Speeches & Writings
Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure
IN moving the following resolution of the thirteenth; Indian National Congress held at Amraoti in 1897 Pandit Madan Mohan Mataviya said:
That this Congress rejoice that the Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure was pleased to decide to admit the public to its proceedings, and further desires to express its grateful acknowledgements for the opportunity afforded by the Honourable Commission to representative Indians witnesses to state fully the case on behalf of India. With regard to the three divisions of the reference the Congress desires most respectfully to submit the following prayers for the favourable consideration of the Honourable Commission :-
(i) As regards the Machinery to control Indian Expenditure, it is prayed - (1) that the non-official Members of the Viceroy's Council may be made more directly representative of the Indian people, and that they may have the right to move amendments and divide the Council upon the procisions of the Budget; (2) that a sufficient number of representative Indians of position and experience may be nominated to the council of the Secretary of state on the recommendation of the elected Members of the Viceroy's and Local Legislative Councils; and (3) that each year a Select Committee of the House of Commons may be appointed to inquiry into and report upon the functional condition of India :
(ii) As regards the progress of Expenditure, it is prayed that the Military and other unproductive expenditure be reduced, that larger amounts be spent in promoting the welfare and the progress of the people, and a large saving and a more efficient administration may be obtained by the substitution, as for as practicable, of Indian for European agency in the higher grades of the Public service; and
(iii) As regards apportionment of charges, it is prayed that the Imperial Treasury may bear a fair proportion of all expenditure in which the common interests of India and the rest of the empire are involved and especially that the expenses of the war beyond the frontier may be largely borne by the Imperial Exchequer. Lastly, that it be an instruction to the President to submit a copy of this Resolution under his own signature to the Chairman of the Royal commission with the least practicable delay.
Gentlemen, my task is easy, Everyone of you who has either attended previous Congresses, or who has studied Congress literature, must be aware that this resolution only crystallizes the opinions which have been repeatedly expressed at previous Congresses, Go through the report of the Congresses of earlier years, and you will find that almost everyone of these propositions has been discussed at full length at previous sittings. Besides, the arguments necessary to support the prayers, have been lately put forward so admirably and so fully by our honored friends, who appeared before the Royal Commission to give evidence behalf of the Indian people, that it would be taking up your time unnecessarily were I to go into those reasons, and explain those arguments. Gentlemen, you will perceive that, so far as the first prayer is concerned, regarding the machinery of control of Indian expenditure, at the very first sitting of the Congress the question was discussed, and there we desired the abolition of the Council of the Secretary of State, and asked for the appointment of a Standing Committee of the House of Commons to control the expenditure of India in a better way than had been done. If today, you are asked by this Congress to pass this resolution, it is only to put briefly in the form of a relief added to a complaint or petition, the case that you want the Commission to consider, and also to put the stamp of your approval and to give your further support to all these resolutions which are scattered over the Congress reports of previous years. I hope that the fact of this resolution being passed by the Congress today will further strengthen the hands of those honorable members of the Commission who are inclined, and I hope all of them are so inclined, to grant some concession, to recommend some measure of relief, in equity and justice, to the people of India in the matter of expenditure. (Cheers.) It will make it clear to them that the Congress representing the diverse provinces of India, representing at the least, to satisfy the most difficult mind, the most educated community of India, that this Congress supports this, prayer in the best way it can. And if they want further to satisfy themselves of the constitution of the Congress only in order that they may be better able to judge of the weight they should attach to these resolutions, let them look at the list of delegates who have attended previous Congresses, and I am sure they will be satisfied that there is no province of India in which the very best portion of the educated community has not most strongly supported this resolution. (Cheers.) It is hardly necessary for me to detain you very long, but with your permission I will briefly say a few words before I resume my seat: You will admit that it is undisputed, that the machinery to control Indian expenditure, is at the best, very defective, and works very freely so far as the interests of India are concerned. You know, gentlemen, that there is a clash of interests to a great extent. The Indian people are not represented in the Councils, either Executive or Legislative, in the manner in which the British people are represented in the Parliament of England, so that they may have a voice in directing or controlling expenditure. The people who do form the Executive Council-the active portion of it-are persons who are not the payers to the taxes, to use the words of the late Mr. Bright, persons who are the spenders of the taxes-both members of the Civil service and of the Military services I do not mean to insinuate that they are reckless, that they are regardless of the interests of India. But when the question comes to be that they have to spend the money towards which they contribute but little, there is not the same anxious consideration shown as to how and when the money shall be found, as it would undoubtedly be if the money was largely to come out of their own pockets. There is further, this difficulty that the House of Commons in England though nominally all powerful, are practically powerless against them. Representations made against Government have failed in the past, and have had very little effect. There is another instance which shows that the machinery is very feeble and not sufficient' to protect Indian interests. When you have other interests which might be called the interests of the capitalists in England, you find that contracts have been entered into between companies for working this line or that line which has been proved to have been undertaken without due regard to the interests of India. In all this you will find that the machinery of control is very defective) and you have had lately a painful instance to support that view. Looking to the civil side of it only a few years ago you had an expenditure of a crore and a half of rupees added to the expenditure of the country in the way of exchange compensation allowance to the highly paid Civil service of India. Gentlemen, is it possible that a proposal involving such a huge expenditure, at a time when the country could least bear it, could have been rushed through and carried out by the executive Government of any country in which the expenditure was properly controlled? And is there a single man who can deny that it was an act of great injustice to the people of India? With regard to the military side of the question, my esteemed friends Who have preceded me, have shown to you how burden after burden has been heaped upon the back of the poor Indian riot-heaped without the least justification-by Burma being annexed to the Indian Empire and by war being undertaken on the Afghan frontier the whole of this expenditure being laid upon the back of that poor Indian riot. We protested in the strongest manner we could, at the very first congress, as Mr. Wacha could say. We asked that if Burma should be annexed, England should defray the cost, and that Burma should be constituted a crown colony. But our voice was like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. And eighteen crores more were taken out of our revenues to meet the expenses of Upper Burma! Then again, gentlemen, look at these frontier wars. These have been undertaken in the past and are being continued in the present without a due regard for Indian interests. On that point, however, I need not detain you longer, because we must be thankful that some of the great statesmen of the Liberal party in England have at last awakened to the seriousness of the situation, their, liberal consciences have been stirred up, and I hope they will not rest satisfied until they obtain a reversal of that policy, which entails so much unnecessary expenditure on India and which bas fearfully embarrassed the finances of this poor country. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, how is it that all this is going on under the otherwise, generally speaking, excellent administration of Great Britain? How is it that the money is so easy obtained? If a vote had to be obtained in the House of Commons for the borrowing of a crore of rupees there would be a discussion and a division in the House and the ministers would have to give cogent reasons why the borrowing was necessary. Here the Government of India and the Secretary of State might decide at any moment to launch a loan of four or five crores of rupees. The borrowers find it easy enough to be extravagant. Those who have to find the money, to save the money out of their own real income, find it hard to spend more than their means justify, And so it is that the facility of borrowing and the absolute absence. I might say practically speaking, of any check upon the borrowing tendency of the Government of India, which is sometimes supposed to be a matter of congratulation, but in this instance happens to be some-what of a curse, I say that the facility with which the Government of India can borrow and the absence of any check have led them to multiply our national debt ever so large that now we stand indebted to over hundred crores. Gentlemen, if there were a discussion in the Council and we were permitted to question whether this loan was necessary or whether some of these things should not be put off for some time and whether the expenditure should not be curtailed in some other way, perhaps the necessity of borrowing, would not be so great as it seems to be to the Government of India at present and perhaps the debt of India would not have multiplied so fast as it has in the past Now coming to the civil aspect of the question, gentlemen, I have already referred to the exchange compensation allowance; I have already referred to the growth in military expenditure and when you look at the total figure you find that it has been growing enormously. But has there been a proportionate increase in the capacity of the people to beat an increased taxation? Has there been a proportionate increase in the national income of the people of India? I wish there had been. If there had been a proportionate increase in the tax-paying capability of the people of India, no one would have rejoiced more than ourselves to find that it was so and no one would have been more glad than the Congress people and the people of India generally to contribute whatever was necessary to carry out the Administration of the country in the most efficient manner. (Cheers.) Unfortunately, gentlemen, while our taxation has been multiplying by leaps and bounds, while our debt has been growing enormously there has not been the increase in the national income which we might have expected under the rule of Great Britain. Coming then, gentlemen, to the proposals put forward to supply a cheak, what are they? Are they reasonable? Or would they hamper the Government in carrying on the administration of the country? I ask our strongest opponent, if there be any in this hall, to give this matter the closest consideration and to consider for himself, to ask his conscience whether the proposals that we put forward are not moderation and reasonableness themselves. What do we say? We say, "make the members of the council of the Viceroy of India more directly representative, of the Indian people", Just now you nominate them after they have undergone a very diluted process of ejection by a very small number of the members of certain Boards. We say "make them more directly representative"-We do not put forward any scheme--"in the best way you think proper. but do make them more representative". You have them there, you must have them there, now that the Act has been passed. We only ask that they should have a better claim to speak in the name of the Indian people, and that the people may have more confidence in them than they can now have under present circumstances by asking them to make them more directly representative of the people. Suppose this proposal is carried out, would the Government he hampered in carrying on its work? The official majority will always be strong in the council; Government having the official majority will be able to carry out every proposal that it thinks it must, in the interest of the Empire. And all that we would be entitled to do is to vote and to divide the Council. What would be the result, gentlemen, think for a moment, when Government know that these members of the council have power to divide and discuss and vote in that fashion. All unsound proposals, at any rate all proposals the soundness of which and the necessity for which will not be supremely clear, would be kept back by the Government of India. Those only would be brought forward, as a rule, speaking generally,-some at least of those proposals that are so easily put forward, and rushed forward will not be rushed forward, so easily and the Government will keep them back-those only will be brought forward that must be carried. They will undoubtedly be carried if the Government decide that they must be carried because they will have the official majority; but in the majority of instances the fact that the additional ejected members of Council have recorded a vote against them have entered their protest and have divided the Council would exercise a very salutary check on the Government of India (Cheers), and would be very effective as a control. Then, gentlemen, what do we ask? Next, we ask, that a sufficient number of representative Indians of position and experience may be appointed to the Council of the Secretary of State. You remember that times without number we asked for the abolition of that council; we asked if you don't abolish it, improve it; either end it, or mend it." If you don't end it, Pray meant it. As it stands, it does so very little good, and I am very sorry to say, as we believe, does us a lot of mischief. We ought to have one or two more representative Indians, men like our esteemed friend Mr. W. C. Bonnerji (Cheers) and Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji. (Loud and continued applause) who command the confidence of the entire people of India and whose presence there, will be a guarantee that the Indian side of the question will be fairly and fully placed before the council before it decides to take any definite action. It cannot be said that we cannot supply men who can usefully serve on the council when I have given you those two instances. Then we suggest that a committee of the House of Commons may be appointed. You can understand the importance of such a proposal. The report of such a committee to the House of Commons will carry great weight in any recommendations that it may make and the members of the House of Commons who cannot, as matters stand, give that attention and interest to Indian questions which our real welfare demands, they should, will certainly be able to look at the report of the Select Committee, and all the salient points will be easily and effectively discussed in Parliament to the great good of India, and England too. Gentlemen, as regards the progress of expenditure, one thing that we recommend is that the unproductive expenditure should be reduced. Need I say anything to support that view? Who will say that such unproductive expenditure should be carried on as it has been carried on in the past, while a reform of such urgency which would lead to the well-being of the people, as the separation of the Executive and Judicial functions, or a reform of even greater emergency than that, viz. the education of the poor of the country, is neglected and ignored practically? Considering the amount that is spent on frontier policy and on other matters, the amount spent on education is but a trifle. Who would say that the Government of India should not divert its attention to this question and spend more money upon this than it has done in the past? We say that a larger saving and more efficient administration may be obtained by the substitution of Indian for European agency for higher grades of the Public Service. Gentlemen, I do not know that I need dwell at great length upon the subject, but there are a few points connected with it which I beg of you to allow me to place before you. We have been so long under British rule. No honest. Indian who has not lost his head can fail to recognise and freely acknowledge the great blessings that we have enjoyed, do enjoy under British rule. (Cheers.) But at the same time the education that the British people themselves have imparted to us, and for which we feel thankful and for which they need not feel sorry that same education has enabled us to understand many questions. The government have lifted us to a certain level, but some people want to keep us hanging in the air. So we say to government, let us go up, Some Anglo-Indians wish that we should go down. But the English principles of constitutional government are too strong to permit of that course being followed. We say "pull us up a little bit and we shall be more thankful and more loyal." Now what do we find? In these matters of service you find that during these many years, numerous proofs, which can be seen in any direction that any man might throw his eyes upon, have been afforded of the loyalty, the deep abiding loyalty, both of the princes and the people of India. (Cheers.) The government are fully satisfied that the native army is loyal. Let us begin with that. Government have had a splendid proof of the loyalty of the brave sikhs and of other soldiers that have been fighting on the frontier. The Government and the whole English speaking world, the civilzed world which has read accounts of the valorous deeds of the twenty-seven Sikhs who died at Sheergon (Cheers.) have generously and justly given the due measure of praise to the valorous Sikhs and other soldiers who have fought and died there for the glory of the British Crown, Now, Gentlemen, we are happy to know that there is a universal feeling amongst Anglo-Indians and Indians also, that the memory of these deeds should be properly perpetuated. I do not think that there call be any better course adopted to do that than to recognise that hence forward these restrictions which prevent Indians of merit in the army from rising to the topmost ladder of the service shall be no more; let it be remembered that these twenty seven Sikhs who died at Sheergon have with their blood, sealed the doom of that policy which prevents Indians who have served their sovereign and their country right loyally and valorously from rising, as European members of the service, do rise, to the higher grades of the military service. (Cheers) I am sure that any other recognition or reward of that merit, pardon me for saying so, becomes trifling so long as this has not been done. Gentlemen, that much for the native army. I must now be brief, for I have already trespassed a good deal on your attention. Gentlemen, coming now to the Civil services; In the Civil service of the country you find that a great bulk of the work, the most important work is carried on by Indian agency. Government trust us with all that. It is only at the head of the district, it is only at the head of an executive body, that they insist upon having a European member in most instances. We say, "is not the century of English rule during which you have entrusted us with your secrets, during which we have helped you to carryon the administration of the country to our good and to your glory, enough to satisfy you of the fidelity and trustworthiness of the natives who have received education and whom you have appointed to these services"? If this is not so, then I say it is a very sad commentary upon the English rule in India. I claim it has been so, it is proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Indians to whatever post they have been appointed, whether as High Court Judges, or as Commissioners of Divisions or as Collectors of Districts or holding any other responsible situations, have been true to their salt and sovereign, they have acted as gentlemen of education and position as any European gentlemen of education and position would have acted under such circumstances. Where then is the justification, where then is the excuse for keeping up this state of things? Why not permit Indians more freely to join the service and to rise to the top, if they show the necessary merit and qualification for it? The result would be largely to the good of India and greatly to your glory. There would be a great saving effected in the administration of the country. So well-informed a writer as Sir William Hunter has said that the interests of the administration demand now a large substitution of the Indian element for the European. The money is not forthcoming, you have exhausted the resources of the country, and if you go on paying for the services of European members of the service at the high rate you do, and if you go on multiplying their number and there by multiply the liability for exchange compensation, you will find that yon will become bankrupt one day if you are not already far from it. Therefore, people have suggested wisely that you should substitute a large Indian element in the administration of the Empire. I need not dwell upon the other branches of administration. But is it at all becoming the high civilisation of great Britain is it at all befitting, is it at all compatible with, the enlightened Government which has obtained for centuries in Great Britain, that the. British Government should have to be told to take a leaf out of the pages of the great Mogul Emperor, to find a parallel for these things? Is it necessary for us to tell them that under the rule of Akbar a Todar Mall was appointed Finance Minister, and a Birbal was appointed Governor? If these things happened in the days of Akbar, why should not they happen in the time of a far greater sovereign than Akbar, the great Queen-Empress of India? Well gentlemen, I must close now. The third portion of the resolution is that which relates to the apportionment of charges, About that I need not say much because several members of Parliament and other influential men in England have already expressed the opinion that military and other charges should be borne partly by Indian and partly by England. Let me ask you one question, what prevents all these reforms from being carried out? I say, the demon of distrust. I say slay him now. We ask our rulers to do it. You will find that the weapon forced by the gentle hand of the Government and noble Queen of England, forced 40 years ago when she wrote out that Proclamation upon which we take our stand, the weapon is gentle and it will certainly destroy that demon of distrust, if you will only carry out the policy that was inaugurated by the Queen of England in the year 1858- if you honestly give effect to these pledges which Her Majesty gave us after the Mutiny I am sure all this distrust will give way, and you will find the rulers will be able to repose greater trust in the people. Trust will beget trust which will add to the affection of the people and will add generally to the happiness and prosperity of the inhabitants of the Empire; and the glory to England will be great. England has begun with trusting the people; it began to trust us when it began to educate us, and now having trusted us for such a long lime. having placed nearly three-fourths of the Civil administration in our hands, having appointed us so largely to the army; acting upon that trust which has never yet been betrayed and which never shall be betrayed does it become England now to ponder and say that it is not proper to employ Indians in the higher ranks of the service? Do away with distrust. Act upon the principles laid down by the Queen, and you will find that these principles will lead to great prosperity of the people, the curtailment of expenditure and to the enlistment of Indians in the higher grades, and the stream of mutual good-will, among the people, and among the rulers and the ruled, Row more to the greater happiness of both, and will lead to all those feelings of distrust; sometimes of desperation, being done away with, which just now hamper the hands of Government and so much hamper the educated Indians. (Loud and continued applause.)