J. D. (John David) Rees.

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Chief's Colleges, the technical and industrial, the
arts, engineering, medical, agricultural, veterinary,
and normal colleges and schools, but all are repre-
sented in the complete and complex educational
system of India. Everywhere the State maintains
a position of strict religious neutrality. No religious
instruction is given in Government schools, and pri-
vate institutions, provided their secular education is
satisfactory, may give instruction in any religion
whatsoever. The all-important question of moral
training was considered in 1887-88, and suitable
text-books, physical training, and athletic sports
were recommended as an antidote to the want of
reverence, respect, and religious obedience, which
merely secular education is said, and probably
rightly said, to promote. Great care is taken in
the selection of the text-books; a difficult matter
where so many languages are spoken, but, in fact,
the measures taken have not availed to scotch,
much less kill, evils the existence of which cannot
be denied.

The educational situation called for the Viceroy's
attention. Lord Curzon was not the man to pass
by any nettle which needed to be grasped, and he

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LATER HISTORY

himself presided over a conference of educational
officers which he called together to consider the
situation. He was under no illusion as to the deli-
cate ground on which he was treading, nor indeed
was he mistaken as to the necessity for reform.
He appointed a Director-General of Education,
and a University Commission, he further legislated
upon the University question, and he had the cour-
age to say that the vernacular languages were being
neglected and degraded in the pursuit of English,
and very often bad Efiglish, for the sake of the
mercantile value of the latter language. He made
primary education a charge upon provincial reve-
nues and supplemented these charges by permanent
annual grants. He laid down tests for the official
recognition of secondary education, and he realised
that our higher instruction trained the memory at
the expense of the mind. He also introduced impor-
tant reforms into training colleges, and primary and
industrial schools. The university legislation of his
Government was the cause of his being overwhelmed
with obloquy by the Babus of Bengal. Here it
should be observed in passing that "Babu" is an
honorific title which an educated Bengali gentle-
man gives to himself, and if it now connotes any
other significance, such can only be due to the chief
characteristics of those who bear it. Five univer-
sities, founded on the model of London University,
as it was in the beginning, control the instruction
given in nearly 200 colleges, which, however, were
practically under no inspection, and in respect of

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INDIA

which no uniformity of standard or ideals were re-
quired. It was to the interest of the weaker col-
leges to lower the standard, nor were they checked
in this aspiration by the governing bodies of the
universities. The object, on the contrary, of the
senate was to turn out the largest number of gradu-
ates, and Lord Curzon's Commission of 1902 having
clearly brought to light the chief defects of the sys-
tem, the Indian Government determined to provide
all universities with new senates, mainly composed
of teachers, and to leave each university to frame
its own regulations and inspect its own colleges.
The action taken was exceedingly unpopular, partic-
ularly with the Bengali Babus, and with the Bengali
press which represents them in such a full-blooded
and uncompromising fashion.

The charge was that Lord Curzon desired to offi-
cialise the universities, and to insist upon a standard
of efficiency so high that it would crush the weaker
colleges which had been found so useful to the Babu
class in the manufacture of graduates. There is no
reason for supposing that the reconstructed senates
have dealt severely with the less satisfactory col-
leges, but there is no doubt that Lord Curzon has
been overwhelmed with obloquy for action in itself
praiseworthy. This feeling was intensified by the
delivery of his Convocation Address in 1905, in
which he stated that the highest ideal of truth is to
a great extent a Western conception, and that truth
took a high place in the moral codes of the West
before it had been similarly honoured in the East.

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LATER HISTORY

This comprehensive and unnecessary generalisation
naturally gave very great offence. Every Oriental
scholar will remember the well-known lines of Sadi :

"Better to lie with good intent,
Than tell the truth, if harm is meant";

and in the Mahabharata falsehood is said to be
permissible in five cases marriage, love, danger to
life, loss of property, or the benefit of a Brahmin.
But it is a fact that those who are accustomed to
associate with the natives of India in other than an
official capacity by no means accuse them of being
generally untruthful. Indeed, the Hindoos and
Mohammedans, apart from the atmosphere of courts
of all sorts, may fairly be described as truthful and
straight-dealing people. The contrary impression
would no doubt be created upon those who had had
all association with them through interpreters, in
whose case the Italian proverb Traduttori traditori
is peculiarly appropriate.



67



CHAPTER III

THE LAND SYSTEM

THE land revenue system of India, upon which,
in recent years, many and great assaults
have been delivered, was not invented by
the British, but was inherited by them, like so many
other systems which form an integral part of their
administration, from their predecessors in title. In
a former chapter passing reference has been made
to the fact that, in the reign of the most moderate
of all the great Moguls, the land-tax was so regu-
lated that nothing was left to the cultivator beyond
what sufficed for the subsistence of himself and
his family, together with enough seed for sowing
next season's crop. Passing reference was also
made to what the earliest writers on India have
recorded on this all-important subject. That it is
all important, no one can doubt, seeing that two-
thirds of the people of India are engaged directly
or indirectly in agricultural pursuits, so that if our
land policy is bad it would be difficult, indeed, to
claim that our administration in general was good.
The argument that the British grind the people
down, and that the severity of the land system has
led to the frequency of famines, is noticed in its

68



THE LAND SYSTEM

proper place, though it is in itself not worthy to be
answered.

Among the critics are Mr. R. C. Dutt, C.I.E., and
others with more or less qualifications for express-
ing opinions upon this very technical subject. From
time immemorial the Government has been entitled
to a certain proportion of the produce of all land,
the rights to which have not been limited, and the
procedure by which that proportion is determined
is called the settlement of the land revenue. Such
settlements are of two kinds: permanent, by which
the demand of the State is forever fixed, and tem-
porary, by which the State demand is revised at
recurring periods. The permanent districts cover the
greater part of Bengal, parts of the United Provinces
and of Madras, and certain other isolated tracts. At
one time, the extension of the permanent settlement
throughout India was advocated, and critics of the
school of which Mr. Dutt may be regarded as an
example urged that had this policy been carried
into effect forty years ago, India would have been
spared the worst famine of recent years. It is held
by the same school, and this is a most important
plank in the Congress platform, that in consequence
of the permanent settlement the cultivators of Ben-
gal are more prosperous than those of any other
part of India. If it were a fact that the cultiva-
tors of Bengal enjoyed exceptional prosperity, there
would, indeed, be some reason for the inference that
the permanent settlement was the cause. But there
is, in fact, no ground whatever for any such assertion.

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INDIA

Bengal, as a whole, and particularly the new prov-
ince of Eastern Bengal, possesses exceptional fertil-
ity and means of communication, a monopoly of
the production of jute, and the possession of the
greatest city in India as one of its capitals. Yet not
all these advantages avail to save Bengal from serious
drought whenever the monsoon failure reaches that
region. Noticing earlier famines in this province,
that of Behar in 1873-1874 cost the State 6,000,000
sterling, while in the famine of 1897 more than three-
quarters of a million of the population were on relief.
A careful consideration of the history of famines
during British administration, and of such informa-
tion as is available on the subject in ante-British
days, lends no support whatever to the contention
that Bengal has been saved from famine by the per-
manent settlement, or that its cultivators enjoyed
any exceptional prosperity, over and above such as
is due to the climate and geographical causes. Still
less is there any ground for thinking that the culti-
vators and tenants of the state-created landlords in
Bengal enjoy, owing to the permanent settlement,
any exceptional prosperity. On the contrary, it
was because they were especially impoverished and
oppressed that the Government of India was com-
pelled, by a series of legislative measures, to place
them in the position of greater security which they
now enjoy. This legislation has not only no con-
nection with the permanent settlement, but has
been designed to confer those benefits which that
settlement has altogether failed to secure. Absen-

70



THE LAND SYSTEM

tee landlordism, unsympathetic management, bad
relations between landlord and tenant, the multipli-
cation of middlemen, and unhappy relations between
owners and cultivators obtained in Bengal to a
greater extent than elsewhere in India, and it is not
in the land settlement, but in the new laws which
have been passed to check these abuses, that the
Bengal cultivator has found salvation.

That criticism has been more generally levelled
against the temporary settled districts is due to the
fact that the agitation has been directed from Bengal,
whence also the sinews of war have been provided.
It is in no way due to the fact that conditions in such
districts are at all inferior. Of the two sub-divisions
of this category, the Zemindari, Malguzari, or Taluk-
dari tenure in which the landlord pays the revenue
to the State, whether he cultivates himself or through
some rent-paying tenant obtains in the Central
Provinces, the United Provinces, and the Punjaub.
The Government of India has always held, and has
led the way in holding, that in such cases a limit
should be placed to the rent the landlord may
demand from his tenant, and it would, indeed, be
little less than absurd to dwell upon the necessity
for Government taking a moderate share when it
deals directly with the tenant, and to ignore the
necessity for equal moderation in the demands of
the landlord. It is equally necessary to protect the
cultivator whether he pays rent to the Indian land-
lord or revenue to the British Indian Government.
In accordance with these principles, legislation has

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INDIA

proceeded in Bengal, the Central, and the United
Provinces, with little or no co-operation in this
behalf on the part of those who are in a position to
assist in carrying out this policy. It has further
been argued that where the land revenue is paid to
the State by the landlord the demand should be
limited, as a fixed and invariable rule, to one-half
of his rent or assets. It has been shown that the
ruling power has always been entitled to a share in
the produce of the soil. Indeed, this doctrine has
been laid down in far stronger terms by the earlier
writers upon India, who speak of the land as belong-
ing to the State. In the regulation of 1793, the
Government share was fixed by estimating the rent
paid by the tenants, deducting therefrom the cost
of collection, allowing the landlords one-eleventh as
their share, and appropriating the balance, or ten-
elevenths, as the share of the State. The word
landlord in this connection means the intermediary
between the cultivators and the State, and the land-
lords in the sense in which we use the term in this
country are the holders under the permanent settle-
ment to which reference is made above, such as the
landlords of Bengal, who, though not the natural
leaders of the people, have been placed in a position
of power and pre-eminence by the action of Lord
Cornwallis's Government. The British Government,
however, while necessarily adopting the principle
that it was entitled to its share of the landlord's
assets, began at once to moderate its severity, and
in the middle of the last century the demand had

72



THE LAND SYSTEM

been limited to two-thirds, while before the Mutiny
it was laid down that about one-half and not two-
thirds of the well-ascertained net assets should be
the Government share. No Government, however,
has any right to forego revenue the collection of
which is conceded by immemorial custom, and by
the universal consent of those who pay it, unless it
can tap other sources with greater convenience to
the tax-payer, and it need hardly be stated that of
all countries in the world subject to a civilised and
scientific administration of which we have knowl-
edge India is that one in which new sources of reve-
nue are most difficult to find, and in which the
inhabitants, while it never enters their heads to
question any customary payment, are most rapidly
aroused by the imposition of any new tax. The
Government, therefore, never bound itself to demand
more than 50 per cent, of the actual rental of the
land-owner, and the settlement officers, in the inter-
ests of the people, were under an obligation to
take into consideration any prospective increases of
income in determining what the net assets were.
Nevertheless, the movement has steadily progressed
in a downward .direction and prospective assets
have been included; allowances have been made for
improvements, for vicissitudes of seasons, and for
local circumstances. In the Central Provinces, the
Government inherited assessments of 75 per cent,
from the Mahrattas, but while the amounts land-
lords are allowed to demand from their tenants have
been strictly limited, the amounts the Indian Gov-

73



INDIA

ernment takes from the landlord have been pro-
gressively reduced.

The general tendency throughout temporarily set-
tled Zemindari districts has been to reduce the
Government share below 50 per cent, of the net
assets, and it is not a little extraordinary that the
Congress agitation, which is so intimately connected
with the landlord interests, has persuaded the repre-
sentatives of British democracy in Parliament that
it is desirable that the Government should abandon
the taxes to which it is entitled, which are levied
from landlords, and spent in a great measure on the
cultivator, the inevitable result of which would be
that the amount remitted would have to be made
up in some other way from the masses who are less
able to pay.

Turning to the temporarily settled districts in
which the peasant proprietor prevails, the culti-
vator paying directly to the State, the provinces
which best illustrate this tenure are Madras, Bom-
bay, Burma, and Assam. It has been urged by the
critics of British rule that the Government share
should be limited to 50 per cent, of the value of
the net produce after liberal deductions for culti-
vation expenses, and should not exceed one-fifth of
the gross produce; even in those parts of the coun-
try where, in theory, one-half of the net is assumed
to approximate to one-third of the gross produce.

Others contend that a definite and fixed share of
the gross produce should be adopted as the State
demand. Few, indeed, of those who have any per-

74



THE LAND SYSTEM

sonal acquaintance with this problem would approve
the latter recommendation, for it is exceedingly diffi-
cult to estimate what the average produce is, de-
pending as it does upon the industry and resources
of the cultivator, the nature of the crop, the fertility
of the holding, and the vicissitudes of seasons. In
the Madras Presidency, it was found that the gross-
produce standard favoured the more, and prejudiced
the less, fertile districts. In that Presidency and
elsewhere, the net produce has been valued at rates
far below the current prices, the out-turn per acre
has been under-estimated, and liberal deductions
have been made for unprofitable cultivations, dis-
tance from markets, and vicissitudes of seasons, so
that the actual rates used for assessment are far
below the nominal share, in some cases falling 20
per cent, short of one-quarter, not of one-half, of
the net produce. The one certain thing is that the
introduction of the cast-iron system suggested by
the critics would largely increase the burdens of the
people, who themselves are naturally and notori-
ously unfavourable to any rigid rule of revenue
administration. The adoption of the gross-produce
standard put forward as an alleviation of the culti-
vator's burdens would lead to an all-round increase
of assessments indeed in Madras and the Central
Provinces the exaction of one-fifth of the real gross
produce would double the liabilities of the ryots.
Turning to Bengal, the figures, which have not been
contested, show that rents are much below one-fifth
of the gross produce, and this proves, were proof

75



INDIA

necessary, that the cultivators in Government tem-
porarily settled estates are much better off than
those under proprietors with permanent settlements.
In regard to the Punjaub, grossly inaccurate state-
ments have been circulated by those who have
endeavoured to associate the people of this province
with the agitation current in Bengal. In the peasant
proprietary districts of the former province the Gov-
ernment demand nowhere exceeds one-fifth, and is
often far lower, going down below an eighth of the
gross produce. The last Famine Commission, pre-
sided over by Sir Antony MacDonnell, naturally
paid special attention to this subject, and reported
that the incidence of land revenue on the average
value of the produce was less than 4 per cent, in the
' Central Provinces, 7 per cent, in Berar and most of
the Punjaub, and in the Deccan from 7 to 8 per
cent. Only in Gujerat, which suffered severely
during the famine, but where the profits on cultiva-
tion are very high, did the incidence amount to the
20 per cent, standard which was recommended in a
certain memorial, which led to general inquiries in
this behalf being made. A further recommendation
has been pressed on the Government, to the effect
that temporarily settled districts should never be
settled for less than thirty years, the term which
generally obtains, though in the Punjaub a shorter
period of twenty years is the recognised rule, while
in very backward districts, such as Burma, Assam,
and Sind, even shorter periods are allowed. The
criterion is the more or less prosperous condition of

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THE LAND SYSTEM

agriculture in the particular province. Where there
is much waste land and fluctuating cultivation, where
communications are being improved, population
increasing, and prices rising, postponement of reset-
tlement may be unjust to the general tax-payer, but
the interests of the masses invariably escape notice at
the hands of critics who belong to the Brahmin and
upper classes, who now administer India under our
supervision, but who would have no objection what-
ever to governing altogether on their own account.
It cannot be denied that the resettlement of prov-
inces is a serious operation, disturbing and unsettling
the minds of the cultivators concerned, and at the
present moment the ryots of Orissa are dreading
a resettlement of their province, which may be
accompanied by an enhancement of revenue. The
Government of India is of opinion that many of
the objections urged to revision of settlement
have become, or are fast becoming, obsolete. The
process is now more rapidly completed, and the
necessary records are more elaborate, though it may
be contended that the people are not so appreciative
as is the Government of the changes which operate
in this direction. The mere possibility of enhance-
ment is not pleasant to them, and it would be good
policy not only to extend the term in all cases to
thirty years, but also seriously to consider once more
whether it would not be advisable to make a perma-
nent settlement with each individual holder. Not
only might this prove good revenue policy in the
end, but it would infallibly attach every single

77



INDIA

peasant proprietor to the fortunes of the British
Government, by the strongest possible tie. Nor is
it possible to deny that the multiplication of cesses
is regarded by the Indian cultivators as an injustice.
They and their ancestors for thousands of years have
paid rent or revenue, but land-cesses for furthering
the services of Western civilisation, such as sanitation
and education, are altogether new imposts, the
necessity for which they do not allow, and the impo-
sition of which they bitterly resent. An increase in
the land revenue may be borne

"The sirkar cannot send the rains,
Although it hath to levy toll,
And barren fields and empty wains
Are bitter to the sirkar's soul "

but cesses are a new and foreign thing, and hated
accordingly. As a matter of fact the local rates are
lower in the peasant proprietor provinces of Bombay
and Madras than in the landlord province of Bengal,
where they reach 6 J per cent, on the rental. It may
safely be affirmed that the average cultivator does
not regard primary education as a proper subject for
taxation, and he does hold with all his might that
such taxation should be limited to objects directly
connected with the land. These objections do not
apply to cesses levied for the remuneration of village
officers, such having been a charge on the community
from time immemorial. In thus criticising the local
cesses and rates imposed by the British Government,
it must always be remembered that in the land-
lord districts numerous other unauthorised village

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THE LAND SYSTEM

cesses are habitually levied, notwithstanding the
endeavours of the Government to put an end to the
practice efforts in which it is in no way supported
by its critics, the most active of whom are closely
connected with the landlord classes.

The principle of exempting from assessment the
occupier's improvements has been adopted by the
British Government, first of all the rulers of India;
and the profit arising from such improvements has
been secured to the cultivators in perpetuity in
Bombay and Madras, and for lengthy periods in
Bengal, the Punjaub, the United and the Central
Provinces. In spite, however, of the many and
great advances made by the British Government,
all in the direction of leniency of assessment, it is
well not to forget that, in the eyes of those chiefly
concerned, the object of a new settlement is to
increase the payments previously made, and there
is probably no measure that would be more popular
with the masses than a permanant settlement, not
such a settlement as was made in Bengal, with which
indeed no serious statesman would now propose to
interfere, but which none the less was conducted
upon principles which benefit the classes at the
expense of the masses, principles the exact opposite
of which would be adopted in any such permanent
settlement as is contemplated in these pages. It is,
of course, the case that the principle that the State
has a right to a share in the produce of the land
carries with it a claim to a share in any increment of
the produce or value, and it might fairly be argued

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INDIA

that the State cannot be called upon to surrender
increased values produced by the development of
the country, the introduction of new staples, increase
of population, or any rise in the productivity of the
soil, due to expenditure upon irrigation and com-
munications, incurred by the exchequer. It is, how-
ever, an important factor in the consideration of this
matter that two-thirds of the people of India are
engaged in agriculture, and that active efforts are
being made by agitators to persuade the agricul-
tural classes to adopt an attitude of hostility towards
the British Government. Whether it is justifiable
to forego a prospective increase of revenue, which
would benefit the general tax-payer, is ordinarily a


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Online LibraryJ. D. (John David) ReesIndia; the real India (Volume 19) → online text (page 5 of 21)