Speeches & Writings
Reforms to Prevent Famines
In seconding the following resolution of the fifteenth Indian National Congress held at Lahore in 1899 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said:-
That this Congress, while gratefully recognising the endeavours made by the Indian and Provincial Governments to save human life and relive distress at the present famine, urges the adoption of the true remedy to improve the condition of the cultivating classes and prevent the occurrence of famine. This Congress recommends the entailment of public expenditure, the development of local and indigenous industries, and the moderating of land assessment.
Mr. President, ladies and Gentlemen :- I have the pleasure to second this resolution, and I do not think 1 need say much in support of it. This is a question, gentlemen, which has not been brought before the Congress for the first time. Almost ill an identical form this matter has been-placed before the Congress in years past, and the Congress has expressed its opinion very emphatically as to the true remedy for famine. Gentlemen, the regret is that notwithstanding this recorded expression of opinion by the Congress, notwithstanding the expression of similar opinion by English Statesmen and Politicians who have governed this country and, notwithstanding also the conviction which has been expressed in writing by many officials of State, the remedy which seems to be not denied, not seriously disputed by anybody but admitted by most, should not yet have been most seriously adopted, at any rate that no serious effort should have been made' to grapple with the question, as it should have been done. Now, gentlemen, in the first part of the resolution you justly express your appreciation of the endeavours which are being made by Provincial Administrations to relieve distress and to mitigate suffering so far as they can, by administering relief in times of famine. It is undoubtedly a grand humanitarian sight to see the Government employing all its vast machinery to relieve distress, so far as it humanly can, when there is actual distress in the country. I do not think there is a single man who has seen the grand famine operations or heard of them and yet will fail to express his deep obligations to the Government for that measure. But when these sights recur with an unfortunate frequency as they do, when you find famines coming one after another during the course of a short period of 3 or 4 years, you begin to turn away from the consideration of the humanitarian aspect of relieving distress when it comes, and you began almost to feel callous for the time being as to the cultivating classes, so that they may be better able to bear the rigours of famine when it should approach them. With regard to the first, it seems to me that certain officials of Government think that it is an impracticable scheme, that the days are long. p when Governors or Statesmen, British Indian St men, would think of extending the permanent settlement, that we must not hope that it would ever extended, that huge mistake was committed in Bengal where a large portion of the revenue of Government was made over to the Zemindars of Bengal, to the detriment of the rest of the country.
The government, so say some of these statesmen, not going to repeat that huge blunder. Well, gentlemen, if it were that only the zemindars of Bengal or any other part of India that were to be taken into consideration, I should not be taking up your time and spending energy in speaking on this aspect of the question. The zemindars are only a small body in the country, compared to the great mass of the population in whose midst they live, and I am that nobody would desire that the measure should not be adopted because while it will benefit a large body of men in the country it would also benefit the zemindars (cheers). Gentlemen, the conviction has 100 been expressed that permanent settlement is needed, and I would only read to you some quotations from high official authorities in support of that view. It is no doubt in 1793 that permanent settlement was introduced in Bengal. The Government had not then all that information before them which they have now after a century. It is not that English statesmen have given up their idea until a very few years ago, of extending permanent settlement to other parts of the country. In 1862 the Secretary of State in a despatch pointed out that it was desirable to extend permanent settlement wherever a certain portion of the area has come under cultivation. Again in 1865 the same opinion was expressed. Now, gentlemen, the words of the despatch are so important that I ask your permission to read Some of them. Writing in the despatch of 1862, Viscount Halifax said ;-
After a most careful review of these considerations, Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the advantages which may be reasonably expected to accrue not only to those immediately concerned with land but to the community generally, are sufficiently great to justify them in incurring the risk of some prospective loss of revenue in order to attain them, and that settlement in perpetuity in the districts in which the conditions requires it or, may here-after require it, is a measure dictated by sound policy and calculated to accelerate and develop the resources of India and to ensure in the highest degree the welfare and contentment of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. Now, gentlemen, such an opinion as that coming soon late as 1862 and being laid before the Government India; and the conviction of vast numbers of educated Indians who live in India in the midst of the people and who are better acquainted with the evils which art incidental to a temporary settlement of land revenue, should set, the Government of India at least into a mood for serious enquiry whether that was not the real and true remedy for the state of things which we ill common with the Government of India deplore. Then, gentlemen, there is the question of the fixity of tenure to the cultivating classes. I am glad to find, and I am sure we are all grateful to find, that not in one but in several Provinces, the Government is anxious to obtain fixity of tenure to the cultivating classes. In these Provinces, you are aware that efforts are being made in that direction, and efforts have been made in other Provinces too. Now, gentlemen, you must remember one thing. There is a great deal of opposition shown at times, particularly by the Zemindars to the advantages of ryot only being looked to in the proposals of the Government. I do not speak here for the Zemindars, but I speak in the interests of the ryot. The Government ought to introduce such rules and make such arrangements as will not have to be given up or gradually modified to prevent discontent among Zemindars or to pacify them; and one essential condition of success in the line is that while Government wants to give fixity of tenure or certainty of long lease to the cultivating classes, the Government ought also to restrain its hands and not repeatedly demand increased revenue for over 12 or 20 or 33 years from the Zemindars (Cheers).
In the unusual excitement which the Land Revenue-Act has produced in these Provinces I have had occasions to meet and discuss the question with several Zemindars and I find, gentlemen, that not one, but many of them said to me:-
We would be very glad and we are very willing that the Government should extent to the riot what they want, if the Government would give us also permanent settlement as to the revenue demand. (Cheers.)
Therefore, gentlemen, to that extent, 1 say the question of permanent settlement is one which concerns the riots also. Place some restriction on your revenue demand and place a corresponding restriction upon the demand of the Zemindar from the cultivator, so that the cultivator may be secured against undue enhancement and against capricious ejectment; and you will have secured the happiness and contentment of the very greatest portion of the population of India (Cheers) Gentlemen, there are just two other matters that I want to touch upon. I am very sorry I have trespassed too long upon your patience. Of the two other matters to which I will briefly refer, one is, amongst other recommendations we make. We say that Government ougbt to foster native industries and native arts. Time there was) when in this very city of Lucknow any number of, persons were employed in producing things of native manufacture, and earning a very handsome living by that means. Unfortunately to-day if you go and inquire of the old citizens of Lucknow, you will find that' products of English and other foreign mills have entirely killed Indian industries. Gentlemen, we do not blame; the Government for it. That is a matter about which we make no complaint to the Government. What we pray is that the Government would take measures to give technical and industrial education to the people, so that they may be able to find out the means of producing those things which are required in India in their own midst and not send away-crores upon crores to foreign lands in lieu of things that exist (Cheers). It seems that even if all our prayers regarding greater employment of Indians in the public service were granted, that would bring us only a very small relief, compared to the great relief which would come to the country ,by the introduction or revival of native arts and industries (Hear, hear). Gentlemen, it is for this reason that we pray to Government to take steps to give a better technical instruction to the people of this country than they have hitherto been doing. In England itself more is done than in India; while in countries, like Germany, in Asiatic countries like little Japan much more attention is paid to important technical instruction, preparing the people to produce things, that they require for their ordinary every day use.
Therefore, it is, we say that, in our opinion, the Government ought to spend much more money on establishing and maintaining colleges for imparting technical education, than it has hitherto done. Gentlemen, if these prayers are considered in a candid manner, if these prayers are listened to and a serious enquiry is instituted as to the means by which effect can be given to this, I have no doubt the condition of the people will greatly improve at no distant date, and if famine should even then come to the doors, of our people they will be better able to protect themselves against that calamity and the Government will find it not necessary to come to the rescue of the people to the extent they do at present (Cheers).