual way, to his wife, "We will go down and put in a little pleasant occupation for a few hours in the mines." That was the case put forward by my hon. Friend, but I leave it for him to settle whether that was an accurate representation of the real state of affairs, or whether the account given by another member of his party, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), who said that the conditions of labour in India were appalling, was not the correct account. The Noble Lord in his speech referred to the fact that the trade union legislation, which has been passed by the Government of India, gave to the Indian worker many of the privileges which had been obtained by the trade unions in this country for the British worker.
As I was saying when I was interrupted, the trade union legislation is supposed to have conferred upon the workers of India similar privileges to those enjoyed by the workers in this country, but there seems to be a very serious blot on the Trade Unions Act as we now find that the employers of labour in India are taking advantage of this trade union legislation for the purpose of insisting on compulsory membership in an employers' organisation being imposed on the workers within their factories. I refer to the specific instance of the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills Employés Union in Madras. The Madras Labour Union has been organising the men for a very long time, and the men desired to join that union. But now the condition is imposed that the men must belong to the employers' union, and there have, in consequence, been at least, 160 workmen dismissed from the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills for refusing to belong to this employers' organisation. If the Government of India are in earnest in giving to the working men exactly the same rights as the working men have in this country, they ought at once to introduce legislation to stop this practice on the part of the employers.
My second point is in regard to the representation of India on the International Labour Conference. This time it is on the employers side. The Indian Government have announced that Sir Arthur Froom, who is a partner in the firm of Messrs. Mackinnon Mackenzie and Company, Limited, the managing agents in India of the British Indian Steam Navigation Company, Limited, and who is very much concerned with Indian mercantile development, is to be the representative of India at the International Labour Conference. The Indian Merchants' Chambers of Bombay, Karachi, Calcutta and Rangoon nominated Mr. Narotam Moraji. He is connected with the great textile industry and he owns some of the largest mills. If we are to pursue the policy which the Noble Lord has put forward of extending self-Government in India it certainly does not seem to be extending that principle if the representatives of India at the International Labour Conference on the employers' side is to be chosen entirely from the alien employers. I consider that in doing this the Indian Government is going back on the spirit of reform. They are doing nothing to create an atmosphere to show to the Indian people that they are really in earnest in their endeavour to bring this policy to fruition.
Then the Noble Lord has made great play with the fact that the Government of India have now decided, during a period of 10 years, to forbid the export of opium. I feel sure that every Member of the Committee will welcome that declaration. Every one of us on this side are pleased to hear that, but what we do object to is the fact that although the Government of India are going to pursue the policy for a period of years of forbidding the export of opium, they are not prepared to take action with regard to this vice internally. We have the resolution of the Government of India in which they say
That the policy of aiming at the total prohibition of opium used for purposes other than medical or scientific would be clearly impracticable even if it were desirable.
That seems to me to be a curious thing for the Government to say. I should have thought everyone would agree that it was eminently desirable to get rid of this vicious practice of the use of opium as soon as possible. The resolution of the Government of India went on to say:
There is no evidence that there is any serious and wide-spread abuse of opium, and the Government of India would regard as entirely unjustifiable a. departure from their present policy of long interference with moderate use.
The statement that there is no widespread abuse of the opium habit in India is absolutely incorrect. The index figure for consumption of opium in India is double that fixed by the League of
Nations Committee as legitimate, namely, 12 seers per 10,000 of the population, against the Committee's figure of 6 seers. The argument the Government have put forward that opium is valuable for medical purposes as an anodyne where skilled medical assistance is not available is quite untenable. For it is just where medical help is most available, that is in the industrial districts, that the consumption is greatest. In the words of the Secretary of the National Christian Council of India, Burma and Ceylon:
Leaving out Assam, the high figures are mainly in the urban districts, while the rural districts are in the main untouched.
Is it not unwise that we should continue a. policy in India to allow the export of opium which is being used simply to keep little babies quiet while their mothers can go into the factories? That statement has been made over and over again, and I maintain that the Government of India is neglecting its duty, is committing a crime in that it is going for the next 10 years to abolish the export of opium, but it is not taking similar steps to stop the trade in opium in its own country.
I should like to make a point in regard to what has been done in connection with the mutual benefit of this country and India in regard to the engineering trade. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department, in a speech at Newcastle-on-Tyne, did lay before the engineering trade of this country certain practical proposals. He tried to convince the industrialists there that what was necessary for them to do was to concentrate their attention on producing a small handy plough which might be sold in India at a price of about 30s., a very large sum for the Indian ryot to pay. Everyone knows that only the old wooden ploughs are now used, and that they merely serape the ground, whereas up-to-date ploughs would be beneficial to the agriculturist and would enable him to produce more. I think there will be agreement that they would give an increased production per acre, and the result must be an increase in the standard of life of every person in the community. The same thing applies in regard to the pumps, the smaller pumps for the purposes of pumping water, because the lack of water is one of the things from which the agriculturist suffers in many part of India. There are also required small mills for crushing sugar cane. I am given to understand that the Parliamentary Secretary has been somewhat jeered at by the industrialists in this country for putting forward what I think is a sane and practical proposition. I very seldom agree with the Parliamentary Secretary, but being in agreement with him on this occasion it is only fair to say that what he has put forward is I think eminently practicable, and if the Government of India and the home Government would do their best to turn their attention to the engineering trade and follow his advice, I think it would be a good thing. In the past many opportunities for trade, especially in the East, have been lost by reason of our manufacturers not taking a business attitude in regard to the conditions.
The sewing machine trade was lost by this country and taken by Germany and Japan because the manufacturers refused to alter their patterns. Attention to these things which I have indicated is necessary or it means that the trade will go elsewhere. The other point is in regard to the communal question. I think there is only one answer to that. We have to get rid as soon as possible of the communal franchise. As long as you have it, it will be used by the natives for their own particular grievances, for they simply use the franchise for position, power and prestige in their own community. They think only in terms of Mussulmen and Hindus instead of in terms of Indians. We are responsible to a large extent for the continuation and intensification of these communal riots because we still maintain the communal franchise. I was very sorry to find no reference made by the Noble Lord to any amnesty for persons imprisoned under the Bengal Ordinance and associated Acts. I think the time has come when clemency ought to be exercised by the Government of India. Whatever terrorism existed then, we have the opinion of the Noble Lord that it has gone, and there is therefore no need to go on punishing these men against every possible canon of decency.
I intervene to call attention to the provisions that have recently been made for the supply of canteens for the troops of Northern India. The system now in force in that part of India has been a ghastly failure. A Report was issued last May by a Committee which condemned it. This question is one of considerable interest to the British troops in India; therefore I consider it is a matter which should receive consideration from this Committee The old system of canteens in India was known as the regimental system. As a rule, the commanding officer entered into a contract with a civilian native contractor to supply the canteen with the usual necessities for the British soldiers living in that country. The system worked very well in peace time, but during the Great War and the other campaign which took place at the same time in India, the contractors were unable to supply the troops in the field with the necessary comforts. The Government of India decided that .the system was not a good one, and that it should be changed for one which would ensure that the troops would be provided with the comforts necessary during any campaign as well as during peace time. They introduced an institution known as the Army Canteen which, as I have already said, has failed. I do not wish to give all the details, but it was a complete failure, and was condemned by the Committee of Inquiry.
There are three systems which can be employed to provide for British troops. One is the civilian native contractor and another is the regimental institute run by the president with one trust worthy non-commissioned officer acting as steward, the rest of the personnel being natives. Both these systems have given every satisfaction in the past. The third system is to have some institution on the same lines as the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes operating in this country and in every country where we have a British garrison. India itself has never adopted this institution as part of its organisation. I am anxious to know what the Government of India propose to do in this matter. After all, it is a matter for the British soldier himself. It affects him every day of his life and every hour, for a great deal of his time is naturally spent in the institution. I do not wish to stress the climatic effects on the British soldier. We all know that he suffers considerable discomfort from the heat, that he has a great deal of spare time which causes him to be somewhat bored, and that he is separated from his friends and relations by a long distance and probably for a considerable period of time. I would urge my Noble Friend to consult with the commanding officers of the British regiments. Their suggestions, coming as it were from the mouth of the horse—for they are in close touch with the men in their command—should be of great value. It is true that in the past many of these civilian contractors have failed to provide the necessary quality and in some cases have sublet their contracts to men who are quite incapable of carrying out their duty, but these contractors as a rule give satisfaction.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher) is not here, because he offered some criticism upon the industrial situation in India which I think ought to be countered from these benches. He offered the interesting suggestion, which I have never heard before, that the cotton operatives of Lancashire ought to send out a deputation at their own expense to India to see how low down the Indian workman could get as an inducement to the Lancashire workers to get down as low. I have heard the same suggestion made before, but never that Lancashire should go to the expense of sending out a deputation as a preliminary to getting down to a coolie level of civilisation. The same hon. Member declared with reference to the Indian collier that the rate of wages was about 6 rupees a week. I have here the official figures taken from the Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines for 1924. It shows that the hardy colliers of his pleasant fancy, Goyans and others who eat rats and snakes as a delicacy in one district, receive as wages as underground workers for a 48-hours week three rupees, which, with the rupee at 1s. 6d., is 4s. 6d. a week. For women underground workers, and there are 60,000 of them working in the mines of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, receive far a 48-hours week one rupee and 14 annas, in other words, 3s. 2d. per week, The husband and wife work together in a sort of joint co-operative enterprise, and they are allowed to stay down 36 hours at a time. They can work for Lord Inchcape in Bengal 36 hours a week. They come up from this pleasant occupation and go to their homes where there is no chimney. There are no sanitary arrangements, no water supplies, there is the forty-eight hours' week of labour. There is no education for the children. There is no human life of any kind. Yet the hon. Member who has spoken talks about their happy condition, and says it means that the agricultural worker leaves his agricultural area in order to better himself by engaging in the coal mining industry. I suggest that he is talking through his hat, talking nonsense, and that it is no good at this time to palm off statements like that upon this House.
I rose, however, particularly to discuss a subject which has not been discussed this afternoon. The Noble Lord himself, in his introductory statement, skated over the subject. I compliment him on his statement this afternoon and on the number of the subjects he was able to deal with in a smallish way in the time at his disposal. But I must say that I admire him when he is more natural than he was. His loquacity was restrained this afternoon, and I admired his politeness and affability. Personally, however, I prefer him when he is more pugnacious. Probably I shall succeed him in making him more pugnacious before I am finished. I want to refer to the subject of deportation of persons without trial, without even a charge levelled against them. I want to take one specific case as an illustration —the case of Mr. Suthas Chandra Bose, the late town clerk, or chief executive officer of the second city of the Empire, Calcutta. The chief executive officer really means an official like our town clerk, Mr. Bose a year and nine months ago was arrested under the Bengal Ordinance, or, I think, it is Regulation No. 3 of 1818, passed at a time when the descendants of the Grand Mogul sat on the throne of Delhi. The Regulation was passed to deal with foreign Powers, with troubles on the frontier, perhaps with French emissaries. Mr. Bose was arrested, put into gaol, and has lain there for a year and nine months. No charge bas been preferred against him to this day. No charge was levelled against him, and frequent attempts have been made in this House and elsewhere to extract from the Noble Lord a reason, a justification for his imprisonment without charge or trial. It
is non-British and inhumane. So far we have failed to obtain any satisfaction. When this ordinance was being passed the late Viceroy, Lord Reading, made this statement:
The ordinance is directed solely to those ends, and will in no way touch or affect the interests or the liberties of any citizens, whether engaged in private or public affairs, so long as they do not give themselves up to criminal methods.
I am not concerned to deny that the Government of India have arrested persons under the Ordinance guilty of violent agitation, or agitation which made for and ended in violence. I do not deny that. But what responsible people in India do deny is that there is any discoverable reason or justification for arresting the town clerk of Calcutta and putting a man like him in gaol for 21 months without any charge.
Let me take this evidence. I have hers a statement signed by two other persons, Kumar Datt and Lall Chatterjee. It is to the following effect:
When we first joined the Indian National Congress and the N.C.O. movement, we found mixing freely with the young men of the country, amongst others, a certain person whose name we are ready to disclose in case of a proper and impartial inquiry into this most serious affair. We have knowledge that while previously locked up in gaol as State prisoner, this man, along with some others of his ilk, was in touch with and helping the secret service even from gaol. While the nonviolent N.C.O. movement was at its full swing, he was inciting—trying to incite—young men to form a party of violence. He tried to persuade even some of us to take up the leadership of such a party as against the party of non-violent N.C.O., which, according to his preachings, was doing immense harm to the country. Failing to instigate persons who knew something of men and things, he began to characterise those persons with having turned moderate, and we know that with an amount of oratory and support, and financed by dark powers from behind, he succeeded in getting together a batch of young men. We had very strong reasons to believe that whatever political violence has been committed in Bengal after the non-co-operation movement is the activity of this group consisting of the innocent dupes of this agent-provocateur, and was incited and engineered by him.
Here is criminal evidence. The writers of this letter were prepared to give the man's name if need be and everything about him. The name I think came out in Court, but for good reasons, doubtless,
the matter was not pressed by counsel for defence.
Here is a definite allegation. It is a definite allegation of a Government agent inciting young men to violence. Is it, we are entitled to ask, on the strength of suborned evidence, that men are landed in gaol? We are entitled to ask that question. It is an anomalous proceeding. It is a Czarist proceeding. The great Czars of Russia got hold of the intellectuals and sent them off to Siberia. But the British Empire cannot last on this kind of thing. If this man had committed crime he ought to have been brought to trial. Let such men be charged I know what the answer will be in the case of Mr. Bose and men of his type or kind. It is that if they were brought to trial that the witnesses and others would be murdered. But I have first-hand knowledge from the chairman of the Swarajist party who says that strings of cases can be produced, tried by Indian Judges and Indian juries, with Indian witnesses, where the accused was found guilty, and where no harm has come to the witnesses or to the jurors. It is declared that there, is no evidence whatever of any violence to witnesses or to jurors unless the Government goes back for almost 18 years.
This is a definite charge, and deals with some person of the hon. Member's acquaintance. There was an inquiry into these allegations, and they were found to be utterly unfounded. I cannot give instances at the moment, out I will in my reply give numbers of cases where the witnesses had been interfered with.
May I ask the Noble lord when that inquiry was held? Were these two prisoners represented at the inquiry? Was their evidence taken, or was an ex-parteinquiry held in their absence?
If the hon. Member takes the view, which is very much favoured by his party on this question, then it is useless for me to argue. What I say is that an inquiry was held by the proper authority, and the allegations were found to be devoid of all foundation.
Two criminals in gaol made allegations against the authorities. Those authorities, in accordance with the practice of inquiry into such allegations, made full inquiries, and those allegations were found to be without foundation. I know that will not convince the hon. Member, because he suffers from the delusion—
The Noble Lord has been very ungentlemanly, and if he wants that kind of fighting he can have it. There has been no impartial inquiry at all into this matter, and to say that an inquiry is held by some officer, who may perhaps have been implicated in organising agents-provocateur,and to hold the inquiry in the absence of those who make the accusation, is worse than a Russian procedure. There is no delusion about the fact that these people are in gaol without trial, and I deny that anybody is a criminal until he has been found guilty in an open Court. If a man is simply arrested on the word of a police officer or an agent-provocateur,I deny that he is a criminal. I have tried to see both sides of this question. I have made inquiries among officials and English representatives in Calcutta and elsewhere, I have taken the trouble to read up the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly, I have read the speech made by Mr. Donovan, which was a very able speech, and I find that no attempt has been made to justify under the British flag imprisonment without trial, and my firm conviction is that there is no justification for these arrests. This kind of thing is simply poisoning the whole of our administration in India and is preventing proper harmonious relations between the races and the classes. This House ought to ring with indignation against any Government which permits the putting of men into prison without a charge or without trial.
The Agricultural Commission has been referred to this afternoon, and we have been informed that the one thing excluded from that Commission is a question of land tenure. You must not inquire into the conditions under which the ryot pays rent; you must not touch the Zemindar system or the landlord system. Every increase is swallowed up by the landlord. The Government do not get it, the landlord gets it. I have cases where the rent of the poor ryot has been jumped up 40 times in the last century and a quarter. Little wonder the ryot will, not adopt new methods of cultivation, or that his land is starved, or that his wife and children have to go out to the fields to lift cow dung and dry it for fuel because he cannot buy coal. Little wonder that productivity is low; little wonder that there are hordes of moneylenders all over the place. Money lending is the most thriving industry there—rates of interest as high as 300 per rent. are paid in Bengal—and they are proud of it, and will stand and let themselves be photographed in order that lantern slides may be made.
The ryot is the basis of all Indian economy. Agriculture is the prime industry in India. If we allow the ryot to be starved or robbed by the zemindar, we shall have a ryot who is incapable of purchasing our goods; yet when we appoint an Agricultural Commission, it is forbidden to inquire into the relationship between the ryot and his land, and why it is that his rent has been raised 40 times during the last century and a quarter. We know there are cases where the zemindar sends his sons to be educated in England and puts a special cess on the ryot to pay for it, or buys a motor car and puts on a special cess to pay for it.
I want to say a word on the subject of British trade, which was raised by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher). It is the most important subject we can discuss. In India we have a fifth of the human race, 318,000,000 people, living poverty-stricken lives, unable to buy our goods. Can we do nothing to increase the purchasing power of the people of India now—not some time in the dim and distant future, but now? I say we can. There are a million villages in India, and in 90 per cent. of those villages the poor peasants are lifting up water out of the well with old, leaking, skin bags full of holes-a method primitive beyond belief. If we had oil engines we could raise all the water for the villages. There is a market over there for almost half-a-million oil engines. I say this country ought to lend the Indian co-operative village societies these oil engines now. They would be paid for in two years' time, after two harvests. The interest we would lose on the money during the two years would be far more than recouped by the saving on dole money and parish council relief paid at present to our own unemployed here. We could set every engineering industry going full blast. We could stimulate our coal trade and our iron and steel trade. We would not be throwing money down a sink. We would be increasing for all time the purchasing power of the Indian ryot. If we could only increase the purchasing power of the India ryot by ¾d per week per annum we would increase British trade by no less than £40,000,000 per annum. I did not catch what the noble Lord said.
I shall have to revise my beliefs. If the Noble Lord is in entire agreement with me, I shall have to retire to my closet to make sure of my facts and figures. Joking apart, I would remind the Committee that the Indian people buy from us goods to the value of 7s. 4½d per head per annum—that is including the Indian States. If we increase that by 2s. 6d. per annum, by ¾d. per week, we should solve the unemployment problem in the basic industries of Great Britain. It is not necessary to raise a big loan to do it. Let the Noble Lord give his orders for every engineering shop in Britain tomorrow to supply engines suitable for these wells. Mr. Mitra, the secretary of the co-operative organisation in Bengal, will prove that there are 6,000 of these co-operative societies which are abso- lutely solvent and ready to take up the process. All we want is legislation to prevent the zemindars from sucking up the increased wealth that would accrue to the peasants as a result of more effective drainage, ploughing and manuring. In making up our minds to stop poverty in India we stop it at home. So long as our customers are poor and are unable to buy goods, we shall be poor. The only way to be prosperous is to increase the purchasing power of the people; and the Noble Lord would live in history if he would make it his business to set about the reorganisation of India on the basis of lifting up the ryot—not on the basis of increasing the prosperity of the maharajahs and rajahs and zemindars, but improving the position of the man upon whom the whole economy of India rests.
That is the very opposite of what was done with the education system. We went out to India, and we started that system at the top. We started with university education. We builded on nothing. The system now hangs in the air. We turn out thousands of young chaps from the universities of Calcutta and other places—for what? There are no opportunities for them. We do not provide primary compulsory education for the ryot's children. Only yesterday the Noble Lord told me that. only 36 per cent. of the boys in British India are receiving primary education, whereas in the Indian State of Baroda they number 90 per cent.
Perhaps the hon. Member will permit me to point out, and perhaps he will bring it out in his speech, because it is only fair that it should be mentioned, that education is now a transferred subject, and that it rests with Indians themselves—with the Legislative Council—to increase the percentage of persons who are educated. I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that this is badly needed.
I am glad we have got agreement on that; but will the Noble Lord tell me if it is possible for the Indians who are in charge of this transferred subject to make any great advance in education unless they get money, and finance is not a transferred subject? The Noble Lord should stimulate the Finance Department to spend more money on education. He should put a levy on the 90 per cent jute profits. As much money is taken away from India every year in profits on jute as would educate all the children of India. If this Government would make up its mind to do the big thing, they could bring material gains this year to every household in Britain. Instead of reverencing maharajahs and rajahs and zemindars and the Cornwallis system, let us get down to rock-bottom, and do something for the poor ryot living in starvation with an income of £4 per annum, and unable to buy a dhoti cloth. Surely, the Noble Lord will not deny that the ryot is robbed by the zemindar. Surely, it will not be denied that his children are not being educated, that his fields are starved for lack of manure, that he lives a mean, degraded, harassed life, that he cannot buy our goods; and I put it to the Noble Lord and the Government that, if they knew their business, they would set about increasing the purchasing power of the ryot, because only by so doing can the export trades of this country be stimulated.
I had not the opportunity of listening to the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), but there were one or two points in it to which I should like briefly to reply. I think the speech as a whole did mark a very great interest in India, and, if I may say so without any disrespect, one of the things which strikes those who have been for a long time connected with India, like myself—I went there first some 28 years ago—is that all parties in the House are now taking far more interest in India than they did before; and it is very pleasing and helpful that the Opposition now is not only taking a great interest in India, but is, generally speaking, so helpful in all the suggestions it makes. The hon. Member for Dundee will, perhaps, pardon me if I begin my speech, particularly with regard to some of his suggestions, by recalling to his mind a story of a great reformer who went to India, and who took up, as one of his first subjects, the question of education. He was a Viceroy, and he began two days, or two weeks, after his arrival in the country, to write a very long account of how Indian education ought to be organised. The head of the Department, who had been in India for many years, studied this account—and it was full of matter—and then he went to the Viceroy and said, "Sir, I like your proposals very much, but the experience of 23 years—" And the Viceroy held up his hands and said, "Stop! I come to correct your experience, not to confirm it." There was a great deal of truth in that. There is a great deal that people going from this country to India can teach India, but at the same time I would point out that in India there are many conditions and difficulties to contend with which are not so easily appreciated until one has lived at close quarters with them for many years.
Education, of course, is a transferred subject, but I may, perhaps, be allowed to deal with it a little. It is nearly 100 years ago—I think it was somewhere about the year 1833—when the first big move was made towards educational development in India. A decision was taken by the Government of the day that no office in the Indian Government would be barred to any Indian on account of his race or religion, and that started the educational ball rolling. It rolled very slowly and unevenly; sometimes it almost appeared to roll backwards, and, financially, it actually did so sometimes. But from that day to this there has been such an enormous advance in education that I think one is not entitled to be despondent as to its state at the present time. It is quite true that there is a great amount of illiteracy. Particularly in the case of the women, the illiteracy is appalling, and that has very bad results for the country. It is perfectly true that the whole problem of India, at almost every stage, lies in education, and that is particularly the case in regard to agricultural development; but one of the great difficulties with regard to education is summed up in a remark made by an educational official a long time go. He said that education was "meeting a demand which did not exist," and that is the real difficulty. You might provide educational facilities almost to the limit of the whole of the money in India, and yet you would find that the people would not be prepared to take advantage of them. I believe I am right in saying that in nearly every province a permissive Bill was passed to allow of compulsory education being instituted by the local authorities when and if they wished, and for assistance to be given to them in doing it; but advantage has not been taken of these Bills. The demand for education does not, in fact, exist.
Education is now a transferred subject, but it is very questionable whether, of all the reforms, that is not the most dangerous thing. I believe in the reforms, and I believed in them at a time when there were very few people in India who did, but I believe that in the transference of education there is a risk that education may suffer—that education may be gauged more by the number of people who attend the schools than by the degree of learning they get, or the amount of culture they acquire. The hon. Member for Dundee referred to the fact that we had begun at the top in our education in India, and to a certain extent that is true. The Universities in India have turned out far more people of the university-educated type than is required in the present organisation of India, and the results have been in some ways disastrous, or, anyhow, dangerous to the peace of the country. There is no person who so tends to disturb the peace of any country as the person trained to a certain level of intellectual development who finds no suitable outlet for it. But, while that is true, I think the hon. Member is in error if he thinks that that mistake has not been appreciated by those responsible for education, if he thinks that genuine efforts are not being made to get education as far spread as possible. An enormous amount, however, remains to be done. It will not be done by any legislation in a year or in a generation; there is the work, probably, of a whole century before us before we can hope to see education on any such level as we should like.
It is only when education has progressed to a certain extent that India will be found to be in a position to accept and make full use of it. The measures which the hon. Member urged in the case of agriculture are very desirable, but I do not think that, if you were to flood the country now with ploughs and agricultural implements generally, you would find that many of them would not be on the scrap heap at the end of the year. An experiment, however, is worth making, and I cordially endorse the hon. Member's recommendation that everything possible should be done, but do not let us be under any illusion. It is not merely by grants of money or by the provision of implements that we shall find a solution of that problem, but it is in the improvement of education.
I should like to refer briefly to the case of the two criminals referred to by the hon. Member for Dundee. I do not pretend to know all the circumstances, but I was an official of the Government of India for many years, and I assure the hon. Gentleman, if he will accept the assurance from me, that the civil and military officials in India are inspired by a very sincere desire to do justice. That is their main theme in life, and I firmly believe that there are few of these officials who would not sooner cut his hand off than do an injustice. If the hon. Gentleman would accept that, I think he would be prepared to accept also the fact that the investigation which was made in the case to which he has referred did take all due notice of the statement made by the two criminals. I feel certain that, if the facts were in front of the hon. Gentleman, he would find that every relevant fact had been carefully examined and tested. If he saw all that they had done. he would be the first to say that the Government of India and the officials have not fallen short by one job or one tittle in what was required by the justice of the case.
I should like to turn back to one or two other speeches which have been made earlier in the Debate. The hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala), who is not at the moment in the Chamber, spoke at considerable length about the earning powers of the Indians, and so, I think, did the hon. Member for Dundee. He mentioned the wages which they were earning, and I think his figures were quite correct, but he did not mention what I think ought also to be in the mind of the Committee, and that is that they are all, whether ryots, industrialists, zemindars, or even menial servants, earning now more than three or four times what they were earning a few years ago, even within the short time during which I have known India. I can remember that, when I first went to India-I can give some homely instances which I am sure hon. Members will appreciate—I paid my syce, that is to say, the groom who looked after my pony, six rupees a month, and that was not the lowest rate. The figure now is probably never less than 20 rupees. When I was a young man I had control of very large works, and the coolies who worked for me got three or four annas a day. He gets far more now. The whole amount of wages earned in India are now on a very greatly enhanced level, and we welcome it. I only mention it because it would appear from the speech of the hon. Member for North Battersea, that it was the action of the British power that is keeping wages down. Precisely the opposite is the case. I do not mean for a moment that the wages are as high as they may become, I do not mean for a moment that it is not desirable that wages should increase, but I want to emphasise that the tendency is upwards. It, has been going on, and so far from the Englishman in India—I am talking now mainly of the official classes—having attempted to stop it, it is a fact that the highest wages have been paid by officials in Government employment compared with private officials. It is a commonplace to anyone who has been in India that the personal servant of the Indian does not get as high wages as the personal servant of a European not in Government employ, and the personal servant of the European not in Government employ, normally speaking, does not get as higher wages as the servant of the European in Government employ. It is the same with works. A man working for the Government on works, whether an artisan or anything else, is paid higher wages than obtain in any other similar work throughout the country.
The hon. Member mentioned the wages of school teachers, and most undoubtedly, to our view, their wages are low, but those school teachers are in very many cases not fully trained men and their wages are far higher than a man of that level of intelligence could obtain in any walk of life in India to which he devoted his abilities. If you ask me for proof of that I would say that, just as in this country now you find that the people who are being educated are striving all they can to get into Government service, so has it been in India ever since I have known it in the last 28 years. Every person who gets any form of education at all strives to get into Government service, not only because the wages are higher but also, I regret to say, because there is an element of emoluments which are not entirely wages. Still the fact remains that, so far from the Government service being underpaid and unpopular, it is higher paid than any other similar work—I am talking now of the Indian—to be found in India. I wish one could say the same of the British civil servant in India. The House must be tired of hearing eulogies on his work, and yet no eulogy can be high enough for the work he does. His financial position is, or was, appalling. He is still very far from being, in my opinion, adequately recompensed. When I left India practically every official of any seniority that I met, military or civil, was in debt. I could tell you cases of men ruling areas far bigger than Yorkshire who could not afford to send their wives home with their children to be educated. They had not got the money. I am not mentioning this in any form of complaint. I do not think they themselves would have liked it to be known. They are not serving there to get money. If they wanted solely to get money, men of their ability could do far better in the civil market, but it makes one a little resentful as an old servant when one hears charges made against the civil servants such as was implied in the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee that an inquiry conducted by them could not be trusted to be fair and just.
I heard with the deepest regret what might almost have been called the insinuation that some of the Government officials in India were encouraging communal riots so as to assist the Government. I can remember communal riots as far back as the time when I first went to India. Only two or three weeks ago I received a letter from a young officer of the Indian Civil Service who wrote in a white heat of annoyance. He had just come back after having spent three days in his district going round taking every step he could to stop any possibility of rioting occurring between the different religious sects, and when he opened his mail he found the same suggestion made in some English paper. He wrote to me, "Cannot you do something to stop this idea getting bruited abroad in Great Britain that we are so failing in our trust as to encourage communal riots?" If it had been the intention of the Government to encourage these communal riots, how does it come that in the Army we put class and class in the same regiment and they live in perfect amity under the control of their British officers? The reason why communal riots have arisen to the extent that they have—and it is a very dangerous state of affairs—is, I am afraid, indirectly due to the reforms. The Noble Lord pointed out that it was inevitable in almost any form of extension of the franchise and extension of power in India that these religious differences should become more acute, because it is undoubtedly true that for the first year of the reforms the various religious sects did regard the franchise that was given them as a convenient stick with which they could beat their religious opponents. For many years proselytising was entirely unknown. No attempt was made until the beginning of the reforms by either Hindus or Mohammedans to proselytise among the people of opposite religions. The excitement due to the giving of power, the fact that it is quite impossible to imagine a Mohammedan giving a post to a Hindu or a Hindu to a Mohammedan, has now so excited their religious feeling that for the first time during these last few years they have begun to try to proselytise among the sects opposed to them. That constitutes the danger. because it will be readily understood that the fact of any sect finding its opponents trying to make converts exacerbates religious animosities.
I think the Committee welcomed the Noble Lord's speech. I think we are all glad the speech was made. The review he gave of India was a highly satisfactory one and one which, without any distinction of party, we, as members of a great country with a great task to perform, can regard as purely and entirely satisfactory. I regretted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) talking about the fall in the Indian Army budget as if it were in itself a regrettable thing. When I was last in India I was serving in Army headquarters, and we were endeavouring to get the military budget down to 60 crores. It is a big sum, but one which we thought we could manage to achieve without loss of efficiency. We could not, but I am very glad indeed to hear that matters have so progressed that, without sacrificing one single man of the English garrison in India, which is so essential to our security, and without sacrificing any efficiency, but merely by better administration, we have been able to reduce the military budget down to 56 crores. I hope that it may be possible to make even further reductions in that budget.
That leads me to the great advance which has been made in frontier policy and in frontier government. It is a story as old as the days of Nicholson and Jacob in Baluchistan; the fact that in these disturbed areas peace followed on the track of good communications, and that frontier raids tended to pacify even the most warlike tribesmen. But never before had the scheme been worked out in such completeness as was done by the late Commander-in-Chief in India, Lord Rawlinson and his staff, and put into execution in Baluchistan in the last few years. It has been triumphantly successful, as far as it goes. There is every reason to hope that in that experiment and in the success of that experiment lies the germ of the means of dealing with the whole of that unruly district on our frontier in India. The Army in India is faced with certain troubles. Bolshevism on the frontier does threaten to become a problem for India. It is not one at the present time, but if the Bolshevist activities on a frontier of some 800 miles of territory, which are being organised by Bolshevist agents with the ostensible intention of being hostile to our Empire in India, develop, we shall be face to face with a military problem of very great importance, and one which will require very careful watching. I welcomed the announcement made by my hon. Friend a few days ago that that problem was receiving attention in India and that everything was being most carefully watched. I feel sure that that is being done, but it does make one think of India and her military problems.
India, however well we govern her, and however optimistic we may be of her future, for many generations to come will probably from time to time become excited over some little thing which may happen inside her territory, and it is in a moment like that that our enemies just across the frontier will take advantage and try to make our position difficult. With respect of communism and Bolshevism inside India, I do not think that it is a grave danger. The mass of the ryots are still entirely loyal to us. They are certainly not a class of people who are the least likely to take up Bolshevism, with all its pernicious doctrines. The Air Force in Baluchistan, which is run by Bolshevik airmen, consists of 26 machines and 36 airmen, but it is negligible as far as it stands at the present time. A few machines might come over and do a little harm, but as a military menace at the present time it is quite negligible. It will, however, require to be very carefully watched as time goes on.
The whole secret of our success in India and the whole secret of the reforms lies in three things. One, and this is the most important, is education, developed and helped in every way possible. The second, which is almost as important as the first, if not as important, is the continuance of an efficient, able Civil Service attracting, as we are glad to hear it is now attracting, the best that England can give for one of the most difficult services that the British Empire offers to any of its subjects. The third, which is almost as important as the others, is the maintenance of the armed strength in India. There is one thing in that respect which I am afraid is not as satisfactory as the recruitment of the Civil Service. I refer to the obtaining of suitable candidates for the positions of British officers in the Indian Army. The Indianisation of the Indian Army, which was commenced a short time ago, a very small measure and probably not likely to develop, has had one most important effect, in that it has tended to keep young men leaving Sandhurst, or the universities from seeking a career in the Indian Army. That tendency has been slightly changed, but much remains to be done.
We should get into the Indian Army the best class of young officer that we can find. His work is, in many ways, far more responsible than that of an officer of the British Army in peace. It requires the very best type of man, and I am sure that Members in all parts of the House and particularly, if I may say so without disrespect, Members of the Opposition, can do a very great deal to help by showing the young men who are going into the Indian army, that the future of India will be equally safe in the bands of the present Opposition, if and when they come into power in this country.
I am glad to hear that there is an increasing body of opinion which is considering Indian questions, but I do not think that the Debate will be regarded by the impartial spectator as very satisfactory, particularly in view of the very small number of Members who have thought fit to be present, and also because of some of the views expressed from the Government benches. Nor can I take altogether the optimistic views that have been expressed by some speakers to-night regarding the immediate future. I was very glad to notice, when my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) was speaking, that the Under-Secretary of State for India agreed with him in certain economic suggestions he made for improving the standard of life of the Indian peasant, and consequently their purchasing power, with corresponding benefit to this country. The Under-Secretary would be the first to agree that he did not make any suggestion of that character himself.
Although the Noble Lord's review of Indian affairs was very interesting and covered a very wide field, he did not bring forward, to the best of ray knowledge, and I took rather close notes of what he said, any definite suggestion for raising the standard of life of the Indian peasant, on which it is generally agreed that the prosperity of India really depends. I wish to speak on this question not only from the purely economic side but also from the political side. A word on that point will perhaps enable the Under-Secretary, if he thinks fit, to tell us what is his view in regard to the progress of the reform scheme. It has always been my belief since I have studied this question at all deeply that the importance of India is not only as a great market for our goods but as the key to peace and security in the East. India is the key to the East. The other nations in the East look up to India, to her civilisation, to her philosophy and her traditions, and what happens in India to a large extent deter- mines what happens in the East itself. I should not be afraid of any propaganda, whether it came from the North, from Russia, or from any other country, if I was quite sure that there was no inflammable material in India which we had accumalated ourselves by our own mis-government of that country. If one looks at the condition of India at the present time the most obvious fact is the poverty of the country. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) amazed me by speaking of the prosperity of India and then a little later of the appalling conditions of the workers of India. How you can have prosperity in a country where the condition of the workers is appalling I do not know, unless that prosperity is something which takes no account of the condition of the workers at all.
I appreciate the desire of my hon. Friend to have hon. Members called in. As I was saying, the outstanding fact of the Indian situation is not the prosperity of India, but the poverty of India, and I shall not be contradicted when I say that it is increasing at the present time. It is the poverty of the peasants. Something like 80 per cent. of the population of India live in small villages; 72 per cent. are actually engaged in agricultural occupations, and of these small villages of which there are 500,000 in British India, about 340,000 odd are under 500 in population. They are extremely poor. It has been asked: How can you compare the standard of life of the people in this country and in Europe with the standard of life of the Indian peasant or the Indian agricultural worker? It is true that you cannot directly compare them, and it would not be rational to attempt a direct comparison between the amount spent on food and clothing and house rent. But there are certain definite methods by which you can compare them, and those are the vital statistics. In this country the average length of life of the ordinary person is about 45 years, while in India the average life is 23.5 years. There is, therefore, about 22 years difference in the average life of the citizens in this country and the inhabitants of India, and the infantile mortality rate, which is a good guide to social conditions and standard of life, reaches in certain industrial areas in India to something between 60 and 80 per cent.
There is again the question of the famines which occur in India from time to time, but the famine in India can only be regarded as a temporary acerbation of chronic poverty. There is also the question of the indebtedness of the Indian peasant to the Indian moneylender. It is calculated, roughly, that the Indian peasant lives for eight months of the year on what he earns, and for the other four months on what he borrows, and that about 90 per cent. of the total amount of the taxes paid are paid by borrowed money. That is a condition which is extraordinarily bad, and it indicates that something should be done. Although we are glad to know that the conditions are calmer than they were some time ago, that the railways are functioning properly, that canals are being built, this is not sufficient to console us for the fact that the poverty conditions of India, against which we protest, are now as bad, if not worse, as ever they were. And that is our responsibility. It has been said that certain subjects are transferred subjects, but this House is responsible for the whole of the government of India, including the transferred subjects.
I am not suggesting that the Under-Secretary should accept re- sponsibility for the administration of these transferred subjects, but I do suggest that this House is responsible, and definitely responsible, for the government of India as a whole, and, although certain subjects are transferred, it cannot escape, from the responsibility for what happens in India as long as it maintains the last word which is to be said on any question in its own hands.
That is not the constitutional position, nor is it the position under the Act. I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Member, but it is very necessary that we should be quite clear on this matter. Mr. Speaker refuses questions on transferred subjects, and the Chairman, of Committees, or the Deputy-Chairman, has ruled in the past that questions regarding the administration of transferred subjects cannot be raised in this House, The argument of the hon. Member is contrary to the procedure of this House and contrary to the whole spirit of the Government of India Act, by which the responsibility for these subjects we s given to Governors acting with Ministers in India.
The Debates on India are of rare occurrence in this House, and the Chairman of Committees naturally wishes to give as wide a scope to the discussion as he can. At the same, time hon. Members must remember that there are certain transferred services, to which a passing reference can he made, but on which a criticism of the administration cannot be made in this House because the Secretary of State is not responsible for them.
I have no desire to contest your ruling. I was, in fact, not making any criticism. The point was that from the constitutional point of view our responsibility is not got rid of by the fact that certain subjects are transferred; but I will not pursue that matter any further. I want to deal with the subject of the communal disturbances. They have been traced by some hon. Members to recent political developments in India, and it seems to me that some hon. Members are losing, a little, their sense of perspective. If they will only think of the political ferments and the political troubles that there have been in all the States of Europe and all over the world since the War, I think it is not unfair to say that the conditions in India are only parallel with those in all countries of the world, and that there has been a general raising of the political temperature in all countries since the War. That raising of the political temperature, of course, has had its expression in India, one of the unfortunate expressions being these communal disturbances, which we all regret.
The basic reason for all the troubles in India, I suggest, is again the terrible poverty of India. Again and again, we cannot get away from that question. That is a question certainly on which this House cannot escape from its responsibilities. I did not bring this matter forward merely to suggest the difficulties. I brought it forward for the purpose of suggesting a way out of our difficulties. Part of the way out has been suggested by the hon. Member for Dundee in his proposal that we should raise in this country a loan which should be expended in a way intended to achieve the object of raising the standard of life of the peasant population. I want to associate myself with that. I want to suggest that the best way of doing that is by associating ourselves with the existing organisation of the village which, as a matter of fact, English administration has largely destroyed, and that we should attempt to revive the old and traditional village organisation of India with the object of setting at work an organisation which the Indian people thoroughly understand, which they can thoroughly work, and which in the past has brought prosperity. I believe that, by setting at work the Indian village organisation, by helping in India to help herself, we should get the better cultivation, the better education and many of the benefits which have been asked for by various speakers to-night.
If we build on the basis of village organisation, we are using something with which the Indians are thoroughly well acquainted. The old self - governing village of ancient days, existing 400 years before Christ, has gone on through the centuries till the coming of the John Company to India. It has been largely destroyed during the time of our rule. The old village organisation with its craftsmen, its school, its Temple and its guest house is the traditional form of life in India. When one realises that 80 per cent. of the population of India live in villages, the organisation becomes really the key note of the fundamental problem of Indian organisation. I understand that at the present time in the newly-irrigated areas in the Punjab there are colonies of men and their families going out and starting new villages according to this old organisation of over 2,000 years old. If India is poor now, India has been through all the centuries fabulously rich. [HON. MEMBERS:"No!"] My hon. Friends are very much more learned than I in history, but if they will look back even to the ancient Greek historian, they will find stories of India's fabulous riches.
If they will look back to ancient medimval days, they will find that the village industries were the source of the great export trade of India. It was the village industries which supplied the rich vestments of the Doges of Venice. It was Indian industries which supplied a great deal of the ancient luxury of the world, and it has been, through the centuries, Indian exports coming from the villages which have made the riches of India known throughout the world. I suggest that the Indian peasants in the old days were better off than they are at the present time. It is quite true that we have carried out irrigation and built railways, and offered certain benefits, but I believe the Indians would be better off if we allowed them to govern themselves and rule themselves very much more in the old way to which they are accustomed instead of the way forced upon them. I believe that if we would attempt to rebuild the prosperity of India, to revive the old village organisation, that we should find that was the political way of helping on the economical revival of India. Through the village organisation we could make use of measures referred to by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and thus it would enable us to improve the standard of life. Do let me suggest to hon. Members opposite that, although it may be impossible, or at any rate very difficult to compare the standard of life of the workers in India and those in this country, as long as you have the appalling differences between the death rates in England and India, the appalling differences between the infantile mortality rates in England and India, the appalling differences between the physique of men and the endurance of men and women in India and England, you cannot pretend there is no difference in the standard of life. The men and women of India have a standard of life which is only half as good as we have. Many of the peasants are living on a diet which is a starvation diet in normal times, and is only relieved by occasional famine. That is not a condition which this House can congratulate itself upon. Though certain subjects are transferred, it is we who are the arbiters of the fate of India, and we should see that we do not allow that great country to be devastated by poverty as at the present time.
I always value the opinion of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, but when he talks about the physical qualities of India, the sufferings on account of lack of food and better conditions, I should like him to go to the Punjab and see some of the Sikh veterans up there. If he can find finer men physically anywhere in the world than these men, born in their own villages and under their own conditions, I will be surprised.
If the hon. Member reads medical statistics he will at once come across very serious losses. Undoubtedly, health in India or any other hot climate is very difficult for medical rules. Plague alone in India carries off hundreds of thousands every year, but it is not the fault of the British Government or of the Indian Government. They have done all they can with their schemes to stop starvation. Hundreds of British lives have been lost in trying to stop the plague. Had it not been for the British Government, more hundreds of lives would have been lost every year from starvation and plague. When the hon. Gentleman talks about the poverty of India, it is perfectly true that the great majority of Indians are very poor, but it is also true that those who are poor can live on one-quarter the money, despite the different conditions, required by other people, and compara- tively they are not at all poverty-stricken. He also says that other nations of the East look up to India as an example, I suppose, of what a country ought to be. I very much doubt if the old civilisation of China ever cared a bit about what happened in India. I always believe that the conditions in India since there has been British rule are very much better than the conditions of the Chinese and the Egyptians. I think this improvement is due entirely to the blessings of British rule.
I do not at all contradict the statement as to the enormous need for further effort in that direction, and in every other direction. I agree it is our duty to India to make that effort, but I think it rather unfair to point to conditions in India, without giving credit for all the things which have been done by British officials and the British people for the poor in India. I agree that one of the curses to the ryot in India is that he is in the hands of the "bunya" all his days, and when he dies, as was said by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), I think it is time that we took steps to urge on the Government of India to do away with this system. I must confess that on going out there as a soldier I found it difficult to find anything which was not in the hands of the "bunya." It seemed difficult to run business without the system, and I think it is a matter which the Government of India ought to be asked to take up because it is one of the biggest curses in that country, and it is a curse to more people than the poor ryot.
The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms are beginning to operate, and in India, more than in any other country, it takes time for a Measure of that kind to fructify. It seems to me that the reforms, necessary and right as they were, will require a good deal of time and patience to bring out the real value which we expect from them. The first obstacle which we had to encounter was the campaign of non-co-operation and Swaraj, and all the difficulties which the Indians themselves put up against taking any part in the Government. In fact, they did their best to obstruct the Government operating. I am glad to hear what the Under-Secretary for State has said to the effect that that particular phase is coming to an end, and will no longer interfere with the success of the reforms. Just as that was the first phase which followed on putting the new wine into old bottles, so the second phase seems to be that which we are experiencing now in the communal riots. It may or may not be a more difficult phase to counter than non-co-operation and obstruction. The speech of the Viceroy, reported in yesterday's paper, was one of the finest appeals that has been made to all sections of religion in India, and it is an appeal which ought to touch the hearts of Indians. I hope the Government of India and its officials will look at the situation and consider the question of smoothing out the difficulties between the two religions, in the manner indicated by Lord Irwin in his speech. He put the matter on a very high plane; he appealed to the religious instincts of the Indian people, and I think that fact shows how soon the Viceroy has learned to understand the bedrock of the Indian character. Religion is the bedrock of the character of many of the Indian people and one reason is because they are, to an overwhelming extent, agriculturists, living in the fields and the open air. They are much more in contact with nature than many other peoples, and it is a fact that beneath their character lies a very strong sentiment, stronger than any other sentiment, and that is their religion, whatever it may be.
I looked up the Debate of last year on this subject, and one paragraph in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was very interesting to me. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking from a different standpoint made almost the same remark as Lord Irwin made in his speech on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the influence of religion in the Indian character, and he mentioned that in connection with the Hindu religion the unity of the Peninsula was one of their great ambitions. There is no doubt that the best thing which can be done in facing the present situation is to appeal to the highest and noblest instincts of the Indian nature, and to see if, by that means, it is not possible to stop the communal strife which is ruining their own religions and ruining the country. I hope that by the policy of the Viceroy these troubles, which seem to have been foreseen last year by the Leader of the Opposition, will be settled, and that we shall get over the second phase attaching to the putting of new wine into old bottles, and India will, in time, benefit by her awn Government.
The Under-Secretary of State ranged over a very wide field and mentioned almost every subject, but he did not say much about the frontier of India, and our political relations with our neighbours on that frontier. I do not want to press my Noble Friend to say anything which he does not want to say, but hon. Members must well know—and our reading of the history of India shows it—that all the invasions of India in the past have come from the north. Tactics may change, but strategy never does, and there was an old saying that "never a nation would hold India except the nation that came by the sea." That was us, over 100 years ago, and now I believe the only danger we have is on the northern frontier. Simply from a defence point of view, and having regard to the disturbed state in which our relations sometimes are with Russia and other countries, but especially Russia, for the sake of India and her teeming millions, we ought never to neglect the defence of the frontier. I am glad that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is in his place, because, in the Army Debate, he was very much down on cavalry. It is interesting to note that only a few months ago one of these communal riots took place at Agra, and the authorities found the best way of stopping it was to send out a few British troops to walk about and show themselves, and the natives had such confidence in them, that the disturbance stopped.
I was not talking about that; I was referring to a different subject. My right hon. and gallant Friend wanted to do away with the cavalry, but often the only troops that are in the plains in India are the cavalry. They are more needed now in India than ever before to meet this particular phase that has arisen. This is no time to be doing away with cavalry regiments. It is rather the time to send another cavalry regiment or two to India to help the Government there, and if we did, the authorities there would be very glad, and it would no doubt save thousands of lives.
I am aware of that, and I think they have made a mistake in doing so, and that if they had had them in the last few weeks they would have saved very many lives. That was the point of my argument, and I only addressed it to the right hon. Gentleman opposite because I knew that he was one of those who wanted to do away with cavalry, and I wanted to show him the use of cavalry as policemen for our Empire in peace time. I congratulate my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary for India on the statement he has made, and I hope he will watch that great question of the frontiers of India and the interests of India, and that we shall press on slowly but surely with the reforms, notwithstanding any obstructions that are put in the way by any sections of the Indian people.
Before I develop the one point with which I wish to deal, I would like to call attention to the very unsatisfactory condition in which India finds itself in its relations with this House. Although the House exercises supervision over the administration of India, and although we are under a solemn pledge to give the people of India real self-government at the earliest possible moment, it is only by an accident, as it were by an afterthought, that we happen to be spending one Parliamentary day in the Session in discussing this great subject of India. I am not going to say that that is the fault of anyone in particular. It is inherent in the way in which our Imperialist organisation is built up. The Members of this House are very naturally much more concerned with domestic issues than they are with Imperial issues. Domestic issues like the coal dispute are very acute, and they are often very urgent, and it is only natural that hon. Members should think much more about those issues than about a great question like the Government of India, with its 300,000,000 people. The moral of that is that it is the duty of this House at the earliest possible moment to divest itself of a responsibility which it cannot properly discharge, and it should take the earliest opportunity of giving to India the real self-government which the people of that country want.
The point with which I wish to deal is the internment of political prisoners in India without trial, and here I would like to express my astonishment at the attitude taken up by the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary just now, when my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) made a statement about the agents provocateurs. He said that an inquiry having been made by the officials concerned, without the accused men having been heard, that inquiry was quite sufficient for him, and he wanted no further evidence. I am astonished that the Noble Lord should take up such an attitude. I always regarded him as being a type of fair-minded Englishman. [An HON. MEMBER: "So he is !"] Well, it does seem to me curious that he should regard an ex parte inquiry by a set of officials as being satisfactory and as justifying him in calling these two men criminals. I wonder how the Noble Lord himself would like to be called a criminal if certain charges were made against him by people unknown to him, if the soundness of those charges was investigated in his absence, and he was not entitled either to speak himself, to cross-examine the people making the charges, or to have someone there to perform this function for him. If in those circumstances he were found guilty, I am sure his blood would boil if someone afterwards called him a criminal, and I think he ought to be a little more circumspect than he was just now in using that most offensive term against citizens of the British Empire who have been charged with offences of which they have never had a fair opportunity of clearing themselves. Charges have been made, but they have never been expressly formulated, and their soundness has never been tested in a, court of law.
I submit to this Committee that this Bengal Ordinance, which we are considering, is a great blot upon the Government of India. It runs counter to the very elementary British principle that no man should be condemned unheard, but, as the Noble Lord told us this afternoon, there are some 130 British subjects who are at present under one form of restraint or another in India, who have been condemned without being given the slightest opportunity of proving whether or not they were innocent. The justification for this Bengal Criminal Ordinance Act was the statement that the ordinary common law would not be effective in dealing with these particular cases. It was said that if the cases were tried in the open Court, there would be intimidation of witnesses, and there might be violence offered to witnesses, but it is perfectly true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee said—and I challenge the Noble Lord to produce any evidence to the contrary—that the authorities in India have not been able to adduce a single case in recent times—that is, since the Bengal Criminal Ordinance Act came into force, and even for two years before that—in which there has been any intimidation of witnesses. The Noble Lord says he is prepared to produce evidence to show that intimidation has been taking place, but if he does that to-night, he will be doing something which the Government of India have been unable to do in the Legislative Assembly, and I should hear that evidence with very great interest.
I want to suggest to the Committee that there was absolutely no justification at all for applying this exceptionally suppressive Measure to India. There is no proof that the ordinary law had broken down. It was said, for instance, that there was a great deal of smuggling of arms, ammunition, and explosives of one kind and another going on, and the warrants which were issued for the search and arrest of these men expressly stipulated that they were intended to discover arms and explosives in 'the residences of these men. The searches took place, and there was not a single bomb, revolver, or explosive ingredient, nor indeed a single revolutionary document, found in the houses of any of these people whose homes were searched. There is one particular point which could be tested, and that was the result. The Commissioner of Police for Calcutta, Sir Charles Tegart, who was then Mr. Tegart, admitted a few days after the raids had taken place that not a single revolver nor any explosive or bomb had been discovered in these houses. That is an indication of the amount of substance there is in the charges against these men. One was smuggling of arms and ammunition, the other was revolutionary conspiracy to overthrow the Government by violence, and the third was conspiracy to assassinate Government officials. The Committee ought to remember the kind of men who have been arrested on charges of this sort. There is the chief executive officer of Calcutta Corporation, a man of great culture, of great refinement, of unimpeachable character. Is it at all conceivable that that man has been conspiring to assassinate Government officials? There are many other men of his type among the prisoners. I do not think the Noble Lord or anyone else could seriously suggest that men of that type were really involved in criminal conspiracy.
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The Government is said to have gat evidence. I would like the Noble Lord to tell us what kind of evidence they have got. Have they any documentary evidence. If they have, I hope he will say so; if they have not, I hope he will say what kind of evidence they are relying upon. Presumably they are relying upon verbal statements by some people who may or may not be enemies of those charged. The Noble Lord knows enough about human nature to know that motives of jealousy or hatred may enter into statements of that kind. It is quite conceivable that some of the brilliant young men in the Swarajist party have made enemies and that these enemies have taken the opportunity of bearing false witness against them. The only way of testing whether such charges are false or true is by examination and cross-examination. In a British Court of Law the unsupported evidence of a. witness is not accepted until it has been subjected to examination and cross-examination. None of this evidence has been, subjected to that. It is expressly forbidden in the ordinance that either these men or their representatives shall be entitled to be present when their cases are being heard. I do not know what the constitutional lawyers of this country think of procedure of that kind but to me as a layman it seems a gross outrage on elementary British justice. A very dis-
tinguished public servant, who had a long and honourable connection with India, said something about it in his time. I refer to Lord Morley. In 1908 there were deportations from India without trial, and Lord Morley, who was then Secretary of State for India, was very concerned about what was happening. He wrote on 18th November to Lord Minto, who was then Viceroy:
One thing I do beseech you to avoid, single case of investigation in the absence of the accused.
All these cases to which I am referring are taking place in the absence of the accused.
We may argue as much as we like about it, and there may be no substantial injustice about it, but it has an ugly, Continental, Austrian, Russian look about it.
In 1909 there was active agitation among the Members of the Tory party themselves against these deportations without trial. In that year Lord Morley wrote, and it is of great interest in view of who is the present occupant of the position of Secretary of State for India:
In the last fusilade of questions at the beginning of the week, a very clever Tory lawyer, P. E. Smith, the rising hope of his party, joined the hunt, and some of the best of our men are getting uneasy. The point taken is the failure to tell the deportee what he is arrested for, to detain a man without letting him know exactly why, to give him no chance of clearing himself. In spite of your Indian environment, you can easily understand how distasteful is such a line as that to cur honest Englishmen with their good traditions, and you will perceive the difficulty of sustaining a position so uncongenial to popular habits of mind.
But I think I can produce even better authority than that. This question was asked on the 23rd May, 1909:
Has the evidence against the prisoners concerned been made known to them so as to give them an opportunity of explaining or dealing with it?
That is a very pertinent question, which I would have been proud to put myself. It was not put by me, however; that question was put by Mr. F. E. Smith, now Lord Birkenhead. Again, he asked another question which shows how he, as a constitutional lawyer, soaked in the British tradition that a man should not be tried and punished unheard, was very concerned and disturbed at what was happening at that time, which is some-
thing analogous to what is happening now. He asked:
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the objection to informing the persons who have been deported as to the evidence and the grounds upon which they have been deported?
I am prepared to rest my case on the authority of the present Secretary of State for India. What was good law in those days, what was good constitutional usage, what was good doctrine of ordinary British justice, is equally good today. I am prepared to support Lord Birkenhead's attitude by demanding that these men should either be released forthwith, or be given an opportunity of proper trial according to the conception of British justice put forward by him in those days. It is said that every man who has been charged is a member of a terrorist organisation. We might ask the Noble Lord whether, as a small act of justice, he would give the name of the terrorist organisation referred to. That cannot incriminate anybody. There is no witness involved to be subjected to violence afterwards if he gives the name. I would invite him to do so as a proof of the bona fides of the Government in this matter. I would remind him of this—it may not be true, and have no foundation in fact—but there is an ugly suspicion abroad in India that these men were taken and interned, not because there is any reality in the charges formulated against them, but because they were particularly able and active members of a political party which was becoming a great menace to the powers that be in India. If he would clear my mind and the minds of many people in India of that suspicion, he should at least be prepared to tell us the name of the terrorist organisation.
These men have been interned, and had their liberty taken away. I do not care what kind of internment it is, but their liberty has been taken away for nearly two years, and they have had no chance of defending themselves. How much longer are they to be kept in this position? Is it the intention of the Government of India to keep these men interned for the rest of their lives? Not even the Noble Lord—die-hard though he may be—is prepared to get up in this Committee to-night and say that these men are to be interned without trial for the rest of their lives. That brings us to this: That some time or other the Government must say that these men must be released or come to trial according to the ordinary conceptions of British justice. Therefore I invite the Noble Lord to urge the Government to say that there shall be no further delay in this matter, but that for the credit of our British justice and the credit of our reputation in India, these men shall in the near future either be brought to trial or set at liberty.
I have listened with great interest to the speeches from the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell), and the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. H. Guest), and I was very much struck that all three of them seemed to treat India as some small Continental nation, with a homogeneous population, thoroughly well-educated, most anxious to get Home Rule and united in desiring to govern themselves. We all know that India is not a country at all. It is a vast continent of every variety of climate, from extreme tropical heat to extreme cold. We all know the people vary as much as the climate. We have every race and every colour; people of different languages and totally different religions or no religion at all; in fact, we have practically a world population in India. The word "India" does not represent a continent at all. The proper word to use is the word "Hindustan" which does imply the land of those people. The hon. Member for North Southwark forgot the history of India, and forgot that Alexander the Great brought civilisation to India, a civilisation which left the Greek language in India up to 700 years ago. I would remind hon. Members that this question is one of vast importance to these multitudinous nations represented by the people of India. Over 90 per cent. of these people are entirely illiterate.
It is due to the fact that it is Hindustan, and you cannot get at the people. It will take a century or more to get these people, scattered all over India and unwilling themselves, to accept the civilisation which we want to thrust on them. Not long ago in India we had a serious outbreak of bubonic plague. The cause was the flea which is found on the rat which infests every single house and hut in India. It was found that this flea gave bubonic plague whenever it bit a person. It was found that inoculation caused immunity to the people. We spent vast sums of money in organising the destruction of these rats, and the result was that there was almost a revolution of the people, who demanded that the rats should not be killed, because it was wicked and wrong to destroy them, for the rats were sacred. Other people objected to being inoculated because it was against their custom, religion and law. How can we thrust civilisation on these people until we have first educated them to realise our Western ideas and thought? The process must be gradual. There is a point I particularly wish to make. We have great responsibility in India, and our responsibilities are to all these various peoples, but we have one responsibility in regard to which I hope the Noble Lord will try to do something later on, that is, the responsibility to those people known as Anglo-Indians. We are personally responsible for their existence.
They are neither British nor Indian, but they are in an extraordinary position. Under our laws we have called them the "statutory natives of India"; under another law we call them European British subjects. They fall between two stools. Whenever any form of real self-government comes to India, I want to ask the Noble Lord if Lord Birkenhead, has come to any decision as to the status of the Anglo-Indian in India, and whether any hope has been held out to them in regard to the only services in which they are fit to take part. The Anglo-Indian is only able to take part in certain activities. He is quite unable to do ordinary labour. He has in the past lived as a servant in the Government in some subordinate position. He has aspired to the Indian Medical Service. Except very rarely the Anglo-Indian does not hold a high position, but occupies various subordinate positions. These are gradually being taken by Indians. It is up to us, who still have all the appointments to our Civil Service, to see that the Anglo-Indian has fair play, is given the same work in India as a British subject, and is given some sort of status there.
The other people I desire to mention are what are known as the outcasts. I was very much astonished at the attitude of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway towards the depressed people of India. Surely they must know that the depressed classes of India are the labourers, tie workers, and that they number no less than 20,000,000! They ought to realise the position of these people in India. Because of the other 300,000,000 people they will not permit an outcast to go into the polling booth, or associate with or touch them in any way. Perhaps hon. Members above the Gangway are aware that these men may not be brought within several yards of a Brahmin; if they are, they must shout, "Unclean, unclean." They must know that if an outcast passes a man who is having a meal the man has to throw that meal away if the shadow of the outcast has fallen upon it. These, I say, are the working classes of India.
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman is in error? He knows that it is in Madras where there are the largest number of outcasts, and that is the part of India where the smallest number of Brahmins are found?
The Muggrahs, who are all over India, are, perhaps, the lowest caste, come under the category I have mentioned. A skin or a leather worker and others engaged in similar work come under this heading. That is the problem we have to deal with. They look to us, as they have done ever since we have been in India., for justice and protection, and we have afforded it to them up to date. We cannot hand those labouring classes of the community over to the tender mercies of even the Constitution unless they have an equal right and an equal voice in that Constitution, and from my experience it will be many centuries before the castes of India consent to sit down and break bread with the outcastes.
Lastly, I want to ask the Noble Lord if he can tell us anything about the three lakhs of rupees which I understand it has cost this country for the Canteen Board which supplies British troops. In India a British regiment is entirely dependent on its canteen for the supply of necessities to the men—even what we at home may think are luxuries are an absolute necessity in India, like the morning tea and cake for men who are going on parade at dawn at six o'clock in the morning. My own experience, for what it may be worth, as second in command of a regiment in India, is that the system of working a canteen regimentally is undoubtedly the most satisfactory. There are two systems of working the canteen regimentally, one through a native contractor, and the other by the commanding officer himself running the canteen, through his second-in-command; this last being the most satisfactory way of all. If the commanding officer runs the canteen, it means that the whole of the profits go directly into the pockets of the men, in the form of a rebate, and that the food and drink and other things are of the very best possible quality; at any rate, it lies with the commanding officer to see that they are. With a native contractor there is the drawback of, perhaps, inferior stores, and the still greater drawback that he must make a profit, and, generally, a fairly large profit for himself. The system of canteens run by a board seems to me quite unsuitable for a country such as India. I know it has been a great success in Africa and other countries and at home, but India is situated differently, and if commanding officers were asked their opinion, I think they would prefer to have the canteen management in their own hands.
I should like to say that I feel the Noble Lord has given us a great deal of information with reference to India in the past 12 months. Although I was one of those who never believed that the diarchy system could succeed, I feel that under the great Viceroy we sent out to India it has been made a success, and I believe we have gone many steps forward towards giving self-government to India, which must come sooner or later. If we can keep the work going on as it has been in the last 12 months, if we can get agreement between all classes, we shall really succeed. Lastly, I want to remind the Noble Lord that British troops in India are the sole means by which we can prevent communal disorder, and I want hon. Members of the Labour party to realise it too. When I was in Bangalore a great many years ago we never had a single riot of any kind. We had great processions meeting arid clashing, but we always had British troops in the streets, and at every point in the native bazaars, and there was never a suggestion of violence because of the presence of those British troops. It is not the use of the bayonet or the bullet which prevents riots; it is the fact that you have present before the native of India the person fie respects and, I venture to say, loves, his protector, and he realises that that man is there for pax Britannica.
May I pay a small tribute to my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for his statement on Indian affairs; not only for the subject-matter which it contains, but also for the manner in which he delivered what must necessarily be, to the majority of Members here, a somewhat dry statement of facts? In the ordinary course I should not have intervened in this Debate at all, for have no comment even in the nature of constructive criticism to offer on events in India during the past 12 months, but the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. A. Guest), whom I regret to see is no longer in his place, made some remarks which I cannot allow to pass without a word or two of criticism. I am sure he will believe me when I say that I do not in any way desire to be pedantic, but, as one who has returned from permanent residence in India more recently than anyone in the Rouse, possibly he will permit, me to say, with all deference, that his whole attitude in regard to the standard of living of the peasant or ryot in India is based upon the most abysmal misunderstanding of the real situation. I say again I wish he were present, because I do not desire to misquote him, but he seemed to me to rebuke the present Government of India for not having raised or ameliorated the present standard of living of the ryot or peasant of India.
It is undoubtedly true that during a long period of years, and certainly during the last 15 or 20 years, the standard of living of the peasant and the ryot in India has been improving. The hon. Member above the Gangway has been speaking about a starvation diet, but if he had been with me in some of the districts of Northern India or in Gujerat and seen how the peasants of India live he would realise that to call it a "starvation diet" is a perfect misnomer. The ordinary daily diet of a peasant or ryot is gram, chupattis, fruit, water and possibly a little unleavened bread. In no sense is this diet much inferior to that of the high class wealthy Indian gentlemen, many of whom are true ascetics. The hon. Member went on to say that apparently the Government of India were to blame for not instituting methods which would bring a quicker amelioration of the standard of living of the labouring classes.
The hon. Member is probably ignorant of the fact that we have had to contend against obstacles which no one who has not lived in India can understand, such as the age long prejudice of the Indian lower classes against modern day methods of hygiene, sanitation, and all kinds of modern science. The hon. Member is probably unaware that a former Member of this House Sir George Lloyd (now Lord Lloyd) built chauls in Bombay which remained empty for 18 months because he could not get the natives to go into them; they had a bathroom, several windows, good ventilation and sanitation, and were much better and healthier than the attap huts in which they were living. These people could not be persuaded to go and live in those (hauls. With regard to improving the standard of living, I challenge anyone to deny that the peasant of India has consumed more wheat and worn more clothes year by year, and I hope he will continue to do so. The standard of living of the ryot of India is being ameliorated year by year, and during the last 10 years it has undergone a change out of all recognition. The recent abolition of the Cotton Excise Duty is another action of the Government of India tending towards assisting the peasant, for it means cheaper cloth to make their clothing.
The Noble Lord in his speech—I hope I am not misquoting him—mentioned one subject on which I am so whole-heartedly in agreement that I must allude to it. I understood him to say that he hoped that the best brains of India would continue to give of their very best to the common good. If he meant, as I understood him to mean, and as I hope he meant, by the best brains of India, the best European brains and the best Indian brains, I cannot support him strongly enough in my desire that his wish should be gratified, for, during the years before I retired from India three years ago, in all my public speeches, I hammered away at that point. I pointed out that, especially as regards Europeans going to India, it seemed to me that in many cases the be-all and end-all of their existence was to amass the largest possible fortune in the smallest possible time, and then retire borne to England. I pointed out, at the expense of some unpopularity to myself, that that was not a right idea, but that it seemed to me that all Englishmen and Indians should realise that there is a tremendous difference between making a business of politics and the politics of business. The whole-hearted co-operation in Indian politics of Indian business men and English business men would build up such a combination of brains and intelligence in the Legislative Assembly and in the Council of State that we should very shortly have a Legislature in India which would be second to none in the world.
A great variety of subjects have been touched upon in the course of the Debate, and I will endeavour, to the best of my ability, to deal with the questions that have been put upon them. First of all, let me bear testimony to what I think is a fact., namely, that, with one or two exceptions, such as the question of the Bengal Ordinance, about which I am going to say a word later, there has been really very little serious criticism of the administration of the Government of India in the course of this Debate: and I think I must emphasise the fact that it is a tribute to the success with which that administration has been carried on during the past year that on what, as it happens, is the only occasion upon which there has been a chance of discussing Indian policy, there has been practically no serious criticism of the administration. That, certainly, would not have been the case three or four years ago, and I hope it will not be considered improper on my part to take the rather unusual course of saying that I personally, as representing the Secretary of State for India in this House, am exceedingly grateful to the Committee and to the House generally for the manner in which Indian questions have been dealt with in the House in the questions which have been asked. I am glad to say that there has been gradually growing up, and I think it is most important that there should grow up, in the House, a tradition that discussions on Indian policy, like discussions on foreign policy, should be conducted on a nonparty basis. There is really, as I shall show in the course of my reply, very little difference of opinion between His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State and the leaders, at any rate, of the party opposite, although there may be some difference of opinion between some individual hon. Members opposite, for example, in the matter of the Bengal Ordinance.
I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the attitude which has been adopted by the Opposition towards Indian questions. No doubt that attitude has been helped to some extent by the fact that, as my Parliamentary experience, which is now a lengthy one, has gone to show, when affairs in the House are in the hands of an Under-Secretary, there is much less trouble than when they are in the hands of the Secretary of State, because, in some respects—especially with so mild and unprovocative and unaggressive an Under-Secretary as I have always been—he does not draw the fire of his opponents in the same way as when he blossoms out into the full honour of a Secretary of State. I do recognise with gratitude the attitude which the House has adopted
I will take in order the various questions which have been raised. First of all the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) asked me some questions, among others, about the representation of labour and the depressed classes in the Legislature, and he wished in particular to know whether the recommendations of the Committee on that subject had been accepted. I am glad to be able to announce to him—I think a public announcement has not been made before—that the Secretary of State has adopted the proposals of the Government of India that there should be additional seats in Provincial Councils for four Labour representatives, and eight representatives of the depressed classes, for labour, two in Bombay, one in the Punjab and one in the Central Provinces, and for the depressed classes, five in Madras, one in Bombay and two in the Central Provinces, making a total addition of 12.
Will there be any addition to the representation of Labour and the depressed classes in the Assembly, and is it proposed to allow the trade unions and the depressed classes to elect members, or will they be nominated?
They will have to be nominated. It is not practicable to take any other coarse, but that does not say that, when the revision of the Act comes to be considered before the Royal Commission, it will not, be possible to take another course. I understood the right hon. Gentleman's point was that while he objected to nomination and, indeed, to special representation, in principle, he had no objection to either as far as the lifetime of the present period of the reforms was concerned. I think I have answered his questions.
At the moment it is for the Legislative Councils. The further question of the Assembly is under consideration. The right hon. Gentleman also made an interesting reference to the Indian States. It is not a question that is easily susceptible of being dealt with in a reply such as I am making. It is a very big and wide question. As I understood it, his proposal was that the Political Department in India should do everything it could to encourage the progress of the Indian States. On that point I can only say, as anyone acquainted with India will agree, that the Political Department, ever since there was a Political Department, has been doing its best to help the progress of the Indian States, having due regard to the fact that those Indian States are enjoying a very large measure indeed of autonomy, in fact, almost complete autonomy. I do not think in that respect there is much in the way of improvement that can be effected. Everything that could possibly be done is being done, and everyone can sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman's view that it is desirable that the supreme authority should look with the utmost favour, as it does, upon all progress and signs of progress in the Indian States being carried out. I understand the right hon. Gentleman wishes that members of the Assembly should be designated by the term "honourable" outside the Assembly as well as inside. I shall be very glad to bring his suggestion to my Noble Friend's notice. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not mind me saying it was rat-her a curious suggestion to come from that particular quarter of the House. He apparently attaches very great importance to a title. I know he is not the only person who does. I do not, but a great many people on all sides of politics apparently do attach great importance to receiving a title, and it may be that the same motive will operate in India. But be that as it may, I shall be very glad to bring the suggestion to my Noble Friend's notice. In point of fact, they are generally, though, perhaps, not officially, known as the "Honourable Mr. So-and-so" outside the Assembly.
In reply to the right hon. and gallant Member, I can only quote the Act. He said that he was in some doubt as to the Act. The Act says:
At the expiration of ten years after the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament, shall submit for the approval of His Majesty the names of persons to act as a Commission for the purposes of this Section.
The Act is perfectly clear on the subject, and I do not think there has been any doubt in the minds of most people as to its meaning.
Another question, which is comparatively small, but an important one as affecting the welfare of British troops in India, is that of the canteens. The canteens there were started following the recommendation of the Esher Committee, for various reasons. The main reasons were that the food supply by contractors was found to be not satisfactory—some most unpleasant discoveries were made at the Government laboratory as to the nature of food supplied by contractors—and also that the contracting system was found to be very inefficient on active service. I had some experience of it. In the War in Egypt and in Palestine we had experiences similar to the conditions prevailing in India under the contracting system, and afterwards we had experience under the Army, Navy and Air Force Canteen Board, and the difference was very remarkable. There was not a single private soldier or any other rank who wanted to go back to the contractors. The Army Canteen Board was formed in India, but it did not give satisfaction, and it failed to pay its way. The chief difficulties were the hostility of the old contractors and of some of the units served, and also the problem of finding efficient supervisory staff. A Committee has reported on the subject and the Government of India are considering the Report. Meanwhile, they have obtained the most valuable services of a high official of the Army, Navy and Air Force Institute here, who has just returned from India after making prolonged investigation into the conditions. I understand that he if, going to make a report to his superiors as to whither or not it would be feasible and desirable for the Army, Navy and Air Force Canteens Board to take over the business of providing canteens in India. I must not be taken as pledging the Government of India in any way to that course, but it is obvious that if the Army, Navy and Air Force Canteens Board are prepared to take over the canteens in India, on reasonable terms, the Government of India on their part will give very favourable consideration to their doing so.
A question was asked, I think by the hon. Member for Cambridge University' (Sir G. Butler), about scientific research. He wanted to know what the Government were doing in that respect. The Central Scientific Services are maintained for work which has not been provincialised, such, for example, as meteorology and survey. Officers of the Scientific Services are sent home to take part in scientific congresses and research on frequent occasions, and the examination of the Indian Civil Service is designed to give full opportunity to men of scientific bent. The Government have given careful attention to the latter point, but it is obvious that you cannot lay down any specific regulations far admission to the Indian Civil Service to secure the appointment of scientists. You can only attempt to influence in that direction. I was asked a question about the Superior Services and the Family Pension Fund raised particularly in connection with the death of a gallant and distinguished officer in India. It was said that under present conditions, if he had been a married man, his widow would have received no pension. A contributory scheme for securing pensions for officers of the uncovenanted services has been prepared with the assistance of the Government Actuary. It is now under the consideration of the Government of India, and as far as the Secretary of State can judge it is a good one and likely to be acceptable to the services.
I prefer not to make any announcement as to the details of the scheme. It is still under consideration. I will inquire and inform my hon. Friend whether it is possible to make an announcement and he can then put a question to me in the ordinary way. Then there was a question with regard to the position of Anglo-Indians, and 1 should like to say that everyone must sympathise with the difficulties and disabilities under which that community suffers. The hon. and gallant Member who raised this question will agree that those difficulties and disabilities, which he may think have been aggravated by the Government, are mainly due to quite other causes. Their status and their future, and the question as to what can be done for them by the Government in order to reduce their difficulties, are under consideration at the present time. A number of them came over to this country on a deputation a year or so ago, were received by the Secretary of State and had a full opportunity of putting their views before him. Communication has gone on since between the Secretary of State and the Government of India on the subject.
Now I come to one of the two very important questions which 1 have to deal with, and I can only deal with it very shortly. The first is the question of the Bengal Ordinance. The only serious criticism of the Debate has been on that subject. It is really fairly old ground. It was raised on the Adjournment Motion at the end of 1924 and during the Debate on the Estimates last year. The hon. Member who spoke strongly on this subject was a. member of the deputation which went to see the Secretary of State some three months ago and discussed the matter fully with him. I am afraid my answer must to some extent merely traverse the old ground which I have gone over several times myself before. If the case of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) is really as strong as they represent it to be, it would be their duty to ask their leaders to move a Vote of Censure on His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State. We have had no condemnation from the Front Bench opposite of the Ordinance from the time it first came into operation until to-day; and for a very good reason, and that is that the policy underlying the Ordinance, and underlying the whole method of dealing with the situation in Bengal, was accepted by His Majesty's late Government and by the late Secretary of State for India, Lord Olivier. Therefore, whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite on the Back Benches feel about the matter, the Front Bench cannot escape full responsibility.
That is a perfectly fair interruption. I think it would be. All I say is that it is not logical for hon. Gentlemen opposite to condemn the Ordinance root and branch without mentioning their own Government and Secretary of State. If that is accepted between us, nothing more need be said on that point. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not regard this as discourteous or offensive. I am not going to take the pains I should otherwise take to defend the Ordinance if it is not attacked by the Front Bench.
That is quite true. That is a different point. It is true that the late Colonial Secretary took the deputation to see the Secretary of State. It will be within the recollection of the hon. Gentleman that the object was to discuss with the Secretary of State the Ordinance, the Regulation, and the Act which was passed. My point is that if the case was as strong as the two hon. Gentlemen have represented it, in the opinion of their own leaders, it would have been the duty of those leaders to put down a Vote of Censure on the Government. They have not done so. One hon. Gentleman said there was no sort of evidence, actual or presumptive, that the witnesses had been in danger as a result of conditions in Bengal before the Ordinance or the Act was passed. That was not so. I can quote the words I used in the debate two years ago, or rather instances which I gave in the debate two years ago. The Alipore conspiracy case was one. [HON. MEMBERS: "What date"?] I could not give the date off-hand. It was about 1922. The conditions prevailing then and the conditions which prevailed when the Ordinance was pat into operation were exactly the same, except that the terrorist organisation had increased rather than otherwise.
I could mention other cases where witnesses were interfered with. Let me say, quite frankly, as the Secretary of State said to the deputation, that the Secretary of State and the Viceroy regret the necessity for having to act as they did, but they say the necessity is there. The hon. Gentleman asks: "What evidence have you that these men were guilty? You have never brought them before a Court of law and never had your witnesses cross-examined." We have never had it done because it is not safe unless you are prepared to risk having your witnesses murdered. I have seen the evidence in the case of every one of the persons dealt with under the Ordinance, and I am convinced that those persons were guilty of terrorism or conspiracy, or being privy to terrorism or conspiracy. I shall never convince the hon. Gentleman, any more than I could convince him when he was making his speech and I interrupted to say that an inquiry had been made into the allegations, and that those allegations were thoroughly probed and inquired into by the Bengal Government. It was quite evident his attitude was: "We do not trust the inquiry or the persons who made the inquiry on behalf of the Bengal Government." If the hon. Gentleman does not trust the high officials of the Government, if he does not trust Lord Lytton or the Secretary of State for India or myself, there is really no good in attempting further—
Surely the Noble Lord will allow me to say that we never suggested anything of the sort. What we do suggest is that these men's accusations cannot be probed unless you are prepared to cross-examine these men and investigate their statement. Their case has never been probed and you cannot probe it in their absence.
What happened was this: these two men—the hon. Member objects to my describing them as criminals—these two persons who were in prison, wrote out a long accusation against the Bengal Government of some former date, of having employed an agent-provocateur. Their statement was thoroughly examined and all the alleged facts mentioned in it were investigated by the Bengal Government, and it was found that there was no foundation for them. The two men were in prison in Burma and the hon. Gentleman asks why should not the Government, have taken them to Bengal and cross-examined them? I say there was no reason to do that because there was no prima facie case for believing that their statement was otherwise than without foundation. The statements made in the paper which these men signed were found to be without foundation. I cannot attempt to satisfy the hon. Gentlemen opposite on that point, and I have not time to do so.
The hon. Member will excuse me if I merely point at the Clock. I would end my remarks by reiterating what I said at the beginning of my speech. I believe the position is one of increasing hopefulness and nothing in this Debate and none of the criticisms which have been made, have reduced my hopefulness in the slightest degree. I believe that it is for the Indians themselves to turn that hopefulness into realisation by co-operating fully in the task of making the present stage of the reforms useful and beneficial. I would say in reply to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite that by that means alone can the next stage fulfil their aspirations, as anyone who studies that part of the Act, which deals with the nature of the Report to be made by the Royal Commission, can see for himself.
May I ask the Noble Lord if he can promise to lay before the Secretary of State for India the extremely important suggestion by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), which seems to offer an opportunity to this country of doing increased business with India to the mutual advantage of both peoples?
I will certainly call my Noble Friend's attention to what the hon. Member for Dundee said, and, although I do not agree with all the conclusions at which he arrived in that part of his speech, I do entirely agree with his premises, which I understood to be that if you could increase the purchasing Power of the peasant in India it would be to the advantage of India and of the countries doing business with India.