Monday, February 25, 2013

The discretion of a critic

Once again, we draw on Reginald Reynolds, "The White Sahibs in India" — several of my posts owe to tracing sources from his footnotes— for the following: writing about what William Jennings Bryan termed as the legalized pillage of India, (and, in my opinion, that Romesh Chunder Dutt could not term so, whatever he might have believed)

Quote: (emphasis added)

There could be no more fitting conclusion to this chapter than the words of Bishop Heber, whose praise for the administration and general prosperity in one of the Indian native states has already been cited. Once more we are reading the words of a writer of the early part of the century; but it must be remembered that after 1858 criticism of the British administration became more difficult and more rare, for reasons which we shall consider later.  Bishop Heber's words refer to a system which continued in all its principal aspects to be the administrative system of India; and those who have followed the instances we have selected will recognize the symptoms which alarmed the Bishop and the results which he feared. [64]

Bishop Heber toured the country extensively during three years from 1824 to 1826.  He inquired carefully into social conditions and was gravely disturbed by the heavy land-tax which then, as in later years, was the main source of supply for the growing tribute to England.  In a letter written in 1826 Heber tells how "half the gross product of the soil is demanded by the Government," and comments that such a rate of taxation (which still obtains throughout the greater part of British India) "keeps the people, even in favourable years, in a state of abject penury." [65]  He finds such excessive taxation, employed for a tribute to a foreign country, with no return to the cultivator, "an effective bar to anything like improvement," and notes that the tardy remissions made in times of scarcity "do not prevent men, women and children dying in the streets in droves, and the roads being strewed with carcasses." [66]

[64] Memoirs and Correspondence, London, 1830, Vol II, p. 413.  Letter to the Rt. Hon. Charles Wyndham Wynn, dated Karnatic, March, 1826.  Quoted by Dutt, Vol I, pp. 369-370.  Dutt points out that the Bishop avoided expressing himself on this subject in his journal, which was written for publication: even greater discretion was to become even more common in later years.  Dutt says that there was a reduction in the land tax in Bombay and Madras after Heber's time, but that it was "still excessive".

[65] According to H.H. Wilson (Mill, Vol VII, pp. 299-300) the Hindu law enacted that the King should have a twelfth, an eighth or a sixth of the produce, but in time of war he might take one-fourth. Assessments varied according to the quality of the land, and were taken in kind, which made the peasant less concerned with price variations.  Moslem rulers demanded more, but Akbar limited the land-tax to one-third of the produce.

[66] Mr. W.S. Lilley in India and its Problems gives a similar and equally gruesome description of famine in the latter half of the century.

End quote.