Commissioner Booth-Tucker.

Darkest India A Supplement to General Booth's In Darkest England, and the Way Out online

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for labor which he cannot get, or in resorting to labor of an inferior
quality, where labor of a superior quality would bring in much larger
returns.

Into the pre-existing channels it would be the first aim of our Labor
Bureau to pour the labor supply of the country. And experience would
probably enable us to widen, deepen and lengthen these channels in such
a manner as would prove profitable to both employers and employed, as
well as to the nation at large.

When, however, this had been done, it is alas! only too certain that we
should still have left upon our hands a vast amount of surplus labor,
for which we should next proceed to dig out new and profitable channels.
The problem no doubt bristles with difficulties, but that is no reason
why we should sit down before it and fold our hands in despair.

Once upon a time, aye for hundreds of years, the waters of the Cauvery
were poured in one useless torrent into the sea, sweeping past great
tracts of thirsty land, which craved its waters, but could not reach
them. At the present moment scarcely a drop of that river reaches the
ocean. Its course has been diverted into a thousand channels, and so
fertilising are its waters that the rich alluvial deposits which they
bear render the use of manure unnecessary. And yet for centuries these
possibilities were unrecognised and suffered to go to waste.

Is not this a fitting picture of the huge river of labor that winds its
course through arid plains of want and poverty and starvation, which it
is capable of fertilising and converting into a modern Paradise? True
that on its banks and in its immediate neighbourhood are strips of
luxuriant vegetation. But those only show up in painful relief the utter
barrenness of the "region beyond." Why should the dwellers upon the
banks be allowed to monopolise and appropriate that which they cannot
even utilise, and that which is often a source of positive danger,
annoyance and loss to them? Why should not channels be devised for these
human waters, by means of which they should be distributed, so as to be
put to the utmost possible use?

This social problem is no doubt the "white elephant" of society. Cannot
we devise a "kheddah" for capturing the entire herd wholesale? Perhaps
after all we shall find it easier and quicker to catch and tame the
herd, than to set snares and pitfalls for individual ones and twos. Ah,
you say, many have tried and failed. That is because they have not
studied the habits of the animal. Besides it is by means of failure that
the grandest successes have ultimately been achieved. See how skilfully
that "mahaut" manages his huge yet obedient servant. And cannot we point
already in our own ranks to elephants more wonderful that have been
tamed and mastered by the goad of love?

It is the successes of the past that encourage General Booth to face the
problem in the spirit of hopefulness that breathes through every page of
"Darkest England." And if the genius of man has been able to tame the
strongest of animals, such as elephants, - the fiercest, such as
lions, - the swiftest, such as horses, and the dullest, such as the
ass, - why should we despair of reducing to order this chaotic mass of
labor, and of turning that which at present constitutes a danger that
threatens the very existence of society into a source of safety, of
wealth and power? At any rate this is the object that will be kept
steadily in view by our Labor Bureau.

All persons will be able to register names at our Bureau. If they are
destitute and willing to go to our yards, they will be sent there and
given work suitable to their caste, or profession. If on the other hand
they are not in need of such assistance, being supported by their
friends, we shall simply register their names and do our best to find
suitable work for them, though it would of course be distinctly
understood by them that we undertook no responsibility in regard to
this. A small fee will be charged, in proportion to the nature of the
case. This would serve to cover the expenses of the Bureau, which would
I am sure meet a long felt want.

Employers of labour would benefit almost more even than the men
employed, as we should always be able to supply them at a short notice
with any description and number of "hands" that they might require, and
they would be saved the expense, delay, and uncertainty of having to
advertise.

For instance I know of millowners who complain that they cannot get
labourers who will stay, and that their work suffers from the flotsam,
jetsam character of those whom they employ working for a few weeks and
then leaving. This we should be able to remedy.

Indeed after a short time we might reasonably expect that in recognising
the great convenience thus afforded them, millowners and other great
employers of labour, including very possibly the Government and the
Railway Companies would refuse to employ any who had not registered
themselves at our Bureau.

Again it would doubtless be a great satisfaction to employers in cases
where a reduction of establishment became necessary, to feel that they
could hand over to us those with whose services they were dispensing,
knowing that every effort would be made to make suitable provision for
them.

The labour register would contain columns in which would be entered the
various kinds of employment for which the applicant was willing or
suited, and the minimum pay which he was prepared to accept, so that we
should be able to ascertain exactly how many out-of-works there were of
each particular class. We should also enter in a separate register those
who had accepted an inferior position, in the hopes of being able to
better themselves subsequently.

In connection with our registers we should keep a character roll. Copies
of certificates would be filed, and notes made in regard to
unsatisfactory characters, so that in course of time we should be able
to give some sort of a guarantee in regard to those whom we sent out. In
the case of any one being reported to us as unsatisfactory, we should
still, however, give him another chance by redrafting him into our
Labour Yards, or by giving him some sort of inferior employment, more
immediately under our own surveillance, till he had regained his
character.

Among other things we might undertake to supply servants to European
families. A register of such would be very useful both to masters and
servants. For instance in the case of lost "chits" we could supply
certified copies of the original.

There is another class to whom I should think the establishment of such
an agency will be particularly welcome. Our cities swarm with educated
young men unable to find employment. Although we cannot include them
among our destitute classes, we believe that without turning aside from
our main object, we could do a great deal to help them.

If our scheme grows to the proportions and with the rapidity which we
anticipate, this would in itself absorb large numbers of them. And where
we could do no more we could obtain a moral influence over them and they
would come within the scope of the Advice and Intelligence Bureaux which
are described elsewhere. Constituting as they do the cream of the youth
of India, full of ardent, though often misdirected, enthusiasm, we
should be able to help mould them into happy, independent, prosperous
and loyal citizens, who would be a bulwark to the State, instead of
leaving them to simmer in their present unfortunate circumstances. "To
dig" they don't know, and "to beg" they are ashamed.

They would in their turn I believe give an important impetus to our
scheme and might constitute themselves its fervent apostles helping it
to sweep from end to end of India in less time than it is possible for
us to conceive.




CHAPTER V.

FOOD FOR ALL - THE FOOD DEPÔTS.


In England, owing to the severity and uncertainty of the weather, the
food and shelter questions go hand in hand. This is not the case in
India, where the shelter is not so important as the food, and there is
no such urgency in dealing with the former as with the latter. For
instance during nine months out of twelve it is not such a very great
hardship to sleep in the open air in most parts of India. I have myself
done it frequently and so have many of our Officers. It is true that we
should not like it as a regular thing, and still less perhaps, if driven
to it by absolute want. Still I am perfectly prepared to admit that the
circumstances are totally different to that of England, and that the
question of shelter is of secondary importance as compared with food.

The time will come when we shall be obliged to face and deal with it. If
our scheme meets with the success that we anticipate, having first
satisfied the gnawings of these hunger-bitten stomachs, we shall
certainly turn round and think next what we can do to provide them with
decent homes for themselves and their families.

But we can safely afford to defer the consideration of this question for
the present, in order to throw all our time and energy into the solution
of the infinitely more urgent and important problem of a regular and
sufficient food supply for these destitutes.

At present as I have already pointed out, they are dependent solely on
the help of relations and friends and on the doles of the charitable;
or on the proceeds of vice and crime. The insufficiency of these to meet
the needs of the case I have also, I believe, proved to demonstration.

Therefore one of the first parts of our City programme will be the
establishment of cheap food depôts, at which food of various kinds will
be supplied at the lowest possible cost price. These depôts will be
dovetailed in with other parts of our scheme, which have yet to be
described, and the one will help to support the other.

It may be objected that if we undertake to sell food at lower than the
ordinary market rates, we shall interfere with the legitimate operations
of trade. But to this we would answer that the same objection would be
still more true in regard to charitable doles, which are given for
nothing. And further, we shall fix our prices with a view to covering
the actual cost of the food, so that there will not be any probability
of our interfering with ordinary market rates. Besides, should there be
any very serious difficulty of the kind, we could always make a rule
limiting the food sold at these depôts to those who came under the
operation of the other branches of our social reform.

At the outset it would probably be wisest to avoid all caste
complications by confining ourselves entirely to uncooked food, leaving
the people to do their own cooking, but it is very probable that before
long we should be forced to undertake the preparation of cooked food. We
should of course pay due regard in this respect to the customs of the
various castes, religions and nationalities concerned. To a Hindoo for
instance it would be extremely disagreeable to eat out Of the same dish
as others, while Mahommedans, as one said to me the other day, only
enjoy the meal the more, when others are sitting round the platter.
These, however, are subordinate details which would largely settle
themselves as we went along. Food in some shape or form, the destitute
must have, good in quality and sufficient in quantity, and if they
prefer it uncooked this will save us trouble, whereas if cooking becomes
necessary we shall have another industry for the employment of many
hands. Meanwhile the fact that nearly every native of the poorer castes,
be it man, woman, or even child, knows how to cook their own food, is
likely to be of no little help in settling the question of the food
supply.




CHAPTER VI.

WORK FOR ALL, OR THE LABOUR YARD.


But it may next be asked, what we shall do in the case of those who have
no money with which to buy their food, even at the reduced rates we
would propose? To this we would reply that such will be expected to
perform a reasonable amount of work, in return for which they will be
given tickets entitling them to obtain food from the depôts just
referred to.

In order to do this we shall establish labour yards, where we shall
provide work of a suitable character for the destitute. This will
involve very little expense, as sheds of a cheap description will answer
our purpose, there being no necessity for providing against the
inclement weather which adds so greatly to the expense and difficulty of
carrying on such operations in England.

Whatever may be the produce of this cheap labour, we shall be careful to
sell it rather above than below the ordinary market rates, so as to
avoid competing with other labour. Moreover, we shall direct our
attention from the first to manufacturing chiefly those articles which
are likely to be of service to us in other branches of our scheme, so
that the labour of the destitute will go chiefly towards supplying their
own wants and those of the persons who are engaged in prosecuting the
work.

For instance, supposing that a number of the destitute were employed in
making coarse cloth, baskets, mats, or cow-dung fuel, these could be
retailed at a nominal figure to those who presented our labour tickets
at our food depôts.

The most encouraging feature in the establishment of labour yards is
that nearly every Indian has been brought up from childhood to some
trade. You can rarely meet the most ignorant and uneducated Native
without finding that he is thoroughly expert at some kind of handicraft.
In brigading the poor we should be careful to make the best use of this
knowledge by putting each as much as possible to the trade with which he
was most familiar.

The following industries, the majority of them directly connected with
various branches of our work, could be started at once and would need
scarcely any outlay to begin with.

1. _The Potters Brigade_ - Would furnish us with the earthenware, for
which we should from the first have a very large demand. The
Household Salvage Brigade would require some thousands of pots to
start with and in connection with our food depôts we should be able
to dispose of thousands more.

2. _The Weavers Brigade_ - This would give employment for a large
number of skilled hands. Their first object would be to supply the
kinds of clothes, blankets, &c., which would be most suitable for
the use of the submerged tenth. In catering for their wants we
should avoid, however, anything _prisony_, or _workhousey_, or
charity-institutiony in appearance. As our numbers increased we
should find plenty of work for our weavers, at any rate for many
years to come without entering into any sort of competition either
with the market or the mills.

3. _The Basket Brigade_ - Would supply us with all sorts of cheap
baskets, for which we should have a constant demand.

4. _The Mat Making Brigade_ - Would find employment for many more
hands in supplying us with mats for sleeping and household purposes.

5. _The Fuel Brigade_ - Here we have an industry which requires no
skill. There would be two branches of it - the woodchoppers and the
Oopala makers. For the latter women and children could be largely
employed both in the collection of the cow-dung and in the
preparation of it for use as fuel.

6. _The Tinners Brigade_ - Will be kept busy making receptables and
badges for the Salvage Brigade, and also probably emblems for the
Labor Bureau.

7. _The Ropemakers Brigade_ - Will furnish employment to a number
more and the results of their labour will find an ample market in
our various colonies.

8. _The Tanners Brigade_ - Will supply all our departments with such
leather as may be required for various purposes, and among other
things will be attached to.

9. _The Shoemakers Brigade_ - Who will be employed in patching up the
old shoes collected by our Household Salvage Brigade and in making
new ones for our consumption.

10. _The Tailors Brigade_ - Will supply uniform and clothing of all
kinds. For these we have already a very considerable demand, which
would increase year by year.

11. _The Carpenters Brigade_ - Would have plenty to do in providing
seats for our Barracks, office essentials, boxes, and household
furniture for our colonies. They would be linked with

12. _The Building Brigade_ - For whom we shall find ample employment
in the erection of our Labour Sheds, Shelters and Farms.

13. _The Masons Brigade_ - Would also be attached to the previous
one, and would become an important feature in our Labour Department.

14. _The Brick Makers Brigade_ - Would supply us with all the bricks
and tiles that we might require. Here again it is easy to see that,
without trenching in the least on the outside public, we should
create and support an important industry which would soon absorb
hundreds if not thousands of hands.

15. _The Painters Brigade_ - Would undertake the painting and
whitewashing of our buildings, carts, tinware, &c.

16. _The Dyers Brigade_ - Would find employment in dyeing our cloth,
or the various sorts of thread we might require for the use of our
weavers.

17. _The Dhobees Brigade_ - Although among our community we should
encourage every one to be his own dhobee, yet from the first we
should have plenty of washing to employ a considerable number of
hands.

18. _The Umbrella Makers Brigade_ - Would find considerable scope in
repairing the old frames collected by our Household Salvage Brigade;
while the Sewing Brigade would work the covers.

19. _The Paper-makers Brigade_ - Would also be supplied with plenty
of material by the Household Salvage Brigade, and would keep our
printing establishment supplied with whatever paper they might
require. Already we consume a considerable quantity, and this would
be enormously increased by the development of our scheme.

20. _The Book-binders Brigade_ - Would furnish us with our registers
for the Regimentation Bureau, besides doing our other miscellaneous
work of a similar description.

21. _The Brass Brigade_ - Would supply Our colonies with the various
kinds of brazen vessels we should be likely to require. For these in
process of time there would be a large demand.

22. _The Net-making Brigade_ - Would make nets for fishing purposes.

33. _The Hawkers Brigade_ - There could be no possible objection to
our disposing of our goods in this way at the ordinary market rates
supposing that we were in a position to manufacture more than we
required for our own consumption.

24. _The Barbers Brigade_ - Would also be a necessary addition to our
forces, and would find plenty of scope for their skill among the
unwashed multitudes who would compose our labour legions.

Such are some of the occupations which might at once be set on foot. To
these would no doubt be added many other sorts of handicraft, as our
numbers and experience increased, and fresh opportunities opened up
around us.




CHAPTER VII.

SHELTER FOR ALL, OR THE HOUSING OF THE DESTITUTE.


A considerable portion of General Booth's book is devoted to the
description of shelters, improved lodgings and suburban villages for the
poor. As elsewhere remarked this question is not of such vital
importance for India as for England, though the dealing with it is
simply a question of time.

We would therefore simply refer our readers to the admirable proposals
embodied in General Booth's book. It is possible that there may be some
who will desire that immediate steps should be taken for the preparation
of similar quarters for the poor in our terribly over-crowded Indian
cities. It is in any case extremely likely that the question will be
forced upon us at an early date by the people themselves.

But I have thought it best to narrow down the scheme as much as possible
to those things which seem of the most absolute and immediate urgency,
and I have therefore divested it as much as possible of all that could
reasonably be dispensed with.

Still I see no reason why each city should not have its "Poor Man's
Metropole," as well as its model dwellings and suburban villages, for
the working classes. I would have these, moreover, as purely oriental as
possible with a careful avoidance of anything that might be European in
their appearance and arrangements. There should be tanks for bathing,
and washing purposes, gardens, recreation grounds for the children,
proper conveniences for cooking, and quarters in which they would not be
herded together like cattle, but given the decencies of life, so
necessary and helpful to the encouragement of cleanliness and morality.

Another point would be the absolute absence of anything in the shape of
mere "charity" about any of the buildings. Everybody would be made to
feel happy and at home, and their self-respect would be cultivated by
arranging for suitable charges to be made, payment being taken either in
cash or labour.

However, these are only hints that are thrown out, to show that we are
fully awake to the importance of this subject, and in order that friends
who are interested in the question may feel free to communicate their
wishes and give us their advice.




CHAPTER VIII.

THE BEGGARS BRIGADE.


I now come to a special element of both hope and difficulty in the
solution of our Indian Social problem, - The Beggars. Here we have the
lowest stratum of the submerged tenth, excluding from them the religious
mendicants with whom we are not now concerned. I have classified them as
follows: -

1. The blind and infirm.

2. Those who help them and share the proceeds of their begging.

3. Able-bodied out of works.

Now I propose to deal with them in a way which will not call for
Legislation. In the first place it is most improbable that Government
would interfere with beggary, even if asked to do so. Certainly no such
interference would be possible without assuming the responsibility of
the entire pauper population, involving an expenditure of many million
pounds. In the second place any such interference would in all
likelihood be extremely distasteful to the native public. In the third
place I believe the question can be better dealt with in another way.

I propose to cut diamond with diamond, to set a thief to catch a thief,
to make a beggar mend a beggar. In other words my plan is to _reform_
the system rather than _abolish_ it. To the radical reformer who would
sweep out the whole "nuisance" at one stroke, this may be a
disappointment. But I believe that this feeling will be diminished, if
not entirely removed, when he has made himself familiar with the
following scheme.

Of course if the Upas tree could be uprooted and banished from our
midst, - if with a wave of his magic wand some sorcerer could make it
disappear, so much the better. But this is impossible. We should require
an axe of gold to cut down the tree; and this we do not possess. If a
rich and powerful Government shrinks from the expense of such an
undertaking, we may well be excused for doing the same.

But after all supposing that you can transform your Upas tree into a
fruit-bearing one, will not this be even better than to cut it down?
Such things are done every day before our very eyes in nature. The stock
of the crab-apple can be made to bear quinces, and a mango tree that is
scarcely worth the ground it occupies, can be made to yield fruit which
will fetch four annas a piece!

What is done in the garden is possible in human nature. And God will yet
enable us to graft into this wretched and apparently worthless Upas
stock, a bud which in coming years shall be loaded with fruit that shall
be the marvel of the world. This human desert shall yet blossom as the
rose, this wilderness shall become a fruitful garden, and the waste
places be inhabited.

Surely then, better even than the _annihilation_ of beggary will be its
_reformation_, should this be possible. At least the suggestion is well
worthy of consideration, and in examining, the matter, there will be
several important advantages to which I shall afterwards refer.

(1.) The first step that we would take in reforming the-beggars would be
to _regiment them._ The task would be undertaken by our Labor Bureau. In
this I do not think there would be serious difficulty encountered, if
the scheme commended itself to the native public. They would only have
to stop their supplies and send the beggars to us.


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Online LibraryCommissioner Booth-TuckerDarkest India A Supplement to General Booth's In Darkest England, and the Way Out → online text (page 5 of 12)