Speeches & Writings
Indian Grievances and their Remedies
In seconding the following resolution of the Seventh Indian National Congress held at Nagpur in 1891, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said:
That fully fifty millions of the population, a number yearly increasing, are dragging and a miserable existence on the verge of starvation, and that, in every decade several millions actually perish by starvation.
That this unhappy condition of affairs is largely due to -
(a) The exclusion of the people of India from a due participation in the administration, and all control over the finances of their own country, the remedy for which has been set forth in Resolution II;
(b) The extravagant cost of the present administration, Military and Civil, but especially the former; and to
(c) A short-sighted system of Land Revenue Administration, whereby not only is all improvement in the agriculture of the country, on which nine-tenths of the population depend for subsistence, rendered impossible, but the gradual deterioration of that agriculture assured.
That hence it has become imperatively necessary-that the cost of the administration be greatly reduced; in the military branch, by a substantial reduction of the standing army, by the substitution of long term local European troops like those of the Hon. E, I, Company for the present short term Imperial regiments with their heavy cost of recruitment in England, in transport and of the excessive mortality amongst non-acclimatized youths; by the cessation of the gigantic waste of money that has gone on now for several years, on so-called Frontier Defences and by a strict economy in the Commissariat, Ordinance and Store Departments; and in the Civil Branch, by the wide substitution of a cheaper indigenous agency for the extremely costly imported Staff; and that measures be at once taken to give, as was promised by the British Government thirty years ago, and permanence to the land Revenue demand and thus permit capital and labour to combine to develop the agriculture of the country, which under the existing system of temporary settlements, in recent times often testing for short periods, in some cases only extending to 10 and 12 years, is found to be impossible and to establish agricultural banks.
That this Congress does most earnestly entreat the people of Great Britain and Ireland not to permit any further sacrifice of life by the short comings of the existing doubtless well-intentioned, but none the less unsatisfactory administration but to insist and speedily, on these reforms.
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :-
It is my duty to second the proposition, or part of the proposition which has been so ably moved by my friend Mr. Wacha. That duty is rendered easy by the exhaustive manner in which he has dealt with the subject; still I must ask your indulgence a few minutes in order to lay before you a few more ideas bearing on the same subject, and to show the extreme necessity and urgency of the reforms which we are advocating. It has often been said that we Congress people repeat from year to year the same old cries, the same demands, and then go back to our homes after completing this part of our work. But, gentlemen, who is to blame for this state of things! Are we to blame for repeating these old cries, or does not the blame rather pertain to the Government which turns from year to year a deaf ear to those our most earnest appeals? Numberless officers of the Government have said that the poverty of this country is unquestionably very great, and that poverty is growing from year to year. Sir W. Hunter, Sir Charles Eliot, Sir A, Colvin and a number of others have; from their seats in the Viceroy's Council, constantly repeated mournfully and sadly the fact that India is poor and is becoming poorer and poorer every day. And what do we find? Have any measures worthy of the name been adopted to ameliorate that condition, to check the growth of that poverty, and to stamp it out of the country? No, to our deep regret, and (1 am extremely sorry to say it) to the shame of our Government, nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done. Ten or fifteen years ago Sir William Hunter said that nearly a fifth of the population of India, nearly 40 millions, go through life on insufficient food. Sir Charles Eliot. While Commissioner of Assam, said: "I do not hesitate to say that half our agricultural population do not know from year's end to year's end what it is to have their hunger satisfied." Sir E. Baring, Financial Minister in the Viceroy's Council, said "That the average income of the Indian people was Rs. 27 per head." Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji has proved, and Mr. Digby has also recently shown, that the amount is under Rs. 21 per head. But in view of these admitted and undeniable facts, what measures have the Government taken to check the growth of poverty and stamp it out of the land? They may no doubt have made efforts now and then to show that they are willing to check the growth of this poverty. They now and then appoint a Commission to take evidence, here and there, and submit reports. But what is their treatment of these Commissions, and what do they do with these reports? They throw them aside for ever. There was the Simla Army Commission; there has been the. Public Service Commission; there was the Finance Committee. What have their labors brought about? no doubt bulky reports ably written and printed; but nothing further has resulted from them. It is therefore no fault of ours. It gives us no pleasure to repeat these same old cries-cries prompted by the intense agony of our condition-cries which go out of our hearts and our lips, not because we desire to talk of these things, but because the pain we feel compels us to utter them, to make these appeals to the Government in the hope that their hearts may yet melt, that they may yet take pity on the condition of the people and make an honest, manly effort to cut down expenditure, and to save the people of this country from the misery they are suffering at the present moment.
Of course, we know that the causes of this poverty are manifold. No one can expect us, in the course of our debates here, much less in the short speeches made on any of these resolutions, to deal exhaustively with all the causes of that poverty. In this resolution we deal with the causes for which the Government is mainly responsible, and we point out the remedies which the Government can directly apply, if it chooses to do so, and which it is the plainest duty of the Government to apply, if it cares to call itself a civilized Government. What are those duties and those remedies? In the first three clauses you speak of the exclusion of the people of India from a due participation in the administration. That has been dealt with by my predecessors, and 1 will leave it. Those who follow me may well take up the question of revenue administration. My friend, Mr. Wacha, has spoken of the military expenditure of the country. It pains me deeply to think of that question. You know that in the gracious Proclamation of Her Majesty she said that she held herself bound to her Indian people by the same ties and obligations as those which bind her to her subjects in Great Britain and Ireland; and further that no Indian subject of Her Majesty will be excluded from any appointment by reason of birth, color or creed And yet what do we find? Take the military branch of the service. Our countrymen have served the Government, and will continue to serve it with remarkable fidelity and unflinching courage they have gone beyond the borders of India, wherever Her Majesty has desired them to go, and have fought and shed their blood. And what have been their rewards? They are confined to such subordinate positions as Subedar and Resaldar majorships; they are not allowed to go higher, after 25 years of valorous service, they remain subordinate to the sub-lieutenant, who joined yesterday. Is that carrying out the intentions of Her Most Gracious Majesty? Where is the justification, in reason or in fact, for not allowing Indian soldiers to be appointed as captains, as colonels, and as generals in Her Majesty's Army. Have they not faithfully and bravely served Her Majesty in numberless battles? Can the most confirmed of our opponents point to one instance (setting aside the doubtful case of the sad Mutiny) in which Indian soldiers have not discharged their duties faithfully and honorably? Send Mahomedans to fight against the Afghan, the) lay side all considerations of religion and fight against brethren of their own creed. Send Hindus to any part of the country beyond India; they fight for Her Majesty faithfully and honorably. Why then exclude these people from any participation in the reward of the higher branches of the military service? What is the result? That a large proportion of the income of this country goes to foreign lands in the shape of pension and pay. The same remark applies to Civil Administration. There is that gracious Proclamation, and there is the practice of Her Majesty's representatives here and in England. Is the practice in conformity with the Proclamation? You exclude Indian people almost entirely from the Covenanted Civil Service by saying that you will hold the examinations for it only in England. You do not employ the children of the soil even in those positions which Secretaries of State for India have declared are reserved for the children of the soil.-l mean employment in the Uncovenanted Service. You recruit officers for the Covenanted Civil Service. A hundred officers are needed; you recruit a hundred and fifty. The result is, in the first place, that you make the country pay for service which it does not require; and, in the second place, you make these covenanted officials encroach upon the grounds reserved for men in the Uncovenanted Service. For all matters, whatever branch you take up, forest or railways or the P. W. D., the desire is not that Indians should be employed, not that fit men should be employed, not that fit men should be employed, but that places may be found (I am sorry to say so) for Englishmen in India, so that they may draw: incomes far beyond their market value at their own homes, and take their savings and pensions hence to spend them in England (Cheers.) Let none think that I am prompted by any unkind feeling towards my English brethern in saying so. I have the same love, affection and esteem for them as I have for my other fellow human beings. What I say is that it is most improper, that it is unrighteous, that it is criminal and sinfiul to let people living in a distant country come here and enjoy all these advantages while you have a host of people starving at your door. You speak of the poverty of the country. What else can the country be but poor! The Marquis of Salisbury himself declared that much of the revenue of India is exported without any equitable equivalent in return. There are others who say that a large proportion of the revenue of India goes out in the shape of pay and pension to England and other places. The total expenditure of the Civil Service is about millions. Of this nearly two-thirds go to Europeans, and only one-third to natives of this country. In the Military Service, again, all the loaves and fishes, all the best and most honored offices are given to Europeans, not because they are a whit fitter than their brother Indian soldiers, not because they are more courageous, more able to fight and to defeat the enemy, but because they happen to possess a fairer complexion. (Shame).
Combining the Military and Civil Services: You will find, I cannot give the exact figure, but it - cannot be less than is millions sterling ever year going in the shape of pay and pensions and home expenditure of various kinds to England from India never to return to it. The result has been well pointed out in the press and on the platform, but no one has put it more pithily than Mr. J. Wilson in the Fortnightly Review of March 1884, and his re-marks are true now, with the necessary corrections. He says: "In one form or other we draw fully £ 30,000,000 a year from that unhappy country, and there the average wages of the natives is about per annum, less rather than more, in many parts" (of course we know that it is nothing like £s; it is £1 and a few shillings.) "Our Indian tribute, therefore represents the entire earnings of upwards of six (in reality 100 millions) of the people. It means the abstract of more than one-tenth (really one-third) of the entire sustenance of India every year." I will not longer occupy your time. I have had my little say. and I hope that those who follow will make it clearer still that the Government, in excluding the children of the soil from employment in the higher branches of the service, are, persisting, not only in a most un- righteous but a most suicidal policy. Gentlemen, Government cannot live without the people. Let the people continue to grow poorer and poorer, and the Government is nowhere, or at any rate it ceases to deserve the name of Government. We have hitherto appealed almost in vain; let us hope that our present appeals will not be entirely fruitless. It is true that we are interested, and, therefore, we speak with bitterness and warmth. Who else will speak but those who are interested? It is the man who is being flogged who cries out, not the mere bystanders! We appeal to the English people who are our brethren to make their administration of this country more in conformity with reason, with justice and with common sense, with those high and noble principles, which have always been their pride, and which have raised them to the proud position which they now occupy before the world. Then, and then alone, will British rule in India be the glory, as it should be of England. Let me quote, in conclusion, the words of Mr. Bright on this subject: "You must remember that all this great population has no voice in its own affairs. It is dumb before the power that has subjected it. It is never consulted upon any matter connected with its government. It is subject to the power that rules over it, in a manner that cannot be said of the population of any civilized Christian people of the world! Let the English people make haste and take away this great reproach cast upon them by a man whom they revere and then we shall always be happy in our mutual union and to our mutual benefit (cheers.)