Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Personally, I cannot but rejoice at this frank expression of opinion. I believe that I may claim to be first in the field in drawing attention to the anomalous and inconvenient character of this singular body, and in advocating its dissolution. Its extreme unpopularity in India with all classes-officials, unofficial Europeans, and the people-is notorious, and the reason of it easy to divine. Either the members of the Indian Council do, or do not, exercise a prevailing authority over the Secretary of State for India. If they do not-if, as some people allege who ought to know, they are little more than very highly paid clerks then clearly the sooner that such a costly and superfluous body is dissolved the better. If, on the other hand, they do determine the policy of the Secretary of State, on what ground is the judgment of the India Council held to be of higher authority than the judgment of instructed official opinion upon the spot? The probability is that the former alternative is the more correct of the two. The members of the Indian Council-such of them at least as are retired Indian officials-are doubtless content, for the most part, at the close of a laborious life, to draw their twelve hundred a year, and live very much at their ease in Zion. But the world

has no evidence of this.

And practically it comes to this, that the final appeal in all matters Indian is supposed by the people of Great Britain and India to rest with a secret and irresponsible conclave of fifteen retired Indian officials. No institution could be imagined more repugnant to the spirit of British politics than this, and the profound hostility with which the princes and people of India regard it is most natural and inevitable. The Parliament of Great Britain is the tribunal to which the people of India look in all cases of collision between them and the Indian bureaucracy; but by this singular device of an Indian Council we have contrived to build up a second dead wall of officialism, an inner line of defence so to speak, beyond which the petitioners for Parliamentary interposition feel that they are unable to force their way.

Resolution No. 3 states that in the opinion of the Congress it is 'essential that the Supreme and Provincial Councils should be rendered largely representative, that all budgets should be referred to these councils for consideration; their members being, however, empowered to interpellate the Executive in regard to all branches of the Administration.' This particular change I have already advocated in a pamphlet on The Poverty in India, and its Remedies. Its expediency can hardly be denied by any one outside the charmed official circle. There are very few subjects connected with British rule in India on which we find two Indian officials in agreement; but there is one on which I believe that they are practically unanimous, and that is, that legislation in India is always legislation in the dark. It is impossible to ascertain beforehand with any degree of complete

ness or certainty either the wishes of the people or the probable consequences of the proposed legislation. And why is this? Simply because we have not called in the advice and assistance of the leaders of the people. There is no question here of the comparative ability of Englishmen and Indians. The knowledge of the Indian is altogether indispensable to the good government of the country. It is not only unjust to the people, but it is in the highest degree prejudicial to ourselves, to go on educating Indians to a knowledge of their political disabilities, to inspire them with political ambition by making them aware of their own abilities, and yet to provide no field for the intellectual activities that we have roused from sleep. The educated Indians are fully aware of the great importance of introducing a representative element into the Supreme and Provincial Councils. At the Congress, as elsewhere, they laid greater stress upon this than admission to the Covenanted Civil Service, and in so doing they exhibit true political insight. Representative government is the parent of all political reform, and, as Mr. Banerjee pointed out in a speech upon this subject, the constituencies from which to obtain fitting representatives are ready to hand. They will, to quote his words,

consist of the local bodies which Lord Ripon's scheme of local self-government has called forth into existence. They will comprise the public bodies, such as the chambers of commerce, the trades associations, the British Indian Association, and other similar associations. Let these constituencies send their members to the Legislative Council. With reference to the local bodies, I would suggest that the municipalities of district towns should each send a member to the Legislative Council, or that all the municipalities of a district in conference assembled might select a member to represent them in Council. The whole country, with all its districts, would thus be represented. Local and national self-government would thus be interwoven together, and the independence of the local bodies would be secured. The office of municipal commissioner would thus be a passport to still higher distinctions. With regard to the powers and functions of the Council, I would say that they should have some control over finance, and should be invested with the right of interpellation. The right of interpellation is a valued privilege. It will be useful to the Government; it will be the safeguard of popular rights. If there are unfounded statements in the newspapers, the Government will have an opportunity of clearing them away. If there are erring magistrates, guilty of highhandedness, the right will soon enable the popular leaders in the Council to call them to account.

6

Resolution 4 demands that greater facilities should be granted the people of India for admission into the Covenanted Civil Service. I regret this resolution. The time seems to have arrived for the gradual extinction of this exclusive service and the breaking down of the walls of partition which divide what are called subordinate' services from the higher. The urgent need of economy, apart from all other considerations, imperatively demands that the Civil Service, as a separate body, should cease to exist, because not until this has been done will it be possible to proportion the salaries of public servants

to the resources of the country which they govern. And not only in the Covenanted Civil Service do sound policy and equity require a larger introduction of the native element: the need for it is much more urgent in the subordinate services, and what may be described as the non-political' branches of the Administration. In the 'protest' against the Income Tax Bill, drawn up by the Indian Association of Calcutta, I find the following remarkable statements:

Lord Ripon recorded a resolution which distinctly laid down that at least onefourth of the appointments in the junior grades of the Survey Department should be held by natives of India. The Committee notice with regret that not a single appointment has yet been made in favour of a native of India under the terms of the resolution. In November 1879 Lord Lytton recorded a resolution in favour of the appointment of natives to the higher ranks of the Railway Traffic Department. 'It should be clearly understood (observed this resolution) that all posts in the revenue establishment of State railways are open to natives of India; and as men in every respect qualified for the superior grades are found, the Government of India will be glad to receive from local administrations recommendations for this employment in suitable positions;' yet to this time not a single native of India has been appointed to the office of traffic or of assistant traffic superintendent.

Attached to this protest' is a statement showing the proportion in which Indians and Europeans are to be found in various branches of the Administration, which is highly instructive as showing the manner in which State patronage is distributed in British India. I have not room to give the statement entire, but I select one or two typical examples. The Bengal Opium Department is one to which no political character belongs, and where Indians, one would think, could hardly fail to be more efficient than Englishmen, and yet in this department no native can be nominated to an office with a salary beyond 100 rupees a month; and as a matter of fact, no native is in it at all. In the Postal Department the highest salary attached to the service is 2,000 rupees a month: the highest which a native of India can get is 600 rupees. In the Preventive and Salt Department the highest salary attached to the service is 1,000 rupees a month: the highest which a native of India can get is less than 100 rupees. In the Jail Department the highest salary is 2,000 rupees a month: the highest which a native of India can get is less than 100 rupees. And so on through all the departments. It is manifestly absurd to pretend that this profoundly unjust allotment of State patronage is occasioned by the lack of fit men among the children of the soil. The Indian delegates who visited this country a few months ago were, I take it, average specimens of the class to which they belong-the class, I mean, which has addressed itself with a kind of passion to the acquisition of the English language; and who that saw these men can doubt that they were fitted, both by ability and natural integrity, for the discharge of responsible public duties?

The fifth resolution runs as follows: "That in the opinion of this Congress the proposed increase in the military expenditure of the

Empire is unnecessary, and, regard being had to the revenues of the Empire and the existing circumstances of the country, excessive.” This resolution refers to the proposed increase of thirty thousand men to the Indian Army, and the construction of an entrenched camp in the Pisheen Valley, which, it is calculated, will raise the Indian military budget to nineteen millions a year. In 1856-57 the cost of the Indian Army was 12,781,916. It is now 16,975,750l. exclusive of the cost of the proposed increase. In other words, the military expenditure has grown by about four millions and a quarter in the course of thirty years, and is still in a state of rapid expansion. The extra two millions are due exclusively to our Afghanistan policy; and no provision has yet been made for the defence of the frontier of Upper Burmah. As the Burmese will not submit to the exact discipline of our military service, the troops for the protection of the new province will have to be got by an increase of the Madras Army, and this, with the cost of erecting barracks, fortifications, and other military works in Upper Burmah, will in all probability increase the Indian military budget to the gigantic total of twenty millions. The sixth resolution states:

That in the opinion of this Congress, if the increased demands for military expenditure are not to be, as they ought to be, met by retrenchment, they ought to be met firstly by the re-imposition of customs duties, and secondly by the extension of the license tax to those classes of the community, official and nonofficial, at present exempted from it, care being taken that in the case of all classes a sufficiently high taxable minimum be maintained.

The Government response to this resolution has been, not a retrenchment of expenditure, but the imposition of an income tax assessable upon incomes of 500 rupees a year derived from other than agricultural sources. Lord Dufferin's defence of his revived impost is, that it compels the English in India, official and non-official, and the wealthier classes among the natives to contribute to the expenses of the State; and had it been confined to these classes, I, for my part, should have been heartily glad to see it established as a permanent source of revenue. I am convinced that we should hear very little about a 'spirited foreign policy '—about the sacred duty of extending the blessings of British rule over new countries-about 'the keys of India'-about all those subjects, in fact, which provide honours and emoluments for military men and a pleasant excitement for readers of newspapers-if the adventurous spirits who counselled these undertakings were made to pay for them in the shape of a heavy income tax. With the English in India, a policy of aggression is a policy that is always applauded, because they reap all its advantages and bear none of its burdens, and the impregnable character of the Indus frontier would be revived as if by magic if our countrymen in India had to bear the cost of carrying it beyond that river. But the Government of India cannot adopt so audacious a financial

policy as this. In order to obtain the acquiescence of the English in a tax upon their incomes, they are obliged to extend a similar tax to the poorest among the people. They silence the clamour that would otherwise be raised, by pointing to the general incidence of the new impost. But any one who remembers the history of the income tax during the viceroyalty of Lord Mayo must feel tolerably confident that, after creating an immense amount of discontent, this tax, like the former one, will have to be repealed. In India an income tax can never be a productive tax, because about nineteentwentieths of the population are not in the enjoyment of any incomes, great or small. But the amount of oppression practised by the income-tax assessors upon these poor and defenceless people is incalculable, and cannot be guarded against. This fact it was which induced Lord Northbrook, almost as the first act of his government, to abolish the income tax, which under his predecessor had formed a part of our Indian financial system. It may be true,' said the Honourable Mr. Inglis in 1871, in the course of a debate on this subject in the Governor-General's Council,

that only 1 in 300 of the people pay income tax to Government, but it is equally true that of the 299 remaining, at least one-half are subjected to the most vexatious oppression, inquisition, and extortion when the preliminary lists are being drawn up, and that a very large number of these men have to pay in order to keep their incomes out of the lists.

And again :

It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that for every rupee that is paid into the Treasury, another is paid to the subordinate native officials; that is, that the natives of India paid last year upwards of two million pounds sterling as income tax to Government, and two millions more as bribes. Everywhere throughout the country the people are being demoralised by the tax; everywhere false returns are sent in; everywhere the trading classes are beginning to keep two sets of books— one set showing accurately the real transactions, the other containing a carefully prepared garbled account to be shown to the income-tax assessors.

The sum for which this oppressive and demoralising tax is to be reimposed upon the people of India is stated by Sir Auckland Colvin to be 700,000l. ; and were it possible to accept this estimate as even approximately correct, the measure would be indefensible. But double that amount will not cover the impending liabilities of the Indian Government. Sir Auckland Colvin himself acknowledges that the costs of the Burmese war and the still heavier costs yet to be incurred in effecting the pacification of the province are not taken into account in the sum of 700,000l. And all estimates as to the cost of the railway and military works in the Pisheen Valley are certain to be far below the actual results. The income tax has been revived in order to provide the Government of India with a source of revenue which, the machinery of collection having been once prepared, may be expanded at will to meet new emergencies. But it will be in the attempt to increase the income tax, or to extend the area of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »