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Written by six Contributors 



K.C.I.E., O.B.E., I.C.S. (RETD.) 




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In 1936, a committee was appointed under the chairman¬ 
ship of Sir Atul C. Chatterjee, G.C.I.E., K.C.S.I., to enquire 
into the system of probation for the I.C.S. This committee 
recommended, inter alia, that in the curriculum for probationers 
there should be included a series of lectures on Indian social 
welfare, attendance at which should be compulsory, though 
the subject was not to be included in the final examination. 
They drew up a syllabus of the matters to be covered by these 
lectures, the number of which they suggested should be 
about ten. 

This recommendation was in due course accepted, and 
in 1937 another committee was appointed under my own 
chairmanship to consider the best method of giving effect to 
it. This committee came to two conclusions. Firstly, the 
draft syllabus drawn up by the Chatterjee Committee was 
incomplete, and must be expanded. Secondly, in view of the 
size of India, its huge population, the diversity of conditions 
existing in different parts of it, and the number and variety of 
the matters which came under the term “ Indian social 
welfare ”, it was impossible in so few lectures to present more 
than the barest outlines of the subject. They accordingly 
made the following recommendations. Firstly, the syllabus 
should be enlarged and rearranged in twelve sections. 
Secondly, a text-book should be prepared in twelve chapters, 
corresponding to these twelve sections, each of which chapters 
should be written by a person having special knowledge of its 
subject-matter. Thirdly, a lecturer should deliver a series of 
twelve lectures, each based on one of the chapters, and so fill 
in the written outlines with details drawn from his own 
experience. The probationer would be expected to read the 
appropriate chapter before attending the lecture. 

These recommendations were accepted, and the text-book 
was written in time for the lectures to be commenced after 
the New Year (1938). For various reasons, however, it was 

decided not to print it till the first series* of lectures had been 
delivered, and it was supplied to the probationers of 1937-8 in 
typescript. Meantime, it had been suggested by some who had 
read it that it was likely to prove of interest to a wider public 
than the fifty or sixty young men who join the Indian Civil 
Service every year : and when the time came for printing, it 
was decided that whilst it should continue to serve its original 
purpose of a text-book, it should also be published for general 
sale, and should be revised and expanded to make it suitable 
for such publication. The result is the present book. 

During the last eighty years, many changes have been 
taking place in India, and with the passage of time have 
acquired ever-increasing momentum. Firstly, since the rule 
of law and order began, the population has grown rapidly ; 
and in recent years, as a result of the success which the public 
health departments have achieved in the prevention of epidemic 
disease, the rate of growth has accelerated so greatly, that in 
many parts of India the pressure of population on the soil has 
already become intolerable. Secondly, though the general 
standard of living may have risen during the same period, yet 
it is still positively low, and unless the growth of population 
can be checked, is likely to become lower. Thirdly, the 
mentality of the individual has altered, and with it his outlook 
on life. As a result, partly of the spread of education, partly 
of the multiplication of contacts with western civilization, 
partly of political changes, the educated Indian has been 
moving—first slowly, then more swiftly—to a realization of his 
individual place in the body politic and of his capacity both for 
understanding and managing his own affairs. Neither the 
peasant nor the industrial worker is, as of old, pathetically 
content with his lot : they have long since discovered that they 
lack many things which they want: they have discovered that 
in modern conditions there are meSns of getting what they 
want, and they are now determined to employ them. If there 
are some amenities, especially in the sphere of public health, 
to which they are still indifferent, it is merely because they have 
never yet become aware of them ; but their sons, who are 
better educated than they, will certainly demand them. 
Finally, both the classes and the masses in different degrees 
are now resentful of the restrictions imposed on individual 
freedom of action by ancient social customs and religious 
superstitions. “ Great events are rapidly taking shape on the 
subcontinent of India ” ; and it is well that such members of 

the British reading public as feel any interest in that country 
should be made aware of the course of those events. That is 
one object of this book. 

At the present time, processes of uplift—both rural and 
urban, both economic and social—are being carried out in all 
provinces, which are engaging the attention both of official 
and non-official agencies. Amongst official agencies, the most 
important are the technical departments—agriculture, irriga¬ 
tion, public health, industries, labour, co-operation—for these 
are directly concerned with public welfare, each after its kind. 
But the District Officer has also important work to do. His 
primary duty has always been to advance the welfare of the 
people under his charge, and it is so still; but in modern 
conditions the discharge of it has become more difficult and 
more complicated. Though he is no specialist himself, yet 
he must have some knowledge of the work of all specialist 
departments : for he serves as liaison officer between them, he 
interprets their advice to the people and the people’s wishes 
to them. He must be well-acquainted with the broad 
principles of social economy and with the accepted methods of 
solving the problems of social welfare. Accordingly, the 
young civilian, who will be called on to assist his District 
Officer, who will himself in due time become a District Officer, 
must receive instruction in this as in other branches of his 
duties ; and it is clearly better that he should study the 
principles and processes of social and economic improve¬ 
ment in England, where the principles are well-known and the 
processes well-organized, than in India, where theory is still 
new and practice is still inadequate and dispersed. The 
second object of this book, therefore, is to provide the I.G.S. 
probationer with the instruction which he requires. 

It is necessary to malce plain the limitations of this book. 
It does not attempt to supply a cut-and-dried solution for 
every problem of Indian social welfare. It does not attempt 
to suggest a remedy for every evil and every disability from 
which the Indian people suffers. If that had been the scope 
of the book, then every chapter must have been expanded to 
a volume, or in the alternative, a volume must have been 
written for every province. It purports merely, in wide 
terms, (i) to describe conditions as they are ; (ii) to explain 
how those conditions came about; (iii) to record what steps 
have so far been taken both by the State and by private 

agency to improve those conditions ; (iv) to suggest the main 
lines along which further improvements should move. In 
short, it attempts to provide both those who are interested in 
the problems of Indian social welfare and those whose duty it 
will be to attempt their solution, with information that will 
enable them to understand those problems. 

India and Burma have now been separated, and this book 
is not concerned with the latter, which will have a book of her 
own. But separate statistics are not yet available, and it has 
not always been possible to subdivide them. This is why so 
many figures quoted in the text are described as “ including ” 
or “ excluding ” Burma. 

There are certain persons to whom I have to offer warm 

Mr. G. H. G. Anderson, D.S.O., M.C., of the India Office, 
whose help, always readily given, and whose enthusiasm, 
always infectious, have greatly lightened my task. 

Mr. M. Griffiths, of the Indian States Railway Bureau, 
Mr. A. H. Joyce, O.B.E., of the India Office, and Sir David 
Meek, C.I.E., O.B.E., Trade Commissioner, who lent and 
helped me to select the photographs from which the illustra¬ 
tions are reproduced. 

Miss M. L. Ratcliffe, of the India Office, who from start 
to finish has helped me with the preparation of this book. 
Unwearying, accurate, methodical, and above all, interested in 
her work, suggest themselves to me as suitable adjectives. 

H.M. Stationery Office, who by their advice and assistance 
have reduced to a minimum the technical difficulties involved 
in producing a book of this kind, with its maps, diagrams, and 

Finally, the contributors themselves, who have always been 
both patient and obliging in responding to my editorial 

The Introduction which follows was written for the 
original text-book, and is addressed to the probationers. It 
is reproduced here, partly because it deals with the subject of 
this book from another point of view, but chiefly because— 
whoever else may read the book—the probationers must. 

October , 1938. 

E. A. H. BLUNT, 


The chief characteristics of India are its vastness and its 
variety. The area I of India and Burma taken together is 
larger by 40,000 square miles than that of Europe, excluding 
Russia. The area of India by itself is larger by 75,000 square 
miles than the estimated area of China proper. J Its greatest 
length, from Cape Comorin to the Karakoram mountains in 
the north of Kashmir, is about 1,900 miles, or much the same 
distance as from London to Constantinople ; its greatest 
breadth, from the Baluchistan border to that of Assam, is 
rather more than its greatest length. An express train takes 
rather more than days to travel from Madras to Peshawar. 
Again, India stretches over 29 parallels of latitude, from 8° 
North to 37 0 North. Follow these lines across a map, and you 
will see that the southern line passes through Abyssinia, 
Nigeria, Venezuela, and North Borneo. The northern line 
passes through or near Smyrna, Athens, Sicily, Cadiz, Virginia, 
California, and Japan. Madras is in much the same latitude 
as Gambia and the Barbados ; Calcutta, as Havana and 
Canton ; Lucknow, as the Canaries and Miami ; Lahore, as 
Madeira, Charleston, and Nankin. 

■* And India’s variety is the corollary of its vastness. In its * 
huge expanses are included sandy deserts and thick forests 
and fertile soils ; the southern tableland and the wide plains 
of northern India ; the world’s highest mountains, and low- 
lying flats on the sea-coast that are covered by every tide. 

* As ■written for the original text-book : see Preface, ad finem. 

f The exact areas are as follows :— 

British India proper .. .. .. 862,679 square miles. 

Indian States .. .. .. .. 712,508 square miles. 

Burma . 233,492 square miles. 

Total .. 1,808,679 square miles. 

% China proper—i.e. excluding Manchuria, Mongolia, Chinese 
Turkistan, and Tibet. The area of China is estimated at 1J million square 
miles. (See Census Report, India, 1931, Vol. I, Part II, pp. 4 and 5.) 

There are varieties of climate to correspond with these physical 
features : the eternal snow of the Himalayas and the rainless 
sands of Sind ; the temperate regions of Kashmir * and the 
“ perpetual hot-house of Malabar ” : the dry heat of the 
northern plains and the damp heat of the deltas and coast¬ 
lines ; an annual rainfall f varying round an average normal 
of 45 inches from a minimum normal of under 3 inches in 
upper Sind to a maximum normal of 426 inches in the Assam 
hills. There are countless varieties of crops, of fruits, of 
timbers, of minerals. In fact, India should be reckoned not as 
a country, but as a continent. 

“ The Indian Empire,” says Professor Rapson, “ is the 
abode of a vast collection of peoples, who differ from one 
another in physical characteristics, in language, in culture, 
more widely than the peoples of Europe.” J The vastness and 
the variety of the population of India are as great as the vast¬ 
ness and the variety of the country itself. The inhabitants of 
India and Burma combined number rather more than one- 
fifth, the inhabitants of India by itself number rather more 
than one-seventh, of the population of the world.§ According 
to ethnographers and historians, this population is composed 
of numerous racial elements. Some of them, such as the 
Kolarian and pre-Dravidian, go back to neolithic times ; some 
are pre-historic, such as the Aryans, and that race which has 
left the remains of a high civilization in the Indus valley; 
whilst others are historical invaders, from Alexander’s Mace¬ 
donians in 326 b.c. to Babar’s Moguls in a.d. 1526. 

According to linguistic experts, the inhabitants of India 
speak between them twelve principal languages and 220 
dialects belonging to four of the great families of human speech, 
namely the Austric, the Tibeto-Chinese, the Dravidian, and the 

* Kipling somewhere says that Kashmir is the only part of India that 
Europeans could colonize. 

f The highest rainfall that has fallen in one year was 905 inches in 
1861 at Cherrapunji. Falls of 15 inches in 24 hours are comparatively 
frequent, and falls exceeding 25 inches have occasionally occurred. 

+ Cambridge History of India, Vol. I, p. 37. 

§ The exact populations are :— 

British India proper .. .. .. 256,859,787 

Burma .14,667,146 

States .81,310,845 

Total .. 352,837,778 

(Census Report, India, 1931, Vol. I, Part II, p. 3.) 

Indo-European ; whilst Arabic and Persian of the Semitic 
family, which were introduced by Muslims in historical times, 
have greatly modified some of the Indian vernaculars. Again, 
there are in India seven principal religions : Hinduism, 
Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, and 
Mazdaism, the religion of the Parsees. The peoples of India 
also observe many different customs and belong to different 
stages of civilization—from primitive tribes, who are at home 
in trees and whose weapons of attack are bows and arrows, 
to progressive and highly educated politicians, who are at 
home in council chambers and whose weapons of attack are 
speeches and questions. And finally, Hindu society is sub¬ 
divided into over 2,000 castes, varying in social rank from the 
Brahman, who is reckoned as little lower than the gods, to the 
Pariah, who is reckoned as little higher than the animals. 
India, in short, is a museum of race, language, and religion, 
which cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. 

Since India presents so great a diversity of physical, 
economic, and sociological features, is it possible to discuss 
Indian social welfare as if India was not manifold but one ? 
Social welfare is at best a relative term. Its content will differ 
with the nature of the society and of its environment; but 
whereas in most countries there will generally be only one 
society and one environment, in India there are many of both. 
In other words, is it possible to generalize satisfactorily about 
353 millions of people, especially when they are broken up into 
many heterogeneous units ? 

One answer to that question is that since such generaliza¬ 
tion is carried out daily at Simla, not without success, there is 
no reason why it should be unsuccessful in this text-book. 
But it cannot be more than generalization. A discussion 
such as is attempted here can only deal with broad 
statements, basic principles, and major variations. Any 
attempt at detailed description would either be so vague as to 
be useless, or so full of exceptions that the rule to which they 
belong would itself be obscured. The book, in fact, must be 
regarded as merely a skeleton account of Indian social con¬ 
ditions. The intention is to follow up a study of the book by 
a course of lectures based upon it, in which the student will 
be shown how to apply the principles to concrete cases, and be 
given further information to explain the variations, especially 
those between province and province. Further, since practice 
is better than precept, he will be told how the principles have 

actually been applied by those who have themselves been in 
the position which he will one day occupy. In other words, 
the lecturer’s chief duty will be to clothe the skeleton of the 
book in the flesh and blood of experience. 

But when the student, having completed his course of 
instruction in England, has to apply his knowledge in India, 
he will discover fresh exceptions to the rules which he has 
learnt, and fresh varieties of social environment; he will 
also discover that the examples which he has been given are 
only of value as guides if all the circumstances which surround 
them are the same. He must then use his own judgment, and 
make his decisions for himself in the light of the more general 
knowledge that he has acquired from instruction. But that, 
to the civilian, is nothing either strange or new, for throughout 
his service he will constantly have to take his own decisions, 
together with the responsibilities which attach to them. 
Meantime, the most that can be done for him in England is, 
firstly, to give him, as it were, a map of the main roads in the 
domain of Indian social welfare, leaving him to discover the 
side-roads and by-paths for himself; and secondly, to interest 
him in that domain as a whole, in the hope that he will be thus 
induced to explore it more fully. 

Some of the readers of this book will themselves be Indians. 
They may be inclined to ask “ What is there likely to be in this 
book that I do not already know ? ” Each will no doubt 
know much of the conditions of his own province ; but the 
probationer is sent, perhaps more often than not, to another 
province than his own; and India, as this introduction has 
sought to prove, is so vast and so various that an officer from 
Madras, if posted to the Punjab or the United Provinces, is no 
more likely to be acquainted with its social conditions than 
an Italian or a Spaniard is likely to be acquainted with the 
social conditions of Norway or Iceland. Further, their know¬ 
ledge even of the conditions of their own province is not likely 
to be either complete or systematic ; and this book may serve 
to fill up the blanks in their knowledge and to arrange it for 
them according to a definite scheme. 

31 December, 1937. 




Sir Edward A. H. Blunt, K.C.I.E., O.B.E., I.C.S. (Retd.). Served in 
the United Provinces, igoi-36; Superintendent, Census Operations, 
United Provinces, 1910-12; Settlement Officer, 1915-18 ; Finance 
Secretary to Government, 1920-31 ; Member of Governor’s Executive 
Council, 1931-35. Publications : “The Cask System of Northern India,” 
1932 ; “ The I.C.S.,” 1937. 


C. G. Chenevix-Trench, C.I.E., I.C.S. (Retd.). Served in the 
•Central Provinces, igoi-26 ; Settlement Officer, 1907-15 ; Commissioner 
•of Settlement and Director of Land Records, 1920-26. 


R. G. Allan, C.I.E., I.A.S. (Retd.). Served in the Central 
Provinces and the United Provinces, 1907-35 ; Principal, Agricultural 
College, Nagpur, 1907-26; Director of Agriculture, Central Provinces, 
1926-31 ; Director of Agriculture, United Provinces, 1931-35 ; at present 
Commissioner of Agriculture in Baroda State. 


Major-General Sir John W. D. Megaw, K.C.I.E., K.H.P., I.M.S. 
(Retd.). Served from 1900-33 in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the United 
Provinces, the Punjab, and Madras ; Professor of Pathology, King George’s 
Medical College, Lucknow, 1914-21 ; Director, School of Tropical 
Medicine, Calcutta, 1921-28; Inspector-General of Civil Hospitals, 
Punjab, 1928 ; Surgeon-General in Madras, 1928-30 ; Director-General, 
I.M.S., 1930-33 ; President of the Medical Board, India Office. Pub¬ 
lications : (With Sir Leonard Rogers), “ Tropical Medicine ” ; “ The First 
Laws of Health ”. 


Sir George Anderson, Kt., C.S.I., C.I.E., I.E.S. (Retd.). Served in 
Bombay, Calcutta, and the Punjab, 1909-3 1 ; Professor, Elphinstone College, 
Bombay, 1909-15 ; Secretary, Calcutta University Commission, 1917-20 ; 
Director of Public Instruction, Punjab, 1920-31; after retirement appointed 
Educational Commissioner with the Government of India, 1933-36. 
Publications : “ Expansion of India ” ; “ British Administration in India ” ; 
(with Bishop Whitehead), “ Christian Education in India ”. 


Sir Frank Noyce, K.C.S.I., C.B.E., I.C.S. (Retd.). Served in Madras, 
Burma, and with the Government of India, 1902-37 ; Secretary, Cotton 
Committee, 1917-18; Controller of Cotton Cloth, 1918-19; President, 
Indian Sugar Committee, 1919-20 ; Member, Burma Land Revenue 
Committee, 1920-22 ; Indian Trade Commissioner in England, 1922-23 ; 
Development Secretary to Government of Madras, 1923-24 ; President, 
Indian Coal Committee, 1924-25 ; Commissioner of Labour, Madras, 
1925-26; Member of the Tariff Board, 1926-28 ; Secretary, Department 
of Education, Government of India, 1928-32 ; Member of Governor- 
General’s Executive Council, 1932-37. Publications : Has contributed 
to “ Studies in Indian Co-operation ” (edited by R. B. Ewbank). 


C. F. Strickland, C.I.E., I.C.S. (Retd.). Served in the Punjab, 
1904-30 ; Deputy Registrar and Registrar Co-operative Societies, 1922- 
29 ; served under the Government of the Federated Malay States, 1929-30. 
Publications: “Introduction to Co-operation in India,” 1922; “Studies in 
European Co-operation ”, 1925 ; “Co-operation in Africa,” 1933. 


CHAPTER I. The Environment and Distribution of the Indian People, page 

General conditions.r 

Geology of India : the strata —the soils ..... I 

Physiography of India : the Highlands—the Plain—the Peninsula . 6 

Meteorology of India : the monsoons—the temperatures—the 

climates—the water-supply—water-power . . . .10 

Products of India : sheep and goats—oxen and buffaloes—forest 

products—the crops—minerals . . . . . . 21 

Transport and communications : roads, waterways, and railways— 

other forms of communication ...... 25 

Occupational distribution of the people : agriculture and industries— 

employment of women—subsidiary occupations ... 29 

Vital statistics : birth-rate—infantile and maternal mortality— 

death-rate—expectation of life . . . . . 31 

Growth and density of population : growth of population and 
standard of comfort—overcrowding of agriculture and pressure 

on soil—possible remedies.34 

Tables—Provincial vital statistics : (a) birth-rate ( b ) death-rate : 

Expectation of life ........ 40 

CHAPTER II. The Structure of the Indian People. 

Caste and religion : social conditions in England and India—main 
types of caste—its basic principles—its segmentation—commensal 
and food taboos —zut and biradari —social precedence of castes— 
caste government ( panchayat )—customs—Hinduism as a religion— 

link between caste and religion—caste in Islam—social evolution 
in India .......... 42 

Caste in modem conditions : revolt against caste restrictions and 
customs amongst (1) educated classes—( q) the masses—decline 
of panchayat’s authority—abandonment of traditional function . 38 

Economic effects of caste and religion : restrictions on choice of 
occupation—wastefulness of commensal^ and food taboos— 
preservation of useless animal life—support of mendicants— 
./practical versus ceremonial cleanliness—unproductive expendi¬ 
ture—the position of women—the depressed classes ... 64 

Marriage customs and the sex-ratio : excess of males—European and 
Indian sex-ratios—preference for sons and neglect of daughters— 
infant marriage—prohibition of marriage of widows—other 
customs affecting female mortality—woman in Islam—influence 
of woman on the standard of comfort ..... 68 

Conclusion—caste is decaying but not yet dying .... 74 

Appendix I. Jajmani ........ 76 

Appendix II. List of offences triable by a caste panchayat . . 76 

CHAPTER III. The Rural Community. page 

The villager and the village : the mauza —the ryot —the village—the 
house—food—a village community (a) in an Indian State— (b) 
in British India—break-down of the village panchayat, and 

attempts to revive it. 

Land tenure and land revenue : the State as sole owner of land— 
the right to tax land —ryotwari and zamindari systems—tenant- 
rights in (a) ryotwari provinces— (b) zamindari provinces (i) 
Central Provinces—(2) United Provinces—proprietary rights in 
(1) Central Provinces—(2) United Provinces .... 86 

Assessment of land revenue : object of settlement operations—the 
processes of settlement—the record of rights—fixation of 
fair rents as a basis for assessment—abnormal settlements— 
remissions of revenue—importance of record of rights . . 95 

Agrarian discontent: its causes and effects—advice to the Civil 

servant regarding his dealings with the peasantry—the poverty 

of the cultivator. .105 

Agricultural indebtedness : its volume—its nature—the moneylender 

and his methods—debt conciliation and debt legislation . .107 

Future developments : rural reconstruction a “ formidable but inspir¬ 
ing’’task .m 

CHAPTER IV. Agriculture—Crops, Farmers, and Departments. 

Introductory: persistence of tradition in Indian agriculture . . 113 

Principal crops : the areas—possibility of expansion . . .113 

Regional influences and crop distribution : temperature—rainfall—■ 
soils—artificial irrigation—selection of suitable species—• 
industrial development . . . . . . .116 

Local conditions and the selection of crops : subsistence versus 
commercial farming—subsoil water-supply—the local contour— 
transport and marketing facilities—the cultivator’s caste . .123 

The Indian farmer : landed magnates—yeoman farmers—petty 

farmers—causes affecting the standard of farming . . .124 

The farmer’s working outfit: (1) Livestock—plough and milch 

cattle—(2) dead stock—implements requiring bullock-power 
—hand-tools ......... 126 

The farmer’s disabilities : subdivision of holdings : fragmentation of 
holdings : natural disabilities—social and personal disabilities— 
disabilities due to modem influences—result of them, debt . 130 

The departments and their work : early history—present depart¬ 
ment-agricultural education, both in college and school— 
research—the Indian Central Cotton Committee—the Imperial 
Council of Agricultural Research . . . . . .137 

Table—Distribution of principal crops in British provinces and 
major Indian States. 

CHAPTER V. Agriculture — The Work and Achievements of the Department, page 
Government farms : their kinds and functions . . . -147 

Seed supply and propaganda : selection of seed-types—multiplica¬ 
tion of selected seeds—distributing organizations—methods of 
propaganda—visits of inspection—better farming societies— 
itinerant carts ......... 148 

The cultivator’s difficulties and the department’s attempts to remedy 
them : (1) Better seed : introduction of exotics—selection from 
indigenous types—hybridization. (2) Better manures : use of 
cattle-dung as fuel—other forms of manures—green manuring— 
composting—cakes and fertilizers—night-soil. (3) Better im¬ 
plements. (4) Better methods of cultivation. (5) Better live¬ 
stock : (a) bovine—the breeds of oxen and buffaloes—draught 
and milch breeds—cattle-rearing—milk products ; ( b) ovine ; 

(c) poultry ; the veterinary service. (6) Better water-supply: 
the various sources—the irrigated area—agricultural engineering 
and improvement of wells—tube wells—conservation of water— 

“ dry ” farming. (7) Better marketing facilities : improvement 
of tr&nsport facilities and communications—farmer’s disadvan¬ 
tages in marketing his produce—new staff of marketing officers 
(1935)—co-operative sale societies . . . . . . 153 

Horticulture: possibility of developing cultivation of fruit and 
vegetables—market-gardening—fruit-growing—causes of its 

backwardness—remedial steps that have been or are being 
taken—development of horticulture and introduction of new 
industries . . . . . . . . . .175 

CHAPTER VI. Medicine and Public Health. 

Medicine and public health in ancient India : the Ayurvedic system 
of medicine—the Unani system of medicine—public health 
activities in ancient times—fluctuations of population . . 181 

Early stages of medical relief and public health under British rule : 
early hospitals—early medical education—the introduction of 
vaccination—first attempts at introducing organized sanitation . 184 

Some general considerations on public health in India : public 
health dependent not merely on prevention of disease but on 
nutrition and economic standards—relation between production 
of foodstuffs and reproduction of people—public health policy 
and life-planning—need for education and propaganda— 
populatiomcontrol—the meaning of the vital statistics—the 

record of causes of death.186 

Public health activities of the Government of India: (1) Administra¬ 
tion-activities of Government of India confined to (a) control 
of certain matters affecting India as a whole—(A) advice— 

(c) coordination of provincial activities—the Director-General 
of the Indian Medical Service and the Public Health Com¬ 
missioner. (2) Research—some great discoveries—present 
policy and activities—research institutes—the Research Fund 
Association—institutions concerned with hygiene and tropical 

CHAPTER VI ( continued ). page 

Medical relief and public health in the provinces : (i) Medical 
re i; e f_hospitals and personnel—subsidized practitioners— 

rn-rliral colleges and schools. (2) Public health—personnel- 
voluntary organizations . . • ■ • ■ I 94 

Medical relief and public health under the local bodies : the general 
situation—(1) water-supply—(2) conservancy—(a) in muni¬ 
cipalities—(i) in rural areas—(3) housing . . . .197 

Maternity and child welfare : the Bureau, a branch of the Red Cross 

Society_its activities—training of health visitors, nurses, and 

midwives 199 

Infant-marriage and population-control: replies to a questionary— 
comparison with conditions (a) in Ireland—(A) in Japan—result 
of pressure of population on the means of subsistence—Nature’s 
“ destructive propensities ”—population-control the foundation 
of all public health effort ....... 201 

Drug addiction in India : opium-smoking and opium-eating— 
administration of opium to infants—hemp drugs—the use of 
alcohol—voluntary abstinence versus prohibition . . .205 

Nutrition : the most important and the most difficult of Indian 
problems—malnutrition of the people—results of an enquiry into 
peasants’ diets—nutritional researches and experiments—results 
of malnutrition—diabetes amongst the well-to-do . . . 207 

Dietetic diseases : (1) protein starvation—(2) vitamin deficiency as 
a cause of disease— (a) vitamin A deficiency— (6) vitamin D 
deficiency—(c) vitamin C deficiency— (d) vitamin B deficiency— 
general remarks on vitamins . . . . . . 211 

Appendix with table. Note on an enquiry into some public health 

aspects of village life in India . . . . . .214 

CHAPTER VII. Public Health. The great diseases of India. 

Diseases in general: ancient theories of the causation of disease 
—dogmatic and scientific systems of treatment 
The chief causes of disease : results achieved by the micro¬ 
scope-principal causes of disease—methods of transmission of 

Some of the important diseases of India : 

Malaria : its frequency—its causation—method of its trans¬ 
mission—its nature and results—its distribution—preventive 
precautions—the use of quinine—the necessity of medical 

Kala azar : its symptoms—the antimony cure—its causation— 
its distribution ........ 

Dengue : its causation—its symptoms—absence of effective 





Sand-fly fever : its similarity to dengue 


CHAPTER VII [continued). p 

Relapsing fever : an epidemic disease—its causation—its trans¬ 
mission—its danger to ill-nourished people—its symptoms 

and cure ......... 225 

Typhoid fever : its causation—its distribution .... 226 

Plague : for many years a recurring epidemic, now declining— 
its distribution—its .causation and transmission—possibility 
of its reappearance—rat-destruction the best preventive— 
inoculation—evacuation of infested areas . . . 226 

Tuberculosis : chiefly an urban disease—its frequency—its 
causation and transmission—a “ key ” disease, leading to 
other diseases—not hereditary—curable by timely treatment 
—dispensaries and sanatoria . ..... 228 

Influenza : its causation—its recurrence as a pandemic disease 
—its infectiousness—absence of any adequate means of 


Diseases of the respiratory system : probably responsible for a large 
part of total mortality—full extent of prevalence unknown— 
danger increased by malnutrition.231 

Cholera : cessation of former epidemics as result of adoption of 
improved standards of hygiene—its causation—the cholera 
carrier—methods of infection—precautions to be taken in the 
absence of a doctor—the symptoms—cholera and food¬ 
poisoning—first-aid remedies—the public health aspects of 
cholera—outbreaks of cholera during pilgrimages—preven¬ 
tive measures and inoculations . . . . .231 

Enteric fever or typhoid fever : formerly common amongst 
Europeans but less common amongst Indians—comparative 
immunity secured by inoculation—causation and 

symptoms—the carrier—comparative rarity of epidemics in 
modern conditions—precautions against infection—T.A.B. 


The dysenteries : bacillary and amoebic—causation and treat¬ 
ment—the emetine cure of amoebic dysentery . . .236 

Sprue : causation uncertain but treatment well-known—a 

dietetic disease ........ 237 

Small-pox: prevention guaranteed by universal vaccination in 
infancy and regular re-vaccination—the anti-vaccinationist 
in England and in India—methods of infection . -237 

Leprosy : common in India—its distribution—the Mission to 
Lepers and leper institutions—its treatment—leprosy 
specialists—methods of infection—a disease of poverty, 
malnutrition, and dirty habits ..... 239 

Hook-worm disease : its causation—methods of infection— 

methods of prevention—treatment ..... 240 

Venereal diseases : their causation—their prevention—treatment 
a matter for experts 


CHAPTER VII (continued). 

Hydrophobia : first-aid treatment—need for early anti-rabic 


Snake-bite : relative infrequency—first-aid treatment—a snake¬ 
bite outfit—the use of anti-venene.243 

Blindness : cataract—its frequency in India—relief obtainable 
by operation—other forms of blindness usually the result of 
other diseases—all preventable, or curable, or both . . 244 

Summary of methods of disease prevention.245 

CHAPTER VIII. Education. 

The early stages of educational development : education before 
British rule—education under the East India Company—the 
development of English education ..... 246 

The educational frame-work : Government’s educational policy—the 
universities—transfer of education from official to popular control 
—central boards connected with education .... 248 

Educational organization and agency : the two branches, English 
and vernacular—the university and school stages—examinations 
—statistics—maintenance and control of schools and colleges— 
controlling agencies—educational services—training institutions 248 
The importance of education : education the key to improved well¬ 
being—forces that retard its expansion—the village schoolmaster 
and the regeneration of the village . . . . .256 

Primary education : the number of schools and scholars—com¬ 
pulsory education—curricula—training and salaries of teachers— 
primary school administration . . . . . -259 

Vernacular middle schools : Bengal—Bombay—Punjab—United 

Provinces—the Moga School ... . . . .265 

The urgency of school reconstruction : false conceptions of education 
—criticisms of English education—Wood-Abbott report on 
vocational education ........ 267 

Higher education in rural areas : agricultural colleges and schools . 271 

The education of adults : night schools and other methods of adult 

education—physical training—Boy Scouts and Girl Guides . 271 

CHAPTER IX. Industrial Labour. 

Classification of Indian industries : organized and unorganized . 275 

Organized industries : the Labour Commission’s Report—regulated 
factories, seasonal and perennial-T-geographical distribution of 
(a) perennial (b) seasonal—unregulated factories—mines and 
quarries—main coalfields—coal-seams—fire-damp—other min¬ 
erals—railways—State and company lines—Railway Board and 


Sources of labour in organized industries : industrial labour drawn 
from rural areas—characteristics of labour supply, essentially 
rural and mostly agricultural—exodus prolonged but temporary 
—chief causes of exodus, poverty and over-population—industrial 

labourers’desire for ultimate return to then-homes . . .282 

CHAPTER IX ( continued ). 

Recruitment of labour : (a) Factories—the jobber. ( b) Mines and 
quarries—the sardar’s gang—the raising contractor. ( c ) Rail¬ 

ways—unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled workers. ( d) Docks. 
(«) Plantations—recruitment from a distance—its difficulties— 
controlled recruitment. 

Industrial legislation : the Factories Act, 1934—working hours— 
ages—other beneficial provisions—the Central Provinces 
Unregulated Factories Act, 1937—the Indian Mines (Amend¬ 
ment) Act, 1935—its provisions—Mining Boards—later Acts— 
railway arrangements dependent on international Conven¬ 
tions—Indian Ports (Amendment) Act, 1931—Indian Dock 
Labourers Act, 1934—general labour legislation (a) Workmen’s 
Compensation Act, 1933— (k) Payment of Wages Act, 1936— (c) 
legislation to reduce and regulate borrowings by workmen 

Trade unions and trade disputes : Trade Unions Act, 1926— 
present-day strength—obstacles to development of trade 
unionism—trade disputes—decline in industrial unrest since 1928 
and its causes—Trade Disputes Acts, 1929, 1934, 1938—Bombay 
Trades Disputes Conciliation Act, 1934—labour and conciliation 

Housing : in the cities—in the minin g areas and plantations . 

Unorganized industries : ancient village handicrafts and art 
industries—losses caused by competition of machine-made goods 
and changes of taste—economic importance of small-scale 
industries—economic difficulties of cottage artisans—activities 
of departments of industry. 

Administration : the Government of India—the provincial Govern- 

CHAPTER X. Co-operation. 

Co-operation in other countries : the number of societies—con¬ 
sumers’ Co-operation in England—the German co-operative 
credit societies—diffusion of Co-operation over the world in 
various forms ......... 

Development of Co-operation in India : early attempts to relieve 
agricultural indebtedness—Nicholson’s report (1895-7)—the 
Co-operative Credit Societies Act, 1904—the Co-operative 
Societies Act, ig 12—the Maclagan Committee, 1915 

Co-operative credit in India: importance of cheap credit—constitution 
and working of a typical co-operative credit society—classifica¬ 
tion of credit societies—the department and its staff—the 
agricultural depression of 1929-30—subsequent recovery—the 
mortgage bank and long-term debt—debt conciliation boards . 

Other forms of Co-operation : consumers’ Co-operation—supply and 
marketing—housing—original types of Co-operation in India— 
consolidation of holdings—better farming—education—health— 
thrift—better living—general purposes .... 








33 1 

CHAPTER XI. Local Government and Social Administration. 

Introductory : basic principles of local government—comparative 

study of systems of different countries.343 

Local government in England : its development—the present 
system—the various local bodies—county, borough, district, and 
parish councils—the relations between them—regional boards— 
local government finance ....... 344 

Local government in foreign countries : ( 1 ) the American system: 
the various local bodies—township, county, borough, city—the 
relations between them—defects and attempts to remedy them 
(2) the totalitarian States—(3) the U.S.S.R.—(4) the French 
system : commune, arrondissement, departement —relations between 
them—the prefect—administrative courts .... 349 

Local self-government in India : early development : (1) in the 
presidency towns—( q) in other towns—Lord Ripon’s resolution 
and the municipal Acts—(3) in rural areas ; the district boards— 
the Decentralization Commission (1909)—the Government of 
India’s resolution of 1918—the removal of official control— 
revival of the village panchayat —local self-government at the 
present day—duties and financial arrangements of local bodies— 
their weaknesses and good qualities—the importance of the village 

panchayat .353 

Future developments : training of members and officials in their 
duties—the position of the District Officer—new problems— 
control of local bodies by the provincial Governments . . 363 

CHAPTER XII. Voluntary Effort and Social Welfare. 

Introductory : sphere of voluntary effort in promoting social welfare 372 
Voluntary associations in England : their long history—constant 
increase both in their number and scope—spontaneity and 
financial independence—different types—tendency to over¬ 
lapping—coordinating councils—relations with State depart¬ 
ments—lay-workers and expert advisers—voluntary effort 

supplementary to State effort.373 

Voluntary associations in India : the caste system in old times 
ensured social welfare of all classes—voluntary associations 
only required for special and temporary objects—under 
British rule conditions created favourable to the increase 
of voluntary effort by and for benefit of individuals— 
co-operative societies the first and most important class of 
voluntary associations—examples in Bengal; (1) anti-malarial 
society—(2) social service league—(3) women’s institutes—(4) 
Bratachari—societies for children; village “ centres ” for rural 
reconstruction—the Y.M.C.A. rural demonstration centre at 
Martandam—its special characteristics—(a) comprehensiveness— 

{b) training of agents and propagandists—(c) coordination of 
non-official and official activities— (d) cheapness due to pre¬ 
ponderance of honorary workers .380 

CHAPTER XII ( continued ). page 

Official schemes of rural development: their advantages and dis¬ 
advantages—the Punjab scheme—Mr. Brayne’s campaign of 
uplift in Gurgaon—the Bengal scheme—the Central Provinces 
scheme—the Pipariya experiment—the village uplift board—the 
United Provinces scheme—rural reconstruction centres— 
propaganda—the rural development board, officers, and district 
associations—tube wells and social welfare—Sir Frederick Sykes’ 
scheme in Bombay—its decentralized nature—Government of 
India grants—teaching and training of children—a sustained 
policy of welfare work required—examination of provincial 
schemes in the light of the Martandam characteristics . . 390 

The District Staff and rural development: increase in number of 
touring officers of many departments—the District Officer’s 
position as a link between them and voluntary associations—his 
relations with local bodies—the qualities that he needs—the 
Assistant Collector’s place in the scheme of rural development, 

and his duties.397 

Glossary of vernacular words ....... 399 



A group of peasants in Oudh ...... 




1. Old style. Bullock-power .... 'I 

2. Old style. Man-power . ... f 



1 . New style. A storage work 

2. New style. A tube well . ... J 



Indian Types 

1. A Sikh reading the Granth \ 

2. A Rajput warrior from Udaipur . . . J 



1. A lady of high degree (Punjab) . . . ■ 

2. A Musalman Indian officer . . . / 



Village Scenes 

1. A village in northern India "1 

2. A village in southern India, near Cape Comorin / 



Women Working at Home 
. Reeling cotton yarn ..... "1 

2. Churning butter ...../ 



Indian Agriculture 

1. Ploughing in Sind ..... "1 

2. Gathering rice plants from a seed-bed . . / 


VIII. ! 

[. Harvesting sugar-cane .... "1 

Rural Propaganda l 

2. A Government servant expounding bee-keeping to 
villagers . J 


IX. : 

Cattle at Work 

i . Threshing wheat ..... 1 

i. Crushing sugar-cane by bullock-power . . j 


X. ] 

[. Goats returning from pasture ... "I 

?. Sheep returning from pasture f 


Modern Hospitals 

t. King George’s Hospital at Lucknow . 

!. A ward in the Mayo Hospital at Lahore 

Medical Work in the Village 
i. A baby clinic ..... 

!. A Government vaccinator on tour 

Industry : New Style 

1. A reeling room in a cotton mill . 

2. Shops at Tatanagar . . . . . 

Industry : Old Style 
i . Primitive weaving near Agra 
2. A Delhi potter ...... 

Urban Indla 

i . Old style. A bazaar in Peshawar City 
2. New style. A view of Calcutta . 

1. Boy Scouts with police at the Kumbh Mela . 

2. A Scout’s good deed . 

Maps of village of Kishanpura before and after consolidation 
Map of the Indian Empire ...... 





7, note X> last line.—For c< Kinchingunga ”, read u Kinchin- 

80, penultimate line.*—For “ Vaishya ”, read iC Vaisya 

85, para. 14, line 8.—For a 1910 ”, read (c 1909 

280, para. 9, line 5.—For “ Ninety ”, read cc About 80 ”. 

401.—Insert between “Dofasli” and “Dumlja”:—“Dugla: 
Basket for lifting water. (See V, 40.) ” 



The Environment and Distribution of the Indian People 

General Conditions 

i. Of all the conditions that make up the environment 
of Indian society the most important is India herself. Her 
geological characteristics account for the nature of her soils 
and the distribution of her mineral wealth. Her meteorology 
and her physiography taken together are responsible for the 
diversity of her climates, the variety of her vegetable products, 
and for her water-supply. These, again,’ govern the density, 
the occupations, and the economic habits of her people. 
Accordingly, some description of India from these various 
aspects is a necessary prelude to considering the economic 
condition of the Indian people. 

Geology of India 

2. The strata .—India has not always been an Asiatic 
country. Once upon a time—as geologists reckon time—the 
plains of northern India were covered by a great central sea, 
stretching from Europe to Burma (both inclusive),' to which 
the name “ Tethys ” has been given, and of which the Mediter¬ 
ranean is a miserable and degraded relic. At this time, which 
fell in the mesozoic period, the Himalayas were not yet in 
existence. The rest of India then formed part of an Indo- 
Affican continent, and was already immeasurably old. It 
goes back to an age called “ archaean,” long anterior to the 
age called palaeozoic—an age of which, in the absence of all 
fossils, life cannot be predicated, which in the geological time- 
scale cannot be far removed from the Bible’s “ in the 
beginning.” Archaean remnants still remain in the crystalline 
rocks—gneiss and granite—which are exposed over much of 
the surface of the Peninsula. Elsewhere, this crystalline 


bedrock has been overlaid—long after the archaean, but still 
before the palaeozoic era—by immense sedimentary rocks 
such as the shales, limestones, and sandstones of the Vindhyas. 

3. The next chapter of geological history of which I 
need take account relates to the mesozoic system, called 
Gondwana, which consists of subaerial and fresh-water deposits. 
The rocks are mostly shales and sandstones; but the Gondwana 
system is remarkable chiefly because its fossils afford proof 
of the Indo-African continent already mentioned, and because 
it contains all the coal-beds in India. 

4. Towards the end of the mesozoic period there occurred 
a series of volcanic cataclysms which entirely altered the 
topography of this part of the world and reshaped it as we 
know it now. The old Indo-African continent was broken up, 
and large tracts of it disappeared below the sea. All that 
remained of it was the present Peninsula, the surface of which 
was covered by great flows of lava, making the chief part of 
the geological formation known as the “ Deccan trap.” This 
lava, over some 200,000 square miles, concealed all older 
rocks, filled up all existing river-valleys, and levelled out the 
countryside, though subsequent denudation and weathering 
have cut up the lava into terraces and those flat-topped hills 
and isolated ridges which are characteristic of the Central 
India and Deccan plateaux. About the same time similar 
volcanic activity brought Baluchistan into existence ; and 
somewhat later, in the meiocene period, there began, possibly 
as the result of some upheaval to the northwards, the folding 
movement by which the Himalayas, “ rolling out as a mighty 
rock-wave towards the south, rose as the greatest mountain 
chain in the world ” ; and in doing so drove back the central 
sea, which was replaced by the Indo-Gangetic plain. These 
changes were completed in the pleiocene period, and so 
northern India is immeasurably younger than southern 
India. Even so, northern India is from ten to fifteen million 
years old. 

5. Since then there have been further geological changes 
in India. There has been volcanic action both on the Iranian 
plateau and in the Malay archipelago. There has been 
ever-increasing deposit of alluvium by the great rivers in the 
northern plain and elsewhere. There have been changes due 
to desiccation, of which the Rajputana desert is one result. 
And there have been many earthquakes—five in the last forty 

years.* But on the whole the geological history of India 
since the pleiocene era seems to have been relatively uneventful. 

6. The soils .—The geological structure of India is relatively 
simple, for many of the strata found in other countries are either 
absent or weakly represented. Accordingly, the Royal 
Commission on Agriculture recognized only four varieties of 
soil, which correspond to the principal geological formations, f 
The appearance of uniformity which results from this, classi¬ 
fication is deceptive. Within each class there are many 
qualitative variations, due sometimes to differences in the 
depth of the soil or in its chemical composition, sometimes to 
differences in the nature of the subsoil. It is impossible to 
deal with all these variations, and only some of the more 
important will be mentioned. 

7. —(1) The alluvial soils of India date back to the meiocene 
era, when northern India first emerged from under the central 
sea. They occupy the whole of the great northern plain, 
except the Sind-Rajputana desert and the hill tracts of Assam. 
There are also alluvial strips of varying width along the coast¬ 
lines and the courses of the great peninsular rivers. There 
are two main classes of alluvium : the old, which is found 
wherever the process of land formation has almost or entirely 
ceased ; and the new, which is found wherever inundation 
is still taking place and silt is still accumulating. The soils 
of the northern plains, except in the beds and deltas of the 
rivers, are almost entirely old alluvium. The thickness of it 
has never been ascertained, but such borings as have been 
made show that it exceeds 1,600 feet. The colour varies 
from fawn or khaki to brown according to its consistency, 
which varies from sand through loam to the stiffest clay. The 
subsoil is generally disposed in well-marked layers, amongst 
which there are sometimes found beds of nodular limestone 
(. kankar).\ In stiff clay the drainage is often impeded, and 
salts of soda or magnesium accumulate, which appear on the 
surface as an efflorescence, and render the soil completely 
sterile.§ But when the drainage is good, the rainfall moderate 
and well distributed, and the facilities for irrigation are 

* The earthquakes were those of Assam (1897), Kangra (1904), 
Dharmsala (1917), Bihar (1934), and Quetta (1935). 

f Report, pp. 70-4. 

% Much used as metal for roads ; it cannot, however, stand up to 
motor traffic. 

§ Such soil is called vsar, reh, or kallar. 


adequate, this old alluvium by reason of its depth is naturally 
fertile and capable of growing a large variety of crops. The 
new alluvium naturally possesses the characteristics of the 
soils found in the basin of the river which deposited it; but 
its consistency is always that of heavy rich loam, capable of 
producing excellent crops under irrigation, or along the 
river banks, even without it. 

8 .—(2) There are two types of black-cotton soil ( regur ), 
of different geological origin. The first is derived from the 
Deccan trap formations, and covers most of the Bombay 
presidency, Berar, the western tracts of the Central Provinces, 
and Hyderabad. The second is found in five districts of 
Madras (Bellary, Kurnool, Cuddapah, Tinnevelly, and 
Coimbatore), and is derived by weathering from ferruginous 
gneisses and other similar rocks.* The Deccan soils vary 
greatly in their nature and their fertility. On the hillsides 
and uplands they are thin and sandy or gravelly, requiring 
a well-distributed rainfall to make them productive. In the 
broken country between the hills and the plains the soils are 
deeper and darker, and are constantly being improved by 
deposits washed down from higher levels. Lower still, in the 
valleys and plains, is found the best black-cotton soil, varying 
in depth according to the position. The Madras soils never 
attain so great a depth, and in their subsoils there are usually 
kankar beds which overlie the rock stratum. Nor do they 
form continuous tracts, like the Deccan soils, but are distributed 
in large and well-defined patches over the country. The two 
types of soil, however, have many agricultural characteristics 
in common. They are tenacious of moisture and sticky when 
wet, for which reason they do not respond to irrigation ; but 
when they are not too deep, the drainage is good, for the subsoil 
is shaly. When damp, regur contracts, and many cracks are 
formed, which are sometimes several feet deep. 

9 -—(3) The red soils are derived from the crystalline rocks 
of the archaean system. These cover the whole of the Penin¬ 
sula, except the black-cotton tracts just mentioned, f Many 

* It was formerly regarded as alluvial in origin. Cf. Imperial Gazetteer, 
Vol. Ill, p. 10, with the Agriculture Commission’s Report, pp. 71, 72. 

t The red soils area includes most of Madras, Mysore, south-eastern 
Bombay, the eastern parts of Hyderabad and Central Provinces, Orissa, 
Chota Nagpur, neighbouring districts in Bihar and Bengal, and some 
parts of Central India and of Rajputana. They are also found in the 
Assam hills. 


of these rocks are highly ferruginous, which quality produces 
the deep red or brown colour of the soils derived from them. 
These soils differ in consistency, depth, and fertility no less 
than the black-cotton soils, and in much the same manner. 
On the highest levels they are often gravelly and light coloured ; 
on the lowest levels they are fertile loams or clays of a deep red ; 
and at intermediate levels they are of intermediate character. 
Where these soils are sufficiently deep they repay irrigation. 

10. —(4) Laterite* is a rock peculiar to India and a few 
other countries f which have a warm climate and heavy 
rainfall. It is a porous, clayey, ferruginous rock which is found 
as a mantle or cap on the summit of the hills and plateaux of 
Central India, and has been recognized as a formation due to 
the weathering of the rocks below it, which are usually basalts 
or gneisses. Like other soils derived from rocks, the lateritic 
soils are thin and gravelly at high levels, and at lower levels 
are heavy loams, capable of retaining moisture and sufficiently 
fertile. Their peculiarity is an almost complete lack of lime and 
magnesium, which gives them an acid reaction. They are 
found in patches in the east of the Central Provinces, Ghota 
Nagpur, and the adjoining districts of Bihar and Bengal to 
the north, whilst the thick ferruginous clays of the Nilgiris 
and other mountain districts in Madras, Bengal, and Assam 
are also usually classed as lateritic. 

11. Some authorities distinguish a fifth class of soils to 
which may be given the name Bundelkhandi, as they are pecu¬ 
liar to that tract, together with certain parts of Central India 
and east Rajputana. These are of different origins. There is a 
thin red soil derived from the weathering of the archaean 
crystalline rocks that lie a few inches below the surface. There 
are several kinds of black soil which appear to be water-borne 
from the hills of Central India : mar, which is dark and friable ; 
kabar, which is less dark, but much stiffer than mar; rakar, 
which is found on slopes and has much the same consistency 
(and fertility) as gravel ; and parwa, which is a light, yellowish 
loam. They have attributes similar to those of red and black 
soils respectively, though parwa, like the Gangetic loams, is 
responsive to irrigation. 

* See Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. ; Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. I, p. 101 ; 
Agriculture Commission’s Report, pp. 73, 74. 

•f East Indies, Malaya, Northern Australia, equatorial Africa, South 
America, and Cuba : see Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. 


12. The older Indian soils are all similar in their chemical 
composition. In all of them there is a deficiency of nitrogen, 
phosphoric acid, and organic matter, and a sufficiency of 
potash and lime. Laterite, however, is deficient in all these 
elements except organic matter, of which there is generally 

Physiography of India 

13. It is often said that India, being isolated from the rest 
of Asia by almost impassable mountains to the north and by 
the sea to the west and east, has a geographical unity such 
as no other country possesses. That may be true, but it is a 
unity made up of diversities, the unity not of a country but 
of a continent. And in no respect does India display greater 
diversity than in her physical features. To describe them it 
will be necessary to subdivide India into her three com¬ 
ponent physical parts—the Highlands, the Plain, and the 

14. —(1) The Highlands* —Beyond the western and 
northern land frontiers of India there lie two huge plateaux, 
the Iranian j and the Tibetan. In the place where three 
empires J used to meet, these plateaux come together : the 
Hindu Kush range of the western system is linked on to the 
Karakoram range, which runs eastwards under the name of 
Kuen-Lun, to form the northern boundary of the Tibetan 
plateau. The Indian Highlands lie along the edges of these 
two plateaux ; whilst in the corner formed by the Hindu Kush 
and the Karakoram is the state of Kashmir. 

15. The northern half of the western Highlands consists 
of bare and treeless hill ranges, intersected by the valleys § 
of rivers that fall into the Indus and sometimes broaden out 
into plains. Further south, the tract includes a part of the 

* This tract includes the following political divisions : (1) British 
territory —provinces of Baluchistan,, North-Western Frontier, districts of 
Kangra (Punjab), Darjiling and Jalpaiguri (Bengal), and the Kumaun 
districts (United Provinces). (2) States territory —States and tribal areas 
belonging to the Baluchistan and North-West Frontier States agencies; 
Simla Hill States and Tehri-Garhwal, belonging to the Punjab States 
agency ; and Kashmir. 

t This stretches as far west as the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris. 

+ Russia, China, and India. 

§ The chief are the Khyber, Kurram, Tochi, and Gomal. These 
are also passes. 


Iranian plateau ; it is an area of rugged mountains diversified 
by stretches of desert, stretches of plain, and level river valleys. 
In all parts of this tract the valleys and plains are usually 
fertile and well cultivated. 

16. Kashmir * * * § has been described as “ a house with many 
storeys.” From a fringe of level lowland along the Punjab 
frontier the country rises, as it were, in terraces. Each terrace 
is drained by a great river—the Chenab, the Jhelum, and the 
Indus. Away in the north-west lies Gilgit, under the shadow 
of the border mountains; in the far north-east lies a huge 
tableland at an elevation of 17,000 feet, which is dotted with 
salt lakes. The famous valley, where tourists and officers 
on leave congregate, is that of the Jhelum on the second 
“ storey.” 

17. The Himalayas | begin in a bend of the Indus near 
Gilgit, and after traversing 20° of longitude end in a bend of 
the Brahmaputra near Sadiya in Assam. They lie within the 
Indian border only as far as the western frontier of Nepal; 
thereafter, except for a small corner in the extreme north of 
Bengal, they pass through the independent states of Nepal and 
Bhutan. There are three zones : a watershed on the Indo- 
Tibetan border ; a central range with many high peaks % and 
covered with perennial snow; and the outer Himalayas, 
which are spurs diverging to the south-east or south-west from 
the central range. They cease so abruptly to the south that 
their general elevation a few miles from the plains is 8,000 to 
9,000 feet. The outer slopes are covered with luxuriant 
vegetation ; further' to the north there are magnificent 
forests. Further north still there is a line of perpetual snow 
at 15,000 to 16,000 feet, though in winter snow falls as low as 
5,000 feet. Along the foothills to the west there is a series 
of fertile upland valleys, called duns,§ flanked to the south by 

* The cis-Indus district of Hazara (North-west Frontier Province) is, 
physically, part of Kashmir. 

f (1) British territory —.Kangra district (Punjab), Kumaun districts 
(United Provinces), Darjiling and Jalpaiguri districts (Bengal). (2) States 
territory —North Kashmir, Simla hill States ; Tehri-Garhwal; Sikkim. 

} Some of these are Nanga Parbat in Kashmir, Nanda Devi, Trisul, 
and Nanda Kot in the United Provinces, and Dongkya in Sikkim, all of 
them between 23,000 and 26,500 feet. The highest peaks, namely Mt. 
Everest, Kinchingunga, and Devalagiri, lie in Nepal. 

§ The most famous of these is Dehra Dun, a district of the United 


a range of hills called Siwaliks which merges in the Himalayas 
near Naini Tal in the United Provinces. Further east the 
submontane tracts * * * § are notoriously unhealthy. 

x8.—(2) The Plain. f—The plain stretches from the western 
Highlands to the Burmese border, and from the Himalayas 
to the Peninsula. It falls into five sections. 

xg,—On the Arabian Sea there is a coastal tract, 
consisting of Cutch, which is more an island than a peninsula, 
Kathiawar, which is more a peninsula than an island, and 
Gujarat on the mainland. Cutch and Kathiawar form a 
medley of hill ranges, isolated peaks, deep river-beds, and 
fertile valleys. Gujarat is a small stretch of alluvial country 
with a very rich soil. Features of this tract are the great and 
little Ranns of Cutch and the Rann of Cambay, which, though 
marked on the map as sea, are at some times of the year 
merely saline swamps. 

20.— (b) Beyond this coastal tract lies the “ north-western 
dry area,” X bordered by the Indus, the great Rann, and the 
Aravalli hills to the east. A great part of it consists of the 
Thar, or Indian desert, which is composed of long straight 
sandhills, running on parallel lines and covered with scrub or 
coarse grass. There is little cultivation, except in a narrow 
tract between the Aravallis and the Luni river. Outside the 
desert, there is a stretch of rich alluvial soil in the delta or 
along the banks of the Indus. The rest of this area used to be 
barren upland, but it is now well-watered by some of the 
Punjab canals, has been colonized and cultivated, and belongs 
rather to the Indo-Gangetic plain than the dry area.§ The 
Sukkur Barrage and the Sutlej Valley Canal are expected to 
reclaim a large part of the waste that still remains, in Sind and 
the Bikaner State respectively. 

* Called Tarai and Bhabar in the United Provinces and Duars in 
Bengal and Assam. 

t (1) British territory —Gujarat (Bombay) ; Sind, the Punjab, the 
United Provinces (excluding Bundelkhand and Kumaun), Bihar, Bengal, 
and Assam. (2) States territory—, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner (Rajputana), 
Cooch Bihar and Tripura (Bengal), and Manipur (Assam), and the 
Gujarat, Punjab, and Western India States agencies. 

+ (1) British territory —Sind, Punjab (eight western districts). (3) States 
territory —Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Bahawalpur. 

§ Lyallpur district, for instance, which had a density of 15 persons per 
square mile in 1891, has now a density of 357. 

21. — (c) The Indo-Gangetic plain,* named from its two 
principal rivers, is in many respects the most important part 
of India. It contains its most ancient cities, its oldest centres 
of civilization, and its holiest places. A vast alluvial plain 
embracing the greater part of four provinces, lying entirely 
within the influence of the monsoon, it is in a year favourable 
to agriculture one of the most fertile tracts in the world. 

22. (d) The delta called Gangetic is in fact the combined 
delta of three rivers—the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the 
Meghna—and covers some 50,000 square miles. It is a flat 
stretch of rice-fields, cut up by streams and streamlets which 
struggle slowly to the sea. Ultimately cultivation is replaced 
by dense forests on swampy islands : this tract, known as the 
Sundarbans, is from 60 to 80 miles broad, and stretches over 
170 miles along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. 

23. (e) Assam consists of a famous valley and four groups 
of hills, called Naga, Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia from the tribes 
which inhabit them ; they are outliers of the Upper Burma 
system. The valley, that of the Brahmaputra, is narrow, but 
exceedingly fertile, whilst terraces on the hillsides are mainly 
devoted to the growing of tea. In the far north are large 
areas of reed jungle, inhabited chiefly by wild animals such as 
the bison, the buffalo, and the tiger. 

24. (3) The Peninsula .f—This old India displays a be¬ 
wildering diversity of physical features that almost defies 
description. In shape it resembles an irregular triangle, of 
which the apex is at Cape Comorin, the sides are the two sea- 
coasts, and the base is formed by the Aravalli range and the 
edge of the Indo-Gangetic plain. It can be subdivided into 
a huge tableland and a fringe of low-lying coastlands. The 
tableland forms an inner triangle within the main outer triangle 
of the Peninsula : it has the same base, but its sides are formed 

* (1) British territory —Punjab (except eight western and hill districts), 
United Provinces (except Bundelkhand and Kumaun), Bihar (except 
Chota Nagpur), Bengal (except Ganges Delta). (2) States territory —Cooch 
Bihar, Tripura, Rampur, Benares, Punjab States agency (except Bahawal- 
pur and hill States). 

t (1) British territory —the Central Provinces ; the province of Orissa ; 
the presidencies of Madras and Bombay (excluding Gujarat) ; the Bun¬ 
delkhand districts in the United Provinces, and the Chota Nagpur districts 
in Bihar. (2) States territory —Hyderabad, Mysore, and Gwalior ; the 
Madras, Deccan, and Eastern State agencies ; and those States of the 
Rajputana agency which lie south and east of the Aravallis. 


by two ranges which run roughly parallel to the coastlines, and 
meet in an apex in the Nilgiri mountains. These ranges are 
known respectively as the Western and Eastern Ghats. The 
Western Ghats form a stretch of almost unbroken scarp facing 
the sea ; the Eastern Ghats are both less high and less con¬ 
tinuous, and occasionally fling out a spur seawards to form a 
headland. This tableland, however, has feW of a table’s 
attributes. Its altitude varies from 1,500 to 2,500 feet. It 
is crossed by numerous hill ranges, which vary from low stony 
ridges to such important systems as the Vindhyas and Satpuras. 
It is intersected by numerous large streams running through 
well-cultivated valleys. Amongst its hill ranges are large 
stretches of fertile plain, which are often dotted with isolated 
peaks, some conical, some flat-topped, some mere heaped-up 
masses of boulders. Elsewhere there are dense forests, in¬ 
habited by primitive tribes who depend chiefly on forest 
products and hunting for their livelihood. In fact, just as the 
landscape of northen India is a marvel of sameness, so the 
landscape of southern India is a marvel of variety. 

25. The coastlands * vary from the narrowest of strips, 
under the Western Ghats, to stretches of country 150 miles 
broad. The western coastline is generally fertile riceland with 
many palm trees, broadening out into cultivated plains in 
South Kanara, Malabar, and Travancore. On the eastern 
coast, from Orissa southwards, the nature of the country is 
always the same. Along the seashore there is a narrow belt 
of sand ; beyond the sand there is a rich and well-irrigated area 
of rice and palms ; beyond the palms there is the background 
of the Eastern Ghats. Further south the scene is one of treeless 
plains, with an occasional cultivated valley and palm groves 
along the coast, but the general appearance is one of “ dry, 
red desolation.” 

Meteorology of India 

26. (1) The monsoons .—“ The primary fact in the 
meteorology of India is the alternation of seasons, known as 
the south-west and north-east monsoons.” The south-west 
monsoon is a continuation of the south-east trade wind, and 
consequently a wind of oceanic origin, which is highly charged 

* (1) British territory —Orissa ; Madras (excluding Deccan districts) ; 
Bombay coastal districts from Thana to North Kanara. (2) States territory 
—Eastern States agency ; Travancore, Pudukkottai. 


with humidity. The north-east monsoon is a dry wind of 
continental origin. The south-west monsoon is advancing 
from June to September and in retreat from October to Decem¬ 
ber ; the north-east monsoon is in operation from the middle 
of December to the end of May. The two between them are 
responsible not only for India’s climatic conditions but also 
for the most important part of her water-supply. 

27. The south-west monsoon on approaching India 
divides into two currents, of which one moves up the Bay of 
Bengal and the other up the Arabian Sea. About one-third 
of the Bay current enters Burma; the rest makes its way 
northwards over eastern Bengal and Assam, crossing the 
coastline between Puri and Chittagong. Its course is blocked 
by the Assam hills and the Himalayas; it then bends west¬ 
wards, moving right along the Indo-Gangetic plain till it 
meets the north-western hills. Throughout its track it deposits 
rain, heavily on and near the hills, more lightly over the 
plains. Meantime, the Arabian Sea current is directed against 
the western coastline. Where it meets the Western Ghats it 
is forced to ascend, and then crosses the Deccan eastwards 
till it joins the Bay current. It gives very heavy rain to the 
Western Ghats and the coastline below them, but having thus 
deposited the greater part of its vapour, has relatively little 
rain to give to the Deccan. Further north, the current crosses 
the coasts of Gutch, Kathiawar, and Sind, passes over the 
Rajputana desert, and then goes north and north-east, being 
deflected from upper Sind by the earth’s rotation, till it meets 
the Bay current over the eastern Punjab. It gives good rain 
to the coastlands, to the eastern Punjab, to Rajputana east of 
the Aravallis, and to the western Himalayas, but none to the 
Indian desert. 

28. The full strength of the monsoon lasts for about three 
months, but rain does not fall continuously throughout this 
period. In time the air is drained of its vapour, and a “ break 
in the rains ” takes place. But in due course the monsoon 
winds over the Arabian Sea and the Bay again advance land¬ 
wards along their original tracks and give a second burst of 
rain, which in due course is followed by a second break. 
From the agriculturist’s point of view this alternation of burst 
and break is an important feature of the monsoon. Incessant 
rain would cause the growing crops to rot, and a break gives 
the sun a chance of ripening them. Too long a break, no 

doubt, would bring disaster, but so would too long a spell ot 
continuous rain. In fact, moderation and punctuality are the 
chief qualities of the favourable monsoon. If the commence¬ 
ment of the rains come late or their end comes early, if the 
fall is either less or more than is required, then in the tract 
affected the crops will suffer some measure of damage. 

29. There are parts of India where the monsoon is usually 
satisfactory—the coastline, Assam, Bengal, Bihar, the Punjab, 
and Gujarat. In the central parts of India, however, the 
rainfall is apt to fail and agriculture is accordingly precarious— 
the United Provinces, Rajputana, Central India, and tire 
Deccan. This is borne out by history. From 1770 to 1919 
there have been seventeen famines. Of these, Bengal, Bihar, 
Orissa, and Gujarat were each affected by only one. The 
Punjab has suffered thrice. But of the precarious tracts, the 
United Provinces have suffered eleven times and the Deccan, 
Rajputana, and Central India twelve times each. 

30. From the third week in September the two monsoon 
currents are in gradual retreat from northern India, each 
returning along the line of its original advance ; by the end of 
October they have passed out of India altogether. 

31. The north-east monsoon * blows from the middle of 
January to the end of May ; it is a land wind which gets 
hotter and drier as the spring advances, and at no time carries 
any moisture. Such rains as occur in this period are mainly 
due to one of two causes. Firstly, there are the cyclonic storms 
which occur from time to time in the Arabian Sea and the 
Bay of Bengal. The cyclones in the Arabian Sea have little 
effect on the rainfall, except along the coast, for from the 
latitude of Bombay they curve westwards towards Arabia. 
The Bay cyclones follow a similar direction, and so reach the 
eastern seaboard, travel inland, and give considerable amounts 
of rain. These cyclones usually precede the advance of the 
south-west monsoon in May and early June f or follow its 
retreat in October. The October 'cyclones give valuable 
rain, in November and early December, to the Coromandel 

* It is sometimes said that the north-east monsoon is really the south¬ 
west monsoon in retreat. 

f The rainfall which precedes the monsoon rainfall proper is called 
the chhoti barsat (small rainfall), to distinguish it from the monsoon rainfall 
proper, which is called bari barsat (great rainfall). 


districts and to the southern tracts of Madras, Hyderabad, 
and Bombay. 

32. The second cause of the cold weather rains are certain 
shallow storms * which form over Persia and travel thence 
into northern India. They are, as a rule, heavy only in the 
Punjab plains, the submontane tracts in that province, and the 
United Provinces, and to a lesser degree in northern Bihar; 
but at this time even insignificant amounts are of great agri¬ 
cultural importance. But the most important precipitation 
during this period is the heavy fall of snow in the western 
Himalayas and the higher mountains on the north-west 
border ; for this snow, melting in April and May, feeds the 
rivers of northern India, so that they never fail entirely even 
in years of drought. 

33. (2) The temperatures .—It is unnecessary to mention 
the causes which govern the seasonal and diurnal variations 
of temperature in India, for they are the same as in other 
countries in the same latitude ; but these variations are 
affected by certain of India’s physical features. 

(1) The Himalayas and the mountains in the north-west 
act as a barrier to keep out the air movements that occur in 
the lower atmosphere behind them, but not those that occur 
in the higher. The higher air movements, which have passed 
over snows precipitated on these mountains, cause considerable 
falls of temperature in northern India. 

(2) India is open to breezes from the sea over and along 
the coastline which, being cooler than land breezes, lower 
the temperature wherever they penetrate. 

34. These facts have important effects on the variations 
of temperature in different parts of India, both seasonal and 

(i) Though northern and north-western India lie in a 
temperate zone and the southern districts of Madras he in a 
tropical zone, yet temperatures in the former tract during the 
hot months are markedly higher than they are in the latter. 
For instance, the average mean temperatures of Jacobabad 
and Lahore at this time are about 95 0 and 90° respectively ; 
those of Trichinopoly and Madras are about 89° and 88°. 

* They are often called Christmas rains, because they ought to, but 
often do not, come at that time. 


(ii) The range between extremes of temperature in any 
year is far greater in northern and north-western India than in 
southern Madras. In Jacobabad and Peshawar, for instance, the 
range is about 40 °, and in Lahore about 38°; in Madras and 
Trichinopoly it is about 13 0 , and in Trivandrum about 5°. In 
other words, though southern Madras is never as hot as north¬ 
western India in the summer, it does not enjoy the same cold 

(iii) The range between extremes of temperature in the 
same day is much less on the coasts than in the interior, and 
also much less in the wet than in the dry season. It is at its 
least everywhere in the rains and at its greatest on a cold 
weather day in northern India. In December or January a 
man may go comfortably in shirt-sleeves at midday, but will 
require a heavy overcoat or a fire by which to sit after sundown. 

35. (3) The climates .—The Hindustani word for climate 
is abhowa. Literally, this means water and air, and when an 
Indian uses it he is thinking of drinking water, to the purity 
of which he rightly attaches much importance. For our 
purposes, however, we may translate it by humidity and 
temperature, which are the two chief ingredients in the com¬ 
position of a climate. Enough has been said of the causes 
which produce these ingredients individually, but we have 
still to consider them in combination. 

36. In the United Provinces the climatic seasons are as 

March to June . . . . . dry heat. 

July to October.damp heat. 

November to February .... dry cold. 

In the first period the heat increases till it reaches its peak a 
few days before the rains break. Throughout, a strong west 
wind, called the loo, is blowing from sunrise to sunset, and 
sometimes goes on blowing far i^Lto the night. In due course 
the wind will change to the east, which is a sign that the 
monsoon is approaching. When the rains have broken the 
temperature will drop by several degrees, but will rise again 
during a break. In October the monsoon passes away and 
the temperature begins to drop permanently. Then comes 
the dry cold of the winter months, which is sometimes varied, 
after rain, by a cold and damp mist, sometimes by a spell of 
frost, which does great damage to die crops. But generally 
it is as pleasant a climate as there is anywhere in the world. 


37- As the climate of the United Provinces is, so is that 
of the rest of the Indo-Gangetic plain and of the Peninsular 
tableland. There may be variations from place to place in 
the range of temperatures or the length of the various seasons, 
but, mutatis mutandis , the description of the climate of the 
United Provinces will also serve for the other tracts. It is 
only in the high hills or in those parts of the country which are 
either permanently under the influence of the sea winds or 
else never come under that influence, that there are any marked 
climatic differences. In the Himalayas, Kashmir, and the 
north-western hills the climate is cool in summer and during 
the rains, very cold in winter, and dry or damp according to 
the rainfall. In Sind and the Rajputana desert there is little 
or no rain and the climate is always dry ; the summer heat is 
prolonged, but there is also some cold weather. Assam and 
the coastlands of Madras and Bombay are always damp, in 
degrees that vary from season to season and from place to 
place. But whilst Assam is always cool, the coastlands are 
always warm. 

38. (4) Water-supply .*—The chief source of India’s water- 
supply is the rainfall. But partly because of the heat of the 
climate, partly because of the vagaries of the monsoon, the 
rainfall is never sufficient by itself to satisfy the needs of 
agriculture. In most parts of India it is always necessary, 
in all parts it is sometimes necessary, to supplement it by 
artificial irrigation from other sources. The Indian peasant 
himself neglects no such source ; he takes his water wherever 
he finds it—whether it be from a stream, or a swamp, or a 
well, or from the borrow-pit on the roadside. It is enough, 
however, to consider the three most important sources of supply, 
namely, wells, storage works, and canals. 

39. (a) Well irrigation .—Conditions for well irrigation 
are best in the northern plains, where the supply of subsoil 
water is everywhere large and in some parts, such as the 
western districts of the United Provinces, apparently in¬ 
exhaustible. Accordingly the Punjab and the United Pro¬ 
vinces between them account for over 75 per cent, of the total 
area irrigated from wells. There is also well irrigation in 
Bombay, Madras, and southern Bihar and for garden crops 

* For further information regarding the water supply, see Chapter V, 
paras. 40 et seq. 


all over the country. Wells are almost all open and of two 
kinds ; the temporary ( kachcha ) well, which is merely a hole 
in the ground, and costs a few rupees; and the permanent 
( pakka ) well, which is lined with masonry and costs from 100 
to 1,000 rupees or over, according to the depth and size of the 
well, the cost of the lining, and the nature of the subsoil. 
Water is usually raised by bullock-power, but sometimes, if 
the lift is not too great, by man-power.* * * § The peasant has his 
own primitive lifting appliances; the most common, involving 
bullock-power, is as follows. A large leather bucket, holding 
from 25 to 40 gallons, is fixed to one end of a rope, which 
passes over a pulley at the well mouth ; the other end is 
attached to the yoke of a pair of bullocks. By walking down a 
ramp of a length equal to the depth of the well, the bullocks 
raise the bucket, and by walking up the ramp lower it once 
more. All these primitive methods have in different degrees 
the same defects—they are all laborious, they are all slow, and 
relatively to the results achieved they are all expensive. Tube 
wells driven by oil engines have been constructed in some 
provinces, but they are never likely to supplant open wells 
and bullock-power, for both their capital and their running 
costs put them beyond the reach of all but wealthy landlords, f 
In the western districts of the United Pro.vinces, where Govern¬ 
ment can obtain cheap power from its own hydro-electric 
system, J it has solved the problem by building tube wells on 
a large scale § at its own expense and selling their water to 
cultivators at rates which compare favourably with the rates 
for canal water. But unfortunately cheap electricity is not 
to be found everywhere in India. 

40. (b) Storage works .—Storage works may, for con¬ 
venience, be divided into two classes, which we may call 
the reservoir and the tank. The typical reservoir is a lake 
formed by the construction of a dam across the bed of a river 
or across the mouth of some other catchment area, the waters 
of which it impounds and contains. The typical tank is an 
excavation in the ground, partly surrounded by an embank- 

* Man-power is never used for a lift of over 15 feet. 

t Government is willing to make loans to assist in building such 
wells, but few cultivators can afford to borrow the amount required. 

t See para. 48 below : and Chapter V, para. 42. 

§ There will be r,4go of these scattered over seven districts by the end 
of 1938-39, together with some 300 more, which belong to private 
owners—mostly landlords. 


merit, which receives the overflow of the rainfall.* The 
reservoir is most commonly built to contain the flood waters 
of rivers the flow of which is not perennial but intermittent. 
Such a river is in flood during the rains, when irrigation is 
seldom needed ; but when irrigation is needed in the cold 
weather, waters run low. Thus the reservoir stores up the 
surplus of the wet season for use in the dry. Most of these 
reservoirs are intimately connected with canal systems. But 
there are also independent reservoirs, such as that called 
Periyar in Madras, which impounds by means of a dam the 
waters of a river which would otherwise have flowed into the 
Arabian Sea, and diverts them, by a tunnel bored through a 
watershed, to the other side of the Peninsula. Large reservoirs 
of this kind are not numerous, for they are very expensive to 

41. From time immemorial tanks have been an important 
feature of Indian irrigation. Most of the smaller village tanks 
were no doubt constructed by the villagers who occupied the 
lands which the tanks protected ; the larger tanks, capable 
of serving several villages, were generally built either by rulers 
or pious donors. Some of these old tanks are still in use—as, 
for instance, two tanks in the Chingleput district of Madras, 
which are more than 1,100 years old.f But such large tanks 
are relatively few, and as a source of irrigation the smaller 
village tanks, though rarely commanding more than twenty 
or thirty acres each, are far more important than the larger. 
There are no tanks in Assam, Sind, and the Punjab ; relatively 
few in Bengal, Bihar, and Bombay ; and relatively many in 
the Central Provinces and the United Provinces. But they 
are both most numerous and most important in Madras, 
where the area which they irrigate is about three and a half 
million acres. Some 30,000 of these Madras tanks are under 
the control of Government. Elsewhere they are generally 
the property of private owners. 

42. ( e ) Canals .—Canals may be divided into two classes, 
perennial and inundation. A perennial canal is one which 
has an assured supply of water all the year round, for which 
purpose a weir is constructed across the bed of the river to 

* “ Tank ” in this sense is an Anglo-Indian term. The derivation is 
uncertain. It possibly comes from the Portuguese tanqrn, which is related 
to the French etang and the Latin stagnum. 

f See R. K. Mukerjee’s Local Government in Ancient India, p. 147. 


hold up its water supplies and divert as much of them as may 
be needed into the canal. Inundation canals are channels 
taking off from the banks of a river at a level above the low- 
water level of the stream. When the river is in flood the water 
flows into these channels, and is thus distributed to the tracts 
to be irrigated ; and it continues to flow until the river has 
fallen below the level of the channels. Such canals are not 
as satisfactory as perennial canals, since they last for only five 
months instead of a whole year. The most important inunda¬ 
tions canals * are connected with the Indus and its tributaries, 
though many of them have now been replaced by perennial 

43. Perennial canals can be most conveniently described 
in three groups—(1) canals of the Indus basin ; (3) canals 
of the Ganges basin ; and (3) the Peninsular canals. 

44. (1) Canals of the Indus basin. —The Indus rises near 
Mt. Kailas, at the back of the Himalayas. It flows north¬ 
west till it reaches Gilgit, and then turns southwards, to fall 
into the Arabian Sea. The five rivers in its basin, which give 
their name to the Punjab, are the Jhelum, the Ravi, the 
Chenab, the Beas, and the Sutlej ; of these the first two fall 
into the Ghenab, the Chenab and the Beas fall into the Sutlej, 
and the Sutlej, which also rises near Mt. Kailas, falls into the 
Indus near Mithankot. Of these five rivers, four supply 
two canals each. The upper and lower Bari Doab canals 
take out from the Ravi ; the Sirhind and the Sutlej Valley 
canals take out from the Sutlej ; whilst the Jhelum and Ghenab 
each feed two canals known as Upper and Lower. These 
systems between them, together with such inundation canals 
as remain, cover the greatest part of the Punjab. The Punjab 
canals have turned sandy wastes into fertile fields and have 
entirely changed the face of the country. “ God has said, 
from water all things were made ” : that is undoubtedly true 
of the Punjab. On the Indus itself the only great work is the 
Sukkur Barrage, which has been built across the Indus between 
Sukkur and Rohri, with canals that take out from the Barrage 
on both sides of the river. This system has replaced inunda¬ 
tions canals over most of Sind, and will also give water to three 
and a half million acres that are at present unirrigated. 

45. (2) Canals in the Ganges basin. —The Ganges rises from 
an ice-cave in the State of Tehri-Garhwal. It enters the plains 

* Many of these Indus canals date back to Mogul times. 


at Hardwar and flows south-east through three provinces till 
it reaches the Bay of Bengal. It has many tributaries both 
in the north and south, of which I need mention only those 
which are connected with canals. There is first the Jumna, 
which also rises in Tehri-Garhwal, and flows on a course 
roughly parallel to that of the Ganges till the two meet at 
Allahabad. Another important Himalayan tributary of the 
Ganges is the Gogra, which rises in Tibet, with its affluent the 
Sarda. From the south the Jumna receives the Betwa and the 
Ken, whilst the Ganges receives the Son and Ghaggar. 

46. The Jumna feeds three systems, known as the Western * 
and Eastern Jumna canals, and the Agra canal. These irrigate 
between them the eastern districts of the Punjab and the 
western districts of the United Provinces. The Ganges itself 
feeds two canals which are called Upper and Lower Ganges 
respectively, and water the whole of the doab f from Saha- 
ranpur to beyond Cawnpore. The sixth large system, known 
as the Sarda canal, was opened in 1930 and irrigates most 
of Oudh. Of the smaller systems the most important are 
those of the Betwa, Ken, Ghaggar, and Son. These rivers 
all rise in the plateaux of the Peninsula, and since they 
receive no snow-water, they degenerate into mere rivulets 
in die dry season. Accordingly, all of them have been pro¬ 
vided with storage reservoirs. The Betwa and the Ken canals 
give water to Bundelkhand, the Ghaggar canal to Mirzapur, 
whilst the western and eastern Son canals irrigate the Bihar 
districts of Shahabad, Gaya, and Patna. 

47. (3) Peninsular canals .-—The Peninsular canals are of 
a different kind, being connected with the deltas of five great 
rivers—the Cauvery, the Penner, the Kistna, the Godavari, and 
the Mahanadi. It will suffice to describe one of these—namely, 
the Cauvery system, which is the oldest, and served as a model 
for the Kistna and Godavari systems. The Cauvery rises 
in the Western Ghats. It traverses Mysore, enters Madras at 
the falls of Sivasamudram, and reaches the Bay of Bengal 
near Negapatam. Near Trichinopoly the Cauvery breaks 
into two channels round the island of Seringam. About the 

* Many of the channels in the Western Jumna system are very old ; 
they were first made by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1351 and repaired by the 
Emperor Akbar in 1568. 

t A tract between du ah (two waters)—in this case between the Ganges 
and Jumna. 

l 9 

eleventh century a Chola king constructed a huge dam below 
the island to keep the two branches separate. This is known 
as the Grand Anicut (dam), and serves as the basis for the 
present Cauvery canal system. Between 1836 and 1848 
British engineers built further dams to regulate the flow of the 
water in the three main branches of the river. These main 
branches break up into innumerable channels, which serve the 
purpose of canal distributaries. The flow is regulated by 
sluice gates and regulators built near the head of the more 
considerable of these streams. Thus this system consists of a 
network of natural canals linked to a series of artificial dams. 
The systems of the Godavari, the Kistna, and the Penner 
closely resemble the Cauvery system, and need not be described. 
The Mahanadi system also has its dam, but the canals are 
artificial, whilst the dam is not only an irrigation work, but 
also serves to protect the delta from flooding. There are small 
canals in the Central Provinces connected with the Wainganga, 
the Tandula, and the upper reaches of the Mahanadi, and in 
Bombay connected with the Nira, Mutha, and the Godavari 
in its upper reaches; but they irrigate only restricted areas. 

48. The water-supply is also important as providing a 
valuable source of power. The first introduction of hydro¬ 
electricity into India took place in 1903, when the falls of 
the river Cauvery were harnessed to generate power for the 
Kolar goldfields and also for the city of Bangalore. Between 
1910 and 1919 three hydro-electric schemes were carried out 
to supply power to Bombay city and its neighbourhood ; to 
which a fourth scheme, now in process of development, will 
be added. All these schemes depend on the heavy monsoon 
rainfall of the Western Ghats, which is stored in reservoirs 
in the foothills and carried thence by pipes to the power-houses. 
These Bombay schemes are controlled by different supply 
companies, for all of which Messrs. Tata and Sons, Ltd., 
are managing agents.* In Kashmir there is yet another 
hydro-electric system dependent on the river Jhelum which 
serves the towns of Baramulla and Srinagar. The Punjab 
has also its scheme, which depends on the river Uhl, a tributary 
of the Beas ; the head works are in the Mandi State, and power 
is supplied to forty-seven towns from Delhi in the south to 
Sialkot in the north. In the United Provinces there is yet 
another scheme dependent on certain falls of the Ganges 

* This is the same Tata family referred to in para. 56 below. 

canal, which serves eighty-eight towns in the ten western 
districts. Other hydro-electric schemes have been projected 
or partly constructed in Mysore, Madras, and Hyderabad.* * * § 
All these schemes supply power both for domestic and industrial 
purposes, whilst in the Punjab and the United Provinces they 
are giving assistance to agriculture in various ways.f 

Products of India 

49. (1) Animals .—The livestock of India consists of 
horses (most of which are ponies), camels, mules, donkeys, 
sheep, goats, oxen, and buffaloes ; but I need deal only with 
the last four.| 

50. There are nearly as many sheep in Madras as in the 
rest of India put together, but they are of an inferior kind : 
their fleeces are hair rather than wool, and they rarely give 
more than two pounds of it annually. The best sheep are 
found in north-western India and Rajputana, and are of 
many kinds, of which two are especially esteemed—the dumba 
or fat-tailed sheep, which has long, coarse wool and makes 
good mutton, and the Bikaner sheep, which produces the best 
wool in India. Outside Madras sheep are numerous in the 
Punjab, Rajputana, the United Provinces, Bombay, and Bihar.§ 
The Indian goats are more widely distributed than the Indian 
sheep, being found chiefly in Madras, the United Provinces, 
the Punjab, Bengal, and Bihar, which account between them 
for over 80 per cent, of the total. There are a variety of breeds. 
Some are valued for their milk, for the goat is the poor man’s 
cow, whilst all are valued for their meat and their skins. 
Both sheep and goats bring in a considerable income to their 
owners by folding. 

51. The oxen and buffaloes form one of India’s most 
important agricultural assets. The males of both species are 
draught animals : without them neither ploughing nor watering 
would be possible and no produce could be carried to market. 
Of the females, the she-buffalo is kept for her milk, the cow is 
kept chiefly to reproduce her kind. Oxen and buffaloes are 

* The possibility of other hydro-electric projects is being considered 
both in the United Provinces and elsewhere. 

t See para. 40 and Chapter V, para. 42, where the connection of the 
U.P. hydro-electric system with agriculture is fully explained. 

1 Forafull description of these animals, see Chapter V, paras. 21 etseq. 

§ Sheep are often used as beasts of burden in the Himalayas. 

found all over India, though their distribution, relative to the 
need for them, is uneven. Their numbers are large in the 
United Provinces, Bengal, Bihar, and Madras, which provinces 
between them account for nearly 70 per cent, of the total. 
Everywhere there are more bullocks than cows, and more she- 
buffaloes than he-buffaloes. Though cattle are one of the 
cultivator’s most important assets, they are also one of his 
most pressing problems, which will be discussed elsewhere.* 

52. (2) Forest products .—The forests cover about 12 per 
cent, of the total area of British India, and'are found in every 
province : the largest tracts are in Assam, the Central Pro¬ 
vinces, and Madras. They contain many valuable timbers,f 
and a great variety of gums, resins, dyes, drugs, and tanning 
materials,J which are both used in Indian manufactures and 
exported. But the forests have an indirect as well as a direct 
utility. They conserve the rainfall, holding it up from 
immediate dispersal along the drainage lines, ensuring its 
absorption in the subsoil, and so assisting to maintain the 
water level. To the peasant who lives in their vicinity, they 
provide grazing-grounds and fodder for his cattle, bamboos 
and timber and thatching material -for his house, fuel for his 
fire, and leaf mould for his fields. Forestry, in a word, is the 
handmaid of agriculture, and in that capacity is of even greater 
importance than as a provider of raw materials for commerce. 

53- (3) The crops .—Before describing the crops of India, 
it is necessary to explain that in northern India, the Central 
Provinces, and the greater part of Bombay there are two 
distinct harvests—the kharif and the rabi. The kharif crops 
are sown in June ahd July, when the x rains break, and are 
reaped from October to December. The rabi crops are sown 
in October and November and reaped from February t Cj May. 
In southern Madras, where the rainfall by reason of the north¬ 
east monsoon lasts till December and the climate is con¬ 
tinuously warm, the distinction of crops and seasons tends to 

* See Chapter IV, para. 25 and Chapter V, paras. 26 'et seq. 

t Teak, deodar, sal, ironwood, ebony, rosewood, shisham, the sundari 
tree of the Sundarbans, are some of the most valuable. There are also 
such trees as birch, spruce, fir, cedar, oak, Cyprus, yew, box, walnut, and 
pine in the hillside forests of the Himalayas and Assam, and a variety of 
fruit-trees everywhere. 

+ Lac, cutch or catechu, gambiei', myrobalans, resin, and turpentine 
are some of them. For forest products generally, see Imperial Gazetteer, 
Vol. Ill, Chapter II, and Smythies’ India's Forest Wealth. 


disappear, and there are only early and late sowings of the 
same crops. As a result of the two crop-seasons, there is in 
all provinces a certain area that bears two crops in the same 
year.* * * § This double-cropped ( dqfasli ) area varies greatly 
in different provinces : in Bombay, for instance, it is negligible, 
whilst in Bihar and the United Provinces it amounts to about 
25 per cent, of the net cropped area. The principal kkarif 
crops are rice, juar, bajra, sesamum, cotton, jute, groundnut, 
and ragi. At the rabi, rice, juar , and sesamum are grown a 
•second time in southern India, together with gram; in 
northern India the chief rabi crops are gram, wheat, barley, 
maize, linseed, rape, and mustard. Sugar-cane is in the ground 
for about ten months. About 38 per cent, of the total area 
of British India is sown with crops, whilst another 7 per cent, 
is current fallow. 

54. The agricultural products of India f consist of 
cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fibres, drugs and narcotics, fodder 
crops, garden crops, fruit and sugar-cane, which is a tropical 
perennial grass. J The cereals are rice, wheat, barley, oats, 
maize, and various kinds of millet, notably juar, bajra, 
and ragi. Amongst the pulses the chief are gram ( chana), 
pigeon-pea ( arhar ), and green pea ( matar ). The principal 
oilseeds are linseed, sesamum, groundnut, rape, and castor. 
The chief fibres are cotton, jute, and hemp ( san ). The chief 
drugs and narcotics are tobacco, pepper, betel, cardamom, 
tea, coffee,§ and cinchona. Of these, tea, coffee, and cinchona, 
together with rubber, are plantation crops. Tea is grown in 
Assam, Bengal, and Madras; coffee in Mysore and Goorg ; 
rubber in southern India ; and cinchona both in southern 
India, and northern Bengal. At one time poppy was also 
important, but its cultivation has decreased greatly since the 
export of opium to China has come to an end. The chief 
fodder crops are lucerne and guinea grass, but the area is 
small except in Bombay and the Punjab. Garden crops include 
both indigenous and imported vegetables, which vary from 

* A field usually lies fallow in one season out of four. Thus double- 
cropped land usually produces three crops in two years, or (if sugar-cane 
be in the rotation), four crops in three years. 

t For the, regional distribution of these products, see Chapter IV, 
paras. 4 et seq. 

+ For a full list of crops, see Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. Ill, pp. 98, 99. 

§ The devotees of Indian coffee affirm that it is the best coffee in the 


ginger, turmeric, and chillies to potatoes, cabbages, and 
cauliflowers. Many fruits * are grown in India, both in¬ 
digenous and exotic, and belonging both to the temperate 
and tropical zones. Of indigenous varieties the chief are the 
mango, the jack-fruit, various kinds of citrus, such as lemons, 
limes, and oranges, guavas, cape-gooseberries, quinces, cocoa- 
nuts, and grapes. Of imported fruits, there are the lichi and 
loquat from China ; a kind of melon called kharbuza, imported 
from Central Asia by the Emperor Babar ; and a variety of 
fruits from the West Indies and Central and South America, 
notably the pineapple, the papaya, various kinds of custard- 
apple, the cashew-nut, the pommelo, and, most recent of all, 
the grapefruit. Of temperate types of fruit there are the apple, 
pear, peach, apricot, almond, strawberry, loganberry, and 
the yellow raspberry. Walnuts and other kinds of nut also 
grow in the hills. 

55. (3) Mineral products .—India has always been rich in 
mineral products, and from time to time in the past has made 
profitable use of them. Her gold and her diamonds used to 
be famous ; as late as the end of the eighteenth century her 
iron and steel, her copper and brass products gave her “ a 
prominent position in the ancient metallurgical world ” ; 
whilst her nitre was one of the principal exports of the old 
East India Company. Then came the industrial revival in 
England. India was flooded with cheap European manu¬ 
factures, and her own production of metals and metal wares 
either ceased or was greatly reduced, and it was not till the 
beginning of the present century that it once again began to 
increase, f 

56. Though the list of minerals that are known to exist 
in India is long,{ there are but few of them that are actually 
produced, and it is only with these that I shall deal. They 
are coal, iron, manganese, gold, mica, petroleum, salt, nitre, 
and a variety of building stones and materials.§ As might 
be expected, the greatest part of the mineral wealth of 
India is to be found in the Peninsula. Coal is found chiefly 

* For a list of fruits, see Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. Ill, pp. 75, 76. The 
question of fruit-growing is further discussed in Chapter V, paras. 51 et seq. 

t For a full account of Indian industries, see Chapter IX. 

+ For a full list, see Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. Ill, pp. 130, 131. 

§ Burma also produces lead, silver, copper, zinc, wolfram, rubies, 
and especially petroleum. 



in tfie Gondwana geological system,* * * § which stretches across 
south-western Bengal, eastern Bihar and Orissa, Central India, 
and the Central Provinces, f The most important coalfields 
are in the east of this tract, at Raniganj, Jharia, Bokaro, and 
Giridih. The chief iron-mines and the chief iron-works are 
in Orissa and south-eastern Bihar, near the coalfields, with their 
headquarters at Jamshedpur arid Tatanagar.j There are also 
manganese mines in the same tract, but it is more widely 
distributed than other metals, and there are other deposits 
in Vizagapatam and Bellary (Madras), Chhindwara, Balaghat, 
and Bhandara (Central Provinces), Dharwar and Gujarat 
(Bombay). Gold is extracted from a rich reef in the Kolar 
goldfields in Mysore and from a mine at Hutli in Hyderabad. 
Mica is found in southern Bihar and Nellore (Madras). 
Petroleum exists both in Baluchistan and north-eastern 
Assam, but is only extracted in the latter. Rock salt is 
obtained from the Khewra mines in the Salt Range of the 
Punjab, or from quarries in Kohat and near Kalabagh on the 
Indus ; brine salt comes from Kharagodha on the Rann of 
Cutch, from various sea-salt factories on the coast, and from 
the great Sambhar Lake in Rajputana. The chief source of 
nitre is still Bihar, as it was in the days of Warren Hastings. 
There is a large variety of building stones—the granites of 
North Arcot (Madras) and Mysore, the limestones and sand¬ 
stones of Shahabad (Bihar), Jubbulpore and Bilaspur (Central 
Provinces), and Attock and Rawalpindi (Punjab) ; the Por- 
bandar stone of Kathiawar ; whilst slate is quarried in the 
districts of Gurgaon and Kangra (Punjab) and of Monghyr 
(Bihar), and lime and cement are obtained wherever there 
are convenient deposits of limestone, notably at Satna (Rewah 
State) and Katni (Central Provinces), both near the Vindhyas. 
But a very large part of India’s mineral wealth still awaits 

Transport and Communications 
57. Till the middle of the nineteenth century communica¬ 
tions in India were always bad and means of transport were 

* See para. 3. 

t Coal is also found in Assam, Baluchistan, and the Punjab, but 
there is little exploitation. 

7 Called after Jamshedji Tata, founder of the Tata Iron and Steel 
Company, the biggest concern of the kind in India. 

§ For a description of minerals from the industrial point of view, see 
Chapter IX. 


primitive. There was no natural highway from north to 
south, for the forests and mountains which separate the northern 
plain from the Peninsula formed an almost impregnable 
barrier. In northern India itself there have always been 
ancient trade routes, for the most part running east and west; 
but they were mere tracks, not roads in the modern sense, 
and though they were easily traversed in the dry season, they 
were impassable in the rains. Throughout this period, more¬ 
over, travel was dangerous. Each route had its recognized 
perils—drought, famine, wild beasts, robbers, even ghosts 
and demons. Accordingly, travellers usually moved in well- 
guarded caravans. The Mogul emperors did much to 
improve communications, demarcating the regular caravan 
routes by milestones (kos minors'),* pillars, and avenues of 
trees, and establishing police posts ( chaukis) at convenient 
intervals to guard them, in return for which services they 
charged certain transit dues ( rahdari). But their system, 
though efficient enough so long as the government was powerful, 
broke down when the empire began to decay. Throughout 
this period the means of transport were sometimes carts 
drawn by teams of oxen, but more generally pack animals. 
Individual travellers usually rode on horses, camels, or 
elephants, or were carried in palanquins and bullock carts. 
The inland trade in grain was carried out by the banjaras,\ 
A who were professional carriers possessed of substantial capital 
and large numbers of pack-oxen. 

58. For many years the Company kept open the old 
Mogul routes, most of which radiated from Delhi or Agra 
and ran generally east and west. There was one that ran 
roughly north to south, from Mirzapur (United Provinces) to 
Jubbulpore (Central Provinces) ; and doubtless there were 
others in the south itself. 

59. The Company also supplemented its road com¬ 
munications by a free use of waterways; water-borne traffic 

* The kos, like most other Indian weights and measures, varies from 
place to place. In Mysore it is about four miles ; in northern India a 
kos is equal to 5,000 gaz. The distance between the kos minors still standing 
is two miles four furlongs' 158 yards, which makes the gaz approximately 
thirty-three inches. 

f Generally called brinjarees in old books. In the eighteenth century 
they became the camp followers and suders of troops on the march. The 
Banjara still survives as a caste, and to a certain extent is still engaged in 
the carrying trade. 


has always been considerable till the railways came into 
existence, being carried first in country boats and subsequently 
in steamers. The principal waterways in northern India 
were the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra ; whilst there 
were also some navigable canals connected with the Godavari, 
Kistna, and other rivers of southern India. Even yet there are 
steamers running on the Brahmaputra and the lower reaches 
of the Ganges, which carry both passengers and goods. 

60. It was not till after 1833 that any systematic attempt 
was made to improve the roads. The Grand Trunk road, 
running from Calcutta to Delhi, was then built in sections. 
Subsequently Lord Dalhousie took the matter of communica¬ 
tions in hand, and not only improved and extended the roads, 
but reorganized the postal system, introduced the telegraph, 
established the public works department, and made a 
beginning with railway construction. By 1859 eight railway 
companies had been formed, most of which still survive, for 
the construction of some 5,000 miles of fine. Since then railway 
building has progressed rapidly. By 1905 the total length of 
line was 28,000 miles; by March 1936 it had become 43,000 
miles, of which 38,000 miles are under State control. Of 
the remaining 5,000 miles, about 3,000 are railways owned 
or financed by Indian States and the rest belong to private 

61. The construction of railways has had a considerable 
influence on road development. Firstly, the main railway 
lines naturally ran parallel to the main roads, so that there 
was competition between them. It now became necessary 
to build new roads in a direction which would enable them to 
feed, rather than compete with, the railways. Secondly, the 
old roads had generally been left unbridged ; for since their 
main object was to carry agricultural produce to market and 
since the harvest season coincided with the drying up of the 
rivers, no more was required than ferries and floating bridges, 
except in the case of the larger rivers. Roads were now 
required that would give access to the railways at all times of 
the year, and which must therefore be both bridged and 
metalled. The length of bridged and metalled roads in India 
is now 59,000 miles. 

62. Over large areas of Northern India stone is not 
procurable and road metal is for the most part nodular lime¬ 
stone {kankar). But kankar is relatively soft, and being bound 


with nothing better than water, was apt to cut up into ruts 
even when the wheeled traffic which it carried was drawn 
only by horses or bullocks. But when motor traffic came into 
use (and the use of it has increased very rapidly since 
1914), the kankar roads quickly deteriorated; and in recent 
years there has been an increased demand for stone roads 
bound with bitumen, and large sums have been spent on 
building them. Accordingly, the Government of India in 
1929 built up a central road fund from the proceeds of an 
additional tax on petrol, from which fund it made allotments 
to the provinces for their road-building ; but the road fund 
has not gone very far, and many provinces have been com¬ 
pelled to spend large sums of capital in addition. A further 
difficulty has now arisen, namely that through motor traffic, 
instead of feeding, is beginning once again to compete with 
the railways, to the detriment of central revenues. 

63. There is also a very large mileage of unmetalled 
roads. The most important of these are provided with 
bridges or ferries and are drained throughout; but many are 
nothing more than accommodation roads or village lanes, 
differing from each other only in the degree of their badness 
and usually impassable in the rains. Accordingly, though 
Indian communications have greatly improved, there is still 
much to be done before they can be regarded as satisfactory, 
especially in respect of unmetalled roads, which serve as links 
between the interior of the rural tracts and the metalled roads. 

64. Other forms of communication that deserve mention 
are the postal, telegraph, and telephone services, and broad¬ 
casting. Of the first two no more need be said than that they 
are both highly efficient, whilst the former is also cheap. 
The telephone service is now to be found in most important 
towns ; trunk lines are being rapidly extended, whilst tele¬ 
phonic communication has also been established with foreign 
countries. There remains broadcasting. This began in 1926 
with an agreement between the Government of India and a 
private company, which, was to operate two stations at Bombay 
and Calcutta. The company, however, went into liquidation ; 
and in 1930 Government took over the services with a new 
organization named “All-India Radio.” At first there were 
two i'5-kw. stations at Bombay and Calcutta, and a o-25-kw. 
at Peshawar, but in 1935 a new 20-kw. transmitting station 
was erected at Delhi, and in 1936 a large programme of 

development was sanctioned which provided for short-wave 
5 and io-kw. stations at Delhi, short-wave 10 kw. stations at 
Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, medium-wave 5 kw. stations 
at Lahore, Lucknow, Trichinopoly, and Dacca, and a o-25-kw. 
medium-wave station at Madras. Of these, the Delhi and 
Bombay short-wave stations and the Lahore medium-wave 
stations have already started regular transmissions. Rural 
broadcasting for village audiences by means of communal 
receivers was first introduced in Peshawar, and was followed 
in 1935 by a similar experiment in the Punjab ; but neither 
of these experiments was successful because of lack of staff and 
funds, and rural broadcasting has now been taken over by 
All-India Radio. Village receivers have been provided by 
the Governments of Bombay and Bengal, and there are now 
100 sets working in India. These sets are given free, and no 
charges are made for their use, whilst the batteries are also 
recharged without cost. The sets are provided with a time 
switch, which turns on the set at the appointed time and keeps 
it running for an hour. In the programme no item lasts for 
more than five minutes, and music is alternated with talks, 
dialogues, and dramas, introducing where possible some 
idea relating to health, education, or agriculture. It is pro¬ 
posed to undertake an intensive scheme of rural broadcasting 
in Delhi province, which will probably begin next winter.* 
The intention is to test the value of rural broadcasting as leading 
to improvements in the villager’s condition of life. 

Occupational Distribution of the People 
65. At the census of 1921 f the occupational distribution 
of the Indian people was briefly as follows : 

Pasture and agriculture .... 72-4 per cent. 

Industry.10-5 » 

Trade and transport.7-1 „ 

Public administration and liberal arts . . 3' 1 >■> 

Other.6-9 „ 

The figures establish the predominance of agriculture over 
all other occupations. As we shall presently see, agriculture 

* 1938-9.—Cf. Chapter XII, para. 37, for rural broadcasting in the 
hydro-electric area of the United Provinces. 

t I use the figures of 1921 instead of those of 1931 because certain 
changes were made in the classification at the latter census which would 
require somewhat lengthy explanation. There has, in fact, been little 
real change between the figures of 1921 and 1931. 


has attracted many deserters from the traditional function of 
the caste.* * * § The increase of i per cent, amongst agriculturists 
since 1911 represents about three million persons. No other 
change in that decade was of importance, so far as the main 
heads are concerned, but there have been some interesting 
changes within them. “ Organized ” industries, for instance, 
have certainly gained from “ unorganized ” : as the 
“ organized ” industry is one which employs not less than ten 
hands, this is an increase in large-scale, as opposed to small- 
scale, industries.f Again, there is an increase under “ pro¬ 
fessions ” in the fourth of the main heads, which is clearly due 
to the gradual spread of literacy. 

66. Of women, only about one-third are “ employed,” 
as against two-thirds of the men. But many women have 
probably been returned as “ unemployed ” who are engaged 
in domestic duties, such as cooking, grinding grain, drawing 
water, and looking after their children. There is no doubt 
that they would regard themselves as “ employed,” even if 
the enumerating male did not.J 

67. The subsidiary occupation is a matter of great 
economic importance, for it often makes, especially amongst 
agriculturists, all the difference between poverty and compara¬ 
tive ease. Unfortunately, the census returns shed little light 
on the matter : the subsidiary occupation most commonly 
returned is itself agriculture, for there are many in all classes, 
from village artisans to wealthy business men, who lease or 
own land and derive an income from it as well as from their 
principal occupations. There are, in fact, many peasants 
who have some other source of income ; dairy work, selling 
grass or fuel, basket weaving, the making of rope, gar (coarse 
sugar), and tobacco, the ginning, spinning, and weaving of 
cotton, are some of them. There are also a variety of cottage 
industries in many places, which in the United Provinces 
vary from carpet weaving and the manufacture of scents to 
the rearing of poultry and turkeys. It is also important to 
remember that the economic unit amongst Hindus is not the 
individual but the joint family,§ and that one or more of its 

* See Chapter II, para. 39. 

t For information regarding industries, see Chapter IX. 

+ Such women in 1931 were returned as workers under the head 
“ domestic service.” 

§ See Chapter II, para. 8. 


members are often in separate employment and earning an 
income of their own, of which they usually remit a part to the 
common pool of the family income. 

68. At the present time there can be no denying the fact 
that India is making inadequate use of her resources—even of 
her soil. There is not, perhaps, much room for expansion of 
cultivation, for most of the land that is still culturable but 
uncultivated could only be brought under the plough at 
prohibitive expense. But there is no doubt that the soil which 
is already cultivated could by improved methods of agriculture 
be made to give a greater yield.* In other directions, India 
has by no means finished with the exploitation of her forests and 
has barely made a beginning of the exploitation of her minerals. 
And she has many ancient handicrafts, none of them as pros¬ 
perous as they used to be, but still capable of adding materially 
to the sum total of her wealth, f During the last few years, 
indeed, there has been a considerable measure of industrial 
expansion. “ Under the combined stimulus of protective duties 
and a high general tariff which is having a protective effect 
that was never intended ”, the output of industries already 
in existence, notably textiles and iron and steel, has greatly 
increased, and many new industries have come into existence. 
But much remains to be done before India takes her proper 
place amongst the industrial nations. 

Vital Statistics J 

69. Vital statistics in India are notoriously defective. In 
urban areas they are maintained by the municipal authority, 
which is often uninterested ; in rural areas they depend on 
reports made by village headmen or watchmen, who are 
illiterate as well as uninterested, and having as a rule to travel 
considerable distances to make their reports, are apt to neglect 
a troublesome duty. The error varies greatly : in 1931 the 
difference between the population calculated on the vital 
statistics and that recorded at the census was only | per cent, 
in Madras, whilst in Assam it was over 60 per cent. But the 
error occurs both in the record of births and that of deaths, 
and the statistics are reliable enough to show the general trend 
of the rates. 

* For these matters, see Chapter V. 

■f For Indian industries generally, see Chapter IX. 

+ See also Chapter VI, paras. 14-6. 

70. (i) The birth-rate. —The Indian birth-rate is high. 
In 1935 it was 34-9 per thousand of population, as against 
33 7 in 1934 and 35-5 in 1933. In the decade 1923-32 it 
averaged 34-5, with a minimum of 33-6 in 1925 and a 
maximum of 36-8 in 1928. It is apt to vary with general 
prosperity : thus, in the United Provinces after the famine of 
1907-08 and the malaria epidemic of the latter year, it fell 
from an average rate of over 40 in the previous six years to 
37-5 in 1908 and 33-3 in 1909. Again, in the disturbed and 
gloomy period 1919 to 1922 * the all-India rate fell to an 
average of 31-8. The provincial average rates for the three 
decades between 1901 and 1930 are given in an appendix. 
In Bombay and Madras the rate has risen during this period, 
whilst in the Punjab it has remained almost stationary. But 
in the other six provinces there have been considerable 
decreases, which vary from 4-8 per cent, in Bihar and Orissa 
to 9-1 per cent, in Bengal. In view of the general inaccuracy 
of the record of births it is unwise to attach too much import¬ 
ance to the figures themselves, but there is no reason to suppose 
that the number of unrecorded births is larger now than it 
was thirty years ago, and the downward trend of the birth¬ 
rate during this period can be accepted as fact. The cause 
is obscure. The factors which bring about the high birth¬ 
rate are social—the universality of marriage, early cohabita¬ 
tion, and that powerful desire for male offspring which leads 
to a complete absence of prudential restraint; f and in spite of 
the efforts of reformers, these factors, at all events amongst the 
masses, have so far lost little of their influence. It is true that 
at the end of this period the general standard of comfort was 
probably higher than it was at the beginning, and that a rise 
in the standard of comfort is usually associated with a decline 
in the birth-rate ; but one cannot help doubting whether the 
rise was sufficient to produce the decline. But at all events, 
the result is satisfactory, whatever the cause may be—as far 
as it goes. 

71. The Indian birth-rate is far higher than the birth-rate 
of England and Wales or indeed than that of any country 
of western Europe. The English rate has been dropping 

* Disturbances on the frontier; the Moplah rebellion; trade 
depression ; high prices ; embarrassed finances ; the non-cooperation 
movement; the.bad monsoon of 1920 ; and the after-effects of the influenza 
epidemic of 1918. 

t For these factors, see Chapter II, paras. 48 et seq. 


steadily from 35 in 1871 to 14 in 1933, since when it has risen 
slightly to 15 in 1935 ; and the present India rate is the same 
as the English rate of sixty-seven years ago. Of the provincial 
average rates of 1921-30, two are well over 40 ; four are close 
to 35 ; Assam (whose vital statistics are specially inaccurate), 
has a figure of 30 ; whilst Bengal and the North-West Frontier 
Province, with figures of 28-5 and 28 respectively, compare 
wifh the English rate of 28 in 1901. 

72. (2) Infant and maternal mortality .—The birth-rate, how¬ 
ever, is to a large extent neutralized by the heavy mortality 
both of infants and of mothers in child-birth. The proportion 
of infant deaths to a thousand live births was 164 in 1935, as 
against the English figure of 57 ; but high as that figure is, it 
is lower than earlier figures. Between 1921—30, for instance, 
the average rate was 180, and in the previous decade it was 2x1. 
It is always higher in cities than in rural areas; in 1932 the 
fgures of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras were 246, 218, and 
239 respectively, as against the London figure of 80 in 1921. 
There are no statistics of maternal mortality, but indirect 
evidence is available in the fact that (1) the female death-rate 
is much higher during the age-period 15 to 30 than it is during 
the preceding ten years; and (2) the female death-rate exceeds 
the male death rate only during the age-period 15 to 40. 

73. (3) The death-rate .—The general death-rate at its 
lowest is about double the English rate, which in 1935 was 
12 per thousand. The Indian rate in 1935 was 23-6, in 1934 
was 24-9, in 1933 was 22-9, and in 1931 was 21-6 ; but this 
is apparently the lowest on record since 1900, and the average 
rate of the decade 1923-32 was 25-5. There are violent 
fluctuations in the figures, chiefly as a result of epidemics : 
for instance, the influenza epidemic of 1918 raised the all- 
India rate to 62-5. Again, during the period 1901 to 1910, 
when plague was raging, the average rate was well over 30 
in all provinces except three, whilst in the relatively healthy 
decade 1921 to 1930 all provincial rates were well under 30, 
except two. The figures are given in an appendix. 

74. (4) Expectation of life .—The statistics relating to 
“ expectation of life ” at different ages are of peculiar interest, 
and I have reproduced the Indian figures of 1931 and the 
English figures of 1921 in an appendix. One would naturally 
suppose that the expectation of life would grow less at each 
successive age, and in the English tables the figures do follow 

3—(so9) 33 

that course, except that the male expectation at 20 years is 
slightly longer than it is at 10 years, presumably because the 
male in childhood is always more delicate than the female and 
at the lower age has not entirely outgrown his original delicacy. 
But in the Indian tables the expectation, both of males and 
females, is markedly less at birth (or age o) than it is at 10 
years ; and since the less the expectation of life at a particular 
age, the greater the mortality at that age, this fact is obviously 
referable to the high Indian rate of infant mortality. Again, 
whereas the female’s expectation in the English tables exceeds 
that of the male at all ages, in the Indian tables it is the less 
of the two till the fortieth year, and only begins to exceed the 
male’s figure from the fiftieth year ; which points to an excess 
of female over male mortality during the reproductive period. 
And finally the English figures, for both sexes and at all ages, 
are far higher than the Indian figures. 

Growth and Density of Population * 

75. The increase in the population of India (excluding 
Burma) between 1921 and 1931 was 32 millions, a figure 
comparable with the total population of either France, Italy, 
or Spain. During the half century from 1881 to 1931 the 
increase has been 35-1 per cent., from 250 millions to 338 
millions. The rate of growth over this period is to some 
extent exaggerated, for at every census the returns themselves 
have become increasingly accurate. At all censuses, also, 
fresh areas have come under enumeration ; but with the 
exclusion of Burma, the consequent additions to the population 
are relatively unimportant; and for my present purpose the 
uncorrected figures will suffice. The percentages of growth 
at successive enumerations have been 11-7 (1891), 1-5 (1901), 
67 (191 x), O'g (1921), and io-6 (1931). Of the five decades, 
the first and last were normally healthy and prosperous, but 
the other three were "all marked by calamities more or less 
severe. Between 1891 and 1901 there was a widespread and 
prolonged famine, together with the earlier outbreaks of plague, 
which began in 1894. Between 1901 and 1911 there were 
recurring plague epidemics, a famine, and an epidemic of 
malaria in 1908. Between 1911 and 1921 there was the Great 
War and a visitation of influenza in 1918 which claimed more 

*A further discussion will be found in Chapter VI, paras. 11-3 and 36-41. 


victims in a few months than plague had claimed during the 
preceding twenty-four years. 

76. The figures suggest that after making allowance for 
extraneous causes of increase (namely additional areas and 
more accurate enumeration), the rate of growth in a normal 
decade, such as 1881-1891 or 1921-1931, has been about 10 
per cent. On the basis of 10 per cent., the population in 1931 

"would have been 403 millions instead of 338 had the whole 
half-century been normal. Thus the loss of population due, 
directly or indirectly, to the epidemics and other calamities of 
the period 1891 to 1921 is no less than 65 millions, or 42-5 
per cent, of the normal growth of 153 millions—a sufficiently 
striking proof of the efficacy of the “ positive checks of 
Malthus. But certain diseases, notably cholera, plague, and 
kala azar, have now been brought under control, and from 
1931 to 1935, the average annual rate of growth, as calculated 
from the vital statistics, has been 1-2 per cent., a figure which 
suggests that the increase of population at next census will 
be not less than 12 per cent., and by reason of the defects of 
the statistics probably more. In that case, unless some 
Malthusian check again comes into operation, the population 
of India in 1941 is likely to exceed 400 millions if Burma is 
included and to approach 380 millions if it is excluded. 

77. At the census of 1931 the density of the population 
in India proper, exclusive of Burma, w r as 214 persons per 
square mile. The figure is comparable with the density of 
Europe (127), of the United States of America (41), or of 
China (estimated at 80). But figures of density relating to 
areas as large as these are of little value, for they are made 
up of a wide range of figures relating to smaller areas. Thus 
in 1921 the density of England and Wales w'as 649,* but that 
of France was 184 and that of Spain was 107. Similarly, 
the Indian figure is made up of the density of British India, 
which is 297, and the density of the States, which is 114. 
The density of British India is made up of many densities, 
varying from 9 in Baluchistan to 646 in Bengal ; that of the 
States is made up of densities ranging from 5, again in Balu¬ 
chistan, to 814 in Cochin. The presence of a city will affect 
the figures ; for instance, the figure for Delhi province is 1,110, 
but this is made up of an urban figure of 6,835, and a rural 
figure of 372. It is useless, therefore, to discuss the all-India 

* In 1931 the figure was 685. 


figures, and it is impossible to deal with the figures for lesser 
areas in detail.* I can only put forward certain general 

78. There is no doubt that in India the density of popula¬ 
tion, both in the large cities and in extensive rural areas, is 
greater than in most parts of the world. Urban densities 
are often artificially reduced by the existence of parks and ota^r 
open spaces, and these are particularly numerous in India. 
Nevertheless, out of thirty-five cities the densities of which 
are given in the census report of 1931,! only eight have figures 
below 10,000, and they run up to 48,000 in the case of Bombay 
and Jaipur and even to 58,000 in the case of Old Delhi, as 
separate from New Delhi. The urban problem is relatively 
simple : it is one of overcrowding, bad housing, and lack of 
sanitation, and can be solved—though at a price—by expansion 
and town-planning. But the rural problem is both more 
important—since no less than 89 per cent, of the population 
lives in rural areas—and more difficult, since it is one of 
pressure on the soil. Moreover, there are only 2,575 towns 
in India and Burma, whilst there are about 700,000 villages. 

79. The growth of population must be considered from 
three aspects, namely its effect on the standard of comfort, 
its effect on the food supply, and its effect on agricultural 
employment. Far too large a proportion of the rural popula¬ 
tion are already living at far too low a standard of comfort. 
“ Though they can by unremitting toil make ends meet in 
a good year, they can put by no reserves against a bad year, 
and when such a year occurs can only tide it over by 
borrowing.” No argument is required to show that an 
increase in the rural population will necessarily lead to a fall 
in the standard of comfort. And the ordinary Indian peasant 
has little chance of increasing his income, for he has not the 
capital to finance either an extension of cultivation or a 
subsidiary occupation ; his only hope is to secure a better 
yield from his land by improving his methods of cultivation, 
and that, without assistance from Government, is beyond both 
his means and his skill. It is not surprising that since he cannot 
increase his income, he is sometimes tempted to reduce his 

* In Census Report, India, 1931, facing p. 4, will be found an excellent 
map showing distribution of density. 

f Op. cit., p. 50. The list includes 39 cities, but two of them are in 
Burma and the density of two others of them is not given. 


expenditure by such a dangerous expedient as refusal to pay 
his rent, or canal dues, or interest. Moreover, even when 
increased prosperity has come the way of the Indian peasant 
(as has happened in the canal colonies of the Punjab), he is 
apt by overfilling his family quiver to bring about a fall in 
his own standard of comfort—a proof of which is afforded by 
the-district of Lyallpur, where the density has risen from 15 
^per square mile in 1891 to 357 in 1931. 

80. There are some economists who hold that since the 
population is already living on the verge of scarcity, any 
material increase of it must inevitably lead to a general 
shortage of food supplies.* But these economists forget that 
about one-fifth of the total cultivated area, some 45 million 
acres, are under money crops ; that if foodstuffs ran short, 
their prices would soar ; and that the cultivator would not 
lose, but probably gain, by substituting food crops for money 
crops. The danger is there, but it is still distant : the ability 
of India to feed her people is not yet in doubt. 

81. But if we may assume that for yet a while there will 
be food enough to fill every mouth that God may send, can we 
also assume that there will be work enough to employ the two 
hands which God sends with every mouth ? It is generally 
held that agriculture in Europe cannot support, to every 
square mile, a larger population than 250. But the question 
whether a particular density constitutes over-population or not 
depends not only on the number of persons but on the nature 
of the square mile ; and it may freely be admitted that in 
such tracts as the Indo-Gangetic plain and the coastlands a 
square mile is capable of supporting more than 250 persons, 
both because of its greater fertility and because in a less 
rigorous climate than that of Europe, the necessities of life are 
less. Nevertheless, even if the figure were raised to 500, nearly 
half of the tracts mentioned would be carrying a heavier 
human burden than they can bear, whilst there are smaller 
tracts where the density runs into four figures.! And it is 
possible that in less fertile tracts the densities, though lower, 
are still too high. It seems probable that even now India in 
some of her rural tracts is over-populated, and there can be 
no doubt that if population continues to grow at its present 
rate she very soon will be. For the number of persons who can 

* See Census Report, India, 1931, pp. 30-1. 

f For instances, see Census Report, India, 1931, p. 4. 


work, profitably and economically, on a given area is limited. 
Any increase above that number must lead either to unprofit¬ 
able and uneconomical cultivation, which will further lower 
the standard of comfort, or to some measure of agricultural 
unemployment. And what the latter means can be seen from 
certain events which took place in the United Provinces during 
the years 1907-08. The rains came late and ceased easily. 
The result was that the kharif harvest failed ; and since tn?*— 
ground remained hot and dry and hard, only a short area 
was sown at the succeeding rabi. The measure of the loss on 
the two crops together was 52 per cent, of the normal yield of 
food grains and 62! per cent, of the normal yield of money 
crops. Since the rabi area was short, smaller cultivators (who 
form the great majority) were able to do their field work with 
such assistance as their own families could give them, and had 
no need to employ agricultural labourers, who from the end of 
December 1907 till the rains of 1908 began remained out of 
work. Government met the situation by “ declaring famine,” 
which made it possible to provide work for the able-bodied 
and gratuitous relief for those who could not work. The 
number of persons thus assisted from public funds rose to a 
maximum of over 1,400,000 about the middle of March—or 
nearly 5 per cent, of the population of the stricken area ; and 
the cost of their relief amounted to £1,431,000 (apart from 
remissions of land revenue). Such was the cost of relief 
during an epidemic of agricultural unemployment which lasted 
eight months and covered some 66,000 square miles. Were a 
condition of chronic agricultural unemployment to occur, 
such as would result from over-population, the number of 
unemployed would not be so great as it was in the famine of 
1907-08, because not the whole but only the surplus population 
of agricultural labourers would be affected. But to counter¬ 
balance this there would be unemployment over much larger 
areas, whilst the cost would be recurring. The effect on 
provincial finances, and consequently on the budgets of all 
departments dealing with social services, would be nothing less 
than disastrous. 

82. There are four possible ways of reducing the pressure 
on the soil. One is to increase the productivity of the soil 
itself, either extensively by increasing the area or intensively 
by improving the cultivation. The second is to reduce the 
burden on the soil by transferring a part of it to some other 
occupation. The third is to persuade a part of the population 

to leave the soil and go elsewhere. The fourth is to retard the 
growth of the population. All of these are discussed else¬ 
where,* and I need only offer a few remarks regarding the 
last two—namely emigration and birth-control. 

83. Nowhere in the world is the population so immobile 
as it is in India. At every census some 90 per cent, of the 

^people are enumerated in the district in which they were bom ; 
and of the rest, some 7 per cent, were born in neighbour- 

• ing districts. Their love of home is intelligible : emigration 
involves severance from family and brotherhood, and may also 
involve a life amongst strangers who speak a different language, 
eat different foods, and observe different customs. It is true 
that a certain number do emigrate from the more congested 
areas—some to other parts of India, some overseas. It is 
also true that with greatly improved communications, emigra¬ 
tion within India should have lost a part of its terrors, for the 
return home, to which every emigrant looks forward, will be 
less difficult. But as yet there is little sign that the villager 
is willing to leave his home and his fields, except under 
severe economic pressure. The new industries which, are 
springing up will probably draw off a part of the surplus rural 
population ; but, so far, neither an industrial revolution nor 
a widespread exodus from country to town is in sight. As for 
overseas emigration, that is scarcely to be expected until 
the colonies and dominions of the British Empire extend a 
warmer welcome to Indian immigrants than they do at present. 

84. The only practical method of reducing the rate of 
growth of the population is the introduction of birth-control, 
which is strongly advocated by many economists. Un¬ 
doubtedly die neo-Malthusian check is preferable to the 
Malthusian check to which the population has so often been 
subjected. But it will be no easy task to persuade a society 
which regards the begetting of sons as a religious duty to adopt 
neo-Malthusian practices—whether in the form of celibacy, 
delayed marriage, or contraception.! They may appeal to 
the better educated classes, but scarcely to the masses, from 
which the “ devastating torrent of babies ” proceeds. There 
is something in the suggestion that baby w'eeks should be 
replaced or accompanied by birth-control weeks. 

* (1) Chapters IV and V ; (2) Chapter I, para. 67, and Chapter 
IX ; (3) Chapter IX ; (4) Chapter VI, paras. 36 el seq. 

t Cf. Chapter II, para. 50, for this belief. 


85. There are some economists who hold that India is not 
over-populated, because she has not fully exploited her 
resources nor adopted the best means (production and distri¬ 
bution, and if she did these things could support an even larger 
population. That may be true, but to those who have to 
deal with her present troubles it is of small consolation. There 
is no doubt that in her present economic condition her popula¬ 
tion is in many places larger than her soil can carry, and thSfr*w_ 
the standard of comfort of that population, which is already 
low, is likely to become lower. That is the situation with which 
Government and its officers for many years to come will have 
to deal as a part of their daily routine. They cannot afford to 
wait for large measures of industrialization which may relieve 
existing difficulties. They have to deal with the evil of the 
day, which is undoubtedly more than sufficient unto the 



Birth-rate per 

Death-rate per 







Assam . 







Bengal . 







Bihar and 














Central Pro- 







Madras . 







N.W. Frontier 







Punjab . 








Provinces . 



















■ * . . 





!0 . . 





20 . . 
































• The Structure of the Indian People 
Caste and Religion 

i. In all societies there always have been, and are still, 
grades and classes, the number and complexity of which 
increase as civilization progresses. Let me take as an example 
England and the English-speaking peoples. There are, firstly, 
the classes which are based on birth—the nobility, gentry, 
commonalty, with, in former times, a class of serfs. There are, 
or were, other distinctions based on race *—Roman and Briton 
and Romo-Briton at one time, Norman and Saxon and Anglo- 
French at another ; whilst even to-day the fervid Celt despises 
the Sassenach, and alien elements in the population are classed 
as undesirable. Where, as in the United States of America and 
South Africa, there are differences of colour, racial distinctions, 
even if intermarriage has occurred, tend to become irrecon¬ 
cilable. Finally, there are social gradations that are based on 
occupation. The nobility are divided into lords spiritual and 
lords temporal; the gentry are divided into “ services ” and 
“ professions ” ; the commonalty into farmers, tradesmen, 
clerks, mechanics, and labourers—not to mention the un¬ 
employed and the unemployable. Between these social classes 
there are no hard-and-fast boundaries fixed : one merges into 
the next, whilst a man by his individual efforts may raise or 
lower himself from one class to another, or even by different 
tides belong to two grades at the same time. Thus the peer’s 
son may earn his living by selling motor-cars, the office-boy may 
attain to the peerage, a priest may be “ honourable ” as well 
as “ reverend.” Secondly, though a man’s social intercourse 

* The Jew has been reponsible for many of these racial distinctions, 
from the ancient Jew versus Samaritan to the modern Aryan versus Jew. 


will generally be confined to persons of the same or similar 
social standing, yet a royal prince may dine with a trade 
guild or a noble lord with his tenant-farmers, and neither he 
nor anybody else will think shame. Thirdly, though a man 
will generally seek his wife in his own rank of life, yet no woman 
in the world is prohibited to him, except some twenty-nine 
kinds of relative ; * and if a lord should marry a housemaid 
or a lady her chauffeur, nothing more untoward will happen 
than the disapprobation of their relations and friends and an 
illustrated paragraph in the columns of the sensational press. | 
On the other hand, no man will generally marry a wife till he 
is in a position to support her comfortably, nor may he marry 
more wives than one without running the risk of finding him¬ 
self in the dock. Finally, the “ spirit of exclusiveness has no 
external sanction.” Each individual is free to choose his 
associates, his profession, and his wife without interference 
from others ; and if in making his choice he should defy con¬ 
vention, there is no authority that can inflict any penalty on 

2. All the grades and classes that are found in any modem 
European society are also found (with others) in Indian 
(or, more correctly, Hindu) society under the name of castes, a 
term used to translate the vernacular zat (jat , jati), which 
means breed. But that is an end of the resemblance between 
the caste system and other social systems. The spirit of 
exclusiveness manifested in caste is infinitely stronger, the 
restrictions imposed by caste on the individual are infinitely 
more severe. 

3. There are two main varieties of caste, tribal and 
functional. J The original tribe is an aggregation of persons 
who are, or believe themselves to be, united by blood, by 
common political interests, and by the need for mutual defence. 
There are often subsidiary bonds of union—common deities, 

* There are thirty relatives in the table of prohibited kin at the end 
of the Prayer Book, but marriage with the deceased wife’s sister is now legal. 
Of the thirty, sixteen presuppose a former marriage. 

f It is worth noting that the disapprobation will be much greater 
and the paragraph much more illustrated in the second of the two cases 
mentioned. That is due to the force of the hypergamous custom even in 
modem European society. For hypergamy, see para. 7. 

J There are other minor varieties, which need not be mentioned. 
See Risley’s People of India, 1915, pp. 75-95, and Blunt’s Caste System of 
Northern India, pp. 2, 3. 


common worship, common taboos and totems. Tribal castes 
are sprung from those tribes which, both in pre-historic and 
historic times, have come in close contact with Hinduism, 
have gradually accepted its social ordinances, and have, 
finally, been merged in the Hindu social system.* 

4. The functional caste is an aggregation of, tribes or 
pre-existing castes which have been drawn together by the 
bond of a common occupation. In other words, people who 
followed the same occupation were impelled to unite for the 
purpose of defending their common interests and of regulating 
their common affairs, in spite of their difference in blood, f 
Constant intercourse in business matters drew these divergent 
elements together and also separated them from the communi¬ 
ties to which they originally belonged, till at last they merged 
into a regular caste. The common occupation is traditional. 
In theory the member of a functional caste must follow the 
traditional occupation of that caste, and is liable to be brought 
to book by his caste should he abandon it for another 
occupation. It should be added that at the present day 
it is possible to assign to most tribal castes an occupation 
with which it is, or till recent times has been, intimately 
associated, which association is often so ancient as to be 
practically traditional.^ 

5. The basic principles of caste are endogamy and 
heredity. A man must marry a woman of the same caste as 
himself; their son is born of the same caste as his parents, 
and all his life must remain a member of it. Every caste, 
moreover, lays down from what castes a man may select 
companions to share his meal, a cook to prepare his food, and 
an abdar (butler) to bring him water. Very often a caste is 
composed of subcastes which are themselves endogamous, 
in which case what has been said of the caste applies to the 
smaller section. These subcastes are rare in tribal castes, but 
very common in functional castes, where they correspond to 
the tribal or other elements of which the caste was composed. 
Thus Hindu society is subdivided into a very large number 

* For examples, see Risley, op. cit., pp. 75, 76. 

f Functional groups in other countries are the collegia opificum of the 
Romans and the merchant and trade guilds of mediaeval Europe. 

} An instance is that of the Ahirs, who are cattle-owners and are 
undoubtedly descended from a pastoral tribe called Abhiras, which was 
established in the Punjab at least as early as the first century a.d. 


of mutually exclusive groups : the number of castes alone 
exceeds 2,000. 

6. The segmentation of caste does not end with the 
endogamous subcastes. Each endogamous group (caste or 
subcaste, as the case may be), is subdivided into exogamous 
groups, the members of which are, or believe themselves to be, 
so closely' related by blood that they may not intermarry.* 
Such groups are of agnates only ; they do not prevent a man 
from marrying very close relatives on the maternal side ; and 
the exogamous ban is accordingly reinforced by various rules 
of prohibited kin, of which the most widely spread is the 
sapinda rule of Hindu law. This prevents the union of any 
two persons who have a common ancestor not more than six 
generations removed through the father or four generations 
through the mother, f 

7. The custom of hypergamy introduces a further com¬ 
plication. Where it prevails, (and there is at all events a 
tendency to observe it in all Hindu castes), the exogamous 
groups are classified according to their social standing, and 
whilst a higher group will take brides from, it will not give 
brides to, a lower group. It is obvious that in the groups of 
highest standing it is difficult for brides to find husbands and 
in the groups of lowest standing it is equally difficult for 
husbands to find brides. 

8. Finally, the exogamous group is made up of a number 
of “joint families.” The typical joint family consists of a 
father, his sons and grandsons, together with the corresponding 
womenfolk—mother, daughters-in-law, and daughters and 
grand-daughters until they are married, when they enter into 
other joint families. This agnatic family is the historical 
unit of Hindu society, J and the whole of Hindu law is directed 
to upholding its permanence. Jointness is the normal condi¬ 
tion, but partition can always be demanded, and in times 
of prosperity has always been frequent. So long as the family 
remains undivided it is regarded as joint in food, worship, 

* Instances of such groups are the gatras of the higher castes ; the 
Rajput clans ; totem groups or village groups amongst the lower castes. 

f It debars a man from marrying 2,121 kinds of relative, but many 
of the ascendants would not be available for matrimony. It is excess of 
caution to forbid a man to marry his great-great-grand-aunt. 

t Apart from certain matrilineal castes in Malabar, and from recent 


and estate, however scattered its members may be. All the 
men, when at home, live together in a common house, share 
meal’s cooked on a common hearth,* and carry out together the 
famil y rites ; whilst the income of the ancestral property f 
and generally though not invariably the earnings of individual 
members are placed in a common fund, out of which the 
expenses of all members are paid. The control of family 
affairs is in the hands of the father or some other senior relative, 
though in matters of importance all adult members are usually 
consulted. There are three forms of joint family: the 
Mitakshara, in which the son acquires a right in the ancestral 
property at birth and can demand partition at any time ; 
the Dayabhaga, in which the son only acquires that right at 
the death of his father ; and the Malabar, which differs from 
the Mitakshara only in that partition cannot take place with¬ 
out the consent of all the co-sharers. $ The Dayabhaga form 
is peculiar to Bengal, the Mitakshara form is prevalent in 
other parts of India except Malabar. In practice, joint 
families of all forms are administered in the same way, are 
animated by the same spirit, and display no material difference 
until a partition occurs. 

9. Caste imposes certain restrictions on commensal inter¬ 
course and the use of food and drink, of which an account is 
necessary, since disregard of them is a potent cause of offence. 
These restrictions are all connected with a primitive idea of 
taboo. This idea depends on the conception that in every 
individual person there is inherent a power, or potentiality, for 
evil which is to be dreaded and avoided. This potentiality is 
especially active at certain crises of life ; for instance, the 
mother and her child in child-birth, the bride and bridegroom 
at marriage, the dying man, the corpse, are all dangerous to 
others, whilst others are dangerous to them. This idea of 
taboo is, in fact, one of the principal causes of the strength of 
the caste system, for since every stranger is a possible enemy, 
a man must be careful to know who are his friends, and there¬ 
fore must restrict intercourse to persons whose interests are 
undoubtedly identical with his. 

* Eki chulhe kapakka khate hain—“ they eat food cooked on one cooking- 
place ” : this is the chief criterion of a joint family. 

t Ancestral property, in this sense, would include a family business or 
a jajmani (for which last, see Appendix I to this Chapter). 

t The result is that many joint families in Malabar remain undivided 
for centuries. 


10. There are in all seven of these taboos :* 

(1) The commensal taboo, which lays down the persons 

in whose company a man may eat food. 

(2) The cooking taboo, which lays down the persons 

who may cook the food that a man eats. 

(3) The eating taboo, which lays down the proper 

ritual at meals. 

(4) The drinking taboo, which lays down the persons 

from whom a man may take water. 

(5) The food taboo, which lays down what kinds of 

food a man may eat. 

(6) The smoking taboo, which lays down the persons 

whose pipe a man may smoke and in whose 

company he may smoke. 

(7) The vessels taboo, which lays down the nature of 

the vessels which a man may use for eating, 

drinking, and cooking. 

These taboos vary from caste to caste and from place to place, 
and I will only explain the first four,f as they are found in 
northern India. 

11. (1) The working of the commensal taboo is simple. 
Members of the same exogamous group can eat together, 
since they are blood relations, whilst members of different 
exogamous groups can eat together if their groups can inter¬ 
marry. In other words, the commensal and connubial res¬ 
trictions are co-terminous. It follows that if two exogamous 
groups cease to intermarry and become endogamous in respect 
of each other, then they may no longer eat together. 

12. (2) There are endless variations in the cooking taboo, 
but in all castes an important distinction is made between 
kackcha food, which is cooked with water, and pakka food, 
which is cooked with milk, ghi,\ or butter. The distinction 
is based on the fact that these substances, being products of 
the sacred cow, serve to purify the food that is cooked with 
them. Accordingly, the restrictions in respect of kachcha food 
are much more severe than in the case of pakka food. They 

* For a full description, see Blunt, op. cit., Chapter V. 

f Some of the restrictions on th'e types of food that may be eaten are 
incidentally mentioned in para. 41, below. 

J Ghi is clarified butter. 


vary in different castes, but generally a Hindu can only eat 
kachcha food if it has been prepared either by a member of his 
own endogamous subcaste or by a Brahman ; whilst he may 
eat pakka food if it has been cooked either by a member of the 
same caste, or by a Brahman, or by a Halwai confectioner, 
or by a Kahar domestic servant. On the other hand, there is 
nothing to prevent any Hindu, however high, from accepting 
uncooked food from a member of any other caste, however 
low ; this explains how men of low castes are able to feed 
Brahmans either at their domestic ceremonies or as a penalty 
imposed by caste authority for some offence. The recipients 
accept the food, cook it themselves, and eat it at or near the 
house of the donor. 

13. (3) The eating taboos are so numerous that the cynic 
is apt to wonder that any Hindu ever thinks it worth while to 
eat at all. So long as the meal or a part of it consists of 
kachcha food (as it invariably does, since the chupatti * appears 
at all meals), the Hindu must dine with all the precautions of 
a magic ceremony, He and his fellow diners (if any) must 
sit within a square marked off on the ground ( chauka ), inside 
of which is the chulha, or cooking place. Should a stranger’s 
shadow fall upon this square, all cooked food within it is 
polluted and must be thrown away. In camp Hindu servants 
may be seen, each well apart from the rest, each within his 
own chauka , cooking his food upon his own mud oven and eating 
alone ; only the lowest castes would ever venture to neglect 
this troublesome custom.f Wives do not, as a rule, eat with 
their husbands, but wait till they have finished. There are 
also many other restrictions ; the following are those observed 
by the Nagar Brahman in Gujarat. Before eating he must 
bathe and put on clean garments ; if these are of cotton 
they too must first be washed. Many accidents may occur 
to render him impure and compel him to desist from his 
meal. He must not touch an earthern vessel which has 
contained water. He must not touch a piece of cotton cloth 
which has been touched by a person who is not himself 
ceremonially pure, or else has not been dipped in oil or ghi. 
He must not touch leather or bone or paper unless, in the last 

* A chupatti is a griddle cake made of flour and water, which takes the 
place of bread. 

f One caste, the name of which I will not mention, is regarded as 
degraded because its members eat kachcha food in the fields instead of the 
decent privacy of their own chaukas. 


case, there is Hindi writing on it. He must not touch or 
allow himself to be touched by a donkey, pig, dog, or child old 
enough to eat solid food. He may not read a printed book f t 
at his meal, because printing ink is impure. He may not 
read a manuscript book unless it is bound with silk and the 
binder has used a special paste of pounded tamarind seed. 

If he does any of these things, he is at once defiled, and must 
either go hungry, or have a fresh meal prepared for him, and 
purify himself before he eats it. 

14. (4) The drinking taboo is much the same as the taboo * 
in respect of pakka food, but in this case the vessel in which 
the water is contained affects the question. For instance, 

a high-caste man may allow a low-caste man to fill his own 
drinking vessel for him, but will not drink from a vessel 
belonging to that low-caste man ; or a high-caste man will 
give a low-caste man a drink, but only by pouring water from 
his own drinking vessel into that of the drinker. It is in this 
method that the Brahman water-carriers at .railway stations 
supply water to travellers. 

15. Thus in social matters the individual Hindu does not 
enjoy the advantages which the individual European enjoys. • 
Though he may be successful in life and earn the esteem 
of his fellow-men, yet during his life he cannot rise in the 
social scale : for under the law of karma * he must wait 
for social promotion till he has been born a second time. 
What with endogamous, exogamous, and hypergamous 
restrictions, his choice of a wife is limited—in the largest castes 
to a few thousands, and in smaller castes to a few hundreds 
or even tens whilst if he belongs to a respectable caste he is 
debarred from marrying a widow. Nevertheless he must 
marry, for marriage is a duty which he owes to himself and his 
ancestors—for as the lawgiver Baudhayana says, “ by begetting 
a virtuous son a man saves himself from hell as well as the 
seven preceding and seven following generations and 
marriage is a necessary preliminary to the possession of virtuous 
sons. His choice is also fettered in respect of his table com¬ 
panions, his servants, and his occupations. He can possess 
neither property nor income of his own. If he dare to offend 
against custom in any of these matters, : then his caste will bring 
him to book ; for in every caste there is some authority with 

* The law of automatic retribution, according to which a man’s 
status and condition in one life depends on his conduct in the former life. 



power to compel obedience to customary laws—a matter to 
which I shall return. 

16. By putting together the various attributes that are 
common to all castes, we can now frame a working definition 
of caste, as follows : A caste is an endogamous group, or 
collection of endogamous groups, bearing a common name, 
membership of which is hereditary ; imposing on its members 
certain restrictions in the matter of social intercourse ; either 
following a common traditional occupation or claiming a 
common origin ; and generally regarded as forming a single 
homogeneous community.* 

17. It is popularly but erroneously supposed that caste 
is immutable. On the contrary, caste is and always has been 
peculiarly liable to change, which change (since the whole 
population is already subdivided into castes), always takes 
the form of further segmentation. Occasionally an exogamous 
group, which by lapse of time had become inconveniently 
large, has been broken up into smaller groups; | but this 
process is far less common than the formation of new endo¬ 
gamous groups, which may be castes or subcastes. In the 
past a common cause of fission was migration to a new settle¬ 
ment, when distance would prevent the emigrants from obtain¬ 
ing wives in their former home and drive them into endogamy ; 
but with the improved communications of modern times, that 
cause no longer operates, and fission is now generally the result 
either of some change of occupation, of the adoption or 
abandonment of some social or religious custom, or of increased 
prosperity. A change of occupation explains the formation, 
in quite recent times, of four new castes, the Kayastha-Mochi, 
Kayastha-Darzi, Kayastha-Bharbhunja, and Kayastha- 
Senduria, all groups that seceded from the clerical caste of 
Kayasthas and took respectively to harness-making, tailoring, 
grain-parching, and the trade in red lead. The abandonment 
of the practice of widow-marriage accounts for the presence, 
in several castes, of a subcaste called Byahut; + the Basor, 

* See Blunt, op. cit., p. 5. This definition is merely an expansion of 
Sir Edward Gait’s in Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, s.v. 

f 'For instance, the exogamous groups ( gotras ) of the Dhusar-Bhargava 
and the Bhatiya, both castes of good status, have been subdivided respec¬ 
tively into his and nukhs. 

t Byahut is derived from by ah, the form of marriage suitable to a virgin 


Bansphor, Domar, and Dharkar are all branches of the great 
Dom tribe, which have given up a vagrant for a settled life ; 
whilst the Kayastha-Darzi and the Kayastha-Senduria give 
as a reason for their separation not the change in occupation 
but the more creditable fact that they have become total 
abstainers. Again, in the Teh caste of oil-pressers there are 
two endogamous subcastes called Mahabiria and Pachpiria, 
the origin of which is due to their worshipping different gods.* * * § 
Finally, when a group has become prosperous it will cut itself 
adrift from the caste to which it belongs and even abandon the 
use of the caste name. Thus, the Sainthwar subcaste of 
Kurmis, because its leading family has risen to a position of 
some eminence,! has become a separate caste i and well-to-do 
Chamars call themselves Jaiswars or Kurils or Jadavs. Such 
changes, moreover, are often accompanied by claims to 
Brahmanical or Kshattriya descent. Thus Ahirs assert that 
they are Yadavas, of the Lunar race of Kshattriyas ; Kayasthas 
in 191 r, (for claims of this kind are usually advanced at the 
census), called themselves Chitraguptabansi % Rajputs, alleging 
that they were descended from the “ civil service ” of Aryan 
kingdoms; various artisan castes—carpenters, goldsmiths, 
blacksmiths—claimed to be Brahmans, of the lineage of 

18. Thus the caste system constantly grows more complex. 
From the individual’s point of view, however, its working is 
sufficiently simple ; for the caste as it is, and as it has been 
described, differs greatly from the caste as he knows it. The 
word “caste” is used to translate two vernacular terms— zat, 
which means breed, and biradari or bhaiband, both of which 
mean brotherhood. The zat is the caste as a whole ; the 
biradari is the small group of caste-brethren who live in a 
particular neighbourhood and act together for caste purposes. 
Quantitatively considered, the biradari is a mere fraction of the 
zat; qualitatively considered, it is the zat in action. The 

* Mahabir (great hero) is another name of the god more usually called 
Hanuman. The Panchpir (five saints) are a quintette of Muslim worthies, 
who vary in different castes : the chief of them, however, is always Ghazi 
Miyan, a title of Saiyid Salar Masaud, nephew of Sultan Mahmud of 
Ghazni, who was killed in battle near Bahraich (United Provinces) in a.d. 

f The head of this family is now a Raja. 

$ Chitragupta, in Hindu mythology, corresponds to the Recording 
Angel, and is an official of the court of Yama, god of death. 

§ Vishvakarma, in Hindu mythology, is the architect of the universe. 


customs which the individual must observe are those of his 
zat; the authority which enforces his observance of them is 
that of his hiradari. A biradari is always a small body : it may 
include persons belonging to two or more exogamous groups, 
but would never include persons belonging to two endogamous 
subcastes. Again, a biradari’s jurisdiction,* the limits of which 
are always clearly demarcated, is never extensive ; sometimes 
it covers part of a village or town, sometimes a whole village 
or town, occasionally a group of villages. Thus the individual, 
however large his caste may be or however complicated its 
segmentation, need never look, in any caste matter, beyond his 
own little brotherhood and its little jurisdiction. 

ig. Castes can be arranged in groups or classes according 
to a scale of social precedence. The basis of this classification 
consists of the four varnas,f or colour-groups, of the old Aryan 
society, of which three—the Brahman priesthood, the 
Kshattriya nobility, and the Vaisya commonalty—were 
already in existence when the Aryas invaded India about 
1500 b.c. ; whilst the fourth consisted of those Dasyus (as they 
called the original inhabitants),J whom they enslaved and 
introduced into the Aryan body politic under the name of 
Sudra. Thus, at the top of this social scale there is the 
Brahman caste, the largest and most widespread in India. 
Next come the Rajput clans, whom popular opinion regards 
as successors in interest of the Kshattriyas. In the third place 
are a number of mercantile and trading castes, which claim 
descent from the Vaisya varna.§ These three groups are called 
“ twice-born,” for they alone may undergo the upanayana, 
or initiation rite, constituting the “ second birth,” at which 
the initiate is invested with the sacred thread ( janeo ) which 
is his badge of rank. After these three groups should come the 
Sudra castes, but the word has fallen into disfavour and it is 
now used only as a legal term for all Hindus who are not 

* The jurisdiction is called by various names : ilaqa oijuwar (estate), 
ghol (company), tat or chatai (mat—from the piece of matting on which the 
biradari is seated at its meetings). 

■j The word is significant, for the Aryas were fair-skinned and the 
Dasyus dark-skinned. 

f Old theories of caste origin have usually identified the Dasyus with 
the Dravidians, but as a result of recent ethnological researches, this 
identification must be abandoned. For that reason I use the term Dasyu, 
which merely means foeman, and implies no ethnological theory of origin. 

§ At the census of 1931 there were approximately fifteen million 
Brahmans, ten million Rajputs, and five million Vaisyas. 


twice-born. Below the twice-born line there is no definite 
classification : the status of a caste will be decided on a 
consideration of the nature and extent of the social intercourse 
in respect of food and drink that a higher caste can have with 
it. The highest status is that of a caste from which a Brahman 
will accept water and pakka food. Next will come a caste 
from which others of the twice-born will accept water and 
pakka food, but not the Brahman ; and so on. At the bottom 
of the scale come the castes usually called “ depressed,” 
contact with whom causes pollution. Thus the scale of social 
precedence, though sufficiendy precise at both ends, is vague 
in the middle ; for obviously, every man who is considering 
the rank of one of these middle castes must decide each case 
on its merits as it arises. 

20. The nature of the caste authority, which has power to 
compel obedience to customary laws, varies in different castes. 
Amongst the higher twice-born groups it is, as a rule, nothing 
more concrete than public opinion, though it is none the less 
effective because it is indeterminate ; but in most castes the 
ruling body is the assembly ( panchayat ) of the biradari. In a few 
of the better castes this panchayat is impermanent, meeting only 
when summoned, either by the complainant who wishes a case 
investigated or by an offender who has been informally out- 
casted by public opinion, and wishes either to establish his 
innocence or to obtain a mitigation of sentence. But in a great 
majority of castes the panchayat is a standing body ruled by a 
permanent committee, which usually consists of five members 
under the leadership of a hereditary headman ( sarpanch ).* 
The procedure of a meeting of the panchayat resembles that of 
a court of law, with the committee as a bench of judges and the 
brethren present as a jury. The most common punishments 
are fines; feasts to the brotherhood or to Brahmans; pil¬ 
grimages ; various forms of degradation, such as a course 
of begging*; and outcasting, either temporary or permanent. 

21. By collating a mass of evidence that was collected 
at the census of igi i,j" it is possible to state certain types of 
offence of which most, if not all, caste panchayats would take 
cognizance. A list of them is given in Appendix II, and shows 

* There is also a committee in an impermanent panchayat , but it is 
appointed ad hoc for the duration of the particular session. 

f See provincial census reports, chapters on “ Caste, Tribe, and 


clearly that the caste does not confine its attention to breaches 
of its own customary laws. It encroaches on the spheres of 
religion,* * * § of law, f and even of superstition : $ it is not only 
censor morum,\ but arbiter elegantiarum.\\ Indeed, when it is 
remembered that this list must be regarded as illustrative 
rather than exhaustive, it is no exaggeration to say that a 
caste regards it as its duty to enforce observance of all principles 
of right conduct, as laid down by custom. 

22. From the cradle to the grave the life of a Hindu, 
both in its daily routine and in its major crises, is governed 
by custom and surrounded by ritual. There are firstly, all the 
commensal rules, already described. There are the customary 
rites of religion—for instance, the annual sraddha ceremony, 
when offerings are made to the ancestors; and the sixteen 
sanskaras,^ which are domestic rites connected with the principal 
events in a man’s life—notably, his birth, marriage, and death, 
and for the twice-born, also the upanayana, already mentioned. 
Lastly, there is the Hindu’s personal law. The basis of it is 
custom, for as the great law-giver Manu has said, “ immemorial 
custom is transcendent law.” ** The written law consists of 
pre-existing usages, crystallized and codified by Brahmanical 
interpreters ; whilst any usage, even it be contrary to the 
written law, will override it if there is sufficient proof of its 

23. Many have held that caste and religion are inseparably 
connected ; that caste was the artificial product of the Brahman 
priesthood, designed to preserve both purity of descent and 
purity of the old Vedic beliefs and ritual. These views have 
now been generally discarded. It is true, as Sir William 
Hunter put it, “ that Hinduism is both a social organization 
and a religious confederacy.” It is true that every man who 
counts himself a Hindu by religion must belong to a Hindu 
caste. But there is only one connecting link between caste 
and religion—namely, the Brahman, who is supreme in both. 

* Appendix II, items 5 and 6. 

f Appendix II, items 1 (a) and It. (Adultery is a criminal offence 
in the Indian Penal Code.) 

} Appendix II, item 8. (These taboos are not peculiar to Hinduism 
or even to India, but are found in many parts of the world.) 

§ Appendix II, items 1 (a), 2, 9. 

|| Appendix II, item 7. 

'll For afulllist ofthese,seeBlunt, op. cit., p. 310. 

** Institutes, I. to8. 


24- Hinduism as a religion is a complex congeries of 
creeds and doctrines. It gives shelter to monotheists, poly¬ 
theists, and pantheists; to worshippers of great gods, of 
inferior deities, of ancestors, of heroes, of ghosts, of animals, 
and even of natural objects. These deities can be divided into 
two main classes. The first is relatively small, including only 
the great Hindu gods in their various aspects and under their 
various names, of whom the chief are Siva, Vishnu, and their 
consorts ; the second class includes all other deities. Deities 
of the first class are always, deities of the second class are 
seldom if ever, recognized by the Brahman priesthood. In 
practice the majority of all Hindus restrict their worship 
to one or more of the great gods, and may therefore be called 
orthodox; but a considerable proportion of the orthodox 
also worship deities of the second class, whilst the unorthodox 
minority worship only such deities. The unorthodox consist 
almost entirely of relatively low castes, many of which have 
each its own little pantheon, selected out of the huge pantheon 
of Hinduism, which according to popular reckoning contains 
330 million deities. It must be made clear, however, that 
out of all these, the individual may worship one, or few, or 
many, as he pleases—or even none. 

25. Thus Hinduism, as a religious term, is of wide applica¬ 
tion. It covers not a single doctrine, but all the different 
doctrines held by different groups or sects of Hindus. Amongst 
orthodox doctrines alone, we find, for instance, three as 
important as the Saiva, the Vaishnava, and the Sakta. These 
many doctrines vary greatly. At one end are the animistic 
beliefs of primitive tribes and depressed castes ; at the other 
end is that lofty Vaishnava creed, of which the principal tenets 
are faith in, and personal devotion to, a supreme God. It is 
not strange, therefore, that there are but four practices or 
beliefs that are common to all, or nearly all Hindus. Firstly, 
almost ev®ry Hindu carries out some form of ancestor-worship.* 
Secondly, every Hindu has some idea of a supreme personal 
God, whom he calls Parameshwar.f Thirdly, with the excep¬ 
tion of a few low castes on the fringe of society, every Hindu 
pays a certain reverence to the cow ; and lastly, with similar 

* Orthodox castes worship their ancestors in the sraddha already 
mentioned - ; unorthodox castes worship their ancestors with propitiatory 
sacrifices. See Blunt, op. cit., p. 288. 

f Parameshwar is regarded as exalted above all other deities, and 
therefore is less accessible than they. 


exceptions, every Hindu accepts such ministrations from the 
Brahman priests as they are willing to give him, and admits 
their spiritual supremacy. 

26. The Hindu is intensely religious : he has a clear 
conception of his duty to God, and regularly offers up his 
prayers for divine help and guidance. He has also a clear 
conception of his duty to man : his ethical code is as high as 
that of any other civilized people, and he observes it with no 
less fidelity. It is less clear, however, what connexion he 
believes to exist between these two duties : whether, that is, 
he regards his religion as having an ethical content, or his 
ethical code as dependent on a religious sanction. As we have 
seen, there are many doctrines ; and it seems probable that 
the answer of a Hindu who was asked why he pursued virtue 
and avoided evil doing, would vary according to his eschato¬ 
logical ideas. Two extreme examples will suffice. One might 
reply in philosophical terms, by reference to the allied doctrines 
of automatic retribution {karma) and transmigration ( sansara ), 
according to which a man’s thoughts and actions in one life 
determine his condition in the next ; which reply would have 
no religious significance, since karma is regarded as lying outside 
the sphere of divine influence. The Vishnu-worshipper men¬ 
tioned above, however, would reply that the best means of 
showing devotion to God is to serve one’s fellow-man, thus 
giving to his religion a high ethical value. But whatever the 
connexion between the two duties may be, the two conceptions 
of them are there, strongly held and fully operative. As for the 
caste-panchayat, it concerns itself solely with man’s duty to his 
neighbour, and its sanction is social. 

27. It has already been said that the one real link between 
Hindu society and Hindu religion is the Brahman himself, 
who is supreme in both. His religious supremacy he owes 
to his monopoly of theological thought and ceremonial usage 
in a society which is both intensely religious and intensely 
ritualistic. His social supremacy he owes to other causes— 
his ancient lineage, his mastery of all branches of learning, 
his temporal power as the King’s minister. Most of all, 
perhaps, he owes it to his achievements as a legislator : for to 
a people who held that custom was law, he declared that law 
was custom. A proof of the respect in which he is universally 
held is the pathetic eagerness of low castes to receive his 


28. According to the Muhammadan religion, all free 
Muslims are equal. A Muslim may marry any woman outside 
the prohibited degrees (which are much the same as in the 
English law), provided that she belongs to a scriptural ( kitabi ) 
or revealed religion * ; and though some lands of food are • 
forbidden, notably pork, there are no commensal restrictions. • 
Accordingly, the Hindu caste system is incompatible with the 
tenets of Islam. Amongst those Muslims of foreign descent, 
whose ancestors brought Islam into India, practice corresponds 
with theory. The four main Muslim divisions—Saiyid, Shaikh, 
Pathan, and Mughal—are not castes, though they are often 
described as such. They are not even tribes. They are 
merely names given to groups of tribes that are, or are supposed 
to be, of similar blood. All these observe the doctrines of 
Islam in the fullest particularity, as also do those Muhammadan 
Rajputs whose conversion took place in relatively ancient times. 
The position, however, is different in respect of other converts 
from Hinduism, who form a large majority of all Muslims in 
India. Many of these when changing their faith did not 
change or only partially changed their social customs, and 
Islam has been compelled to accept the situation. Some of 
them are divided into endogamous sections. Many have 
their panchayats like Hindu castes, which exercise much the 
same powers. Some, again, prohibit the remarriage of widows; 
some refuse to eat beef; some worship Hindu deities as well 
as Allah or bathe in the Ganges at important festivals. In 
short, though caste is contrary to the Muhammadan religion, 
yet it does exist in a modified form amongst all the converts 
in the lower strata of the community. 

29. The bonds of union between man and man are com-, 
munity of descent and community of material interests; the 
former brings men together in tribes or social classes, the latter^ 
in occupational groups, such as merchant guilds or trade 
unions or masonic lodges. Then, if there are also other bonds 
of union, such as community of language, of government, of 
political institutions, and of historical traditions, and if the 
original groups are not too dissimilar in point of race and 
culture, they will merge in the greater group of the nation. 
In India, on the other hand, the original groups have main¬ 
tained their separate existence, have multiplied, and have 

* A scriptural religion is one which possesses a divine revelation con 
tained in a book expressly recognized in the Koran, such as Jewish and 
Christian, but not Hindu, Parsee, or Buddhist. 


hardened into closely compacted entities. Why has social 
evolution in India followed a course so different from that 
which it has followed in other countries ? To answer this 
question fully, it would be necessary to dig deep into the origins 
of caste, and this is not the place for ethnological speculations. 
I can do no more here than suggest a few relevant considera¬ 

30. As has already been said, India is not a country but 
a continent. Her enormous area, with its great diversity 
of physical features, naturally falls into separate tracts ; and 
in the past her hill-ranges, her forests, and her great distances 
effectively prevented any social intercourse (or intermarriage) 
between the inhabitants of those separate tracts. Her popula¬ 
tion, too, was continental in size and composition; even as 
early as 3000 B.c. it included many racial elements, from 
primitive tribes in a neolithic stage of culture to that highly 
civilized people that lived in Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa 
and elsewhere in the Indus valley. Possibly at that time, 
but certainly some 1500 years later, the colour-bar came 
into operation, the most powerful of all bars to the fusion 
of races : for the Arya “ was a white man, and proud 
of it,” and the Dasyu was “ born of a black womb ” and 
“ noseless ” as well.* There have always been many lan¬ 
guages in India; till recently there have always been 
many governments and many political institutions; there has 
never been further community of historical traditions than 
would arise from alliances of independent rulers against a 
common enemy. In short, because India is a continent and 
not a country, there has never been a chance, till recent 
times, that her people would develop into a nation. But at 
almost any time up to two centuries ago her people might 
easily have developed into several nations. This has not 
happened.' Hindu society, though rent into thousands of 
sections, has preserved its external unity ; and the bond 
which keeps it together is the Brahman’s hegemony, which 
has endured, whatever else may have changed. 

Caste in Modern Conditions 

31. In modern conditions are there any forces working to 
the disintegration of caste, and especially to the relaxation 

* These are Vedic epithets. Our knowledge of the Dasyu, un¬ 
fortunately, is chiefly epithetical. 


of the many restrictions which it imposes on the individual’s 
freedom of thought and action ? Education is spreading; 
the improvement of communications has brought men—and 
castes—nearer together; large-scale commerce and manu¬ 
facture have come to stay ; politics, formerly the concern of 
the few, are now becoming the concern of the many ; a national 
spirit is not merely awake, but active. In a world of railways 
and motor-buses, of factories and machinery, of electorates and 
legislative assemblies and political parties—what is happening 
to caste ?. 

32. For the last half century there has been manifest 
among the better educated classes, especially those who have 
received a part of their education outside India, a certain 
feeling of resentment against the trammels of the caste system. 
That feeling has grown stronger with the progress of education ; 
and there are now many well-educated Hindus who frankly 
condemn caste as antiquated and wholly unfit to survive in 
modern conditions. They scoff at the restrictions on com- 
mensality, which they regard as ridiculous. The number of 
those who will dine in company not only with other Hindus 
but also with Muhammadans and Europeans is constantly 
increasing. And of those who are willing thus to “ interdine,” * 
many are also willing to ignore other taboos. They will eat, 
for instance, any kind of food (except beef and pork), no 
matter who has prepared it; and in eating they will observe 
not their own mealtime etiquette but that of their hosts.f 
Many Hindus, again, have realized the evil effects of the 
purdah system, and have not only permitted their womenfolk 
to emerge from their former seclusion, but to go freely into 
society and even to take an active part in public affairs. Every 
educated Hindu will desert the traditional function of his caste 
if he can put his acquirements to better account in some other 
trade or profession. As regards the marriage restrictions, few, 
if any, educated Hindus at the present day would defend such 
practices as infant marriage, the prohibition of the remarriage 
of widows, or extravagant expenditure at weddings ; whilst 
some have been bold enough to lay unorthodox hands on endo- 

* i( Interdining ” has become almost a technical term for meals at 
which members of two or more communities are present. 

t Others, however, are more particular when “ interdining Some 
must be provided with a wholly vegetarian meal; some must be provided 
with lawful food, usually sweetmeats and fruit, that has been prepared by 

gamy itself. So far, however, reformers who have attacked the 
marriage customs have usually been defeated by the orthodox 
majority. The Hindu Widow Marriage Act was passed as 
far back as 1856 to legalize the remarriage of Hindu widows; 
the Child Marriage Restraint Act,* to penalize infant marriages, 
came into force in April 1930 ; and of these the former has 
proved entirely and the latter wellnigh ineffective. A number 
of bills have also been put forward from time to time to. legalize 
marriages between members of different castes, of which the 
last was Sir H. S. Gour’s Special Marriage (Amendment) 
Bill in 1931 ; but they have all been rejected and, so far as 
the law is concerned, the principle of endogamy is still secure. 
Occasionally an inter-caste marriage or the remarriage of a 
widow is announced in the press, and the number of such is 
increasing ; but they are still rare enough to be greeted with 
a paean of triumph when they occur. 

33. Of all reforming bodies that have attacked the caste 
system in recent years, the most vigorous is the Arya Samaj, 
which was founded by Dayanand Saraswati,f who began to 
preach in 1863. On the religious side it is a simple straight¬ 
forward monotheism founded on the Vedas ; on the social 
side, it acknowledges no castes save the old varnas , and holds 
that membership of these is based not on birth but on personal 
qualifications. This is not only the negation of the caste 
system ; it can scarcely be called a social classification at all. 
The Samaj naturally approves of inter-caste marriages ; it 
is strongly opposed to infant marriage and ceremonial 
extravagance ; it encourages the remarriage of widows ; and 
it has cut down the commensal and food restrictions to a 
minimum. Its social propaganda has had much success. 
The membership of the Samaj is constantly growing ; it appeals 
especially to Hindus of the better class who have enlightened 
and progressive views. 

34. At the census of 1931 there was agitation against 
taking a record of caste on the ground that “ the mere act of 
labelling persons as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate 
the system.” I need not discuss the validity of such an argu¬ 
ment or the possibility that the agitation was prompted to 

* Better known as the Sarda Act, from its sponsor, Diwan Bahadur 
Harbilas Sarda. 

f Born either 1824 or 1827, died 1883. Samaj means 



some extent by political motives. So much is clear, that 
though the agitators may not have wished to kill caste, they 
disapproved of any officious (or official) attempt to keep it 
alive. It is striking that any Hindu should hold that opinion ; 
it is even more striking that nearly two million Hindus should 
agree with it so far as to state that they had no caste at all.* 

35. The attitude of the masses towards caste is also 
beginning to change. It is often alleged that the conditions of 
railway travel have weakened both the stringency of the food 
taboos and the idea of untouchability, and there is some 
justification for the assertion. For instance, no orthodox Hindu 
can eat kachcha food during a railway journey, for such food 
must both be prepared and consumed with certain precautions 
that cannot possibly be observed in a railway compartment or 
on a station platform. Accordingly, he must content himself 
with pakka food purchased from some platform food-vendor 
and water obtained from the official water-carrier ; but if he 
does, he must take it for granted that they are of unimpeachable 
caste, since he will have no time to cross-examine them on 
the point, f There is, indeed, no evidence to show that laxity 
in respect of the food taboos when on a journey has led to 
similar laxity elsewhere. Nevertheless, here is a nail in the 
coffin of caste waiting to be driven home. 

36. In the matter of untouchability, the railway and the 
newer motor-bus .have already produced some effect. Says 
the moneylender in Kim : “ There .is not one rule of right 
living which these te-rains do not cause us to break. We sit, 
for example, side by side with all castes and peoples.” A 
high-caste man may be well aware that his neighbour in a 
crowded railway carriage is an untouchable ; but he is also 
aware that if he gives the situation away by asking inconvenient 
questions, he will have to pay the difference in fare and change 
to a higher compartment. Accordingly, he consoles himself 
with the reflection that “ where there is no eye, there is no 
caste ”, and says nothing. Discovering that his silence has no 
untoward results, he begins to wonder whether he could not 
ignore untouchability altogether. At the present day in the 
United Provinces few of the twice-born trouble about the 
matter, except Brahmans, and even they are relatively lax. 

* Census Report, India, 1931, p. 430. 

f The railway authorities reduce the traveller’s difficulty by licensing 
as food-vendors and water-carriers only persons of suitable caste. 


For instance, a Brahman will feel no dismay should he come 
in contact with some untouchable labourer in the fields, for 
the bath that he will take in any case when he goes home will 
remove the pollution. It is also said that in Madras, though 
the idea of untouchability, or pollution by contact, still prevails, 
the idea of unapproachability, or pollution by proximity, is 
fast disappearing. “ The train began the breakdown of this 
preposterous system ; the bus may complete it.” 

37. During the last twenty years there has been a marked 
and progressive decline in the authority of the caste panchayat. 
This is due to a variety of causes, of which the most important 
are the spread of education, the political changes of recent 
years, and the improvement in means of transport. The 
spread of education has widened the mental horizon of the 
lower classes, both in the towns and in the rural areas, and 
they are now taking an interest in many matters to which 
they were formerly indifferent. Again, the small man, 
townsman or peasant, has become an elector, and as such has 
been wooed for his vote by rival candidates, generally of much 
higher caste than himself. Thus he has acquired a new sense 
of his individual importance, a new consciousness of his legal 
rights, and a new readiness to assert them. He has accordingly 
lost his old respect for the panchayat, composed as it is of 
individuals whom he regards as in no way his superiors. 
Having an inborn love of litigation, he is now taking to 
the regular courts (which have been brought closer to him 
by the motor-bus), cases that he would formerly have taken to 
the panchayat, including even offences against marriage custom. 
If he wishes to avoid the panchayat s interference or to escape 
its punishment, he can now, with improved methods of 
transport at his disposal, transfer his residence to some place 
beyond the reach of the panchayat and there affiliate himself 
to the local brotherhood, which knows nothing of his past.* 

38. It is in respect of all matters related to the traditional 
function that the authority of caste panchayats have been most 
seriously diminished. Fifty years ago f they were accustomed 
to fix the wages of labour, the hours of work, and the prices 
and output of commodities. They regulated trade-processes; 

* There are other causes that have contributed to the decline of the 
panchayat’s authority. , See Census Report, United Provinces, 1931, pp. 554-6, 
for a full account. 

f Hopkins, India Old and New, pp. 193 etseq. 


they tried breaches of the occupational customs of the caste ; 
they arbitrated in disputes between their members ; they 
organized strikes and boycotts when their members were 
oppressed. If any member dared to abandon the traditional 
function for another, they doomed him to permanent ostracism, 
and were thus responsible for the formation of many new castes. 
But as civilization progresses, the needs of the community 
become more numerous and more complex. Primitive 
occupations die out and fresh occupations appear to supply 
fresh needs; and functional castes must adapt themselves 
to the new conditions. Functional apostacy has now become 
so common that the old methods of dealing with it have become 
ineffective, for no panchayat can afford to outcaste the faithless 
many for the sake of the faithful few. It has now become 
useless for panchayats to insist on rigid adherence to the tradi¬ 
tional function or on rigid maintenance of the traditional 
methods. So for the last twenty years or so, panchayats have 
rarely exercised their power, except in three cases—firstly, to 
engineer resistance to oppression ; secondly, to regulate the 
custom of jajmani (a somewhat technical matter, which is 
explained in an appendix) ; and thirdly, to prevent the 
adoption of an occupation involving social degradation ; and 
even in respect of these three cases the panchayats are far less 
active than they used to be.* 

39. Abandonment of the traditional function has occurred 
in all non-agricultural castes, but the extent and nature of it 
vary greatly. Some castes have been forced to it by causes 
outside their control. The Kayastha professional scribe, for 
instance, has been driven to other pursuits by the spread of 
education, for there is no longer the same need for his services. 
Other occupations have become less profitable : the Teh oil- 
presser has lost by the increasing vogue of kerosene and the 
Momin weaver by the competition of the mills. In other 
castes, where the proportion of those who follow the traditional 
function is still relatively high, that function is generally one 
that is necessary at any stage of civilization—the tailor, the 
goldsmith, the shoemaker, the barber, the potter ; or else 
it is one not likely to attract competition, such as scavenging 
and washing clothes. The one occupation that has not been 
deserted by its followers, which has indeed gained considerably 
from other occupations, is agriculture. 

* Blunt, op. cit., pp. 243-5 ; Census Report, United Provinces, 1931, 
pp. 544-6. 


Economic Effects of Caste and Religion 
40. Though in recent years the authority of the caste 
over its members has declined, yet it still keeps a jealous eye 
on its own prestige. In every caste there are certain things 
that “ are not done ” ; and if they are done, the offender will 
be left in no doubt of the caste’s indignation. This jealousy 
shows itself most strongly in respect of changes of occupation. 
The caste will not condemn, it will even approve of, such a 
change, if the traditional function is replaced by one that is 
equally or more respectable ; but it will certainly resent a 
change in the other direction. Thus the highest castes, 
Brahmans and Rajputs, disdain any occupation that involves 
manual or mechanical labour ; like mid-Victorian English¬ 
men, they confine themselves to such learned professions as 
medicine, law, or education, or to government service in any 
branch, military or civil. Their social position, moreover, 
makes it impossible for them to handle a plough ; their agri¬ 
cultural activities are confined to watching their labourers 
at work, with the result that their cultivation is always inferior 
to that of lower castes. Where the Jat or the Kurmi grows 
first-rate wheat, the Brahman or Rajput grows second-rate 
barley. As regards the lowest castes, it is sometimes asserted 
that they are not allowed to adopt more remunerative occupa¬ 
tions.* The statement is certainly incorrect: many members, 
even of untouchable castes, have actually taken to other 
pursuits. So much, however, is true, that many such castes 
do cling to their proper occupations, partly because they are 
essential to civilization, partly because they are of a kind not 
likely to attract competition. It is also perhaps true that when 
a member of such a caste does adopt some other trade, it will 
usually be one related to his traditional occupation ; the 
Chamar tanner, for instance, will become a shoemaker, or a 
saddler, or a taxidermist. j The castes of middle rank, 
Vaisyas and the better type of Sudras, are more fortunately 
placed than either their superiors or their inferiors. The 
traditional function of the Vaisya is trade or commerce, and 
accordingly he has at his command a large selection of callings 
without departing from tradition. The rest are almost 
entirely agriculturists, and in India agriculture is the most 
respectable of all occupations. No caste, however high, can 

* Anstey, Economic Development of India, p. 53. 

t In Bijnor (United Provinces), there are families of Ckamars who 
are extremely skilful in setting up heads and curing skins. 


lose dignity by adopting it; indeed, a large majority of those 
who have deserted their traditional functions have taken to 
it. Thus the individual’s choice of a livelihood, though freer 
than of old, is still limited by social considerations. There is 
dignity only in some kinds of labour ; whether initiative and 
enterprise are regarded as commendable depends on their 
direction. Lastly, agriculture, the most important of all 
occupations, is overcrowded and can no longer support its 

41. The commensal and food taboos lead to economic 
wastefulness. It is not possible, for instance, to have common 
tables in a college or common messes in a regiment; and 
even in the houses of the legislatures there must be separate 
refreshment rooms for Hindus and Muhammadans. A 
common kitchen is possible nowhere except in the house of 
a joint family. Persons of different castes, though living in 
the same house, must have their separate kitchens. There are, 
moreover, certain kinds of food that cannot be used. No 
Hindu caste will eat beef; many will not eat fish, fowls, or 
pork.* The only kinds of meat which Hindus of good caste 
will eat are mutton, goat’s flesh, venison, and game birds; 
but in practice few Hindus ever eat meat at all—most of them 
because they cannot afford it, many because they pride them¬ 
selves on ceremonial purity, f Amongst Muhammadans the 
only meat food tabooed is pork. { The cow is also responsible 
for much economic waste, for since her life is sacred, inferior 
or diseased animals are allowed to survive, which eat up the 
fodder supply and beget inferior young. 

42. Again, amongst orthodox Hindus and Jains there are 
religious objections to the taking of animal fife, and so such 
pests as the monkey and the rat are allowed to survive, and do 
great damage to orchards and garden crops. When a Hindu 
community is troubled by a plague of monkeys, it causes them 
to be caught alive, charters a special train, and sets them 

* I.e. the flesh of the domestic pig. Wild boar’s flesh is often eaten. 

f The eating of meat is to some extent governed by religious considera¬ 
tions. Vaishnava sects will never eat it; Saiva and Sakta sects will eat 
it even in the highest castes. 

J Both the domestic and wild pig. Moslems also object to such 
foods as liver, kidneys, tripe—the inner parts of any animal; nor will 
they eat the flesh of any animal unless its throat has been cut whilst alive 



free in some distant forest.* Lower castes, however, do not 
hesitate to destroy animals of this kind. Some will also eat 

43. Religion is also responsible for certain economic dis¬ 
advantages. The Hindu, laying stress on things of the spirit, 
is willing to support a large number of mendicants, similar 
to the begging friars of mediaeval Europe, some of whom 
may be truly religious, though many are frauds. Again, 
sanitation is often ignored, though ceremonial purification is 
strictly observed. A pious Hindu will often live in the same 
room as a cow, yet refuse to take water from a man, however 
personally clean, if he happens to be of a low caste. It is doubt¬ 
less true that many primitive religions, regarding cleanliness 
as (literally) next to godliness, have insisted on ceremonial 
purifications for purely hygienic reasons ; but at the present 
day, in India as elsewhere, such lustrations are seldom more 
than symbolical. 

44. Other caste customs also have economic importance. 
Much money, for instance, is spent on the marriage ceremony ; 
for the parties must live up to their social position. Again, 
since the bride by reason of the custom of hypergamy is 
always of a rank inferior to that of the bridegroom, the bride’s 
father, at whose house the ceremony is held, usually spends 
more than he can afford in an attempt to live up to the bride¬ 
groom’s superior status. He must provide his daughter with 
her dowry, trousseau, jewellery, and household utensils. He 
must entertain the bridegroom’s party for several days. He 
must feast the assembly of caste-fellows and Brahmans. He 
must fee the officiating priest. There are also other cere¬ 
monies—at birth and death, with the sraddha and the upanayana 
—all of which involve heavy expenditure which cannot be 
avoided. Large sums of money are also frequently spent on 
pilgrimages (tirath) or sacred recitations ( katha). Offenders 
against caste custom are often heavily fined, or ordered to give 
a feast either to a specified number of Brahmans, or to the 
brotherhood, or to both. Lastly, a Hindu is compelled both 
by law and by religion to pay the debts of his ancestors. The 
legal obligation is due to the nature of the joint family ; the 

* Incredible though it may sound, this is a fact. I have myself known 
of two or three such cases. 

t In the United Provinces there are four castes which regard field 
rats as a delicacy. 


ancestor, in contracting the debt, has acted as the agent of 
the heir, and the heir is consequently liable. The religious 
obligation arises from the fact that failure to repay debt is a sin, 
and it is the heir’s duty to deliver his ancestor from the conse¬ 
quences of that sin. The consequences are sufficiendy heavy ; 
for, according to one of the Hindu lawgivers, he who does not 
repay a debt “ will be born hereafter in his creditor’s house 
a slave, a servant, a woman, or a quadruped.” * All these 
customs undoubtedly lead to debt. Certainly not less than 
one-third, and amongst the highest castes, where such debt 
is particularly heavy, possibly as much as one-half, is due to 
unproductive expenditure of this kind. 

45. Lastly, we have to consider the position of women. 
Of the effect of marriage customs on their expectation of life I 
say more presently. Both amongst Hindus of the better class 
and amongst the great majority of Muhammadans it is the 
custom to keep the women in seclusion; and though, as 
we have seen, many women of the better classes are now being 
allowed to emerge from the purdah, the great majority must 
still live behind it. “Purdah is the hallmark of the lady”— 
who, accordingly, can do nothing out of doors and very 
little indoors. She cannot, for instance, draw water from 
the well or take her husband’s food to him in the fields, and must 
employ a servant for both purposes. And yet these points are 
of minor consideration. Such Indian women as have emerged 
from their former seclusion have not only shown that they have 
the qualities necessary to make useful citizens, but both in 
society, in the local bodies, and in the legislatures, have already 
rendered valuable services to their country. Thus India has 
much to gain from abolishing the purdah system. As for 
women in the lower castes, these are not kept in seclusion, but 
their daily tasks, such as the grinding of flour, the fetching of 
water, and the carrying of heavy loads, involve heavy labour. 
The deplorable effects and the economic disadvantages of such 
conditions need no further description. 

46. Of all the problems that engage the attention of the 
social reformer, none is more important than that of the 
depressed castes. Their origin is not in doubt. In the 
population of the ancient Indian state there was always a 
non-Aryan element drawn from the primitive tribes that lived 

* Vrihaspati apud Jagannatha’s Digest, Vol. I, p. 334. 


within its borders. On these hina-jatyo (low tribes) and hina- 
sippa (low trades), as they were called in Buddhist times, there 
always rested a social stigma due to their race, which was 
intensified when they followed degrading occupations, such 
as those of the hunter, fowler, scavenger, potter, tanner, 
night-watchman, and executioner. They were segregated 
in villages of their own ; they must beat two pieces of wood 
together to give warning of their approach, for their touch was 
pollution. It was from such as these—Nishadas, Chandalas, 
and Pukkusas—that the depressed classes are descended.* 
The cause of their degradation is uncleanness, whether caused 
by their occupation or by the eating of unclean food such as 
beef or pork ; and their untouchability is the result of this 
uncleanness. In Madras there are some castes which are not 
only untouchable but unapproachable, having a range of 
pollution which varies from twenty-four to sixty-four feet. 

47. The nature of the disabilities from which these 
depressed classes suffer is well known. They are compelled 
to live in isolated hamlets or in separate quarters of a town. 
They may not enter Hindu temples ; they may not use wells 
that higher castes use, or attend schools that higher castes 
attend. They have now been given, f under the name of 
scheduled castes, certain political advantages which may 
enable them to secure an improvement in their lot. In some 
provinces their representatives have even been appointed 
ministers. It is worth remembering that, as more than one 
of their leaders has made plain, they do not wish to be raised 
by others, but to raise themselves, and that all they want from 
the orthodox is that they should be given a chance to do it. 

Marriage Customs and the Sex-ratio 

48. At all censuses there has been an excess of males 
over females in the population of India. The sex-ratio has 
varied with the circumstances of the preceding decade ; the 
average proportion of females to males from 1881 to 1931 
was 952 per mille, with a maximum of 963 in 1901 and a. 
minimum of 940 in 1931. J There are great variations from 

* See R. K. Mukerjee’s Local Government in Ancient India, pp. 65 et seq., 
and Blunt, op. cit., p. 15. 

f By the Government of India Act, 1935. 

J Or 941 after Burma is excluded. 


place to place : the number of women is relatively least in 
north-western India, and relatively highest in the Peninsula, 
exclusive of Bombay. There are also variations in different 
strata of society ; it is generally true that the lower the social 
status, the greater the proportion of women. Amongst 
Hindus, the ratio of females to 1,000 males is 953 ; amongst 
Muhammadans it is 903.* 

49. The Indian sex ratio differs entirely from the sex- 
ratios of western Europe, where there is always an excess of 
females over males. Thus in igii,f when the proportion in 
India was 954 per mille, it was calculated that the average 
proportion in western Europe was 1,038. It was also calculated 
that in India the number of female births was 937 to 1,000 
male births, whilst in western Europe the figure was 948. 
But an excess of eleven male births per mille will not go far 
to explain a deficiency of 84 living females per mille. The 
difference in the two sex-ratios does not depend on the differ¬ 
ence in the two birth-ratios; its explanation is to be sought in 
the conditions after birth, and of their effect on the relative 
mortality of the two sexes. ■ Let me first state those conditions 
as they are in Europe. In Europe children of both sexes 
receive the same care and attention from their parents ; but 
boys are constitutionally more delicate than girls, and the 
number of male deaths in childhood exceeds the number of 
female deaths. Accordingly, when adolescence is reached, 
the excess of male births has been obliterated and there is 
numerical equality between the sexes, or even a small excess 
of females. In later life, also, the mortality of males exceeds 
that of females, for men in their daily avocations are exposed 
to risks—hard work, exposure, accidents—from which women 
are preserved by reason of the nature of their occupations. It 
is true that they are exposed to a risk entirely their own, 
namely the risk of child-birth ; but in modern conditions the 
danger which this involves is far less than it used to be. Thus 
the proportion of females steadily rises. In India, however, 

* Excluding Burma. But the latter figure is misleading. About 
66 per cent, of Muhammadans live either in the north-west, where the 
proportion of females is lowest in all communities, or in Bengal and Assam, 
where it is below the all-India average ; and in both these tracts the 
Muhammadan ratio exceeds the Hindu. 

•f I have chosen 1911 partly because the required figures are available, 
chiefly because the Great War had not yet occurred to disturb the sex-ratios 
of Europe. 


the conditions after birth are entirely different. Girls have the 
same natural advantage over boys, but this is neutralized by 
the treatment to which they are subjected after birth ; and 
amongst Hindus this difference in treatment is the result of 
certain marriage customs. 

50. In all patriarchal societies at all ages of history the 
birth of a son has always been preferred to the birth of a 
daughter. But amongst Hindus the feeling goes far beyond 
preference. The birth of a son is ardently desired, because 
he is necessary for the performance of the sraddha ceremony,* 
whereby his father’s salvation is secured ; and it is this “ super¬ 
lative anxiety for male children ” which is chiefly responsible 
for the universality of marriage amongst Hindus. On the 
other hand, the birth of a daughter is a matter of positive 
regret, for sooner or later she must be married and, as has 
already been explained, it is on the bride’s father that will 
fall the heavy wedding expenditure. 

51. In the past certain castes, with the object of avoiding 
the difficulties caused by a daughter’s birth, took to the 
practice of female infanticide.f Legislation was passed to 
stop it, and though there is evidence to suggest that here and 
there it still survives, J yet it is now too rare to affect the sex- 
ratio. But, as has been pointed out in successive census reports, 
though infanticide has now disappeared, yet the original 
preference for the son over the daughter, which caused in¬ 
fanticide, still survives. The brother, in such respect as food 
and clothing, fares on the whole better than the sister, and as 
the proverb puts it, “ the parents look after the son, and God 
looks after the daughter.” This preference tends to rob the 
girl during her childhood of the greater vitality with which 
nature has endowed her ; and though it does not affect the 
sex-ratio to the same extent as infanticide, it certainly affects it 
in the same way. 

52. According to the Hindu law-books a girl must be 
married before she reaches puberty ; if she is not, then she 
will bring disgrace on her family in this world and damnation 
on her parents in the next. It is true that in most parts of the 
country and amongst the great majority of Hindus infant 

* Cf. para. 18, note. 

t For full account, see Census Report , India, 1911, pp. 215—217. 

+ Census Report, India, 1931, pp. 195, 196. 


marriage * does not lead to infant cohabitation ; the bride 
does not go to her husband’s house till she is past puberty, f 
Nevertheless, cohabitation generally begins far too early, and 
causes many premature deaths in child-birth of adolescent 
girls. Even if the girl wife survives, she is exhausted by 
the strain of bearing children too early and too often ; and at 
the age of thirty—should she succeed in reaching it—she will 
be an old woman. Infant marriage, therefore, is another 
cause of the general shortage of women. It may be noted 
that there is no similar restriction on the man ; though he is, 
in fact, often married undesirably young, there is no reason 
why he should not marry at any age. 

53. It is also laid down in the law-books that no woman 
may marry more than once, for marriage is a sacrament and 
the effects of it, in the case of a woman, are indelible—though 
a man may marry as often as he pleases. There are a certain 
number of relatively low castes which ignore this prohibition 
on the remarriage of widows, but it is observed by all twice- 
born castes, by the Byahut subcastes of certain other castes, 
and also by all castes that aspire to rise in the social scale— 
roughly, by not less than one-third of the Hindu population 
and possibly by more. Thus Hindu society, though it does 
not possess enough women to supply its men with the wives 
they universally desire, yet deliberately deprives itself of a large 
number of potential brides. 

54. This custom does not increase female mortality, and 
so does not affect the general sex-ratio; but it does affect 
the ratio between potential brides and potential bridegrooms, 
especially when taken in conjunction with infant marriage. 
According to the strict letter of the law, the only marriage¬ 
able women are unmarried girls aged fifteen or less, whilst 
potential bridegrooms include all unmarried and widowed 
males whatsoever ; and the proportion between them, on 
the census figures of 1931, is 560 to 1,000. In practice, the 
situation would not be so unfavourable as this. We must 

* For the origin of infant marriage, see Census Report, India, 1911, 
pp. 263-4, 267-71 ; Census Report, India, 1931, pp. 226-27 ; Blunt, op. cit., 
pp. 75-80, where the marriage ages for a number of castes are given. 

f When the wife goes to her husband’s house for the first time there is 
often a separate ceremony called gauna (deductio in domum). There is also 
a domestic rite ( sanskara ) called garbhadan, the object of which is to invoke 
a blessing on the consummation. Both are nowadays often omitted. 


increase the number of women to allow : (i) for those 

unfortunate girls who have reached their adolescence un¬ 
married, but will certainly be married if a chance occurs; 
(2) for adolescent girls in castes which practise adult marriage ; 
and (3) for widows in those castes which permit their 
remarriage. We can also safely assume : (1) that very 

young bachelors—let us say, those aged three or less—will 
find their wives amongst girls still unborn ; (2) that old 

bachelors and widowers over fifty will not be likely to change 
their condition ; and we can reduce the number of males 
accordingly. I calculate that on this basis fire proportion of 
potential brides to potential bridegrooms would be about 
800 per mille. On that reckoning, one potential bridegroom 
in every five must remain unwed ; being unwed, must remain 
sonless; and being sonless, must go to hell.* An unmarried 
or widowed Hindu, accordingly, must perforce take any bride 
that he can find, whatever his and her ages may be : young 
men of twenty or twenty-five, elderly men of forty or fifty, 
must be content with wives of two or three. Naturally, 
many of these baby brides survive their husbands. Thus the 
shortage of marriageable women tends to keep infant marriage 
alive—in spite of the reformers. Infant marriage tends to 
produce disparity between the ages of husband and wife. 
That disparity tends to increase widowhood. Widowhood 
increases the shortage of marriageable women. Thus the 
vicious wheel has come full circle. These facts are beyond 
dispute. They are discussed, with the figures, in one census 
report after another. All over India, educated Indians abhor 
these customs ; all over India there are associations and 
individuals working to reform them. They have had consider¬ 
able success already, but, as the agitation connected with the 
Sadr Act has shown, much still remains to be done. 

55. There are other customs which increase female 
mortality and affect the sex-ratio. The mother in childbed 
is attended, at all events in the villages,| by a midwife of some 
untouchable caste (which in northern India is usually the 
Chamar caste of tanners), whose methods are both primitive 
and unscientific. Widows, again, become family drudges and 
must content themselves with one meal of coarse food a day ; 
those of them who are married as babies and widowed in child- 

* This is a reference to Baudhayana’s dictum quoted in para. 15. 

t But also see Chapter VI., para. 35. 


hood are treated worse than their elders, for it is held that to 
suffer so dire a fate as infant widowhood, they must have com¬ 
mitted some dire offence in a former life. Ladies of the better 
classes, living behind the purdah, suffer from tuberculosis and 
other ailments from which their poorer sisters are free ; whilst 
those poorer sisters are worked as hard as their own cattle. 
Conditions of this kind do not conduce to longevity. 

56. Amongst Muhammadans, the position of women is 
better than amongst Hindus. Daughters are not neglected. 
Infant marriage, though permissible, is uncommon * ; and a 
girl, if married without her consent during her minority, can 
annul the marriage on coming of age.t There is no prohibi¬ 
tion on the marriage of widows. The ills from which 
Muhammadan women chiefly suffer are the purdah system and 
unskilful midwifery. But it is to be remembered that the 
great majority of Muhammadans are converted Hindus, who 
whilst changing their religion have preserved their social 
customs, and are as liable as Hindus to suffer from their results. 

57. If there is to be any improvement in the welfare of 
Indian society, the first thing needful is to raise its standard 
of comfort. This is not, as some seem to think, a purely 
economic process, consisting in the increase of material 
wealth. Comfort has other ingredients than wealth, namely 
health and happiness ; and even in respect of wealth, it is not 
the amount of it that affects a man’s comfort, but the manner 
in which he spends it. In the family of a peasant or labourer, 
the person responsible for the expenditure of its wealth is not 
the husband but the wife. He may produce the wealth in the 
shape of grain or money and bring it home, but it is she who 
turns the grain into food, and decides how much of the money 
must be spent on clothes, kerosene-oil, salt, and other neces¬ 
saries. It is also she who is responsible for the health and 
happiness of her family, by nursing them when sick, by keeping 
the house swept and clean, by scouring pots and pans that are 
used in cooking and eating. In short, such comfort as there is 

* Muhammadans objected greatly to the Child Marriage Restraint 
Act of 1929 on the ground that (a) it was contrary to Muhammadan law, 
which permitted infant marriage ; ( b ) it was unnecessary, because they 
did not practise it. See Census Report, India, 1931, pp. 229 et seq. 

t Strictly according to the law, she can only annul such a marriage 
if it was arranged by some other guardian than her father ; but if her father 
should arrange it, then the guardian ranking after him is entitled to object. 


in her home is entirely due to her. But how much greater 
would that comfort be if she were sufficiently educated to keep 
the household accounts, if she had been taught to look after 
and bring up her children, if she had been trained in what 
our grandparents called housekeeping and we call domestic 

58. The conclusion is plain. Government officers and 
departments, politicians and reformers by their various 
activities can secure for the people additional wealth, better 
health, and greater happiness ; in short, they can increase 
the raw material of which comfort is made. But the only 
agency which can manufacture additional comfort out of that 
additional raw. material—in other words, the only agency 
which can raise the existing standard of comfort—is Indian 
womanhood ; and if Indian women are to make the best and 
the most of their increased opportunities, then, firstly, their 
natural aptitude for carrying out the duties of a housewife 
must be increased by education and training ; and secondly, 
those marriage customs must be abandoned which reduce their 
usefulness by undermining their health and threatening their 
lives. Of all the many changes likely to improve the welfare 
of Indian society, none is more important than these two— 
female education and marriage reform. 


59. The situation may now be summarized. In the past 
the outlook on life of the individual Hindu has never been 
wider than that of his caste. But in modern conditions 
education has enlarged his outlook, which according to his 
circumstances may extend beyond his village to the factories 
of the neighbouring town, or beyond his province to the tea- 
gardens of Assam or the coal-mines of Bihar, or beyond India 
to the civilizations of the West; whilst the cinema, which has 
already arrived in Indian villages, and broadcasting, which is 
on the point of arrival, will enlarge his outlook still further. 
Again, education, working together with political progress, 
has taught him that though he may have been born the slave 
of custom, a mere head to be counted amongst the other heads 
of his caste, yet he is also a free and independent citizen, with 

* In this paragraph I am indebted to Mr. Brayne’s book, Better 


rights, privileges, and duties of his own and a definite value 
in the body politic. He has discovered, in short, that the lot 
to which he was born is not the only lot that is open to him ; 
and he has acquired a measure of that discontent which is" 
“ the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” 

60. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that the 
efforts of reformers and the disintegrating force of modern 
ideas have so far seriously impaired the vitality of caste. Most 
of the customs principally attacked are caste customs, as it 
were, by accident. In the case of infant marriage and the 
prohibition against widow marriage the sanction is religious. 
Commensal and food restrictions depend on primitive taboos, 
reinforced by the Brahmanical doctrine of ceremonial purity. 
Even heredity of function is a commercial rather than a social 
principle. They are all customs which caste chooses to 
enforce, but they could all disappear without affecting the 
essential principle of caste, which is endogamy. And that, 
as we have seen, is still relatively secure. The most important 
change that has yet occurred is the decline of the caste pan- 
chayat’s authority : for there is small use in making laws if 
there is nobody with power to enforce observance of them. 
Meantime, the reformers are still few, the orthodox are still 
many ; the mass of the people show no desire to relax their 
marriage rules ; and it will be a long time yet before the caste- 
system can be flung on the dust heap of worn-out superstitions. 

61. Many of the difficulties that impeded the develop¬ 
ment of an Indian nation have now disappeared. There is a 
common government; there are common political institutions 
and interests; amongst the educated, there is even a common 
language, namely English. The old racial differences have 
long since been forgotten, though they have been replaced 
by communal differences. Improved communications have 
reduced the distances and the size of India to manageable 
dimensions. An Indian nation is now in process of formation. 
The birth of a nation will not necessarily involve the death 
of caste. A nation can as well be composed of endogamous 
groups as of groups of any other kind. But a nation without 
caste is undoubtedly better and stronger than one which suffers 
from all those restrictions, especially the marriage restrictions, 
which caste involves. As for the ultimate decease of caste, 
the causes most likely to produce it are old age and internal 
decay, and they are already at work. 


Appendix I.— Jajmani 

Every village artisan or servant has a fixed circle of clients, 
which is called jajmani. Literally, the word jajman means the 
giver of the sacrifice, but it is now extended to mean a client 
of any kind. The jajmans of the Brahman family priest are 
his parishioners, whose domestic rites it is his duty to super¬ 
intend. Similarly tanners, barbers, carpenters, and black¬ 
smiths all have their jajmanis, or circles of clients, from whom 
they receive fixed dues in return for regular services. Some¬ 
times the women have jajmanis of their own. For instance, 
in the United Provinces, the wife of the tanner (Chamar) is 
the village midwife and the wife of the barber (Nai) is the 
village monthly nurse. The dues consist of a certain quantity 
of grain at each harvest, but there are also fees which are paid 
for special duties. A jajmani is a valuable source of income, 
both hereditable and transferable. It is often given, for 
instance, as a dowry or mortgaged to raise a loan. They are 
accordingly strictly demarcated, and to poach on them is an 
action bitterly resented. 

Appendix II.— A List of Offences triable by a Caste 

(1) Breaches of the marriage law. 

(a) Adultery. 

(b) Refusal to carry out a marriage after agreement 

(breach of promise of marriage). 

(c) Refusal to send a wife to her husband at the proper 

age ( gauna ceremony). 

(i d ) Refusal to maintain a wife (restitution of conjugal 

(e) Marrying a widow when that is not permissible. 

(2) Immorality and concubinage (especially with a woman 

of another caste). 

(3) Breaches of the commensal law and of restrictions on 

eating, drinking, and smoking. 

(4) Breaches of caste custom in respect of occupation and 

trade processes. 

(5) Killing a sacred animal, notably the cow : also the 

squirrel or monkey; sometimes the dog or 

(6) Insulting or otherwise causing offence to a Brahman. 


(7) Breaches of caste etiquette, e.g. leaving a dinner 

party before others have finished, or omitting to 
invite persons who have a right to expect invitation. 

(8) Breaches of certain taboos, e.g. mention by a wife of 

her husband’s name or intercourse between an 
elder brother and his younger brother’s wife. 
(These relations may not even speak to each other 
or be in the same room together.) 

(9) Abusing or beating parents or other senior relatives. 

(10) Conduct derogatory to the dignity of the caste, such 

as begging or being assaulted by an “ untouchable.” 

(11) Assault or debt. 

Some castes also try afresh offenders who have been 
convicted by a court on release from gaol—though sometimes 
the panchayat is not concerned with the original offence, but 
only with the subsidiary offence of having been found out. 



The Rural Community 
The Villager and the Village 

i. According to the latest census report, in British India 
proper, that is, exclusive of Burma and the Indian States, 
there are close on half a million villages and the rural popula¬ 
tion was returned at over 228 million souls, or 89 per cent, 
of the total inhabitants. Thus, in respect of numbers, the 
relative importance of the urban and rural elements, which in 
England and Wales is roughly as four-fifths to one-fifth re¬ 
spectively, is in India almost reversed. The Indian Civil 
Service recruit will soon realize that the great majority of those 
who attend the courts of his district headquarters are villagers, 
earth-coloured, vociferous rustics not in the least overawed by 
the majesty of his own or any other tribunal. Later he will 
discover that essentially an Indian village, or mauza* corre¬ 
sponds very closely with an English parish. Both are adminis¬ 
trative units and each consists of a collection of houses, compact 
or scattered, set in an area the boundaries of which normally 
remain unchanged from century to century. The total acreage 
of a mauza may run into five figures, but in old, long-settled 
tracts, such as the eastern districts of the United Provinces, 
the average area may be as low as 100 to 150 acres, as against 
1,000 to 2,000 acres in the Central Provinces, where the 
influx of Hindu immigrants from the Gangetic plains has been 
comparatively recent. Pressure on the land frequently 

* A dictionary definition of mauza is “ a parcel or parcels of 
land having a separate name in the revenue records and of known limits.” 
It is not, therefore, necessary that a mauza should contain an inhabited 
site, and though it almost invariably does, mauzas are occasionally found 
without one, and are known as wiran (uninhabited or deserted). The name 
for the inhabited site as opposed to the mauza is gam, gartw, deh, abadi. 


compels the ryots,* or cultivators, to rent holdings outside their 
village, and this is especially the case where villages run small. 
Elsewhere most of them depend for their living on the fields 
within its limits. They, with the artisans and menials who 
serve their needs, a priest, the village accountant, a money¬ 
lender, a schoolmaster, and perhaps even a petty shopkeeper 
or two, form a self-contained aggregate, deeply conscious of 
its corporate unity and resentful, at heart, of interference from 

2. To the traveller by train from Bombay to Calcutta the 
general appearance of the villages seen from his carriage 
window is distressingly uniform. Each is a huddle of mean 
houses, tiled or thatched, built of mud or dry stone, and 
containing only one or two rooms, with a yard at the back for 
storage of grass and fuel. Glazing and chimneys are unknown 
and a straight line or right angle in any roof or wall is rarely 
to be found. In the hilly tracts, however, notably among the 
Satpura, Vindhya, and Aravalli ranges, the broken nature of 
the ground forbids the massing of many dwellings on one site. 
Tiny settlements or single homesteads dominate the lower 
hilltops and a village of Bhils may be scattered among thirty 
or forty pals, or hamlets. Houses of this type are often roomy, 
well-ventilated, and conspicuous for neatness, symmetry, and 
even ornament. Bamboo enters largely into their construction. 

3. Inside the house of an average cultivator there are tall m 
clay receptacles for storing grain, perhaps a chest or two, but 
no tables or chairs. The floor and walls are decently smoothed 
with cow-dung, a clean and sanitary distemper the use of which 

is not unknown in villages of the west of England. Scoured 
brass utensils gleam in a corner ; in another is a heap of 
unattractive bedding. Rough bedsteads, mere frames con¬ 
nected with a network of home-made string, stand in the 
verandah, at one end of which, probably, is the family cooking- 
hearth. On cold winter evenings the cultivators of the village 
sit over communal fireplaces maintained at some central point 
out of doors, as a rule under the great tree where the elders 
meet to gossip on a platform built around its roots. But the 
shepherd whose duty it is to provide the fuel for these fires 
from the droppings of his flock keeps warm by packing an 
armful of kids under his cloak and brooding over them like 
a sitting hen. 

* The Urdu word raiyyat means a subject, but in official parlance 
a ryot denotes a cultivating tenant. 


4. The villager is, by necessity, a vegetarian, growing what 
he eats, with the exception of salt and a few spices.* His 
diet is monotonous in the extreme; but in normal times he 
certainly fares better than the English peasant in the “ hungry 
forties ” or his opposite number in Ireland at a much later 
date. Bread of wheat, barley, maize, or millet, according to 
the tract, or rice in the latitudes where that crop is the chief 
staple, is his mainstay, varied with four or five sorts of pulses 
and a very few coarse vegetables and fruits. During seven 

^ months out of the twelve his milk costs him nothing. Raw 
cane-sugar, f cheap and often home-produced, is his only 
sweet, except on feast-days. But though his material outlook 
is limited his moral and spiritual levels are high, and it would 
be the greatest mistake to regard him as a yokel or a boor. 

5. As the physical structure of an organism is built up 
of single cells, so in the Indian body politic the villages may be 
said to form the cellular tissue. A breakdown of that tissue, 
that is, its dissolution into what biologists call an “ un¬ 
differentiated mush,” might lead to embarrassing consequences 
on a large scale. It is, therefore, worth while to outline the 
leading features of the village community in an Indian State, 
where it has remained comparatively untouched by modern 
social and political changes, and to compare them with those 
prevailing in British India, where disintegrating tendencies 
have been longer at work. 

6. The exemplar State shall be in Rajputana, the village 
one of respectable Hindu cultivators, Jats predominating. 
They are a republic in miniature, with a decided oligarchic 
tinge. The State treats them with respect. Written orders 
from the Raj, departmental notices and the like to be pro¬ 
mulgated in the village, are punctiliously addressed to “ The 
Patels, Panches, Patwari and cultivators, one and all, of Gam 
(village) so-and-so.” The patels, who vary in number, are 
the hereditary headmen ; the panches, in theory the Big Five, 
but generally more or less than five, are their council, to which, 
on special occasions, an elastic body of bhanjgars (reputable 
men) are added. By patwari is meant the village accountant, 
in Rajputana almost always a Vaishya ( bania), while in the 
United and Central Provinces the profession is practically 

* For the question of eating meat, see Chapter II, para. 41 and notes. 
Vegetarianism in most cases is only a matter of necessity. 

t Gur. 

monopolized by the caste of Kayasthas. The word 
“ cultivator ” employed in the Raj’s order would exclude the 
low castes. The executive arm of the patels and punches is the 
gam-balahi, who, though invariably an untouchable, wields 
great power and influence. His special duty is to muster his 
fellow-untouchables and arrange for their performance of the 
many compulsory public duties, paid and unpaid, which by 
custom fall to their lot. Prominent among these (misnamed) 
“ outcastes ” * are the barber, washerman, drum-beater, 
wheelwright, and blacksmith, who render communal service 
and are remunerated in grain twice a year from the threshing- 
floors. But the majority will be field-labourers, probably 
aboriginals, to whom no work, however unpleasant, is unlawful. 
They are the dispossessed, yet by no means weaponless against 
oppression. If, for example, a Jat’s cow dies in its owner’s 
sitting-room or verandah, only an untouchable can remove 
the corpse. The urgency of this operation, especially when the 
thermometer stands at ii 8°F. in the shade, encourages the 
cultivators to remain on friendly terms with their social 

7. Strikes, nevertheless, are frequent and rarely un¬ 
successful. A trifling quarrel between the barbers and drum- 
beaters of a village on the Gwalior border has been known to 
lead to the boycott, by both parties, of the entire body of 
ryots, including a hundred houses of Brahmans. By these 
tactics each party hoped to compel the cultivators to intervene 
in its favour. The result was complete social paralysis over 
a period of months, as without the services of drum-beaters 
and barbers respectively no marriages or funerals could be 
celebrated. A chronic dispute, also, smoulders over the 
housing of the low-caste families. The Jats'•insist on their 
living on the village-site, within easy call whenever need for 
their services may arise. The untouchables, for obvious 
reasons, are incessantly petitioning the State for leave to 
establish a hamlet of their own at a distance.f In justice to 
the panches it should be remembered that their inveterate 

* These are all low or depressed classes. In some parts of India 
“ outcaste ” is used as a synonym for “depressed,” but the term, used in 
this way, is misleading. “ Outcaste ” should refer to an individual only, 
not to a whole caste. 

t Hamlets inhabited by untouchables are common in many parts of 
British India. The Chamar hamlet is generally known as Ghamrautia or 

6— (*ss) 81 

prejudice in favour of the whole community being housed 
within a ring-fence is not all due to selfish motives. Its roots 
lie deep in the stormy past, when every village was exposed 
to the menace of marauding bands. Deserted houses, more¬ 
over, harbour thieves. 

8. In all probability there will be found in this village 
several houses of Gadris, or shepherds. Between them, also, 
and the Jats there is no love lost, for sheep and goats nibble and 
browse the common grazing grounds to the quick. By way 
of compensation, the valuable manure of these small cattle 
is claimed by the Jats, who opine that, as cultivators, they 
alone are “ the people.” The Gadri counters by pressing his 
ancient right to the top and lop of all acacia trees on the boun¬ 
daries of the Jats 5 fields. Incidentally, the State law, in 
deference to public sentiment, forbids under heavy penalties 
the export of manure, even as little as a basketful, from one 
village to another. 

9. Strenuous efforts are made by the patch and punches to 
settle all such quarrels within the village without recourse 
to the courts of law, and in this they have the support of the 
State. Though they exercise no authorized civil or criminal 
powers, the peace and good order of the countryside lies, to a 
large extent, in their hands. In times of agrarian unrest they 
are the recognized spokesmen of their community, which at a 
word from the. punches, as is well known to the Ruler, will resist to 
the utmost any real or imagined infringement of their customary 
rights. Thus, a new impost may be combated by a refusal 
to move a plough in a hundred or more villages for one, two, 
or even three successive years. When tilings come to this pass, 
the State gives way. Police arrangements in the villages are, 
perhaps, sketchy. The punches, accordingly, see to it that any 
malefactor caught red-handed receives such summary chastise¬ 
ment as renders the result of his subsequent trial in court a 
matter of comparative indifference to him. This is one reason 
why the incidence of serious crime is often lower in State 
territory than across the border in British India. Again, a 
large village may have in it half a score of temples and religious 
foundations. The panches are responsible for the collection 
and allocation of their revenues, the regular performance of 
the services, and the entertainment of peripatetic holy men 
and indigent wanderers. For these purposes and for the up¬ 
keep of rights-of-way and boundary marks, they levy a cess 

(malwa ) within the village, and also contribute a fixed annua l 
sura to the “ established church ” ( devasthan ) of the State, 
precisely as a parochial church council in England pays its 
annual quota to the diocesan fund of the see. No one dreams 
of auditing the punches’ accounts, yet complaints of inefficiency 
or speculation are practically unknown. 

10. The patwari, ex officio, has little concern with party 
politics, but twice a year, when the annual instalments of 
land-revenue fall due, he is the most important functionary 
in the community. This is one of those villages where the land 
tax is annually assessed in a lump sum on the gam (village) as 
a whole. Since the figures of the past fifty or sixty years are 
on record and the character of recent seasons, at least, is within 
the memory of both officials and village elders, agreement is 
reached without much difficulty. Once fixed, the distribution 
of the amount among the ryots is the business of the patwari, 
who, it should be noted, draws no salary or allowance from 
the State. He and the panches carry out this exceedingly 
intricate and invidious operation without the aid of any field 
map, to the general public satisfaction. Then the kharda, or 
rent-roll, showing how much is due from each ryot, is punctually 
presented at the local revenue office and collection is the duty 
of the Raj officials. 

“ The Raj is the lord of the bhog (revenue); 

We are the lords of the bhom (land).” 

In this couplet, which they are never weary of quoting, the 
stubborn conservatism of the cultivators is aptly summarized. 
So far do they carry their independence as occasionally to 
make revenue-free assignments of land to priests and village 
menials, arguing that provided the total demand on the village 
is not thereby reduced, the Raj has no right to interfere. Well 
might the Collector of a British district raise hands of horror 
at such sacrilege ! 

11. The typical village in that officer’s jurisdiction is 
comparatively anaemic and amorphous. The headmen ( lam - 
bardars, patels, or muqaddams) and the village watchman 
(chaukidar) are virtually government officials, and in their 
appointment, dismissal, and remuneration the public has very 
little say. Their authority may be greater, yet their prestige 

' is less than that enjoyed by their countertypes in a State. The 
British Indian patwari, in particular, may have half a dozen 

villages in his charge, but so far from being the ally and 
colleague of the ryots, he is always their master and often an 
extortionate petty despot. And the law imposes such a load 
of unpopular duties on the muqaddam that it is sometimes 
difficult to find volunteers for the office. 

12. On the credit side of the account is the transformation 
wrought by the improvement of road and rail communications, 
and, in recent years, by the advent of motor transport. The 
raging popularity of the passenger lari * (motor-bus) which 
travels where a bullock-cart can go and at ten times the speed, 
has quickened the tempo of a process which is making labour 
infinitely more mobile and adventurous. No longer is the 
ryot content to remain idle during the slack months of the 
year or in times of “ famine ” (the word is now almost obsolete), 
to sit and starve in his village till relief is brought to his door. 
He takes his cart and bullocks to the nearest town or city and 
earns by haulage enough to keep his family and pay his rent. 
As for the casual labourers, owing to improved economic 
conditions they are often better off than the rank and file of 
cultivators. Emancipation is in the air. Eight lives were 
recently lost in a riot caused by certain presumptuous un¬ 
touchables who dared to wear coats with collars, to build a 
second storey to their houses, and to make sweetmeats in iron 
instead of earthen pans. In fifty years this will be a scarcely 
credible legend. 

13. But the upheaval of social strata hitherto submerged 
has gone far to break up the original organic unity of the 
village, in which function was largely determined by caste. 
Its tendency is to eliminate all leadership but that of the 
salaried official. Experience has shown that in times of 
scarcity or agrarian unrest the co-operation of the natural 
leaders of the people is of the greatest value to the Government, 
and it would be unfortunate if ever the State should seek such 
assistance in vain. “ It was more especially in times of scarcity 
that the relaxation or total interruption of the ties of patronage 
and dependence, which formerly connected the great rural 
proprietors and the peasantry, was manifest. At such critical 
times the central government, alarmed by its own isolation 
and weakness, sought to revive for the nonce the personal 
influences or the political associations which the government 
itself had destroyed ; they were summoned to its aid, but they 

* This is merely “ lorry ” mispronounced. 


were summoned in vain, and the State was astonished to find 
that those persons were defunct whom it had itself deprived of 
life.” * Between conditions ruling in France in the eighteenth 
century and in present-day India the differences are doubtless 
wide, but the quotation is not wholly inapposite. 

14. The danger has long been realized. Over a century 
ago Sir John Malcolm urged that in Central India civil and 
criminal cases of minor importance might with benefit be 
entrusted to village panchayats, as was the practice, he had 
observed, in the Rajput and Maratha States; nor was he the 
first to make this recommendation. But the subject was not 
pursued in earnest until, following the report of the 
Decentralization Commission (1910) and a Government of 
India resolution on local self-government (1918), in and shortly 
after the year 1920 various Acts, aimed at the reconstitution 
of village panchayats, were passed in nearly every province 
of India. An interesting survey of this legislation will be 
found in a lecture recently delivered by Sir Selwyn Fremantle 
before the Royal Society of Arts.f Eight major provinces 
are covered by the review, viz. Bombay, Madras, the United 
Provinces, Punjab, Bengal, Bihar, the Central Provinces, 
and Orissa. From the lecture and the discussion that ensued 
the conclusion may be drawn that the number of genuine 
village panchayats (exclusive of villages grouped into union 
boards) % is now between 10,000 and 12,000, which, in the 
lump of half a million mauzas, is a leaven of only 2 per cent. ; 
that the powers vested in them vary from province to province ; 
that though their judicial work is generally good, especially 
in the United Provinces and Bengal, on the administrative 
side they show regettable weakness ; and that without increased 
official supervision, to which the greatest obstacle is financial 
stringency, improvement must be slow. The point was 
emphasized that these new panchayats are not a restoration of 
the old, for the latter are, inevitably, beyond resuscitation. 
Their importance lies in the prospect of devolving upon them, 
in increasing measure, many of the functions exercised by 
larger bodies and so of recreating the village as an element 
of local self-government, as was the effect, in England, of 
the Parish Councils Act of 1895. The possible ultimate 

* Alexis de Tocqueville, State of Society in France before the Revolution of 
1789, translated by Henry Reeve, p. 114. 

t Society’s Journal, March 12th, 1937. 

+ See Chapter XI, para. 37. 


incorporation of panchayats as representative units in the 
constitution of India was also foreshadowed.* 

Land Tenure and Land Revenue 

15. To generalize on any subject connected with India 
is notoriously imprudent, but there is no exception to the 
rule that from time immemorial the Government, whether 
indigenous or foreign, has been the sole owner, as ownership 
is understood in England, of the Indian soil, and that freehold 
tenure is unknown, f The right of the Ruler to levy a tax on 
every rood of land in every village is unchallenged. He may, 
as a favour, remit the tax, wholly or in part, permanently 
or for a term of years, but the remission is always conditional, 
and breach of the conditions on the part of the grantee may 
involve, and often has involved, forfeiture of the privilege. 

16. In the form in which it reaches the treasury, the tax 
is known as “ land revenue.” There are tracts and whole 
provinces, conspicuously Madras and Bombay, where the 
State collects it direct from the ryot who happens to be the 
registered occupier of the land. The unit of assessment is 
there the ryot’s holding or survey-number. This system is 
called ryotwari, and where it prevails the terms “ rent ” and 
“ land revenue ” are synonymous. In other tracts and pro¬ 
vinces the tax is levied not on the ryot but on a class of landlord 
intermediaries called zemindars, malguzars, taluqdars —to quote 
three out of their many designations. For the sake of brevity 
they will hereafter in this chapter be referred to as zamindars. 
At varying periods of history, for various reasons, the ancestors 
of these were either granted proprietary right or (as the 
revenue authorities of the age imagined), continued in such 
right, with power to collect rents from their tenants, on 
condition that they paid into the treasury a land revenue 
equivalent to a fixed fraction of their combined assets. The 
assets were their rental collections, the rental value of their 
home-farms, and their income, if any, from forest and waste. 
The standard fraction has been gradually lowered, under 
persistent pressure from the powerful landlord community, 
who in this way recoup themselves for the progressive limita¬ 
tion, by statute, of their power over their ryots. In the United 
Provinces it may now exceed 40 per cent, only to avoid a 

* See Chapter XI, paras. 37 et seq. 
t W. H. Moreland, Agrarian System of Moslem India , p. 63. 

reduction, in settlement, of the existing demand. The modern 
settlement figure in those provinces centres around 35 per cent. 
In the zamindari system, the unit of assessment is not the holding 
but the mauza, or village, and the rent is emphatically not the 
same as the land revenue, for the rent is paid by the ryots to 
the zamindar, and the land revenue by the zamindar to the 
Government. Confusion on this point has led to the publica¬ 
tion of such ridiculous mis-statements as that ct the Indian 
Government exacts from the cultivator one half of the gross 
produce of his land.” 

17. It may well be asked why in Bengal, the United and 
Central Provinces the Government should ever have created 
by a stroke of the pen a landlord class where nothing of the 
kind had previously existed. In effect, the grant of proprietary 
right to persons who, at the time, were no more than farmers 
of revenue or village headmen, amounted to the gratuitous 
sacrifice of at least half the government demand. Before 
many years had elapsed, the cash value of the surrendered 
right ran into millions sterling. The reasons which appealed 
to the authorities of the day seem, at this distance in time, 
curiously unconvincing, and the mistake, aggravated by a 
declaration that the ten-year settlement of 1786 in Bengal 
and Bihar was to be permanent, must rank as one of the 
most expensive blunders in Indian fiscal history. 

18. Before proceeding to describe how the land revenue 
is assessed and collected, a brief mention of the differing rights 
in which tenancy land is held will not be out of place. In 
ryotwari villages the position is simple. The tenure of the 
ryot is heritable (provided the government rent (revenue) is 
duly paid) ; and, as a rule, he may sell or otherwise alienate 
his tenancy, i.e. his cultivating right, to members of his own 
caste or tribe, though his powers of partition are restricted. 
Thus, Government tenants are in a strong position and generally 
enjoy more peace of mind than their fellows in zamindari areas. 
Rents are collected by the village headman, who retains as 
commission only a small percentage of his takings, depositing 
the balance in the nearest treasury. The rights of the zamindari 
tenant, however, have been the subject of a prolonged legis¬ 
lative struggle, in which the tenant is winning all along the 
line. As in Ireland * in the nineteenth century and as in 

* From wliich country the term “ three F’s ” originally [came, with 
Gladstone’s legislation of 1881. 


many Indian States to-day, the tenant is fighting for three 
*■ objectives, a fair rent, fixity of tenure, and freedom to transfer 
his tenancy right. Nothing short of these “ three F’s ” will 
content him. The zamindar is also human, and the village of 
his dreams is one in which he can enhance his ryots' rents at 
will, evict any tenant with whom he is dissatisfied, and exact 
a heavy “ fine ” on every transfer. His forefathers enjoyed 
these privileges and he is a conservative man. Not only from 
province to province but even within the unit of the village 
the battle-front, in course of time, has bulged into salients 
which bite deep into the zemindars’ defences. It is impossible 
within the limits of this chapter to summarize the tenancy 
legislation of British India, but a fair idea of the zamindari 
ryot’s position may be gained by a review of it in two major 

19. In the Central Provinces three classes of tenants 
are recognized by law. They are, in descending order of right: 

(1) absolute-occupancy tenants; 

(2) occupancy tenants ; 

(3) subtenants. 

20. The third category may be dismissed in a few words. 
A subtenant is a tenant of another tenant, yet so tender is the 
law to cultivating possession continued over a long term of 
years that even a subtenant can win occupancy right, i.e. 
immunity from ejectment against both his lessor and the 
proprietor (zamindar) of the village, if “ habitual subletting ” 
on the part of the tenant-in-chief can be proved. Otherwise, 
he has no statutory rights. If he falls out with the lessor, he 
must seek his remedy in a civil court. Tenants of a proprietor’s 
home-farm * differ from genuine subtenants in that no lapse 
of time can improve their position. The two higher classes 
now enjoy the advantage of a fair rent periodically fixed by 
Government, at intervals usually varying from twenty to thirty 
years. Rent-fixation is part of the operation known as settle¬ 
ment, of which more anon. It would, however, be disastrous 
if, after the Government had fixed a fair rent, the landlord 
were empowered to raise it arbitrarily on a tenant during the 
term of a settlement. This is a point in respect of which the 
absolute-occupancy right is superior to the occupancy. In 
no circumstances can an absolute-occupancy rent be enhanced 
between settlements, unless the landlord has improved the 

* Sir: see 


para. 31, below. 

holding. An occupancy rent, on the other hand, can be raised 
during the currency of a settlement, though not at shorter 
intervals than ten years, on several grounds. Chief among 
these are an improvement made by the landlord and a general 
rise in produce prices since the rent was last fixed. Enhance¬ 
ment procedure, however, is so hedged about by legal formali¬ 
ties that landlords in the Central Provinces comparatively 
seldom embark upon it. 

21. As for fixity of tenure, the right of both classes is 
heritable and tenants of the first class cannot be turned out of 
their holdings by their landlord as such—for example, for 
arrears of rent. An occupancy tenant may be ejected for this 
reason, but the civil court’s decree must be transferred for 
execution to a revenue court, which is invested with powers 
directed at postponement and, if possible, ultimate avoidance 
of the threatened ejection. Both classes are entitled to improve 
their holdings, and receive compensation therefor if they are 

22. In the matter of freedom of transfer, an absolute- 
occupancy tenant may, without his landlord’s permission, 
sublet his holding for a maximum term of ten years, or sell or 
mortgage it to a partner or possible heir. For other transfers 
he must give notice to his landlord, who may exercise his right 
of pre-emption within a month. If the latter fails to pre-empt, 
the transfer goes forward, in which event the proprietor is 
entitled to receive from the outgoing tenant a fine bearing a 
prescribed proportion to the rent of the holding. An 
occupancy tenant may sublet for one year only, and sell his 
right only to a co-tenant or possible heir. But, to balance these 
minor disabilities, his holding is exempt from court sale or 
foreclosure ; in short, provided he pays his rent punctually* 
he has nothing to fear. 

23. In the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh the tenancy 
system is far more complicated than it is in the Central Pro¬ 
vinces. Not only do the tenures of Agra differ from those of 
Oudh, but it is usual to reckon in all five principal classes of 
cultivating right, namely those of the sir-holder, the inferior 
proprietor, the superior tenant, the ordinary tenant, and the 
subtenant. Of these, the first two may be ignored at present, 
since they are proprietary rather than tenant rights. 

24. Superior tenants : (a) Agra .—In Agra there are four 
kinds of superior tenant, namely the permanent-tenure holder, 

the fixed-rate tenant, the occupancy tenant, and the expro¬ 
prietary tenant. The first two of these are found only in the 
permanently settled districts. Both are persons who have held 
their land at the same rate of rent since the permanent settle¬ 
ment in 1795 ; and they now possess a heritable and transfer¬ 
able title. They cannot be ejected for arrears of rent, whilst 
the rent itself cannot be enhanced unless their holding has 
been increased by alluvion or encroachment. Their security, 
therefore, is in every way complete. They hold, however, 
only a very small area, amounting to about 2 1 per cent, of the 
total holdings area. The occupancy right is heritable, but not 
transferable. An occupancy tenant is protected from enhance¬ 
ment of rent except at settlement and in the “ roster year,” * * * § 
which can only occur at intervals of twenty years. He is also 
protected from ejectment, except in execution of a decree for 
arrears of rent and in certain other special circumstances f 
which are rarely likely to occur. His security, therefore, is 
very much the same as that of his opposite number in the 
Central Provinces. The exproprietary tenure is an occupancy 
tenure of a particular kind. When a proprietor has transferred 
his land otherwise than by gift or exchange, he acquires a right 
of occupancy in his sir land + at a favoured rate of rent, and is 
then known as an exproprietary tenant. This tenure also 
carries the same privileges as the occupancy tenure. 

25. Before 1926 a tenant could acquire a right of occupancy 
by twelve years’ continuous cultivation. This method of 
accrual, however, was abolished by the Tenancy Act of that 
year, and the only occupancy tenants now in existence are 
those who had already acquired the right by continuous 
cultivation or those who have obtained it from the landlord 
either by gift or purchase since the commencement of the Act. 
From the point of view of the tenant this change can only 
be regarded as retrograde^ Nevertheless, the area held in 
occupancy is still no less than 49 per cent, of the total holdings- 
area, whilst the exproprietary holdings amount to a further 2I 
per cent. 

* See Agra Tenancy Act, clauses 55, 56. There are also limitations 
of enhancement, see clauses 57-59. 

f These are illegal transfer of his holding ; actions detrimental to 
the land in his holding ; and breaches of any condition of his tenure. 
Agra Tenancy Act, clauses 82-84. 

f See para. 31. 

§ Up to the end of 1934-35 landlords have conferred a right of 
occupancy in a total area of only 61,000 acres. 

26. ( b) Oudh .—In Oudh there are also exproprietary and 
occupancy tenants. The exproprietary right is, in all respects, 
similar to that in Agra. The Oudh occupancy right is heritable 
but not transferable, and carries a favoured rent. The measure 
of protection from enhancement, however, varies; in some 
cases enhancement is possible every five years, in others it is 
possible only at settlement. Incidentally, the occupancy 
tenure in Oudh is not a right acquired by continuous cultiva¬ 
tion, but a privilege conferred in various ways on persons who 
had in the past possessed claims superior to those of ordinary 
tenants. In Oudh, as in Agra, a landlord may confer a right 
of occupancy on a tenant. The total occupancy and expro¬ 
prietary area in Oudh is less than 2 per cent, of the holdings- 

27. Ordinary tenants .—The Oudh Rent Act of 1886 created 
a class of statutory tenants who were entitled to retain their 
holding for seven years without disturbance or enhancement 
of rent. By the Oudh Rent (Amendment) Act of 1921 all 
statutory tenants were given the right to retain their holdings 
for life, and the heir of such a tenant was given the right to 
remain in possession of the holding for five years after his 
predecessor’s death. Enhancement is possible only at settle¬ 
ment and in the “ roster years,” which can only occur at 
intervals of ten years after settlement; whilst the enhancement 
is limited by rates specially fixed under the law. In Agra the 
Tenancy Act of 1926 replaced the former class of non-occupancy 
tenants by a new class of statutory tenant in all ways similar 
to that in Oudh, except that enhancement can only take place 
at intervals of twenty years instead of ten. In Oudh statutory 
tenants and their heirs hold no less than 70 per cent, of the total 
holdings-area, and in Agra nearly 24 per cent. 

28. Subtenants .—In both provinces subtenants enjoy no 
rights except that they are allowed to hold their land for one 
complete agricultural year. The periods for which various 
classes of tenant can sublet their holdings are limited by law, 
and illegal subleases may involve ejectment. 

29. It is clear from this statement that the position of the 
tenant in the United Provinces is much less favourable than it 
is in the Central Provinces. Statutory tenants are undoubtedly 
better off than the non-occupancy tenants whom they replaced, 
but they are still far removed from complete security. It is no 


doubt true that, as the Persian couplet runs, “ to the inhabitants 
of the pit, purgatory is paradise.” Nevertheless, nobody will 
remain even in purgatory if he sees a chance of rising higher ; 
and at the present day statutory tenants all over the United 
Provinces are insistently demanding universal conferment of the 
occupancy right, free of cost, either by a stroke of the legislative 
pen or by the old method of continuous cultivation for a term 
of years. The latter method is more consonant with indigenous 
sentiment and tradition, and is recognized as just in many 
Indian States.* 

30. Turning, now, to the landlord or zamindar class, we 
shall find them existing in almost bewildering variety. At 
one end of the scale are the huge, compact zamindari estates 
along the eastern border of the Central Provinces, some of 
which contain over a thousand villages apiece. The owners 
of these are comparable with the great taluqdars of Oudh. 
Their position in law differs little, if at all, from that of ordinary 
zamindars, except in matters of family law and inheritance, 
and none of them is exempt from settlement and payment of 
land revenue under some name or other. At the other end 
are the little “ plot-proprietors ” sometimes found within a 
mauza, like miniature cakes imbedded in the substance of a 
larger cake. They are not tenants, for they may have tenants 
of their own, in all three rights, and they pay land revenue to 
the Government. They have more than one name; that 
current in the Central Provinces is malik maqbuzas .f A 
zamindar, we have seen, may own any number of villages. He 
may also have only a minute fraction of one, for there is no 
limit to the partition or transfer of proprietary right. Both 
in the United Provinces and the Central Provinces he has the 
right to accumulate a home-farm ; but in the Central Provinces 
any tendency to latifundia is checked by a proviso limiting the 
area which he may sublet or cultivate to a specified proportion 
of the total occupied area of his village. He may, indeed, 
bring more than this area under his own ploughs, but if he 
leases out any of the excess land, the lessee at once acquires 
tenancy right. 

* A new tenancy bill recently introduced into the United Provinces 
Legislature confers the occupancy right on all tenants who do not at 
present possess it, under the name “ hereditary right.” 

t Malik magbuza means “ held by an owner,” and is, strictly speaking, 
an adjectival term, with “ land ” understood ; in common parlance and 
also in the law, however, it is transferred to the owner of the land. 


31. The position in the United Provinces is more favour¬ 
able to the landlord. Sir is the name given to “ land recognized 
by village custom as the special holding of a co-sharer,” * and 
is to be distinguished from khudkasht, which is any other land 
that a proprietor happens to be cultivating at any particular 
time. The rfr-right is entirely personal. If the land passes by 
inheritance or gift, the sir- right will pass with it; or two 
co-sharers can exchange their sir. But if the ownership is 
transferred in any other way, the tir-right is extinguished, 
being replaced by an exproprietary right, as explained above. 
Thus the tir-right is extremely valuable ; and though far 
more land is recognized by village custom as sir than is actually 
cultivated by proprietors, there has always been a tendency to 
facilitate its increase. For instance, in the Agra Tenancy 
Act of 1926 the term was extended to include not only all land 
already recorded as sir, but also all khudkasht of not less than 
twelve years’ standing at the beginning of 1902, and all land 
that was actually khudkasht in 1925 ; whilst it was laid down 
that all land cultivated continuously as khudkasht for ten years 
after the commencement of the Act was also to become sir. 
The provisions of the Oudh Rent (Amendment) Act of 1921 
have a similar effect, though they are worded in a somewhat 
different way. Both Acts, indeed, place restrictions on the 
total area that may be held as sir. Nevertheless, the fact 
remains that in Agra no less than 20 per cent, of the total 
holdings-area and in Oudh no less than 11 per cent, is sir, 
or khudkasht that may be classed as sir under the provisions of 
the two Acts. 

32. Finally, there exists in the Central Provinces, as it 
were parasitically on the zamindars, a host of “ inferior pro¬ 
prietors,” lessees and sublessees of proprietary interests. 
They pay an agreed sum to the landlord or sub-landlord 
next above them, and make what they can out of the village. 
In certain tracts, where their tenure is of long standing, they 
may claim statutory protection against ejectment. There are 
villages in Bengal where lease of owners’ rights has been 
carried to such an extent that the mauza is like a Chinese 
toy of hollow ivory spheres, one within the other; in the 
words of the Report of the Indian Statutory Commission, 
i930,f “ as many as fifty or more intermediate interests having 

* See Agra Tenancy Act, 1926, clause 4 (c). 

t Vol. I, para. 381. 

been created between the zamindar at the top and the actual 
cultivator at the bottom.” There are inferior proprietors of 
a different kind in Oudh, who are called underproprietors. 
They are the descendants of communities or individuals who 
once possessed heritable and transferable rights in their 
villages or their holdings, and managed to retain them 
when the villages or holdings were merged in the estate of 
some taluqdar. They are described in the Oudh Rent Act as 
“ possessing a heritable and transferable right of property in 
land, for which they are liable to pay rent.” * These under¬ 
proprietors cannot be ejected for failure to pay rent, nor can 
their rents be varied during the currency of a settlement. 
They, together with the permanent-tenure holders that are 
found in Agra, are entitled to acquire sir. The area held 
by underproprietors in Oudh is about 5 per cent, of the total 

33. The foregoing remarks may be summarized as 

(a) All villages are either ryotwari or zamindari. 

(b) In ryotwari villages the Government is the landlord. 
The land revenue (rent) is collected by the village headman 
direct from each ryot and deposited in the treasury, minus a 
small commission for collection. 

(c) In ryotwari villages all the Government tenants have 
virtually the same statutory right, and enjoy a fair rent fixed 
by Government, full security of tenure, and nearly complete 
freedom to transfer their holdings. 

id) In zamindari villages the zamindar , alias taluqdar, alias 
malguzar, etc., is a proprietor-middleman either created or 
recognized by Government. He collects the rents from the 
cultivators. They are his tenants, not the Government’s, 
and if their rents fall into arrears the loss falls on him and does 
not affect the Government demand. The assessed rents, plus 
the rental valuation of his home-farm, plus his income, if any, 
from forest and waste, f constitute the “ assets ” of his village. 
Of these assets a fraction, which is very rarely over 50 per cent., 
is taken from him as land revenue. 

(e) Tenants in zamindari villages enjoy varying degrees of 
statutory protection against arbitrary eviction and enhance- 

* See Oudh Rent Act, 1886, clause 3 (8). 
t Usually known as sayar : literally, remainder. 


ment of rent, and have wide, but not complete, liberty of 

(/) The government may remit the land revenue of plots 
or whole villages, for a term or in perpetuity, but such remission 
is always conditional on the behaviour of the grantee, and can 
be revoked for breach of the conditions.! Such land is com¬ 
monly known as muafi or jagir, and its holders are muqfidars or 

Assessment of the Land Revenue 

34. The importance of the land revenue in Indian finance 
is indicated by the proportion it bears to the total revenues of 
the provinces.! In six major provinces taken as a whole it 
amounts to 35 per cent. ; in the United Provinces it exceeds 
one half; in Bengal, on the other hand, owing to the per¬ 
manent settlement, it is only 27 per cent, of the total. Since 
the Indian Government is, with the exception of Soviet 
Russia, the largest landowner on this planet, it is necessary 
to devote a considerable part of this chapter to a brief 
description of how the land revenue is assessed. 

35. Assessment is the main object of the operation called 
“ settlement.” The estate-books of account are the annual land 
record, which may justly be classed among the wonders of the 
modem world. Settlement and, in lesser degree, the land 
record based on it are of vital concern to the agricultural 
community, that is, to nearly 230 million souls. History 
relates that in the early decades of last century one bad settle¬ 
ment brought a whole district of a certain province to temporary 
ruin. According to official reports of the time, the major 
part of the population disappeared and land entirely lost its 
value. A village surrendered by its overtaxed proprietor 
was put up for sale for five rupees at the district court, but found 
no purchaser willing to assume responsibility for the revenue. 

* Full powers of transfer are against the interests of the ryot himself, 
for his credit is thereby increased, which tempts him to run into further 
debt. It is well known, for instance, that the fixed-rate tenants of the 
United Provinces (see para. 23), who have a transferable right, are relatively 
much more heavily indebted than tenants who have only a heritable 

! Good service in the Great War, for example, was freely rewarded, 
in the old traditional manner, by revenue-free grants of land for one or 
more lives. 

t Statutory Commission’s Report, 1930, Vol. I, para. 416. 


Within the official lifetime of the writer, the same village 
changed hands for 25,000 rupees. Conversely, under a good 
settlement agriculture and trade flourish, at the next succeeding 
revision of the revenue the annual cash rent-roll of the estate 
is found to be greatly enhanced, and of this increase Govern¬ 
ment, as owner of the estate, will take its due share. 

36. As already mentioned, re-assessment of the land 
revenue is generally undertaken at intervals of from twenty 
to forty years. In the United Provinces, the Bundelkhand 
division excepted, forty years is now the statutory term. No 
settlement, as has long since been realized, can be final. Large 
areas formerly landlocked are successively opened out by new 
roads and railways, new centres of trade spring up, and the 
value of agricultural produce rises until it falls into line with 
world prices. Again, much waste land is brought under 
cultivation and new leases of such land reveal a sharp upward 
move in rental values. Obviously, it is only fair that the State 
should enjoy some share of these enhanced values created by 
its own enterprise. 

37. But there is another possible side to the picture. 
Permanent flooding, erosion, sand-drift, incursion of the 
dreaded kans weed,* sinkage of the subsoil water, or some other 
kind of natural calamity may have so reduced the outturn 
of the land that a reduction of rents and revenue may be 
imperative. The same necessity followed on the phenomenal 
slump in'produce prices from which the world is now emerging. 
All India over, the current settlements crashed. Wholesale 
interim remissions of rents and revenue were granted and 
revisions of time-expired settlements postponed. Such un¬ 
toward happenings, however, are usually dealt with by more 
summary remedial action than a full-dress settlement, j 

38. A settlement J generally embraces a district, and the 
districts of a province are taken up for re-settlement on a 
roster, as each falls due for revision. Let it be assumed that 
the province is one of zamindari villages and, as is normally 
the case, that revision has been ordered with a view to the 
enhancement of the land revenue demand. By what per- 

* See para. 50. 

t For the unfortunate consequences of a permanent settlement, see 
Indian Statutory Commission’s Report, 1930, Vol. I, para. 38a. 

J This account of settlement is based on the practice of the Central 

centage should payments be increased ? This pivotal question ’ 
forms the subject of a “ Forecast report ” on which Government, 
in due time, issues an appropriate order. 

39. There are several guides to a just decision in the matter. 
The simplest and most obvious is a spontaneous increase in 
the area occupied for cultivation, resulting in a corresponding 
automatic increase in the zamindars ’ rent-rolls. Instead of 
absorbing from 30 to 50 per cent., the settled revenue may 
now be less than one-quarter of the present village assets.* 
Next, the prices of agricultural produce ruling at the last 
revision, say, twenty-five years ago, are compared with those 
now prevailing. If the prices of the chief staples show a rise 
of 100 per cent, (which is not unusual), then after making 
every allowance for increased costs of cultivation, a substantial 
rental and revenue enhancement would commend itself as 
possible. A third indication is provided by the recorded 
figures of sub-rents paid by agreement in recent years. These 
may amount to a staggering multiple of the settled rents. A 
fourth indication comes from the premia which zamindars 
can obtain by agreement on release of surrendered holdings. 

If the incoming tenants are found willing, as a rule, to pay as 
premium a sum equal to twenty or thirty times the settlement 
rental of their new holdings, as is by no means infrequent, 
then that rental is obviously too low. 

40. Extreme caution, nevertheless, is necessary in drawing 
inferences from unclarified statistics. There are, for example, 
certain tracts highly favoured by retired servants, shop¬ 
keepers, soldiers, and other pensioned servants of the State. 
These gentlemen-farmers habitually pay sub-rents and premia 
quite uneconomic and sometimes even fantastic, to acquire 
land with which to amuse themselves in their declining years. 
On the evidence of such transactions, to impose an all-round 
enhancement in rents would be disastrous to the main body 
of genuine cultivators. 

41. From a study of all available data, it may be found 
that though a 50 per cent, enhancement is justified on the 
figures, such a heavy per salium increase is out of the question. 

A fair practicable figure is 25 per cent. Armed with instruc¬ 
tions to this effect, the Settlement Officer embarks on his four 
to five years’ task. He is already possessed of an accurate, 

* For “ assets,” see para. 32 (d) above. 



up-to-date, large-scale map of every village, showing- all field 
boundaries. This preliminary survey has occupied the time 
of a large party * * * § for the preceding three or four years, and 
may cover two or three thousand villages. Traces of these 
maps in hand, expert members of his staff enter in a register 
the serial number each field bears on the map and its class 
of soil—light, heavy, dry, irrigated, and so forth—, by its local 
name. In his field-to-field progress the classifier is attended 
by the cultivators, whose opinion receives the fullest considera¬ 
tion. The Settlement Officer and his assistants check this work 
most thoroughly.! 

42. The next step is to prepare the village field-book, 
or khasra.% In the khasra, also, the fields arc- entered in their 
serial order, but with a plethora of detail, including the area 
of each, the crop or crops found in it, and the name and other 
particulars of the occupier, whether landlord or tenant. The 
most important and contested column of the khasra is that in 
which the right of the man in possession is recorded. On this 
entry most of the appeals against the record hinge. 

43. Now, a single tenant’s land generally consists of 
many fields scattered over the whole village area and often 
distributed among several rights. The liability to pay rent 
being personal, it is necessary to compile, by extraction from 
the khasra, a second register called the jamabandi.§ In this 
are entered under the name of each holder his fields grouped 
according to the right or rights pertaining to them. Thus 
Ram Bakhsh, absolute-occupancy tenant, who also has 
holdings in occupancy and malik maqbuza right, may mono¬ 
polize several continuous pages of the jamabaruli. So will the 

* In the United Provinces, the officer of this party is usually known as 
Record Officer, and in this preliminary survey is usually the District Officer. 
He has one or more assistants who arc usually members of the Provincial 
Civil Service, and are known as Assistant Record Officers. When the 
Settlement Officer is appointed, he takes over the post of Record Officer. 

t In the United Provinces the soil classifiers ( chaktarashes ), do not 
compile a register. They divide up the village into soil tracts on the map ; 
the classification of each field after it has been checked by tlu: Settlement 
Officer is put in the khasra. 

+ The names of the records and registers here used are those in use 
in any part of India north of the Kislna. 

§ In the United Provinces this register is known as the khalamx- 
jamabandi. The two were formerly separate records ; the jamabandi was 
the register of payments of rents. The two have now been combined in 
one. See Glossary. 

home-farm of the proprietors. The register, in effect, is a 
list of holdings. 

44. Thirdly, the settlement officer draws up a highly 
important document known as the wajib-ul-arz or dastur-deh, 
i.e. the statement of village customs. This, amid a mass 
of other interesting information, contains a record of the custom 
of user over the village forest and waste. It is often a remark¬ 
ably close echo of an old English manor-roll. What kind 
of trees may the ryots cut for their ploughs ? Where pasture 
their cattle, sheep, and goats ? What mango or tamarind 
groves are open to the public and what share of forest produce, 
such as honey, myrabolans, and wild fruits may the landlords 
exact from the gatherers ? Is grazing on stubbles free ? If 
so, up to what date ? How are the village servants paid ? 
On these and other kindred subjects local custom varies from 
village to village. It is to be noted that no law is created or 
established by any entry in this paper, which is written through¬ 
out in the indicative mood. It is a statement of fact, but in a 
civil court it is taken as presumptive evidence of the facts 
recorded, until and unless the contrary is proved.* 

45. The map, the khasra, the jamabandi, and the wajib-ul- 
’arz, together with the khewat, or list of proprietors, which may 
contain only one name, but often records as many as fifty, 
constitute in combination what is known as the village record 
of rights. Their compilation in the field is called the 
“ attestation ” of a village. Every stage in this process is 
checked on the spot by the Settlement Officer, j who is lucky 
if he finishes his annual programme of inspection before the 
end of April. On his return to headquarters every year he 
elaborates his proposals for the fixation of the new rents in the 
villages last attested. This is by far the most important and 
difficult part of the settlement. 

46. It must be remembered that he has to propose a 
fair rent for every separate field, and a single field may contain 
many kinds of soil, good and bad, in varying areas. J To 
work by rule of thumb and enhance all rents alike would be 

* In the United Provinces the wajib-ul-arz is not now prepared at 
every settlement, but the existing document is brought up to date. 

t In the United Provinces the check is made by the Assistant Record 
Officers, and the Settlement Officer merely hears objections to their decisions. 

J This is uncommon in the alluvial fields of northern India ; as a 
rule, each field only contains one type of soil. 


absurd, for some payments, for various reasons, must be 
reduced. It may be that owing to desertion and subsequent 
reoccupation of a village, not a single settlement rent survives 
and the new rents may be either far stiffer or far more lenient 
than the old. Clearly, the Settlement Officer must have some 
device for gauging the pitch, i.e. the pressure oi the rent on the 
land in every holding, village, and group of villages—that is, 
whether it is light, severe, or normal—before he can begin to 
meddle with payments. He is not bound to observe the fore¬ 
casted district enhancement of 25 per cent, in every group or 
village, much less in every holding, but he must keep it in 
sight, for it has been fixed after mature deliberation by men 
who know their business, and his final results will be expected 
at least to approximate to his seniors’ estimate. 

47. The methods employed by Settlement Officers to gauge 
the pressure of existing rents and subsequently to work up 
to the forecasted enhancement vary from province to province. 
They are highly technical processes and no attempt will be 
made here to explain the mysteries of the “ soil-unit ” or tire 
annawari systems, which are two out of many. The simple 
application of cash acre-rates, in tracts of diverse kinds of 
soils, many of them often found in a single field, is generally 
impossible. The problem has been, on the whole, adequately 
solved ; unfortunately, as will appear later, the workings of 
its solution are generally unintelligible to the ryot* 

48. Following, then, one or another of the sanctioned 
methods of (a) gauging the pitch of existing rents, (b) raising 
the sum total of those rents to the forecasted figure, the Settle¬ 
ment Officer submits his reports, group by group, on the revised 
rental valuation of tenancy land and the home-farm, along 
with his estimate of the income derived by the proprietors 
from forest and waste. The total of these three items will 
be the assets of the group under report. On receipt of orders, 
he goes on to propose a suitable land revenue for each mauza, 
based on the fraction of assets fixed by statute for the province. 

49. The period from May to November in every year of 
his settlement duty will be occupied in this heavy task. In 
the succeeding cold-weather months he must move out to 

* In some districts the difficulty of the process described is increased 
by the fact that the rents are not shown for every field individually, but 
only for every holding, and must then be broken up into individual field 


3> ^ ^ ® K. 

announce the sanctioned rents and revenues to the assembled 
ryots- and zamindars. “ Announcement ” is usually a trying 
ordeal for the Settlement Officer. No one likes to have his 
taxation increased and all objections must be heard and disposed 
of on the spot, in camp. Comparatively few cultivators allow 
the occasion to pass without entering a vigorous protest. For 
weeks on end the camp is a pandemonium, but given patience 
and good humour on the announcing officer’s part, the turmoil, 
in time, subsides. Their new rental certificates tucked into 
their waistcloths, the ryots of the last village to be dealt with 
depart under the stars to their homes. The settlement, but 
for the tedious process of “ winding up,” is over. 

50. Not all settlements are of the full-dress type above 
outlined. In Bundelkhand, for instance, the peculiar habits 
of the kans weed (Saccharum spontaneum) necessitate a revision 
of the demand every five years. This vegetable menace 
deserves more than a passing reference. It flourishes most 
in tracts of black-cotton soil * and appears in the rainy season 
as a grass five or six feet high with a handsome, silvery head. 
Its roots, often as thick as a man’s finger and penetrating, it 
is alleged, to a depth of forty feet, form a tough network against 
which the plough struggles in vain. Only by incessant 
cultivation can clean land be kept clear of kans, but fields 
which have lain fallow for a year or which have been sown 
with some broadcasted rains-crop are immediately invaded 
by the weed. Fortunately, after running a course of from 
twelve to sixteen years, it perishes. For that period the affected 
land is rendered useless, and the dense cover harbours pig and 
antelope and other destroyers of crops. Heavy tractors have 
been employed against kans with partial success, and when 
young it can be killed by drowning, provided it is completely 
submerged. Bundelkhand is not the only area infested. 
The traveller by rail through the north of the Central Provinces 
cannot but notice the innumerable bandhans, or curving 
embankments, some of them twelve feet high and over a mile 
long, which seam the treeless prairies watered by the Betwa, 
Ken, Sunar, and Nerbudda rivers. They have been built at 
great expense to hold up the monsoon rainfall in tow-ridden 
land, and for four months of the year they turn the areas 
flooded by them into shallow lakes. But where embankment 
is not feasible, whole villages drop out of cultivation and come 

* See Chapter I, para. 8. 


under the plough again with disconcerting rapidity, as the tide 
of kans flows and ebbs. For such areas short-term settlements 
are most suitable. 

51. In really backward tracts, where rents may be found 
to be based on the plough, the axe, or even the hearth, cut- 
and-dried methods may have to be jettisoned. The official 
code and regulations were of little avail in the case of some 
twenty Bhil villages, the settlement of which fell to the lot of 
the writer early in the present decade. The hitch lay in the 
objection of the excitable aboriginals to the mapping of their 
lands. Some hundreds of them, each man with his bow in 
one hand and the regulation five loose arrows in the other, 
assembled, and the following dialogue look place between them 
and the writer. 

Aboriginal. —“ We are tired of paying sixteen rupees per 
hearth to our Thakur.* Some of us have only one field, some 
have many. Assess us according to our wealth or poverty ! ” 

Settlement Officer. —“ Very well. First, we must measure 
your fields. The surveyor will arrive next week.” 

Aboriginal. —“ Quite impossible ! If any surveyor dares 
to set foot on our land our women will raise the kilki (war-cry) 
and then we shall be obliged to fill him full of arrows.” 

Settlement Officer. —Then what do you suggest ? ” 

Aboriginal. —“ It is your business to make suggestions. 
We are ignorant men.” 

In the end, with the help of the gamelis (headmen) a 
method of rental valuation based on the bijai (seed-capacity) 
of each plot was worked out to the general satisfaction. As 
there were fifteen different kinds of seed-grain to be considered, 
varying in size from mustard to maize, the complications may 
be imagined, but for six years that curious settlement held 
good, at the end of which period the villagers, comforted by 
reassuring propaganda, consented to a survey. 

52. During the currency of a settlement the State will 
in no circumstances enhance the revenue. On the other 
hand, crop-failures or a catastrophic fall in prices may compel 
it to remit a substantial part of the demand ; in fact, not a 
year passes without the necessity of such action arising. Thus, 
in the United Provinces ever since 1931 the annual remission 

* A title meaning “ lord,” used of Rajputs. 


of revenue due to the slump in agricultural prices has been 
Rs.ii2 lakhs (£840,000), over 16 per cent, of the demand.* 
In 1936 the Madras Government, which has 26'16 million 
cultivated acres of ryotwari area in its charge, wiped off nearly 
55! lakhs (£416,750). The magnitude of these sums 
emphasizes the shortcomings of a revenue system which debars 
the State from recouping in good years, at least partially, the 
enormous losses it incurs in bad. At rock-bottom the land-tax 
is a share in the annual produce of the land. Manifestly, for a 
country like India, where the insecurity of the harvests is 
extreme, the ideal land-tax would fluctuate with the condi¬ 
tions, in particular the crop-outturn and price-level, of each 
year. As matters are, there are frequent fluctuations in favour 
of the landlord, but none in favour of the State. 

53. In many of the Indian States it does so fluctuate, as 
was the prevailing custom for crops coming to the threshing- 
floor in and prior to the days of the Moguls.f The Ruler 
takes a fixed share of the produce, commutes it into cash at 
market rates, and collects the revenue in rupees from the 
ryots. Nothing, in theory, could be fairer ; indeed, in small, 
well managed estates where the village community flourishes 
in full vigour it often works admirably. But owing to abuses 
which seem inseparable from the system, it is almost universally 
unpopular. The State ryot clamours for a fixed rental on 
British India lines, and beyond a doubt the lata-kunta system, 
as it is called, is doomed. In at least one province a sliding 
scale of land revenue, based on produce-prices, has been 
introduced, but there are disturbing factors other than prices. 
Fame if not fortune awaits the deviser of a system simple and 
inexpensive, (it takes years to recoup the cost of a full-dress 
settlement), which will bring prompt relief to the rural rent 
and revenue-payer in bad seasons, while ensuring to the 
Government a just share in the profits of a bonanza harvest 
coinciding with a good market. The automatic adjustment 
of rent (as distinct from revenue) to meet major fluctuations 
in prices is much to be desired, but has not yet been achieved. 

54. The land record is simply the settlement map, khasra, 
jamabandi, and khewat of each village, annually brought up to 
date by an immense staff of patwaris, inspectors ( kamngos ), 

* During this period there were also many other remissions due to 

■f See Moreland, op. cit., passim. 


and superintendents. The United Provinces alone employ 
over 25,000 patwaris. From one point of view the above- 
named four papers and their derivative abstracts are the books 
of account on which the land revenue is twice a year calculated 
and collected. Their accuracy at any given moment is of 
supreme importance. For instance, failure to bring on the 
books all transfers of tenancy or proprietary right by surrender, 
inheritance, or otherwise, would throw the whole machinery 
of collection into confusion. From another standpoint, the 
Government as overlord must be kept informed of any 
shrinkage or expansion in its landed estate. The occupied 
area is constantly lapsing into waste, waste is constantly coming 
under the plough.* it is the patwari 's business to record all 
such changes in the village map, khnsra, and jamabandi. When 
it is considered that a single rice village may consist of 15,000 
separately mapped and numbered plots, the magnitude of the 
land-records staff is no longer matter of surprise. The check 
of their work in the field is carried out incessantly by every 
touring revenue officer, from the latest-joined Assistant to the 
Commissioner of a division. Again, on the annual statements 
of crop-areas, compiled from the khasra, the commercial world 
depends for information regarding the great staples, cotton, 
wheat, rice, oilseeds, and the like. Preliminary and final 
quantitative forecasts of crop-outturns, also, must be punctually 
submitted to facilitate forward transactions. In some seasons 
wheat is available for export ; in others it must be imported. 
The price of oilseeds in the Argentine is affected by the 
prospects of that crop in India, and vice versa. The writer 
once found a group of traders in an obscure provincial town of 
the Nerbudda valley poring over their weekly cable announcing 
the rate of Lamalla linseccl. Lamalla, though they knew it not, 
was La Plata ! Finally, in addition to collecting and tabulating 
information of the kind described above, tire land-records staff 
is at the disposal of every court and department of Government 
that seeks enlightenment or evidence on any subject affecting 
the rural community or any member of it, or desires to 
promulgate any order in half a million villages. The accuracy 
of the returns submitted by the staff is probably unapproachcd 
in any other country in the world. By comparison, the 
agricultural statistics periodically published in the United 

* Such changes are rare in the well-established cultivation of northern 
India, but there are constant lapses into or from fallow, which have much 
the same effect. 


Kingdom would strike a competent patwari, who investigated 
the methods of their compilation, as a mass of assumed and 
unverifiable figures. 

Agrarian Discontent 

55. In these days it is scarcely possible to open an Indian 
newspaper without coming on a reference to agrarian dis¬ 
content in some part or other of the country. The irritant 
cause is commonly an alleged failure on the part of the Govern¬ 
ment or the landlords to give suitable remissions in land 
revenue or rents after some disaster to the crops or a steep 
decline in prices. Accusations of callousness and greed are 
flung wholesale, generally with little regard to the facts. Or 
the countryside may be swept by one of those periodical fits 
of exasperation * at the high interest charged by rural money¬ 
lenders, to which the Indian peasant is peculiarly liable. His 
impatience then occasionally finds relief in decapitating his 
creditor, as the latter lies asleep in his verandah, with a 
chopper. In its more serious form the discontent may develop 
into a no-rent campaign or widespread repudiation of all 
private debt. 

56. Of a bad government it has been well said f that the 
most critical moment in its life is the moment in which it 
embarks on reform. The remark applies with almost equal 
force to governments whose motives and performances alike 
are unimpeachable. Now that the ryot has become an elector, 
agitation of the kind referred to is not likely to decrease ; in 
fact, it is bound to become more vocal and intense. As the 
rural community is the largest section of the Indian population 
and the land revenue the keystone of the country’s finance, a 
few observations on agrarian unrest and the frame of mind in 
which to meet it may not be considered an impertinence. 
The individual addressed is a junior civil servant, posted, 
let it be assumed, to his first district. 

57. (a) Do nothing, by injudicious word or deed, to 
weaken the “ revenue-paying conscience.” It is a tender 
growth and much disliked by a certain type of popularity¬ 
hunting politician. Once impaired, it is difficult to restore. 
The Jats of a certain group of ryotwari villages when offered 

* E.g. the Deccan riots of 1874, which led to the passing of the Deccan 
Agriculturists Relief Act in 1879. 

t DeTocqueville, op. cit., p. 152. 


waste land free of rent for a term of years, replied to the writer, 
indignantly : “ Are we Brahman beggars, that we should feed 
free from the hand of the Sarkar ? Assess us to a fair prairie 
rent until the land comes into full bearing order, and we will 
pay ! ” That is the spirit to encourage. 

(i) Be patient ! Possibly the ryot has not had a square 
deal. Let his spokesmen talk till they are tired, up to three 
in the morning, if necessary. Give him what he calls sunai — 
a hearing-—and the battle is half won. If the villagers insist 
on your seeing the crops with your own eyes, consent with 
alacrity, and then proceed to show your good will by walking 
them off their legs. Your trouble will be appreciated. Sym¬ 
pathy and a sententious saying or Lwo will carry you far. 
“ Death and the tax-collector, friend, arc the only certainties 
in life.” “ I myself would rather break stones for a living than 
plough the ungrateful soil, but to every man his karma (destiny) 
and next year we may have good rains.” 

(c) A great defect in all settlement systems, in which the 
rural community is deeply interested, has been the mystery 
which surrounds them. Every Indian can understand how 
customs-dues, octroi, and even income-tax are assessed, but in 
general the annawari and invariably the “ soil-unit ” method 
of rent-fixation (to cite two out of many) are entirely beyond 
the ryot’s comprehension. It is certain that in future he will 
not submit to any land-tax enhancement the limits of which, 
for all he knows, depend on the arbitrary whim of a local 
officer. There is trouble ahead in this quarter of the adminis¬ 
trative compass. The most successful civil officer will be he 
who grasps in all its implications the meaning of the magic 
word samjhana (to make to understand), and acts accordingly. 

(d) Mistrust the “ dusty answer ” of statistics unless you 
are satisfied how they have been compiled. The compiling 
agency is often both stupid and venal. Regrettable conse¬ 
quences on a large scale have before now followed neglect 
of this precaution. 

(e) Cultivate serenity, but avoid the excessive official 
optimism which makes the intelligent Indian taxpayer gnash 
his teeth. “ You officers on high salaries,” a hard-driven 
malguzar was once heard to remark, “ have a mania for calling 
other people prosperous.” 

58. The poverty of the great mass of cultivators stares 
the observer in the face. How to relieve it is certainly the 

most urgent problem of the day. It is being attacked on 
many sides, among others, by the preaching of improved 
methods of agriculture, provision of more and better education, 
co-operative credit, temperance movements, and associations 
to check extravagant social expenditure. One most promising 
line of approach is the action taken to consolidate scattered 
tenancy holdings, for it proceeds from the spontaneous desire 
of the cultivators themselves and has in it the germ of vitality. 
Not much can be done to help the ryot whose area is too small 
to support him. But there are millions whose holdings would 
be “ economic ” if only they were not fragmented—a matter 
which is described elsewhere.* * * § Action for the consolidation 
of holdings is now in force in more than one province, notably 
the Punjab and the Central Provinces, and the movement 
gathers momentum in every year that passes. In the Punjab 
consolidation is carried out by means of co-operative societies, 
and their processes and achievements are related in a later 
chapter, f In the Central Provinces consolidation is carried 
out under the Consolidation of Holdings Act of 1928 ; and in 
the Chattisgarh division alone, up to 1937, over a million 
acres belonging to nearly 100,000 holders have been dealt 
with, at a cost of four annas (4 \d.) an acre, which is willingly 
paid by the ryot. The procedure involved is real education in 
democracy, for if the majority in a village apply for consolida¬ 
tion, the good work is carried out regardless of the feelings of 
the dissenting few. No better instance could be cited of the 
superiority of evolutionary over revolutionary methods of 

Agricultural Indebtedness 

59. The smallness of many holdings in India together 
with the fragmentation of most of them are two of the princi¬ 
pal causes of agricultural indebtedness. J The total figure of 
agricultural debt is enormously high. Maclagan in 1911 
estimated the agricultural debt of India at 300 crores of 
rupees.§ Darling in 1922 put it at 600 crores.|j In 1930 the 
Central Banking Enquiry Committee, on the basis of provincial 

* Chapter IV, paras. 34-5. 

f Chapter X, para. 35, with Appendix. 

X The farmer also suffers from many other disabilities which contribute 
to this condition. See Chapter IV, paras. 36-40. 

§ See Note on Agricultural Indebtedness in India , p. 2. 

|| See The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt, p. 18. 


investigations, raised the figure to 900 crores.* Since then, 
as the result of the agricultural depression,! it has risen by a 
further amount which has been variously estimated at anything 
between 50 and 100 per cent. It is unnecessary to examine 
the accuracy of these estimates : in amounts so huge, a few 
crores more or less make no material difference. 

60. Neither in India nor in any other country can a farmer 
avoid incurring debt. Agriculture is an industry, and like 
any other industrialist, the farmer must borrow to finance his 
operations. He needs long-term loans to provide fixed capital 
for his permanent improvements ; he needs short-term loans 
to provide working capital for his current expenses ; and in a 
bad year he may have to borrow to pay his rent or (in India) 
his revenue. If he is provident, as soon as lie has reaped 
his harvest and sold his produce, he will pay his tradesmen’s 
bills, meet his interest charges, and cover his overdraft: and 
then all will be well with him. For it is not borrowing that 
matters, but failure to repay ; not the fact of incurring debt, 
but the condition of indebtedness—a condition that is apt 
to pass into insolvency if neglected. And indebtedness, often 
amounting to insolvency, is the normal condition of a majority 
of Indian farmers. 

61. The difference between them and the farmers of other 
countries lies chiefly in this—that the latter seldom borrow 
except for productive purposes, whilst a considerable part 
of the borrowings of Indian farmers arc for unproductive 
purposes. Their short-term loans, indeed, arc expended as 
a rule profitably, on such objects as the purchase of seed or 
cattle, the payment of wages, or the subsistence of themselves 
and their families. But of their long-term loans only a small 
portion is devoted to such objects as the building of wells, 
the terracing of fields, the purchase of improved machinery, 
or of additional land. By far the greater portion is spent on 
unproductive expenditure such as litigation, the repayment of 
ancestral debt, social and religious ceremonies, and generally 
on the maintenance of social prestige, which is a most important 
matter amongst the higher castes. Such debt is not really 
agricultural debt at all: it is merely non-agricultural debt 

* £675,000,000 : see Report, p. 55. If Burma is excluded the figure 
of 900 crores would be reduced to 850 crores, or from £675 millions to 
£6374 millions. 

t It began in 1930. 


incurred by a person who is an aristocrat, but also happens 
to be an agriculturist. 

62. Indian farmers, apart from that small class which can 
be described as well-to-do,* possess few reserve resources. 
Their payments of interest and their repayments of short¬ 
term loans must be met, with all their other charges, out of the 
proceeds derived from the sale of their crops. In a good year, 
they can usually keep abreast of these payments ; but if the 
crops fail or agricultural prices fall materially, then the debt 
charges remain unpaid, and the debt grows by accumulation 
of compounded interest and by the passing of short-term into 
long-term loans. This part of the total debt, whatever the 
original purpose for which it is raised, also becomes un¬ 

63. Of the total volume of debt, all that part which has 
been raised by tenants who have no transferable right in their 
land, and a certain part of that which has been raised by land¬ 
lords and others who do possess such a right, is covered by no 
security. The rest is secured by land-mortgages, and to a 
very small extent by mortgages of trees, houses, jajmanis,\ or 
other property. But unsecured debt is entirely dependent on 
the debtor’s personal reputation, on the “ triple chain ” of 
caste, custom, and character, and on the attachment of the 
peasant to his land—in a word, on the debtor’s “ credit ” in 
the literal sense. In such circumstances, the moneylender 
must demand high rates of interest. He renders important 
services to agriculture, but he charges a very high price for 
those services, whilst he is often guilty of usury and other 
serious malpractices. Smaller cultivators become his bonds¬ 
men. Most of the benefits derived from agriculture or irriga¬ 
tion accrue to him, not to them. The peasant debtor must be 
content with making a poor livelihood, and allow profits 
to go to his creditor. It is not strange that he has little incentive 
to experiment with improvements, or to work any harder 
than he does already. 

64. But if it be true, in the words of the proverb, that 
“ the bania goes in like a needle and comes out like.a sword,” 
he is none the less an indispensable cog in the economic 
machine, and much of the abuse commonly levelled at him is 
unmerited. It is his little capital (seldom more than 1,000 

* Chapter IV, para. 33. 

f See Chapter II, Appendix I. 


rupees), which, revolving in its own narrow little circle, brings 
crop after crop to the threshing-floor. If the crops succeed, 
then he receives his interest at due date, and all is well with 
him as well as with his clients. But if the crops fail, then both 
he and his clients must tighten their belts. Meantime, his 
bad debts are colossal, and he protects himself in the only 
way open to him. Government efforts to supplant him by 
co-operative credit societies and land-mortgage banks have not 
been conspicuously successful. It is at least arguable that a 
more helpful and conciliatory policy towards the bania, who 
is a hard man to beat, might have reactions favourable to the 
ryot. He might, for example, be given better legal facilities 
for prompt recovery of his fair dues. For the ryot, when in a 
borrowing mood, can be “ as unscrupulous as any member 
of the Smart Set,”—to quote from an official report not thirty 
years old. Of millions of his kind it is safe to assert that if 
all their debts were liquidated to-day, their credit would be 
pledged to saturation-point in a month or two. The problem, 
at bottom, is largely one of psychology, and the key to its 
solution is better education and a realization of the folly of 
insane expenditure on social ceremonies. The schools should 
teach that lifelong indebtedness is not the normal state of 
man, and is in fact discreditable. Spasmodic pressure brought 
to bear on moneylenders at irregular intervals in “ debt- 
conciliation proceedings,” i.e. “ voluntary ” scaling-down of 
debts under the persuasion of an officer, is of doubtful efficacy. 
Once the storm has blown over, the bania recoups his losses in 
cash and self-respect by doubling or trebling his normal rates 
of interest, and the last state of his clients may be worse than 
the first. That, at all events, was the result of “conciliation” in 
a district known to the writer. 

65. Just as many tenancy and rent Acts have been passed 
to protect the tenant against his landlord, so, too, has there 
been much debt legislation to protect the cultivator against 
the moneylender. Amongst earlier measures of the kind may 
be mentioned the Land Alienation Acts of the Punjab and 
Bundelkhand—which prevent the transfer of land by an agri¬ 
culturist to anybody but another agriculturist; the Deccan 
Agriculturists Relief Act of 1879 ; and the Usurious Loans Act 
of 1918, with subsequent amendments, both of which have to a 
large degree failed in their purpose. The Land Improvement 
Loans Act and the Agriculturists’ Loans Act of 1883 and 
1884 enable provincial Governments to make loans to culti- 

vators, but art too hedged about with safeguards to be popular. 
In the last few years, as the result chiefly of the agricultural 
depression which began in 1930, legislation intended both 
to reduce the burden of existing indebtedness and to retard 
its further growth has been passed in several provinces. In 
the Central Provinces, conciliation boards have also been 
created for the adjustment of debt. Finally, mention must be 
made of the Co-operative Credit Societies Act of 1904 and the 
Co-operative Societies Act of 1912, which have done much 
partly to relieve the burden of indebtedness, and partly to 
develop other aspects of social welfare. The co-operative 
movement, however, is fully described in a later chapter, and 
no more need be said on this subject here. 

Future Developments 

66. Formidable but inspiring is the task which confronts 
the Civil Service in the cities, towns, and villages of the new 
India. That vast mass of humanity whose name heads this 
chapter will not be submissive and inert much longer. New 
ideas and aspirations are blowing through and over it, the old 
bonds of custom are becoming weaker, the old unquestioning 
acceptance of whatever fate, personified by the civil officer, may 
send, is giving way. The ryot s leaders clamour in one breath 
for better economic conditions and lower taxation. Schemes 
of social, educational, hygienic, moral, and aesthetic uplift 
struggle for existence against the numbing frost of financial 
stringency. All these reforms are admirable and most of 
them long overdue, but where shall the money for them be 
found ? The opium revenue, four million pounds sterling, 
has gone, a heavy sacrifice for a poor country like India. 
Receipts from excise, which in provincial finance were once 
second only to the revenue from the land, are in the opinion 
of many doomed to virtual extinction. Province after province 
declares its intention to enforce prohibition in the near future- 
exemption, be it noted, to be made “ in favour of aboriginals 
and Europeans.’ 1 The land revenue itself, as far as can be 
foreseen, offers little scope for expansion and its principles 
and administration are no longer immune from attack. 

67. The most obvious and possibly the only way out of 
the impasse is to increase the productive capacity of the 200 
million cultivators, and raise their standard of living. That 
is a long row to hoe. First, in competing with the farmer of 

the world’s more temperate climes, the ryot is severely handi¬ 
capped by sheer physical unhcalthincss. Malaria, hook¬ 
worm, guinea-worm, cholera, and other bowel complaints 
slay and enfeeble him by die million, all of them ailments 
from which his rivals in Europe and the United States are 
exempt.* Vigour and enterprise are not to be expected in 
a rural population every member of which, on the average, is 
sick for one month out of the twelve. Secondly, the ryot 
works under the disadvantage of extreme insecurity of crop- 
outturn. Thirdly, owing to imperfect elementary education, 
he falls an easy prey to every wind-bag agitator and every 
breath of false rumour. A strong medical service, improved 
agricultural methods, and more education arc his most urgent 

68 . Hope for the future lies in the contemplation of what 
has been achieved in the past. The old, fanatic prejudice 
against vaccination, inoculation, and recourse to the in¬ 
patient wards of government hospitals has, within living 
memory, lessened to vanishing point. Though crop-failures 
still occur over vast areas, the spread of irrigation is gradually 
limiting their range ; and owing to increased mobility of 
labour and goods (notably foodstuffs), the sting of famine 
has been drawn. Indeed, the Famine codes published 
in the early years of this century are mostly obsolete 
and lie undusted on the office shelves. Drought-resisting, 
frost-resisting, blight-resisting varieties of many important 
staples have been evolved by the experts of the agricultural 
departments, who declare that further triumphs arc to be 
expected. Opinion in favour of compulsory primary educa¬ 
tion is hardening; the time approaches when resistance to 
it will be impossible. Great events are rapidly taking shape 
on the sub-continent of India, and the young entry of civil 
officers in every service will be in at their birth. Adventure 
is in the air. The old administrative landmarks may have 
changed their shape and position or even disappeared, but 
who would not rather sail uncharted or partially charted seas 
than travel on a personally conducted tour ? 


See Chapter VII, passim. 



Agriculture — Crops, Farmers, and Departments 


i. India has always been an agricultural country ; and 
through all the ages of her history her agricultural products 
and processes have changed but little. Many of the crops 
that are grown today have been grown from time immemorial; 
and the system of farming as we now find it, though it may 
have been improved in details by man’s ingenuity or modified 
to suit local conditions, yet in essentials has remained un¬ 
changed for hundreds of years. Nor has the nature of the 
Indian cultivator changed. Like his remote ancestors, he 
still grows those crops that are best suited to the position of 
his holding. He still concentrates his time and his effort 
and the means at his disposal on his cultivation, for the main¬ 
tenance of himself and his family. And he still has to contend 
with many difficulties. I propose in this and the next chapter 
to consider firstly, his crops ; secondly, his difficulties ; and 
thirdly, the steps taken during the last seventy-five years to 
assist him in the fulfilment of his object. 

The Principal Crops and Their Distribution 
2. The principal crops * in British India are shown in the 
diagram on p. 114, which is taken from the Agricultural 
Statistics of India for 1933-34. The total area of India f is 1,162 
million acres, of which 687 million form the area of British 
India. The area used for arable farming, as shown in the 
diagram, is 232 million acres, or 35 per cent, of the whole ; 

* A list of Indian crops with their botanical and vernacular names 
will be found in the Imperial Gazetteer, vol. Ill, pp. 98, gg. 
f Including Burma. 

8—(495) 1 13 

Diagram, showing crop-areas in millions of acres 











M 6-T C , 









Other food crops, 




Jute, 2-5 

Rape and 
mustard, 3-3 



Fodder crops, 




Other non-food crops, 6-8 

Other food crops are pulses other than gram, minor millets, condi¬ 
ments, spices. 

Other non-food crops are oilseeds and fibre crops other than those 
mentioned, drugs and narcotics, and miscellaneous inedible. 

Total cultivated area, British India . . 367-2 million acres. 

Within thin line, area under food crops . 217-7 „ „ 

Within thick line, area under non-food crops 49-5 „ „ 


but 35 million acres of this area is double-cropped,* thus raising 
the gross sown area to 367 million acres. Of the rest of British 
India, 22 per cent, is land totally unfit for cultivation, 13 per 
cent, is covered by forests, 7 per cent, is current fallow, and 
23 per cent, is cultivable but not yet cultivated. In theory, 
this cultivable land represents the area of possible expansion ; 
but in fact, a large part of it could only be brought under the 
plough at prohibitive expense. Most of it is level, but much 
is either in need of drainage, or suffers from alkali, f or lacks 
water, or is malarious, or is too shallow to grow anything but 
the lesser millets. Those tracts which lack water are the least 
unpromising ; many thousands of acres which would have 
been in this class sixty years ago have now become fertile by 
the provision of irrigation facilities.! Of the total cultivated 
area, 80 per cent, is sown with the food crops required to 
feed India’s large population. Little of this produce is 
exported. Such export as exists is almost entirely confined to 
the non-food, or money, crops, the better types of rice, and, 
in recent years, a certain quantity of wheat. 

3. The cropping of any individual village is governed by 
two groups of factors—the “ regional ” and the “ local.” 
Regional influences may be natural or artificial. Of the 
former, the most important are variations of temperature, 
the amount and distribution of the annual rainfall, and the 
nature of the surface soils. Of the latter, the chief are facilities 
for irrigation to supplement the rainfall, the introduction of 
new crops or new types of an existing crop, and the develop¬ 
ment of industries. These regional influences decide what 
crops it is possible to grow, and to a certain extent what crops 
it is profitable to grow. The selection of crops to suit different 
villages and different fields depends on local factors, of which 
the most important are (1) the prevalent system of farming ; 
(2) the supply of subsoil water ; (3) the position of the field 
on the local contour, a factor which affects the depth of soil, 
its ability to retain moisture, and its fertility ; (4) the distance 
of the field from the village ; (5) the character of local 
communications ; (6) market facilities ; and (7) to some 
extent, the castes of the villagers. 

* See Chapter I, para. 53. 

t See Chapter I, para. 7, for a description of reh. 

{ A good instance is the Sukkur Barrage, which is expected to bring 
into cultivation some 3-J million acres in Sind that were formerly un¬ 
cultivated. See Chapter I, para. 20. 

Regional Influences and Crop Distribution 

4. The tabular statement at the end of this chapter, which 
shows the areas of the principal crops in British provinces 
and certain major States, will serve as a basis for discussion of 
the regional influences which govern crop distribution. The 
statement is of a general nature, for many different varieties 
are included under each crop head. 

5. (a) Annual temperature .—India falls into two regions. 
One is the northern or temperate region, which has a definite 
cold season ; the other is the southern or tropical region, 
which has little or no cold season, except in tracts that lie 
inland and at a relatively high altitude.* The dividing line 
between them runs from the west coast near Surat up the 
Tapti valley to Khandesh, and thence eastwards to Nagpur, 
whence it bears north-east to a point 100 to 150 miles north 
of Calcutta. The two regions lie north and south of this line 
respectively. The difference between the kharif and rabi f 
is strongly marked in the northern region. 

6. Certain crops, namely wheat, barley, gram, linseed, 
and rape are temperate or semi-temperate species, which are 
always sown at the beginning of the cold season and belong 
chiefly to the northern region ; in the southern region they 
occur either not at all or in small amounts. J Wheat appears 
to be a partial exception, but where this is not due to elevation, 
it is explained by a difference in varieties : in the south the 
wheat is macaroni wheat (Triticum durum), in the north it is 
bread wheat (Triticum sativum). 

7. The other crop species are tropical, requiring both a 
high temperature and sufficient moisture. Most, if not all, 
varieties of these crops can be sown at any time of year in the 
southern region, where it is always warm, provided that the 
water-supply is adequate : the amount of water required 
increases progressively from north to south. These tropical 
species, if given sufficient water, can also establish themselves 
in the northern region when the temperature rises with the 
movement of the sun over the equator ; they can be sown as. 

* Gf. Chapter I, para. 38, relating to local variations of temperature. 

f See Chapter I, para. 53. 

t In the Central Provinces and Bombay, which are crossed by the 
dividing line, these crops are found entirely north of it. Their presence in 
Hyderabad is explained by the fact that there is here a cold season, due 
to the altitude. 


early as April or May, but as a rule the moisture required for 
their sowing does not come till the rains begin in June. It is 
too late to sow them after July.* It is to be noted, however, 
that the tropical varieties found in the northern region differ 
considerably from the southern varieties, especially in respect 
of the time they take to mature. Thus cotton is found in 
appreciable amounts in all tracts except Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, 
and Assam ; but the northern cotton, sown in June and July 
and watered only by the rainfall, is for the most part a short- 
staple type with a five months’ growth, whilst such indigenous 
long-staple cottons as exist are to be found only south of the 
line f and have a longer period of growth. Sugar-cane is 
essentially a tropical species, though its wide distribution does 
not suggest it. But the cane in the south differs greatly 
from the cane that was till recently prevalent in the United 
Provinces ; it has a longer growth, a heavier yield, a greater 
thickness, and a much higher sugar-content than any cane to 
be found, even today, in the northern region. Of the oilseeds, 
groundnut till a relatively recent date was more or less restricted 
to the red soils } of Madras and Hyderabad. Its extension 
into such areas as Khandesh (Bombay) and the Central 
Provinces § as a rotational crop with cotton is new ; but the 
type dominant in the red soils is a trailing plant with a bold 
seed, which takes a long time to mature, whilst the other type 
has small seeds, grows in bunches, and matures more quickly. 
Castor, also essentially a crop for a warm climate, appears in 
any great quantity only in the south, where it is usually sown 
in separate fields, so that its area can be measured ; but in 
many parts of the Gangetic valley, it is grown with other 
crops, and if the sum total of plants scattered in small numbers 
over hundreds of thousands of small holdings could be ascer¬ 
tained it would certainly be considerable. Linseed on the 
whole requires a cooler climate, and is concentrated in the 
north of the Central Provinces, the Bundelkhand districts 
of the United Provinces, and Orissa, which abuts on them ; 
in these tracts it is grown in heavy soils which retain the mon¬ 
soon moisture, and are usually devoted to unirrigated rabi 

* A few varieties of sesamum can be sown, just north of the line, as 
late as September. 

j- Also for about too miles in Gujarat, where by reason of the proximity 
of tlie sea the climate is semi-tropical. 

{ See Chapter I, para. 9. 

§ There is nothing to prevent its extension into areas, such as the 
United Provinces, where labour is plentiful and the rainfall is not excessive. 


crops, whilst it is also grown in the Gangetic alluvium of the 
submontane tracts of the United Provinces and Bihar. 

8. (b) Rainfall .—The suitability of particular crops to a 
particular tract depends on the amount of rain which it receives, 
and to some extent on the character of the early falls and on 
the dates when they begin.* For instance, rice grown with¬ 
out irrigation requires not less than 50 in. of rain. Cotton, 
juar, and bajra do not thrive if the rainfall exceeds 40 in., and 
for many short-staple cottons 25 in. would be enough, if well 
distributed. Maize and jute germinate best in high tempera¬ 
tures and are intolerant of heavy rain in the early stages of 
their growth, though both of them, especially jute, can stand 
large amounts when once established. Rice can be grown in 
peninsular India at any time of year if there is sufficient 
moisture ; but it grows best in the Madras coastlands, where 
the irrigation dams in such deltas as those of the Godavari 
and Kistna make it possible not only to sow several times but 
to sow the later and better types of rice. The Gangetic valley 
is also a tract suited to rice ; the crop is at its best in Bengal,f 
with its tropical climate and heavy rainfall, but the earlier 
and coarser paddies are also found over considerable areas 
further to the north-west, where the warm period is shorter 
and the rainfall is lighter. The rice tract of the Central 
Provinces abuts on Orissa, and though it does not get so heavy 
a rainfall as Bengal and Bihar, it gets enough for the early 
rices and too much for cotton, juar, and bajra. Finally, in 
Bombay rice is almost entirely concentrated in the narrow 
coastlands between the Western Ghats and the sea, with a 
rainfall of 100 in. to 200 in. Once the Ghats are crossed, the 
rainfall drops sharply to 30 in. or less, and one passes abruptly 
from a humid to a semi-arid climate, to a different soil, and 
to the region of cotton, juar, and bajra. 

9. Jute, again, is concentrated in Bengal, Assam, Bihar, 
and Orissa ; and this concentration is partly due to the rain¬ 
fall. The tract usually-receives substantial showers in April 
and May, which permits the crop to become well-established 
before the rains really break—an important advantage. The 

* For the monsoon and its characteristics, see Chapter I, para. 26 st sqq. 

t The rice area along the east coast and the head of the Bay of Bengal 
is about 55 million acres. 

+ Other causes for the concentration of jute in the north-east are 
(1) sufficiency of water for retting; (2) concentration of the industry 
in the same tract; (3) proximity to the market. 


crop could be, but is not, grown in Madras, the United 
Provinces, and even the Central Provinces; the reason is 
that the rainfall of April and May must there be replaced by 
artificial irrigation. 

10. The requirements of cotton, especially the pre¬ 
dominant short-staple types, of the early varieties of ground¬ 
nut, of juar, bajra, and of several of the kharif pulses are the 
exact opposite of those of rice. They belong to semi-arid 
tracts where the rainfall is not persistent and the drainage is 
good. They may be grown in the same provinces as rice, but 
seldom in the same districts. The Central Provinces have 
substantial areas of both cotton and rice, but one dominates 
the west and the other the east. In short, though it may be 
possible to grow in almost any part of India during the summer 
crops that are naturally at home in the south, yet in the absence 
of irrigation it is the nature of the monsoon which decides 
whether the crop shall be some variety of rice or else cotton, 
mar, or bajra , or even one of the lesser millets. 

11. (c) Soils :—The soils of India can be simply classified 
in five main groups, in accordance with their origins.* In 
all these groups but one, it is the position of a soil on the local 
contour, rather than the nature of the rock from .which it was 
derived, which is of importance in deciding whether it is suited 
to particular crops ; for it is on its position that depend its 
capacity for retaining moisture and its fertility. In the alluvial 
group, where the soils owe their existence to river action in 
the shape of erosion or flood, they naturally vary according to 
the character of the rock or soil from which they are derived. 

12. (i) The red soils .—The thin, reddish soils of the 
Mysore uplands and other similar tracts are usually fit only 
for the lesser millets, of which ragi is predominant; it is, 
indeed, confined almost entirely to southern India. At lower 
elevations the red soils are deeper, darker, and more fertile, 
and grow such crops as cotton and groundnut (of the trailing 
variety), with rice in the well-watered tracts. At the time when 
attempts were first made to improve the indigenous cottons, 
American varieties were tried everywhere, but it was only in 
these red soils that they established themselves. 

13. (ii) The black soils .—The black soils are found in a 
country of low rainfall, but are extremely retentive of moisture. 

* See Chapter I, paras. 7-12, for description of these soil-groups. 

/ '.V s “9 

As in the red soil group, position plays a prominent part in 
determining soil-values. On the upper slopes the soil is thin 
and the commonest crop is the spiked millet (bajra). Lower 
down the slopes, the soil is 3 ft. to 4 ft. deep, containing a 
varying proportion of lime nodules and overlaying a stratum 
of decomposed trap : this is the true black-cotton soil, which 
grows short-staple cotton and the great millet ( juar ) in enormous 
areas. At the bottom of the slopes and in the river valleys, 
the depth increases to 10 ft. to 20 ft.; nodules are absent; 
and in spite of the low rainfall, the soil is unworkable during 
the monsoon and much too waterlogged for cotton or juar. 
But though these soils lie in the tropical or southern region, 
yet because of their capacity for holding water and of the cold 
climate due to elevation, they can be sown in September and 
October with rabi crops of temperate or northern varieties, 
such as linseed, wheat, and gram, which grow without irriga¬ 
tion over considerable areas in the Central Provinces and 
Central India. Except where black soil is of moderate depth 
and lies over a layer of shaly or decomposed trap, it does not 
respond to irrigation. No soil plays a greater part in deciding 
the regional cropping than this. 

14. (iii) The lateritic soils. —A large part of the rice area 
lies in the lateritic soils : but whether this is due to the soil or 
the climatic conditions is uncertain. The soil is undoubtedly 
suitable to rice, for it permits the circulation of water by 
drainage, and rice does not thrive in stagnant water. Where 
lateritic soils are found in undulating country away from the 
coastal belt—as, for instance, in the Central Provinces—rice 
is grown in the lighter soil and rabi crops in the heavier soil 
of the hollows, where the drainage is less satisfactory. 

15. (iv) The Bundelkhandi soils. —The Bundelkhandi soils 
are, on the whole, lighter than the red or black soils of southern 
India, which they resemble. A great deal is poor country 
given over to grass. The cropping is governed largely by the 
rainfall and the possibilities of irrigation.* 

16. (v) The alluvial soils. —The alluvial tracts of India 
are by far the most extensive and agriculturally the most 
important. They occupy the larger portion of Sind, Gujarat, 
and the four great northern provinces; they appear again in the 
extensive deltaic tracts of Madras ; they are found in narrow 

* See Chapter I, para, ii ; and Chapter III, para. 50. 


strips along the coastlines, and reappear along the courses of 
many of the great peninsular rivers. With a spread so wide 
as this and with varied sources of formation, their qualities 
are far from uniform. Taken as a whole, they are fertile, not 
too dense in consistency, naturally drained, and level, and 
accordingly they lend themselves to extensive irrigation 
schemes. They are, in fact, excellent media for the growth of 
any crops that are suited to the climate and that require the 
assistance of irrigation. 

17. (d) Artificial irrigation .—Of the various kinds of arti¬ 
ficial irrigation, the canal systems,* in particular those of 
northern India, produce the most important regional effects. 
The large increase in the wheat areas of the Punjab and Sind 
is due to their canals, for though the temperature is suitable, 
the rainfall outside the submontane tracts is entirely in¬ 
sufficient. Again, though wheat can be grown in the United 
Provinces without irrigation, both the expansion of the area 
and the increase of the yield are due to the canals. Cotton, 
too, would be entirely unknown in the Punjab and even in 
Sind in the absence of irrigation ; its presence accounts not 
only for the extent of the cotton area, but for the early sowings 
of April and May, which make it possible to cultivate widely 
the long-staple American types. Sugar-cane is at home in 
the submontane districts of the United Provinces, where water- 
lifts are short and the climate is relatively humid ; but the 
wide expansion in the western districts of a crop which is at 
its best far further south must be attributed primarily to the 
cheap water obtainable from the Ganges canals. And 
lastly, whilst the prominence of maize in Bihar and Orissa 
is due to the early rains which precede the monsoon, its appear¬ 
ance further to the north-west is chiefly due to the use of canal 
water in the latter part of the hot season. In all, some 55 
million acres are aided or protected by artificial irrigation 
throughout British India, or nearly a quarter of the total 
cultivated area. The influence, therefore, of this method of 
improving on nature is considerable. 

18. (e) Selection of new crops .—A crop may be of different 
species, each comprising different varieties, in each of which 
there are different types ; each species, variety, and type 
has its own special attributes, which determine its suitability 


See Chapter I, paras. 43-48. 

to particular conditions of soil and climate. The widespread 
cultivation of cotton, from Madras to the Punjab, is due to the 
multiplicity of its forms. The discovery of a variety or type 
fitted for a particular tract will result in the appearance of a 
new crop in that tract or the extension of an old crop ; a striking 
example of this is the introduction, in 19x2-13, of a new type 
of groundnut, ripening quickly and easily harvested, into tie 
black soils of Khandesh and the Central Provinces, which led 
to the expansion of a negligible area of about 2,000 acres, chiefly 
irrigated, to an area of over 600,000 acres, all unirrigated.* 
Other examples are the wide expansion in southern India of 
Coimbatore cotton, an American type introduced by chance 
in 1905, and of other American cottons in the Punjab and 
Sind ; and the replacement in northern India some fifteen 
years ago of the indigenous sugar-cane by the new types created 
at the sugar-cane breeding station at Coimbatore, with an 
increased yield of 50 per cent., which has led to an expansion 
of the cane area from less than 2-5 million acres to 4 millions, 
and to the establishment of a considerable sugar industry in 
the United Provinces and Bihar. 

19. (/) Industrial development .—The location of most large- 
scale Indian industries has been determined by proximity to 
transport facilities: they are situated either at the ports or 
near railway junctions, j In some cases, however, the deciding 
factor has been proximity to raw materials. The manufacture 
of jute, for instance, was attracted to the neighbourhood of 
Calcutta because of the large area under jute in Bengal. 
Sugar factories are most numerous in the United Provinces 
and Bihar because of the area under sugar-cane in those 
provinces. Cotton mills are more widely dispersed, but they 
are always within reach of supplies of raw cotton. But though 
the location of such an industry depends on the location of the 
crop which serves it, the development of the industry reacts 
on the scale of cultivation. Thus the influence of the jute 
industry has led to the concentration of jute in Bengal ; the 
influence of the cotton mills of Bombay and Ahmedabad has 
led to almost excessive cultivation of cotton in Gujarat; and 
the rapid development of the sugar industry in the United 
Provinces and Bihar has led to great expansion of sugar-cane 

* See para. 7 above, 
t See Chapter IX, para. 5. 

Local Conditions and the Selection of Crops 

20. Whilst regional factors decide what crops can be 
grown, local factors decide which of the crops that can be 
grown will be cultivated in particular villages or fields. Of 
these local factors the first is the system of farming. Of these 
systems there are two—farming for the support of the family, 
or subsistence farming, and farming for market, or commercial 
farming. The first seeks to supply as many as possible of the 
family’s needs from the family’s holding, which involves the 
cultivation of many crops in small quantities. The second 
involves cultivation of one or two products for the market, and 
of subsidiary crops chiefly'as leading to the improvement of 
the money crops or as reducing the cost of growing them ; and 
implies dependence on the market for the provision of most 
home necessities. Over the greater part of India, with its 
small holdings, conservative methods, and relatively poor 
communications, farming is still of the subsistence type. The 
farmer will grow some money crop to provide his rent, but 
his chief concern is the food supply of his family and his live¬ 
stock, and he will grow a relatively high proportion of the food 
grains which will thrive,—even at times cultivating crops 
which are less profitable than others merely because they are 
required for household needs. The general effect of such 
cultivation over a village is that of a patchwork quilt; whilst 
in many fields the sowings are mixed, partly to secure the 
necessary variety, partly as a sort of insurance against losses 
due to unfavourable weather, partly as a method of providing 
the effects of crop rotation. * Except in sugar-cane areas, most of 
the farming in the Gangetic alluvium and in south and Central 
■ India is of the subsistence kind. At the other extreme is the 
type of farming found on the better soils of Gujarat and Berar, 
where the farmer’s sole consideration is his cotton crop, or in 
some places his tobacco. Here every acre carries the money 
crop which can be made to grow it, up to some two-thirds of the 
holding ; and the village area looks like a single field of cotton, 
cut by occasional lines of some other crop, usually a pulse, and 
broken here and there by scattered fields of bajra or juar. 
Other local factors which affect the selection of crops are the 
subsoil water-supply, the position of the field on the contour, 
and its proximity to the village. In the alluvial tracts, outside 

* Some common mixtures of crops are wheat and barley (gojai) ; 
barley with peas or gram ( bejhar) ; or some of the minor pulses, oilseeds, 
and millets with the more important millets, such as juar or bajra. 


the areas watered from canals or tanks, irrigation is from wells. 
Where these are numerous the more valuable crops pre¬ 
dominate—vegetables, spices, sugar-cane, wheat, or cotton, 
according to circumstances—and the other staples are relegated 
to fields outside the reach of the wells. In the black and 
lateritic soils and to a less extent in the red soils contour position 
is the all-important factor. A village with a large proportion 
of deep, heavy black soil will perforce be down in linseed, 
wheat, and gram. At the other extreme of the contour, the 
cultivation will be of bajra, urd* and a little poor cotton. In 
intermediate positions it will consist almost entirely of cotton 
interspersed with juar. In the lateritic soils the influence of 
position is fully apparent: thin grass at the top passes to some 
minor millet, then to successive zones of early and late rice 
respectively, and lastly in the hollows to a mixture of rabi 
crops, with wheat and gram predominating. In the red soils 
the effect of position is modified by the effect of irrigation. 
As regards proximity of a field to the village, the nearest fields 
(so long as they have no defects) are usually sown with the 
best crops that conditions permit, for they receive such natural 
manure as is available and, incidentally, a greater share of the 
owner’s attention. 

21. Transport and marketing facilities also have their 
effect on cropping. Market-gardening, for instance, is specially 
prominent round the larger towns or in places conveniently 
situated to the railways. When haulage exceeds 40 miles, 
cotton cultivation declines and land which would be under 
cotton if nearer the market is sown with juar or bajra. Finally, 
caste has its part in the cropping scheme. Kachhis and other 
related castes, for instance, specialize in market-gardening, 
and a village in which there are many Kachhis will >be 
largely given over to a miscellaneous collection of vegetables of 
all kinds. Apart from such specialists, however, some castes 
are very much better farmers than others ; and in villages 
where they predominate there will be a larger proportion of 
those crops which call for greater attention and skill and fetch 
the higher prices. 

The Indian Farmer 

22. Cultivation throughout India is essentially peasant 
farming in small holdings. There are many landed magnates 
in certain parts of the country, notably the taluqdars of Oudh, 

* Black gram. 


the large landowners in the canal colonies of the Punjab, and 
the malguzars of the Central Provinces; but far too few of 
these have any direct or personal interest in the management 
even of their own home-farms, still less in the cultivation of 
the villages which they own ; whilst far too many are absentee 
landlords, content with the collection of their rents, especially 
those that belong to the Vaisya or other non-agricultural 
castes, who, in the absence of a Land Alienation Act,* have 
purchased their land. But when, as occasionally happens, a 
landlord does reside on his estate or when he is interested in 
farming, he can and does do a great deal to raise the general 
standard of cultivation in his neighbourhood. 

23. Again, in some villages there are to be found a certain 
number of substantial farmers f—we may call them yeoman 
farmers—who hold thirty acres or more by some special 
right to the land they farm ; they are most common, perhaps, 
in parts of the Punjab, in the United Provinces, and in the 
ryotwari tracts of Bombay, Berar, and Madras. These are 
essentially farmers by profession and caste, and also village 
leaders who, if they can be convinced of the desirability of 
some change of seed or practice, can do much to assist in the 
introduction of the change. But these between them farm 
but a small portion of the total cultivated area. The rest, 
by far the greatest part, is held by an enormous host of 
' petty farmers; Many have an occupancy or other superior 
right to their land ; others are tenants with inferior rights, 
or subtenants, holding from landlord, yeoman farmer, or 
even from a superior tenant. Their ability, skill, effort, and 
productive value vary enormously. Certain castes are out¬ 
standingly good farmers, hard working and able to extract 
with the slender resources at their disposal the utmost out of 
their lands. Among these may be mentioned the Jat Sikhs 
and other Jat communities of the Punjab and the western 
districts of the United Provinces; the Patidars of Gujarat; 
and the Kurmi cultivators of the Central Provinces, Bombay, 
and elsewhere. Other castes, on the other hand, are indolent 
or do not possess the natural faculty for making plants grow. 
There is always a great difference between the appearance and 
output of land worked by one of the castes whose traditional 
function is farming and the land of those who farm because 
they must live or because they have no alternative occupation. 

* See Chapter III, para. 65. 

t For the various tenant rights, see Chapter III, paras. 19 et ssq. 


24- Yet again, the standard of fanning is governed by the 
strength of the incentive. Where the monsoon is uncertain 
the level of farming is low ; where the monsoon is assured and 
even more, where the land is protected by irrigation, especially 
from wells, the level is high. Where the incidence of debt is 
not too great and the land is not mortgaged, the standard is 
better than when the whole produce, except so much as is 
required for food, passes to the moneylender or to the mort¬ 
gagee. Again, given the same climatic and soil conditions, 
the farming standard of a tenant with superior rights is usually 
better than that of one with inferior rights. Where the 
holdings are relatively large and not unduly fragmented—as, 
for example, in the canal colonies of the Punjab—the nature 
of the farming points clearly to a higher level of well-being. 
Finally, climate has an important effect on the health and 
vitality of the farmer and on his energy and the manner in 
which he uses his assets. These considerations have their 
influence all over the country, explaining the different standards 
found in different tracts and sometimes within a single village, 
even if it be inhabited by men of the same caste. 

The Farmer’s Working Outfit 

25. (1) Livestock .—For the farming of a holding, whether 
big or small, certain assets are required, both live and dead. 
The Indian farmer’s power is provided by one or more pairs 
of bullocks, according to the size of his farm ; the number 
varies according to the soil, the cropping, and the presence or 
absence of a well. In black-cotton soils and in the cultivation 
of kharif crops a good pair will command thirty or forty acres. 
In Kathiawar farms of 300 acres are effectively managed with 
five good pairs. In the alluvial soils, where cane and wheat 
figure in the rotation, not more than eight to twelve acres can 
be effectively tilled by a single pair ; and as a great majority 
of tenants have much less land than this, one pair, even at 
times a hired pair, is generally all that is required. * In addition 
to his bullocks, the farmer in the Gangetic valley and the 
Punjab generally possesses a cow and in western India a she- 
buffalo. As a rule, the animal is kept to supply the farmer’s 
household with dairy produce, but in some tracts, such as 

* Sometimes a small man owns a single bullock, and borrows a second 
from a friend, to whom in turn he lends his own. When he “ hires ” a 
pair, the payment often takes the form of one or more days’ service as 


Gujarat, the buffalo plays an important part in farming 
economy. Every Patidar has at least two. The farmer’s 
cropping depends to some extent on the needs of his buffaloes, 
and the daily expenditure of the family is met from the sale of 
their products. Unless one has lived in rural India it is difficult 
to realize how much the tenant is dependent on his cattle. 
Without these, as Darling expresses it,* “ his fields remain 
unploughed, his store and bin stand empty, and food and drink 
lose their savour.” The occasional loss of livestock from 
famine or epidemic is one of the primary causes of chronic 

26. (2) Deadstock .—The indigenous instruments of tillage 
are simple and primitive ; but though, as will be seen later, 
they can be improved, yet in conditions where labour-saving 
devices are of litde value and man has ample time to till his 
small holding, they are, for the most part, sufficiently effective, 
and produce in due course such tilth as his crop requires. 
The Indian farmer for the most part is a small man and his 
farm is more often than not very fragmented. J The class 
of instruments which he needs and has invented, must in conse¬ 
quence be “ general utility ” tools. If a man farms a large 
area, he can afford to own a series of specialized implements, 
as each individual implement will, in a year, do enough work 
to pay its way. But though such an implement may do its 
work more effectively and more cheaply than any indigenous 
implement, it is a useless extravagance on a farm of four or 
five acres, especially if the acres are divided up into many 
small plots. These indigenous implements in all parts of the 
country are made to much the same pattern, though there are 
minor variations to suit local requirements, in support of which 
the farmer can always provide convincing arguments. The 
farmer’s stock of implements also varies, being greatest in 
Gujarat and smallest in the Gangetic alluvial soils. The 
plough (hal) is the principal implement. It consists every¬ 
where of three main parts, namely a wedge-shaped block of 
wood which is fitted with an iron share, a draught-pole which 
connects this wedge to the neck-yoke of the bullocks, and a 
single short stilt which serves as a guiding handle. The 
whole plough may be described as a single-tined grubber. 

* In his book The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt. 

f A pair of bullocks may cost anything from 80 to 300 rupees, or £6 
to £23. 1 or. 

J See below, para. 34. 


Its only important variation is in respect of weight; at one 
end of the scale there is the very light plough employed by 
the Bengali farmer and his microscopic bullocks to scratch 
2 in. to 3 in. deep, and at the other end is the plough, weighing 
ioo lb. or more and drawn by four to six pairs of bullocks, 
which is used by the farmer of the Deccan to give a periodic 
ploughing in the hot season to depths of io in. to 12 in.* As 
a rule, however, the Indian plough, though its weight varies 
with the capacity of the bullocks, is a one-pair implement. 

27. Outside the black-cotton soils, the only other imple¬ 
ments that the cultivator ever uses, except under the influence 
of demonstration by the department of agriculture, are 
a rectangular beam f or log to crush clods and sometimes a 
wooden harrow like a rake. In the alluvial soils of northern 
India it is with these that he prepares his seed-bed. Sowing 
is usually broadcast; if it is in lines, the seed is deposited by 
hand in the furrows made by the plough. When sowing is 
in dry, heavy soil, the seed must be deposited in the damp sub¬ 
surface. A bamboo tube fitted into a wooden bowl is then 
attached to the plough : the seed is fed by hand into the 
bowl, and drops through the tube into the furrow just behind 
the plough’s point, being covered by the soil moved in making 
the next furrow. Weeding in this tract is usually done by hand, 
though at times, to open the soil surface, the plough may again 
be passed through the crop. 

28. In the Peninsula in general and in the black-cotton 
soils of the Deccan and Gujarat in particular the standard 
of equipment is higher. Here, the plough, for day-to-day 
work, is replaced by a wide-bladed harrow or scarifier ( bakhar ), 
consisting of a knife attached by two wooden or iron vertical 
tines, or stays, to a short block of wood, which is fitted with a 
wooden draught-pole by which it is attached to the yoke, and 
a driving stilt or handle. These implements do not stir the 
soil, but pare the surface, working to a depth of 3 in. to 4 in. 
in soft soil. They vary in weight and width of blade according 
as they are required for dry-season or moist-season work, and 
for field tillage or seed covering. They cover the field rapidly 
and are sufficiently effective, for an annual ploughing for 

* This last is a special implement required for special work, and has 
been, to some extent, replaced in this tract by inversion ploughs of the 
heavier type, which produce the same results at less than half the cost in 
bullocks and labour. 

t The driver often stands on this beam to increase its weight. 


kharif crops in black soils is neither necessary nor economical, 
whilst speed is essential. These harrows not only loosen the 
soil, but break up the clods, which pass beneath the block 
of wood to which the blade is fitted. In most of this tract 
the seed is drilled in regular lines with an implement consisting 
of a block of wood, which forms the body, and is fitted with 
pole, yoke, and guiding handle in the way already described. 
In this block of wood are set two or more short-pointed 
coulters. A tube is fitted into each coulter, which tubes 
radiate from a bowl into which the seed is fed by hand ; and 
the coulters open the soil to receive the seed. But these seed 
drills are not essential. The small farmer for his drilling uses 
his bakhar by attaching the base of a hollow bamboo to each 
of the two tines, so that, whilst he stirs up the soil surface by 
driving his bullocks in straight lines backwards and forwards, 
his wife, holding the bamboo, drops in the seed line by line 
with a spacing equal to the distance between the vertical 
supports ; and so the small man can both plough and sow with 
a single bakhar. But, in general, holdings and fields are bigger 
in the Deccan and Gujarat than elsewhere, and this is probably 
one of the reasons that have led to the adoption of line-sowing 
as a regular practice. Though some weeding is done by hand, 
most weeding and also the important process of making a 
loose mulch of earth to retain moisture after the rains cease 
are done by bullock-power. In this tract, therefore, there are 
bullock hoes in the farm equipment, in addition to drills. 
These are similar to but smaller than the bakhar, and fitted 
with smaller blades ; they are commonly worked in pairs, 
two men to each pair. Here, again, though the pattern 
and principle are always the same, there are variations in such 
details as the width of the blade, as required by the nature of 
the crop and the width of sowing. 

29. In addition to implements that involve the use of 
bullocks, the farmer has a few hand tools which vary a good 
deal in pattern. Among the commonest are the kodali of 
northern India, called mamuti in southern India, which is 
used in somewhat similar fashion to a pickaxe, and consists 
of a steel blade 15 in. to 18 in. long, with a 3-in. cutting edge, 
fitted to a wooden handle ; the phaora, which fulfils the purpose 
for which a spade is used in Europe, but is worked by the arms; * 
the khurpa, a weeding tool, best described as a chisel-shaped 
* The blade and handle form an acute angle, with the blade pointing 
towards the workman. 


piece of iron fitted in a wooden handle ; and the sickle ( hasya ), 
with which all crops are reaped. These tools vary in size and 
shape from province to province. Threshing is sometimes 
done by hand-beating or by rolling the crop under a stone 
roller, but usually the grain is trodden out under the feet of 
bullocks. The subsequent separation of grain and chaff is 
done by letting the wind play on the mixture as it is dropped 
from a basket held aloft, and finished off by the use of the 
winnowing scoop (sup). Other tools that may be mentioned 
are the chopper (garasi), axe ( kulhari ), and leather water- 
bucket (pur). The expenditure on dead stock is small; on a 
one-pair farm in the Gangetic plain it would be covered by an 
investment of io to 15 rupees.* In the black soils a full 
equipment per pair would cost 20 to 25 rupees. The cost of 
upkeep is relatively high,| but a good deal of it is performed by 
the village carpenter and smith, who are paid in kind. With 
this very simple outfit and a good deal of manual effort the 
many million acres of India’s land are tilled and her many 
million tons of produce are harvested. 

The Farmer’s Disabilities 

30. About 1926 a special inquiry was made in some 2,400 
Punjab villages to collect data regarding the size of holdings 
for the information of the Commission on Agriculture.! The 
resulting figures showed that of the total number of cultivators, 
22-5 per cent, cultivated 1 acre or less ; 33-3 per cent, cultivated 
between 1 and 5 acres ; 2C5 per cent, cultivated between 
5 and 10 acres ; and 23-7 per cent, cultivated 10 acres or more. 
Similar statistics were not prepared for other provinces: § 
but as the average holding in every province except Bombay 

* In northern India a plough (complete) costs about Rs. 3 J. Other 
implements mentioned cost about Rs. io|. The rest of the equipment 
required at the well-mouth costs about Rs. 9, but most of it would be the 
common property of several cultivators. For a complete list of tools and 
implements, see Fields and Farmers in Oudh (edited by R. K. Mukerjee), 
pp. 46-8. A rupee is equivalent to is. 6 d. 

t In northern India certain parts of a plough require annual replace¬ 
ment, at a cost of half a rupee; other wooden parts must be replaced 
every three or four years at a cost of Rs. 2. The share must be renewed 
every eight years. The life of other implements is from two to five years. 
See Fields and Farmers in Oudh, loe. cit. 

} See Agriculture Commission, Report, pp. 132-3. 

§ Similar figures are to be found in such books as V. G. Ranade’s 
Social and Economic Survey of a Konkan Village or Dr. Mann’s Land and Labour in 
a Deccan Village ; but they relate only to small areas, as their names imply. 


is smaller than the average holding in the Punjab,* there can 
be no doubt that Bombay would show results very similar 
to those of the Punjab, and that other provinces would show 
larger proportions of the smaller cultivators. It is unnecessary 
here to go deeper into the figures. Enough has been said to 
show that the great majority of Indian cultivators are petty 
farmers with small holdings, and that many of them are merely 

31. The prevalence of the small holding is due to a variety 
of causes. Amongst Hindus it is due primarily to the increasing 
frequency of joint-family partitions, which entail the subdivision 
of the family property amongst the co-sharers.f Amongst 
Muslims it is due to the law of inheritance, which entails the 
subdivision of immovable property in fixed shares amongst 
all heirs. But there are also other causes which accentuate 
the evil. As the Commission on Agriculture has pointed out, 4 
the acquisition of land by moneylenders and other similar 
transferees results in the creation of a number of petty holdings 
and in the reduction of the area left to be divided amongst 
the heirs ; whilst the growth of population increases the number 
of co-sharers or heirs, so that each of them receives a smaller 

32. The question then arises how many of these small 
holdings are large enough to support the cultivator and his 
family at the standard of comfort to which he is accustomed ; 
or, in other words, how many of them are “ economic 
holdings.” That is not a question which can be answered 
according to any general principle or definite formula ; it is 
always a question of fact the answer to which must vary 
according to the circumstances of each case. It will vary, 
firstly, according to the productivity of the soil: a holding 
which is economic in rich irrigated loam will be entirely 
uneconomic in unirrigated sand. It will vary, secondly, 
according to the skill and industry of the cultivator : a Brah- 

* This assertion is based on figures given in the Census Report for 
India of 1921, quoted in the Agriculture Commission’s Report, loc. cit. 
The Commission doubt their accuracy—and rightly : for instance, the 
average holding in the United Provinces is put at 2 J acres, whilst figures of 
average holdings in United Provinces districts (which are given in Vol. XIV 
of the Agriculture Commission’s Report, p. 396), vary from 3'4 acres in 
Azamgarh to 12-4 in Jalaun. But they are accurate enough to indicate 
the extent to which the small holding prevails in the different provinces. 

t See Chapter II, para. 8, regarding the joint family. 

{ Report, p. 131. 

man or Rajput would starve on a holding sufficient for a Kurmi 
or a Jat; a Kurmi or Jat, who grow staple crops, would 
require a larger area than a Kachhi or Murao, who grow 
vegetables in two or three acres intensively cultivated. It 
will vary, thirdly, according to the standard of comfort to 
which the cultivator is accustomed : three acres may be ample 
for the depressed classes and 30 acres not enough for the twice- 
born. There are also other circumstances which would 
affect the answer. It is scarcely an exaggeration that there 
are as many “ economic holdings ” as there are cultivators— 
or, at least, as there are classes of cultivators.* 

33. Nevertheless, during the last fifteen or twenty years, 
many inquiries, both special and general, both official and 
non-official, have been made into such matters as family 
budgets, expenses of cultivation, yield of crops, average 
holdings, and standards of comfort : and by collating these 
it is possible to arrive at certain broad conclusions. All 
over India only a relatively small minority of cultivators have 
holdings large enough to enable them to set aside in good years 
reserves sufficient to carry them over bad years. A larger, 
but still relatively small, proportion live at all times below the 
economic level, and even in the best years cannot make ends 
meet unless agriculture is supplemented by a subsidiary 
occupation.! The majority are living at or just above the 
economic level, and though by incessant toil they can make 
ends meet in a good year, they too need a subsidiary occupa¬ 
tion to enable them to do so in a bad year. Poverty and wealth, 
moreover, are relative terms. The well-to-do class just men¬ 
tioned is well-to-do only by the prevailing standard of comfort, 
the poorest class is poor even by that standard ; and compared 
with the standards of European nations, the Indian standard 
is miserably low.J 

* The “ economic holding ” can only be calculated on a basis of 
averages of various kinds—average distribution of soil, average cropping, 
average outturn, average prices, an average tenant, an average family, 
an average rent, and average expenditure. But some of these averages 
involve impossibilities. The “ average cropping ” of a district cannot be 
reproduced in a single holding. An average family in the United Provinces 
is 4-8 persons. And an average tenant has no more real existence than 
the economist’s “ economic man.” 

t F° r the subsidiary occupation, see Chapter I, para. 67. 

t The Banking Enquiry Committee estimated that in the United 
Provinces the proportions of the three classes were 18, 30, and 52 per cent, 
respectively. See Report, United Provinces, pp. 97-8. 


34. An even greater evil than the subdivision of holdings 
is their fragmentation * * * § into small plots scattered discon- 
tinuously over the village area. This process is chiefly due to 
the method in which the subdivision of property between co¬ 
sharers and heirs is customarily carried into effect. Each 
heir receives not a part of the whole equivalent to his share, 
but a proportionate share of each item of the property. | 
Thus if an estate of three fields is to be divided up between 
three co-sharers, they would take not one field each but 
one-third of each field each. Fragmentation is furthered by 
irregular expansion of cultivation in the waste, by purchases 
and sales, by tire division of the property of extinct families 
amongst distant relations, and by the eagerness of all culti¬ 
vators to secure any additional land that they can, wherever 
it may be situated. The result is that not only the holdings 
but also the fields run small, with results that are sometimes 
ludicrous. In the Ratnagiri district (Bombay) there are fiel ds 
as small as 30 square yards ; J in the Punjab there are fields 
over a mile long by a few yards wide ; whilst “ areas have been 
brought to notice where fragmentation has been carried so 
far as effectively to prevent all attempts at cultivation.” § 

35. This process of fragmentation ensures that every 
holder has his share of all qualities of soil, which in a system 
of subsistence farming is a matter of some importance, since it 
enables the cultivator to grow all the various crops which he 
requires for his own and his family’s food, and also acts as an 
insurance against that total failure of crops which might occur 
if they were all grown in a compact area. But it has many 
countervailing disadvantages. A cultivator’s holding is made 
up of isolated fields separated from each other by large blocks 

* The locus classicus for subdivision and fragmentation is Chapter V 
of the report of the Commission on Agriculture. 

t “ Everything is divided—shares, holdings, plots, tenants’ houses, 
groves, ponds, and even trees ” : Clow, Settlement Report of Basti (United 
Provinces), 1914-1919, p. 15. 

t To enable the reader to visualize an area of 30 square yards, it may 
be described as rather less than one-tenth of a tennis court (312 square 
yards). This is unusually small. The average area of the fields in two 
northern tahsils of Basti district (United Provinces) is 7 biswas, or about 
1,060 square yards (R. K. Mukerjee, Rural Economy of India, p. 38). A 
biswa is one-twentieth of a bigha, which is five-eighths of an acre (3,025 
square yards). Fields the size of a tennis court (or about 2 biswas ) are 
not uncommon. 

§ See Agriculture Commission, Report, p. 134. 


of cultivation through which access is difficult and often 
obstructed. Much time is wasted in shifting ploughs, cattle, . 
and manure from one field to another, as well as some money ; 
much land is wasted in field boundaries that would otherwise 
be unnecessary ; the problem of irrigation is often insoluble ; 
whilst the farmstead is never on the farm. The obvious remedy 
is consolidation of holdings, either by Government or by 
co-operative action—a matter described elsewhere.* * * § Another 
possible remedy which has been adopted in the United 
Provinces is consolidation of cropping ; groups of cultivators 
owning contiguous plots grow by agreement the same 
crop. This is especially common in the area commanded by 
the State tube wells, f where efforts have been made by the 
departments of agriculture and co-operative credit to organize 
consolidated cultivation, notably in respect of sugar-cane; 
and it is also practised by the better farming and better living 
societies organized in the eastern districts of the United 

36. The smallness of the holding and its excessive frag¬ 
mentation are the two principal disabilities from which the 
Indian farmer suffers ; but there are many others. Some of 
these have been, others will be, discussed elsewhere; but it 
will be convenient to give a list of them here. These disabilities 
can be divided into three classes. Some arc due to his natural 
environment—the climatic and other external circumstances 
in which he cultivates. Some are due to his social environ¬ 
ment or his personal characteristics, and have been inherited 
from the past. Others are the result of modern influences 
working on ancient conditions—of pouring new wine into old 

37. Natural environment. —The farmer’s disabilities that 
are due to his natural conditions are five in number : 

(1) The uncertainty of the harvest, due partly to the 
vagaries of the monsoon, which become all the more serious 
when artificial supplies of water are not available, J and partly 
to frequent attacks of insect pests and fungoid disease.§ 

* Chapter III, para. 58 ; Chapter X, para. 35, and Appendix. 

t See Chapter I, para, 39, and Chap. V, para. 42. 

} See Chapter I, para. 37. 

§ This is the business of the research experts : see 
para. 52. 


Chapter IV, 

(2) The cultivation of crops which are poor either in 
respect of their yield, their market value, or their susceptibility 
to disease.* * * § 

(3) The lack of sufficient manure^ resulting in low fertility, f 

(4) The use of dead stock (tools and implements) which, 
though adequate when each village was self-contained and 
each farm self-sufficient, are ineffective now that Indian 
farmers are growing crops which compete in, the world’s 

(5) The use of ineffective livestock, their low productive 
value, and the heavy losses of livestock due to epidemics.§ 

38. Of these disabilities, the first, in so far as it is due to 
lack of water, is the special concern of the irrigation depart¬ 
ment. || The fifth is the special concern of the veterinary 
department. The rest are the concern of the department of 

39. Social and personal disabilities. —Amongst the farmer’s 
disabilities which are due to his social environment and 
personal characteristics are the following : 

(1) His attachment to his land, his home, and his family, 
which make him unwilling to leave them except under severe 
economic pressure—and even then only temporarily.^ 

(2) The congestion of the rural population in closely 
packed and insanitary villages—originally due to the need 
for mutual protection and a common water-supply, and in¬ 
curable except by extensive replacement, at a great cost, of 
old by model villages.** 

(3) The absence of alternative methods of earning a 
living and of subsidiary occupations.! t 

(4) A general tendency to improvidence, due partly to the 
difficulty of making profitable use of surplus stocks in the 

* See Chapter V, paras. 9 et seq .; 46 et seq. 

| See Chapter V, paras. 13 et seq. 

$ See Chapter IV, paras. 25 et seq., and Chapter V, paras. 18 et seq. 

§ See Chapter V, paras. 21 et seq. 

|| Assisted, as regards wells, by the agricultural engineering section 
of the department of agriculture : see Chapter V, para. 41. 

If Cf. Chapter I, para. 83, and Chapter IX, paras. 14-6. 

** This remedy has been tried in the Punjab; but see Brayne, Better 
Villages, pp. 220-t, and Chapter X, para. 33. 
ft See Chapter I, para. 67. 


absence of adequate transport facilities, partly to the risk of 
possessing savings in the absence of any safe place in which 
to keep them. These inconveniences of rural life in India, 
however, have been greatly reduced under British rule, which 
has greatly improved communications, has increased security, 
and introduced post-office savings banks. But the peasant’s 
safe is still generally a hole in the wall or floor of his house 
or in the corner of a field ; and there are still dacoits abroad 
to compel him to disclose it.* 

(5) The unproductive expenditure which is imposed on 
the peasant by caste custom in such matters as social and 
religious ceremonies, the repayment of ancestral debt, and 
the maintenance of his social prestige; f and also by his 

(6) The small value of his assets, which make it difficult 
for him to borrow money, even for productive purposes, at 
a reasonable rate of interest. , The tenant’s assets consist of 
his crops, his cattle, his agricultural implements, his women’s 
jewellery, his trees, and his jajmani,% if he has one ; to which a 
landlord or other person with a transferable right in his holding 
can add his land. But of these the first three make adequate 
security only for short-term loans, since he can spare neither 
his live nor his dead stock for any length of time. The fourth 
he will keep intact till he is at his last financial gasp ; • extensive 
pawning of jewellery is a sure sign of great distress. Trees 
and jajmcmis make better securities for loans, but not all tenants 
have them. There remains the land, a good security, but 
overloaded with debt. 

40. Disabilities due to modern progress .—The establishment 
of British rule, whilst freeing the peasant of some difficulties, 
has helped to create others. It has put an end to the internal 
disorders and extortionate revenue demands which once put 
the farmer’s harvest in jeopardy. It has made possible the 
disposal of surplus stocks and the cultivation of money crops. 
The recognition of rights in land has converted it from a lia¬ 
bility to an appreciating asset. But other developments 
have reacted adversely on the rural population : 

(1) Internal security and the expansion of cultivation that 
followed it have led to an enormous increase in the population, 

* On the question of transport, see Chapter I, paras. 57 et seq. 

f See Chapter II, para. 44. 

+ See Chapter II, Appendix I. 


a difference of nearly 100 millions between 1881 and 1931.* * * § 
This has led to serious pressure of population on the soil f 
and to the overcrowding of agriculture as an occupation.^ 

(2) By reason of increased facilities in the disposal of his 
produce and the increased value of land as security, the 
cultivator has become more prosperous, and being naturally 
improvident has been led both to spending and to borrowing 

(3) The establishment of civil courts has assisted the 
money-lender to tighten his hold on the peasantry, and has 
led to a great increase of litigation, frequently needless and 
always costly. 

(4) The moneylending and banking class has taken over 
the business of marketing the crops, to the cultivator’s great 

41. Agricultural indebtedness is a matter discussed else¬ 
where, || and all that need be said here is that it is the 
result of the farmer’s disabilities just described. In these 
disabilities the most important causes of debt are (1) the 
smallness and fragmentation of the holdings ; (2) the loss 
of livestock from famine or epidemic ; (3) the insecurity of 
the crops ; and (4) social extravagance. But all the other 
disabilities are contributory causes. 

The Departments and Their Work 
42. Early history .—The first reference to the need for a 
department of agriculture in India appears in a recommenda¬ 
tion of the Royal Commission appointed after the Bengal 
famine in 1866. The need was again stressed a few years 
later by Manchester cotton merchants, upset by the disturbance 
in their business which was caused by the American civil 
war. Certain trials of exotic cotton were made in Bombay and 
the Central Provinces, but the results were of little value. 
The next indication of interest followed another famine—that 
of 1881. As a result of this, there came into being embryo 

* Excluding Burma, the increase is about go millions. 

t Cf. Chapter I, paras. 78 et seq. 

+ Cf. Chapter I, para. 81, and Chapter II, para. gg. 

§ The new marketing officers should do a good deal to remedy this 
state of affairs : see Chapter V, para. 4g. 

|| See Chapter III, paras. 59 et seq. 


departments of agriculture, which were usually linked with 
land records, and experimental farms were established in all 
the major provinces, of which those in Bombay, the United 
Provinces, and the Central Provinces were the most successful. 

43. Between 1880 and 1905 there was further progress. 
It was during this period (1889-91) that Dr. Voelcker was 
sent from England to study the conditions of Indian agriculture 
(his book The Improvement of Indian Agriculture , though written 
forty years ago, is still of the utmost value to students) ; that 
the first research workers were appointed—Dr. Leather as 
agricultural chemist and Dr. Barber as economic botanist 
in Madras; and that the first beginnings of agricultural 
education took place, at Poona, Cawnpore, Nagpur, and else¬ 
where, from which the present agricultural colleges have 
developed. It cannot be said that achievement was large, 
but attention was attracted to the need for applying scientific 
investigation to the problems of agricultural improvement, 
and a vast amount of data was collected that proved of value 

44. Present department .—It required, however, another 
famine and another commission to bring about the creation by 
Lord Curzon of the department as it is to-day ; but its scope 
has since been enlarged and research facilities have been 
increased. At that time, it consisted of an Imperial research 
institute at Pusa, where the scientists of the Imperial agri¬ 
cultural department were centred ; and of provincial services. 
Each provincial service was under a Director (a member 
of the Indian Civil Service), who was assisted by a head¬ 
quarters staff of experts, consisting of agricultural chemist, 
botanist, entomologist, and mycologist, who were engaged 
in agricultural education ; and by other agricultural experts 
in the districts, who were engaged in field experiments and 
propaganda, thus linking up research with the village. 

45. These organizations had already made substantial 
progress when, with the outbreak of the Great War, many 
officers were permitted to join the army, leaving a skeleton 
force which, with the greatest difficulty, kept the departments 
running. In 1920 the service was again restaffed, and since 
that date there has been steady expansion, which has varied 
with provincial resources and interest. Under the Govern¬ 
ment of India Act of 1919 agriculture became a transferred 
subject, under a Minister responsible to the local legislative 

council for funds. At first there was an almost universal 
tendency to curtail departmental budgets, which all fell below 
the 1920-21 level. Subsequently, however, the department’s 
value was recognized in most provinces, and the funds provided 
rose steadily, till the general slump of 1930-32 called for 
retrenchment in all directions—a temporary condition of 
affairs which, with the rising value in agricultural produce 
and the greater interest in rural development at the present 
day, is rapidly being remedied. 

46. In 1924 overseas recruitment ceased, and thereafter 
the different provinces organized their Glass I and Class II 
services. In 1923 the Indian Central Cotton Committee, to 
be described later, came into being ; and in 1930, on the 
recommendation of the Commission on Agriculture, the 
Government of India established the Imperial Council of 
Agricultural Research. Both these bodies, the former in 
respect of cotton and the latter in respect of other crops and 
livestock, have done much to develop and finance research 
work, which was formerly under the control of provincial 
Directors of Agriculture. It has thus been possible to increase 
staff and to undertake research to an extent' which could riot 
have been attempted by the provincial departments concerned 
from their own budgets ; whilst any increases in those budgets 
could be devoted to the other important operations of extension 
and propaganda. The departments of agriculture in the 
various provinces, exclusive of temporary officers engaged in 
handling special schemes, number at the present day 307 
gazetted officers in the Class I and Class II provincial services, 
and 1,635 non-gazetted officers. 

47. At the present day the composition of the agricultural 
service is much the same as it was in 1905. The Imperial 
branch of it, which is controlled and financed by the 
Government of India, has its headquarters in Delhi, to which 
they were transferred after the Bihar earthquake in 1934 had 
destroyed Pusa. It is chiefly engaged in research problems 
associated with crops and livestock. In addition to the labora¬ 
tories and farms at Delhi, it controls the sugar-cane breeding 
station at Coimbatore ; the institute of animal husbandry 
and dairying at Bangalore ; a plant-breeding station and the 
cattle-breeding farm at Karnal. These institutes are adminis¬ 
tered by the Director of the Imperial agricultural institute at 

48. The provincial services are also similar to those of 
the past, but have certain additional expert branches, the 
size and nature of which vary from province to province. 
The usual functions of the provincial service are research 
and education, agricultural extension, propaganda, livestock 
breeding, agricultural engineering, horticulture, and marketing. 
The personnel consists of a Director ; of the provincial gazetted 
staff of Class I and Class II officers ; the upper subordinate 
staff, composed of graduates who hold posts either in the 
research laboratories or the college, or are in charge of farm 
and district activities ; and a lower subordinate staff of non¬ 
graduates, who are chiefly employed in extension and pro¬ 
paganda work in the rural areas. The Director, who in the 
larger provinces has an Assistant Director, is responsible for 
administration and for carrying out Government’s policy. 
The research and educational staff would in the typical 
province consist of an agricultural chemist, two or more 
economic botanists, a plant pathologist, an entomologist, 
and an agricultural expert. All these are Class I officers, who 
have in most cases Class II officers as their assistants. They 
are stationed at the headquarters of agricultural activity, 
which are not necessarily the headquarters of the Director. 
The staff engaged in propaganda and extension work consists 
of a varying number of Deputy Directors, according to the size 
of the province. Each Deputy Director controls a circle, 
which is usually divided into two or three divisions under 
the charge of Class II officers called Assistant Deputy Directors 
or Divisional Superintendents. These officers are responsible 
for examination of the results of research work in the field, the 
testing of agricultural implements at their experimental farms, 
the multiplication and distribution of seed, and for demonstra¬ 
tion and extension work in general; and they control a large 
staff on their farms or in the districts, which is drawn from the 
upper and lower subordinate cadres. In addition to these 
two main groups, most provinces have : (1) a Deputy Director 
in charge of cattle-breeding farms and livestock improvement ; 
(a) an Agricultural Engineer, and in some provinces also 
Assistant Agricultural Engineers, whose functions are the 
improvement of underground water-supplies and the intro¬ 
duction and charge of tractors and other agricultural imple¬ 
ments and machinery ; (3) a Horticulturist and his staff, 
en gaged in fruit development—a comparatively recent 
addition ; and (4) a Marketing Officer. 


Agricultural Education 

49. The highest form of agricultural education is provided 
at the Imperial agricultural institute. It consists of post¬ 
graduate courses of about two years’ duration, either in 
agriculture or in one or other of the cognate sciences. The 
standard for admission is the M.Sc. of an Indian university 
or a diploma in the first division of an agricultural college. 

50. There are five agricultural colleges, situated at Poona 
(Bombay), Coimbatore (Madras), Lyallpur (Punjab), Nagpur 
(Central Provinces), and Cawnpore (United Provinces). 
They were all originally controlled by the departments, but 
have now been affiliated to local universities and are under 
their control in respect of studies and examinations. The 
courses are for three or four years, depending on the date 
at which admittance is possible. In addition to these 
colleges, which give degrees equivalent to the B.A. or B.Sc., 
there is a degree obtainable from Allahabad University in 
agriculture, the teaching for which is in part provided by the 
Naini institute, a missionary organization which has specialized 
in agriculture. The selection of applicants for admission to 
most colleges depends, apart from educational qualifications, 
on possession of interest in land and on the opportunities 
which the candidates are likely to have in future of applying 
their knowledge in practice. The courses aim at a general 
grounding in the theoretical and practical knowledge of agri¬ 
culture and its cognate sciences ; and their general standard, 
in respect both of the subject-matter and the instruction, 
compares favourably with that provided in other countries. 
The standard of a pass degree in the third division is not 
high, but a student passing out in the first division or at the 
top of the second division has acquired a sound knowledge of 
scientific agriculture, and is likely to make a good agricultural 
officer, especially if he comes from an agricultural caste. In 
the early days it was difficult to fill these colleges and the 
educational standard of recruits was low ; but at the present 
day the standard has risen and applicants far exceed vacancies. 
Though a certain number of students are engaged in farming, 
the majority, as is the case all over the world, take the course 
with the hope of securing employment, either in the depart¬ 
ment or elsewhere. The upper subordinate service, whether 
employed in the research sections or in field service, is entirely 
recruited from this source. 

5i. Three alternative types of vernacular education in 
agriculture * have found favour in different provinces. These 
are : (i) vocational training in agriculture and allied subjects 
for a course of one or two years at special schools, which is 
taken after the student has completed his vernacular or Anglo- 
vernacular education ; (2) pre-vocational training, in which 

agriculture is taught in the middle or Anglo-vernacular 
courses in what are termed agricultural bias schools ; and 
(3) short courses in special subjects, primarily of a practical 
character, conducted at government farms. In schools of 
the first kind the son of a landowner or farmer can find an 
alternative to the ordinary high-school course and acquire the 
knowledge necessary for the running of his property. At one 
time there were six such schools in Bombay ; there are now 
two, and two more in the United Provinces. Most of the 
young men thus trained return home to farm their own land, 
though they are also willing enough to take a post in the lower 
subordinate service, especially since the slump in agricultural 
prices. Pre-vocational training is common in Bombay and the 
Punjab, and has been adopted in Bengal and the United Pro¬ 
vinces. Sufficient hours are allotted in the time-table of a rural 
middle school for a theoretical and practical training in nature 
study and agriculture. The school is provided with either a 
small farm or a garden plot, and a qualified teacher. In an 
irrigated tract the school farm is about six acres in area, suffi¬ 
cient to permit the maintenance of a pair of bullocks, whilst 
a garden plot covers about an acre and any necessary work 
requiring bullocks is done by hired animals. In dry tracts 
like the Central Provinces farms would be larger, and would 
not provide the same facilities for work that are available on 
irrigated areas; and garden plots are better than farms where 
water is limited. Many of the school farms and plots estab¬ 
lished in irrigated tracts do well; they are at their best when 
the school is not entirely composed of day-boys. Success 
depends on the interest of the headmaster and on the training 
of the teacher. This class of school is intended to prevent, 
education from divorcing the peasant boy from his natural 
surroundings. The last type of training is a short practical 
course held at a government farm or even a college. Classes 
are held in many subjects, such as the use of oil engines and 
tractors, dairy work, fruit-canning and bottling, and poultry¬ 
farming. The course lasts from three to six weeks, and is 
* Cf. Chapter VIII, paras. 47-9. 


open to anybody from the small farmer to the employee of a 
large landlord. 

Of these three types of agricultural education, the first 
and the third are controlled by the department of agriculture 
and the second by the educational department, though 
agricultural officers inspect and give guidance on the farm. 


52. Since the department was created, much useful 
scientific investigation has been directed to acquiring a better 
understanding of the soil, to increasing the yield and improving 
the quality of various plants, and to the discovery of means of 
defence against insect pests and diseases, which take a heavy 
toll of the crops each year. A great deal has been done 
to apply theory to practice. The theoretical results are to be 
found in the publications of the Imperial department, and in 
many provincial bulletins ; the practical results are to be 
found in the fields and on the threshing-floors. 

53. Government employs a large number of economic 
botanists and plant-breeders, and attention has been principally 
devoted to direct plant-improvement, whether by selection 
from existing forms or by hybridization. This, indeed, is the 
easiest method of helping the cultivator, for a good seed from 
an improved strain—whether the improvement consists in 
higher yield, better quality, or greater resistance to this or 
that adverse factor—costs him little in cash and involves no 
troublesome change in his methods of cultivation. Some of 
the most important of the improved seeds are the Pusa wheats, 
which cover large tracts of the Gangetic alluvium ; the wheat 
evolved by the Punjab for their special needs ; the Coimbatore 
sugar-canes of the present day, which occupy 75 per cent, of 
the total area ; many of the rices and some, at any rate, 
of the improved cottons to be found in common cultivation. 
These and many other improved seeds, as well as a large part 
of recently acquired knowledge in other directions, must be 
credited to the permanent staff and the normal budget resources 
of the imperial and provincial departments of agriculture ; 
and much of the recent progress made by both is due to the 
advice and financial assistance rendered to them by the two 
external agencies already mentioned, namely the Indian 
Central Cotton Committee and the Imperial Council of 
Agricultural Research. 


54 - The Indian Central Cotton Committee. —The Indian 
Cotton Committee of 1917-18 had already laid stress on the 
need for greater correlation of research work in this crop, 
and for more intensive efforts at its improvement; and as a 
result of its report the Indian Central Cotton Committee 
was constituted in 1921 and was given a definite legal 
status in 1923 by the Indian Cotton Cess Act of that 
year. The Committee consists of representatives of the 
provincial departments and of cotton merchants, ginners, 
spinners, and growers. Its income consists of the proceeds of 
a cess of two annas per bale levied on all baled cottons, whether 
used in India or exported. . The Committee has worked with 
marked success in many ways to jrhprove the cotton industry, 
and most of its expenditure has been devoted to research 
work with the object of producing better types, investigating 
causes reacting against plant yield, and setting on foot extension 
schemes to put research into practice. Its efforts are largely 
responsible for the five million acres which are under improved 
types of cotton to-day. Its annual income is about eight and 
a half lakhs,* from which, together with reserves created in its 
earlier years, it maintains an excellent technological laboratory 
in Bombay for the use both of the trade and the research 
worker, meets a large share of the cost of the institute of plant 
industry at Indore, and finances a number of research and other 
schemes in different tracts by means of grants to provincial 

55. (q) The Imperial Council of Agricultural Research. —The 
Royal Commission on Agriculture in 1926 drew attention to 
the lack of cohesion in the matter of research between the 
Imperial agricultural institute and the provincial centres ; and 
as a remedy suggested the creation of an Imperial Council of 
Agricultural Research, the primary functions of which would 
be to promote, guide, and coordinate agricultural and veteri¬ 
nary research and to link this with similar work in other parts 
of the Empire. The Government of India accepted the 
suggestion with certain modifications : and in 1930, the 
Council, with an advisory board of technical experts, came 
into being. Its funds consisted of a lump sum grant of 26 
lakhs and a recurring provision of 7J lakhs, j of which 5 lakhs 
is for the promotion of research. The Council provides 

* Equivalent to £63,750. 

t Equivalent to £195,000 and £56,250 respectively. 


funds for schemes relating to soils, crops, and livestock, which 
may be classed in the following groups : 

(1) All-India schemes which require a special, but not 
necessarily a permanent organization, e.g. sugar technology, 
locust research, agricultural marketing ; and statistics relating 
to field experiments and animal husbandry. 

(2) Schemes requiring temporary expansion of the 
central research institute, e.g. the establishment of sub-stations 
of that institute at Karnal for cane-breeding and plant botany. 

(3) Coordinated schemes carried out in several provinces, 
e.g. the rice research schemes in Madras, Bengal, the United 
Provinces, the Central Provinces, and elsewhere ; the sugar¬ 
cane testing stations ; fruit research ; and research into dry 

(4) Schemes carried out in one province or State relating 
to problems of all-India importance, e.g. the Bombay fruit- 
storage scheme. 

(5) A variety of schemes that are being carried out at 
universities throughout India by means of funds provided by 
the Council. 

56. Sir John Russell, in his recent report on the work of 
the Council, described most of the schemes in progress as satis¬ 
factory and likely to provide useful results. The organization 
thus created has done much to weave agricultural research 
workers into a closely associated and closely cooperating body, 
and to put the work on a much higher level. 

Distribution of Principal Crops in British Provinces and Larger States (Figures in million acres) 

Crop | 











, Bihar 





Cereals _ 






2I- 5 






Wheat . 











Barley . 



* | 



* 1 








; 10*0 1 











0*1 ; 


* i 



o-8 « 











Pulses — 

(Bengal) i 


2*0 (a) 









Oilseeds — 


3*2 j 





















Castor . 









Linseed . 


















Fibres — 

Cotton . 




















Others — 
































Remarks .—* Below 50,000 acres. (a) Includes another species of pulse also called “ gram.” 



Agriculture — The Work and Achievements of the 
Government Farms 

i. The provincial Governments maintain a number of 
farms of their own. In all provinces there are three types, 
namely the research farm, the experimental farm, and the 
seed and demonstration farm ; in the United Provinces there 
is also a fourth type, the model farm. Each kind of farm has 
its own special kind of functions, but in practice the functions 
of the different classes tend to overlap. Research farms are 
controlled by specialist officers at headquarters and else¬ 
where, and are concerned with plant breeding and other 
similar matters. Experimental farms are scattered over the 
provinces, being usually situated near the headquarters of 
the Deputy Directors who are in charge of them. Their 
functions are threefold : (a) the trial of crop varieties, the exami¬ 
nation of the results of research under local conditions, and 
other field experiments; (b) the testing of new implements or 
machines ; (c) the production of nuclei of improved seed in a 
condition of complete purity. The name “ seed and demon¬ 
stration farm ” is misleading, in that people expect it to afford 
a demonstration of how to run a farm at a profit. The 
primary object of such farms, however, is the multiplication 
and occasionally the testing of seeds suited to a given tract 
and the provision of object lessons in the use of some implement 
or in some improved method of growing a crop. Many farms 
of this kind do, in fact, cover their running expenses; but 
when it is realized that their buildings are costly and that they 
must grow the crops locally required, which are not necessarily 
the most paying crops, there is plainly little chance of their 
serving as examples of profitable farming. This object is 
attained in the United Provinces by the model farms, which 


are usually small farms with cheap buildings, and cultivated 
for profit in such a way as to illustrate the possibilities of 
modem conditions. 

Seed-Supply and Propaganda 

2. The research and the experimental farms, as it were, 
provide the goods which are to fill the shop window : pro¬ 
paganda and seed-supply serve to provide the dressing for 
it. The chief functions of a Deputy Director outside his farms 
are to establish a supply of sound seed, to organize its distribu¬ 
tion, and to persuade the villagers to adopt it. These functions 
are extremely important, for without them research work is 
useless. But they are not easy to carry out. 

3. Let us suppose that a number of types of a particular 
crop, received from the plant breeder at the research farm, 
have been tested at an experimental farm, of which two or 
three types have proved promising. These will then be further 
tried out at various seed and demonstration farms in soils 
and climatic conditions that differ both from those of the 
experimental farm and from each other. These trials make it 
possible to decide what particular types are suitable to 
particular localities. Again, crop varieties are affected by the 
field conditions in which they are grown ; thus a type of 
sugar-cane that does well if the standard of farming is high 
will do much less well if the standard is low. To some extent 
this is tested by growing the same seed with and without 
manure ; but the best information is obtained by growing it 
side by side with the local type on the farm of some responsible 
cultivator, or by financing private persons to run small experi¬ 
mental farms under departmental supervision. These data 
enable an officer to state with certainty that a particular 
variety in particular conditions are better than other varieties 
already in cultivation. Once he is assured of this, his next 
task is to arrange for the multiplication of the seed ; for which 
purpose he sets apart a certain area of the government farm, 
on which the seed is grown and rogued of any impurities. 
Thus a seed nucleus is created ; but the amount of seed that 
can be grown even on a big farm (and many are quite small) 
is limited. If only so much seed be issued to cultivators as 
can be grown on the farm, and it be left solely to natural 
spread, the best result that can be expected after two or three 
years is a mixed and degenerate crop posing as the original 
variety. Accordingly, since holdings in India are chiefly 
14 8 

small, it is imperative, if there is always to be enough seed of 
the proper quality, to create an organization by which a steady 
flow of seed can be maintained, from its ultimate source in the 
government farm. The methods of multiplication vary a 
good deal. In the case of cotton, seed grown and ginned on 
the farm is placed next year with certain substantial growers 
of good repute, who are called “ A-grade registered seed- 
growers.” In due course the produce of this seed is again 
rogued by the departmental staff, and ginned at a public 
ginnery under supervision. This new seed is then issued to 
groups or unions of growers, members of a co-operative sale 
society ; its produce, after further roguing and supervised 
ginning, is used to provide the main stock of seed, which is 
sold to ordinary growers. This process continues from year 
to year, and there is thus a steady flow along a regular channel, 
providing good quality and sufficient quantity for full sowing. 
In the Central Provinces the spread of a good variety of wheat 
is secured by supplying responsible malguzars at regular 
intervals with pure seed from government farms, to be sown on 
their home farms ; whilst their tenants sell their wheat, and 
obtain each year a fresh supply of seed from the malguzars on 
the sawai system.* Thus before long the whole village will 
be sowing the same wheat, which will be approved wheat from 
the government farm. In the Punjab there are big depart¬ 
mental seed farms, which build up a large nucleus by pur¬ 
chasing seed from large estates in the canal colonies, which 
themselves use government seed, and are thus able to supply 
seed of good quality in bulk. The Punjab organization is 
thus largely a matter of finance and transport; the department 
buys up and transports these stocks and resells them in smaller 
amounts to peasant farmers, either direct or through co-opera¬ 
tive societies. In the United Provinces the position is more 
difficult, as the landlord does not, as in the Central Provinces, 
deal in seed ; and there are few big growers who are able and 
willing to carry over seed from harvest to seed-time and to lend 
it on sawai to tenants. In this province the multiplication of 
seed and its supply is secured by issue of government seed 
on sawai or for cash to registered seed-growers who own 
fairly large areas ; by purchasing their stock, and storing it in 
government seed-depots ; and by reissuing it the following 
season either to a ring of small growers or to individual farmers 

* Sawai is repayment at haryest of the seed borrowed, plus an addition 
for interest of 25 per cent. The 'transaction is in kind. 


for ordinary sowing. Government in the United Provinces 
maintain about 200 seed depots, which handle between two 
to three hundred thousand mounds * of seed each year. 

4. Propaganda, or the art of bringing the results of 
research to the farm, may take several forms. It may be an 
occasional visit of an inspecting officer of the department, who 
endeavours to persuade one or two of the bigger men to adopt 
this change or that, in the hope of rousing a spirit of emulation 
amongst their neighbours. It may take the form of conducting 
a party of villagers to examine the work of a neighbouring 
government farm. Again, annual fairs and exhibitions, to 
which the cultivators throng, offer opportunities to the depart¬ 
ment for displaying exhibits and demonstrating the use of 
implements; large crowds attend these fairs, and at times a 
new idea sticks or a new implement is adopted. In an area 
where the department has been active, where a certain number 
'of cultivators already grow improved crops or use improved 
ploughs, a local show, with prizes for the best samples of seed 
or for ploughing contests, will stir up local interest and bring 
forcibly to the notice of farmers what some of their neighbours 
are growing or using ; but, on the whole, the value of demons¬ 
trations at these fairs is doubtful and their effects seldom lasting. 
The only effective way of getting villagers to take up some 
novelty is to demonstrate its value in the village and on the 
villager’s land. The ordinary cultivator does not easily believe 
that the results which he may see on a government farm can be 
reproduced on his own ; nor is he often impressed by the mere 
fact that his landlord does this or that on his home-farm. He 
is seldom influenced by the written word, since he cannot 
read, and he has little faith in what he is told unless the teller 
has already secured his confidence by showing him successful 
results. His attitude is not unreasonable, for he is a small 
man, and small men cannot afford to experiment or speculate 
at their own expense. He is more likely to take up an innova¬ 
tion which does not involve expenditure, even if it calls for 
extra effort. On the other hand, if he is once convinced of 
the value of an innovation that costs money, he will as 
a rule quickly adopt it, provided he has the money or can 
borrow it. 

5. Demonstration work cannot be fruitful if it is only 
spasmodic. Occasional visits of an agricultural officer to a 

* A maund is 82 lb. ; there are nearly 27^ maunds to a ton. 


village seldom produce lasting results. If an officer is to 
establish a new variety and, still more, a new practice, he must 
have the right personality and must be recognized by the 
leading agriculturists as a friend and not as a chance visitor. 
And the chief difficulty in making propaganda effective is the 
need of establishing contact with a large number of farmers, 
none of whom are big men, and to maintain that contact. 

6 . Propaganda may be either intensive or extensive. If 
it is intensive, then no attempt will be made to cover a whole 
tract ; attention will be centred on blocks of neighbouring 
villages. A block may consist of eighteen to twenty-four 
villages, each divided into three groups of six to eight. The 
block is in charge of a lower subordinate officer, assisted by 
three fieldmen, one to each group. A better farming society, 
or farmers’ club,* is established in each village amongst its 
leading cultivators ; the task will be easier if there is already 
a co-operative credit society. Anyone may be enrolled, pro¬ 
vided he is regarded as a keen cultivator by the villagers and 
provided he is willing to conform to the very simple require¬ 
ments of the society. The goods for the shop window are then 
selected. The Deputy Director chooses new types of seed 
or new methods which are reasonably certain to give good 
results. The next step is to select at a meeting of the society 
three reliable farmers, who will undertake to set apart two 
small plots, each of a quarter of an acre or so, in one of which 
•'will (for example) be sown some new type of seed and in the 
other the ordinary village seed. Three or more such 
demonstrations are arranged, each of which is allotted to 
three representatives. Each demonstration is taken up as 
the time for it arrives. The novelty—seed, implement, 
manure, or whatever it may be—is provided by the fieldman, 
who maintains regular touch, usually at weekly intervals, 
with the members of the club, and assists at any critical 
point. The officer in charge of the circle takes every oppor¬ 
tunity to arouse the interest of the members in the demonstra¬ 
tions ; and so, too, do senior officers when visiting the circle. 
At harvest the crops of these plots are cut and weighed, and 
the comparative merits of new and old are discussed at a club 
meeting. The experiment involves no extra cost to the 
grower. New seed is given to him in exchange for an equal 
quantity of the seed he would otherwise have sown. If a new 

* Cf. Chapter X, para. 36 ; and Chapter XII, paras. 8, n. 


implement is on trial, it is lent to him. If it be a new cake or 
a new fertilizer, it is supplied to him free. Finally, to ensure 
his confidence, as confidence is everything, he is given a 
guarantee that if the yield from the new is not at least equal 
to that of the old, the difference will be made up to him. 
When an experiment with a new variety of seed has succeeded, 
there is seldom any difficulty in getting a few farmers to 
exchange their own seed for an equal quantity of the new for 
use on their own holdings, and in due course to provide all 
the members with the new seed for future sowings. The 
writer has come across several cases in which this concentrated 
type of propaganda has had striking success—in the shape of a 
wholesale acceptance of new strains of rice, sugar-cane, or 
wheat, of a standard manurial dressing, or of protective crop 
treatment; of wholesale efforts to increase home supplies of 
manure ; or of a wholesale demand for a new implement. 

7. Extensive propaganda usually takes the form of an 
itinerant cart, which brings improvements into the village, 
and proves to the cultivator that there is a department of 
agriculture whose object is to help him ; for even to this day 
there are millions who do not even know of the department’s 
existence, or, if they do, regard it as something outside their 
horizon. These carts are of a special design ; they are fitted 
with lantern and gramophone, charts, selected lectures, 
selected literature, suitable implements, and sample packets 
of seed of all kinds, including vegetables ; of sulphate, 
ammonium sulphate, and similar articles—all of which are 
distributed free. The outfit includes a pair of bullocks, a 
skilled ploughman, and the assistant in charge. These carts 
proceed on definite circuits, which are notified in advance 
with the help of the revenue authorities ; they halt for a couple 
of days at key villages at intervals of eight to ten miles, during 
which time agricultural matters are discussed, the fields of 
farmers are visited, lantern and other short lectures and 
demonstrations of implements are given. The visit of the 
cart will be followed up by another visit, either of the cart 
itself or of some officer, to see that any new implements 
that may have been ordered are being properly adjusted and 
that seed orders have been fulfilled. Such carts are running 
for about seven to eight months in a year, and visit a dozen 
central villages or so per month. They may not produce 
such striking results as concentrated propaganda in village 
blocks, but as a halt at one village generally attracts a respect- 


able number of visitors from neighbouring villages, they have 
a sufficiently wide influence ; and at any rate they have the 
great advantage of bringing the shop window and its goods to 
the door of the cultivator.* 

The Cultivator’s Difficulties and the Department’s 
Attempts to remedy them 

8. In writing of a country with so great a variety of 

climates, soils, and agricultural conditions, it is difficult to 
describe in a few pages the chief handicaps of the farmer and 
the steps taken to reduce them, the possible remedies and the 
obstacles which obstruct their application. The farmer’s 
needs are : (i) better seed ; (2) better manures ; (3) better 
implements ; (4) better methods of growing the crops ; 

(5) better livestock ; (6) a better water-supply ; and (7) better 
market facilities. 

9. (1) Better seed .—Improved crops are dependent on the 
introduction of strains which increase the yield, improve the 
quality, or resist a defect which affects the yield or quality of 
the local type. In the early stages plant improvement was 
almost entirely confined to the introduction of exotics, notably 
cotton, sugar-cane, tobacco, and groundnut; and though most 
of these exotics were failures, traces of them still remain. The 
Cambodia cotton and Dharwar American cottons are instances 
of widespread types of exotic origin, and also some types of 
sugar-cane and groundnut which are still in common cultiva¬ 
tion. The foreign kinds of tobacco that were first introduced 
into India were of little importance, but most of the present 
improvements in the cultivation of cigarette-leaf are associated 
with recently introduced exotics, such as “ Adcock and 
Harrison special.” f 

* In the United Provinces there are also a number of propaganda 
motor-vans similarly equipped. These also tour the country but keep 
only to the main roads, whilst the carts penetrate further into the interior 
where the vans cannot go. Some of them have been presented to Govern¬ 
ment by public-spirited landlords. They deal not only with agriculture 
but with public health matters too. See Chapter XII, para. 37. 

t Virginia tobacco is extensively grown in India, chiefly at Guntur 
in Madras. There is now a very large export of unmanufactured cigarette- 
leaf from India, whilst the imports both of unmanufactured leaf and of 
manufactured cigarettes have fallen considerably, which indicates the 
growth of a large cigarette-making industry in India which uses Indian 


10. With the establishment of the present department, 
improvement took the form of the examination and selection 
first of indigenous varieties and then of such individual plants 
of the selected varieties as possessed their general characteristics 
in the highest degree. The Pusa wheats, numbers 4 and 12, 
which to-day occupy large areas in the Gangetic valley, are 
the result of selections from mixed field-wheats ; and many 
improved rices, cottons, linseeds, and grams have a similar 
origin. This method entails the cultivation of hundreds of 
individual plants, often exhibiting only slight variations of the 
particular factors that are being sought, the examination of 
their progeny, and the fixation of those factors. Such selection 
has limited results ; the plant may give a higher yield, but a 
lower quality, or it may be particularly susceptible to some 
disease. It may possess undesirable as well as desirable 
characteristics. But by hybridization and subsequent selection 
of individual plants within the products of the cross, it is 
possible to evolve a plant possessing the good qualities of both 
parent plants ; and though there is still some measure of 
straight selection, hybridization is predominant. The modern 
Coimbatore canes are the most striking example of this process. 
Hundreds of new types are created at Coimbatore, are tested 
there and at the sugar-cane farms throughout India, and pass 
out to provide new types suitable to new provinces, soils, and 
cultural conditions, which, especially in northern India, 
take the place of those old indigenous canes which have few 
good qualities except hardiness. * Other examples of improved 
types now in use, which are the result of hybridization, are 
the later Pusa and Punjab wheats, certain rices in the 
United Provinces and elsewhere, groundnut in the Central 
Provinces and Madras, and cottons in Bombay and the 

11. As a rule, a new type is better than the old type not 
universally but only in a limited zone. The Pusa wheats, for 
instance, are better than the local wheats in the Gangetic 
alluvium, but not in the black-cotton soils ; the new linseeds 
are improvements in the Central Provinces, but not in the 
submontane areas. A cotton of outstanding merit in the 
Punjab is more often than not useless in Gujarat. It is this 
which explains the need for numerous plant-breeding stations 

* In sugar-cane reproduction is vegetative, i.e. by cuttings, and the 
lengthy process of fixation of character is not so essential as it is in seed- 
sown plants. 

[ 54 

and for trial in experimental farms, and even in village plots, 
before a new type is liberated. 

12. One of the great difficulties in deciding which of 
different types should be introduced is the constant conflict 
between quantity and quality. It is usually easier to introduce 
a type with a higher yield, for the cultivator can see the yield 
on the threshing-floor and measure it in so many additional 
maunds at the old price. Thus Coimbatore canes are easily 
introduced because they are so obviously larger than the old 
indigenous forms. In most cases improved yield pays the 
cultivator best—largely because in existing conditions of 
marketing he finds it difficult to secure the premium, or at 
least, the full premium, which is due to better quality. It is 
easy, for instance, to popularize a cotton with much the same 
lint and staple as those of the old type, but with a higher 
ginning percentage ; but it will not be so easy to introduce 
a cotton of lower ginning percentage, but with better lint or 
a longer staple. The responsible officer may realize that with a 
declining market for short staple, the new type will prove more 
profitable in the long run. But the cultivator lives for today 
and not for tomorrow, and is not likely to select the longer 
staple unless special marketing arrangements are also made. 

13. (2) Better manures .—Almost all Indian soils are deficient 
in organic matter, whilst the lateritic and red soils are also 
deficient in phosphoric acid and the former frequently in lime. 
India has been cropped for hundred of years with only a small 
direct return ; and in many tracts yields are low because they 
depend solely on that minimum of plant food which the soil, 
left to its own devices, can annually provide. After shortage 
of water, the chief cause which limits crop yield is shortage of 
manure. The supply of cattle-dung manure should be ample, 
for the bovine population of the country is many times larger 
than it is in other countries. That is not, however, the result, 
because ( a) by far the larger proportion of solid manure is 
dried and used for domestic fuel; and (b) because the average 
farmer does not make as much manure as he could from other 
sources, nor, indeed, does he get full value out of such supply 
of livestock manure as remains after his fuel has been collected. 
He relies on this residue, often carelessly gathered, to provide 
the annual needs of his fields, to which, in some tracts, he adds 
the manure obtained by folding sheep.* As regards the first 

* Cf. Chapter III, para. 8. 


of these causes, cattle dung is the only available fuel over large 
tracts of country, and research has shown that on the whole 
it is more economical to burn it, in spite of the consequent 
waste of valuable plant food, than to buy coal or charcoal. 
Apart, therefore, from isolated areas in the neighbourhood 
of forests or collieries, the use of cattle dung as fuel is a necessary 
evil, for there is little point in increasing the supply of raw 
food by manuring if that supply cannot be cooked. Village 
demonstration work has accordingly been directed to the second 
cause of shortage, and attempts have been made : (i) to 
induce the cultivator to realize that dung is not the only 
manure, but that he can largely increase his supply by collecting 
waste vegetation, passing this under his bullocks, and then into 
correctly made pits—in other words, by “ composting ” ; 
(2) to make him realize that the urine of his livestock, if 
systematically conserved in loose dry earth, is equal to the 
value of the solid manure which he burns ; and (3) where 
climatic and irrigation conditions permit, to encourage the 
growth of leguminous species as catchcrops for the purposes 
of inversion or green manuring. 

14. Modern composting,* as carried out systematically 
on government farms, is capable of at least trebling the heavy 
manure available. It is, however, beyond the capacity of the 
small cultivator, and the most that can, as a rule, be done is 
to get him to make a suitable pit and to collect therein any 
weeds or vegetation that come to hand. The second method 
of collecting manure involves nothing more than keeping the 
earth floor in the cattle stalls loose instead of hard and changing 
or adding to it periodically. With a little persuasion at first, 
it has been possible to establish the practice in a number of 
the better farming societies already mentioned. But in field 
demonstrations the method of improving fertility which is 
most commonly recommended, as being both cheap and easy, 
is green manuring. It is now most common («) in advance 
of sugar-cane in areas where the ground was formerly left an 
open fallow ; ( b) before wheat, in areas where irrigation is 
feasible; and (c) before rice, if either early showers (as in 
Bengal) or irrigation (as in the United Provinces and Madras) 

* A composting pit is about 2-J feet deep. It is never more than half 
filled, but water is added from time to time to quicken rotting and every 
fortnight or so the manure must be turned over. It is ready for the field 
in about three months. See Brayne, Better Villages, p. 67. 


make it possible to establish a leguminous plant before the 
heavy rain sets in and transplanting begins.* 

15. It must not be supposed that Indian cultivators, at all 
events of the better kind, do not appreciate the value of manure, 
though they may not know how to increase their supplies, or 
of possible substitutes. What they have they apply with care 
first to the irrigated land, then to the kharif crop, and lastly 
to some rabi crop. Rabi crops that have been cultivated dry 
—for instance, wheat on the black soils—never see manure ; 
and the maintenance of fertility is solely dependent on the 
leguminous crops which appear in the rotation. 

16. The profitable use of cakes and fertilizers is practically 
confined to irrigated crops of the more paying kind, such as 
sugar-cane, onions, chillies, or potatoes, as an addition to an 
earlier dressing of heavy manure. On ordinary staple crops 
their use is always speculative, as their value is dependent on 
the nature of the monsoon. The only exception is the use of 
bonemeal or other phosphatic manure on the red and lateritic 
soils. In irrigated areas they would be used more extensively 
if agricultural loans ( taqavi) f were more readily advanced 
for their purchase, or any other means of credit at reasonable 
rates were available which permitted payment after harvest. 
Lack of ready money is the chief hindrance, even in areas 
where the water-supply is regular. 

17. Night-soil plays little part in the manurial scheme of 
the Indian peasant, chiefly because only very low castes will 
handle it. Certain municipalities sell it in the shape of 
poudrette or night-soil composts, and in that form it is used by 
market-gardening castes or occasionally by some big farmer 
who employs labourers of the proper castes to handle it. But 
most peasants will have nothing to do with it. In this respect 
the Indian farmer differs from the Chinese or the Japanese, 
who, having much fewer livestock, use night-soil freely. 

18. (3) Better implements .—As has been mentioned, on 
small holdings country implements do all that is required, and 
the use of a better implement, unless it can be secured on loan 
or hire, would seldom be economic. But the larger and more 

* Green manuring consists in sowing a suitable crop which is not cut, 
but ploughed into the soil. There are various suitable crops; sanai is 
one of them. 

t Granted by Government under the Agriculturists Loans Act of 1884. 


consolidated the holding, the more desirable becomes the use 
of more efficient tools and the greater are the results to be 
expected from them. The increased use of iron implements and 
sim ple machinery in the village depends partly on the amount 
of demonstration, partly on the efficiency and push of the 
demonstrator, and also on the maintenance of an adequate 
system of repair. There is a world of difference between 
watching an inversion plough at work on a government farm 
and operating that plough oneself behind one’s own bullocks, 
on one’s own soil, and with a capable agent beside one to 
adjust it and to show how it should be handled. Many more 
improved implements would be used if there was more village 
demonstration and better salesmanship. But in view of the 
small size of even an economic holding and the cultivator’s 
lack of mechanical sense, the implement must be cheap and 
must be simple, even if its simplicity should rob it of some of 
the extra advantages which a good European or American 
farmer would appreciate. If by slight adjustment or attention 
it can be made to do several jobs, so much the better. 

19. Modern types of field and stockyard equipment are 
most commonly used in certain parts of the Deccan and in the 
canal colonies of the Punjab. Thirty years ago there was 
scarcely an iron implement in use anywhere. Today, on the 
black soils heavy inversion ploughs are freely used, which have 
replaced the old indigenous ploughs drawn by four or six 
pairs of bullocks for periodic deep-ploughing. In these 
parts even small men can use such ploughs, because they are 
kept for hire by the taluka * agricultural societies. The iron 
three-roller mill for crushing sugar-cane has now almost 
entirely replaced its wooden predecessor all over India, with 
great additional efficiency in extraction. In the Punjab cheap 
fodder-cutters locally made are to be found in numbers in 
most canal colonies ; the use of chaffing as increasing the 
value of fodder is better recognized here than in most places. 
Winnowers are now common in the wheat tract of the Central 
Provinces. In the easily worked soils of the alluvial areas 
light inversion ploughs, built on the English model, are steadily 
on the increase ; there are tens of thousands of them in the 
United Provinces alone. Such a plough and a light three- 
tined grubber, like the Baroda cultivator’s hoe, are practically 

* A subdivision of a district in Bombay and elsewhere ; called tahsil 
in other provinces. 


all the modem equipment that five-acre farms require. There 
has always been controversy regarding the economic value of 
the inversion as compared with the indigenous plough and of 
deep ploughing in the heavy black soils. Except for a 
periodical stirring of the soil and the removal of perennial 
weeds, deep ploughing in these soils as a regular practice is 
neither necessary nor economical, and in general the use of 
inversion ploughs should depend on the fertility of the soil, 
and the manner in which it is maintained. Where soils are 
poor and there is little or no return either from manure or the 
presence of leguminous crops in the rotation, regular inversion 
ploughing, though it may stimulate the yield temporarily, 
will eventually do damage. But in all other cases everything 
is in favour of the wider use of such ploughs. 

20. (4) Better methods of growing crops .—Apart from better 
tillage and better manuring, demonstration has rarely been 
responsible for the introduction of agricultural improvements. 
One instance is the gradual extension of line-sowing in kharif 
crops, accompanied by bullock-hoeing, from southern India 
to parts of northern India, in place of sowing broadcast or 
behind the plough. Another instance in the case of sugar¬ 
cane is the adoption of ridge-and-furrow planting, and wider 
spacing between the lines, which is required by the larger 
modern canes. Such innovations as these can only be effected 
by intensive work in the villages themselves. 

21. (5) Better livestock — (a) bovine .—India has an enormous 
livestock population—bovine (oxen and buffaloes), ovine (sheep 
and goats), and other classes (horses, donkeys, and camels). 
According to the last cattle census the bovine population, 
including that of Indian States, is approximately 190 millions, 
the ovine population is about 90 millions, whilst horses, donkeys, 
and camels number about five millions. India possesses between 
one-third and one-fourth of the total bovine population of the 
world, which is estimated at 690 millions ; about three times 
that of the United States and of the Soviet Union ; and thirty 
times that of the United Kingdom. Though the value of the 
products of any individual animal may be low, the total value 
is very considerable ; for instance, the annual milk products of 
the country are estimated at 300 crores of rupees * per annum, 
which is roughly equal to the value of the Indian rice crop and 
three or four times the value of Indian wheat; whilst hides 

* £225,000,000. 


and skins are worth another 30 crores, which is more than the 
value of India’s sugar-cane products. Moreover, the whole 
of India’s cultivation rests on the bovine population ; bullock 
labour represents an expenditure of between 400 and 500 
crores, whilst the estimated value of the fuel and manure 
which they provide amounts to another 270 crores. At a 
rough estimate, the bovine population contributes about 
1,000 crores of rupees, or 750 millions sterling, to the 
agricultural income of the country. 

22. The cattle are of two kinds, oxen and buffaloes. As 
has been already explained,* the male is of speciaHmportance 
in the former class, as supplying the agricultural power of the 
country, though in certain breeds the female also has a value 
as a milch animal. In the second class the female is of special 
importance, as providing milk, ghi, and other animal products, 
though the male is often used as a draught animal, especially 
in the rice tracts. On an average, the she-buffalo gives rather 
more than twice the milk of a cow at each lactation. Of the 
total number of cattle in British India, 21 per cent, are to be 
found in the United Provinces, 16 per cent, in Bengal, 50 per 
cent, in Madras, and only 8 per cent, in the Central Provinces 
and Bombay.| The poorest and most degenerate stock are 
found in the areas round the head of the Bay of Bengal. They 
appear to coincide with the lateritic soils and also with the 
areas of highest general rainfall, namely, the east of the 
Central Provinces, Bengal, Assam, Bihar, and Orissa. The 
poor types of stock found in Bengal account for their large 
number ; in the drier tracts of the Central Provinces, Bombay, 
and northern India there are better types both of cattle and 

23. Most provinces have one or more distinctive breeds, 
though the actual number of pure-bred cattle in the villages 
are relatively few, and become fewer the further the village is 
from the breeding centres. There are two kinds of breed— 
those in which the males are of chief importance as draught 
animals and those in which the females are of chief importance 
as milch animals. Again, amongst the working breeds there 
are some which are valuable for heavy draught and others 
whose chief quality is rapidity of movement, being lighter in 

* See Chapter I, parai 49. 

f The ratio to a cultivated acre ranges from 105 per 100 acres in the 
United Provinces to 36 per 100 in Bombay. 


the body and longer in thq leg. In some of these breeds the 
cows, if carefully selected and properly fed, give considerable 
quantities of milk. 

24. The best known milking breeds are the Sindhi and 
Thar Parkar (Sind), the Sahiwal * * * § (Punjab), the Gir (Kathia¬ 
war), and the Ongole (Madras) ; whilst the best working 
breeds are the Hariana f (Punjab), the Malvi (Central India), 
the Kankrej (Gujarat), the Gaolao (Central Provinces), the 
Kistna Valley (Bombay and Madras),$ and the Amrit Mahal 
(Mysore). The Malvi is the typical heavy-weight plough 
bullock, at its best in preparing the black soils for rabi; whilst 
the Gaolao, Kankrej, and Amrit Mahal are fast-moving 
animals particularly suited to the shallow cultivation and 
hoeing requirements of cotton and to cart-work. The 
popularity of one breed or another in any particular locality 
chiefly depends on the nature of the farm-work and especially 
the general depth of ploughing required, and is also influenced 
by the hardiness of the breed. The Malvi, the Gaolao, and 
the Amrit Mahal are purely working breeds. Amongst the 
Hariana and the Kankrej are to be found good .milch cows ; 
probably the Kankrej is the finest breed for general agricultural 
purposes in India. 

25. Most provinces have some breed of buffalo of their own. 
The best known breeds are : (1) the Murroh or Delhi buffalo 
from the Rohtak district, which is common in the Punjab, 
the west of the United Provinces, Rajputana, and North Sind ; 
it is a heavy-built type, with a ram-like horn, capable of 
giving thirty to forty pounds of milk ; (2) the Jafarabadi of 
Kathiawar, a badly shaped animal, but also capable of giving 
thirty to forty pounds ; (3) the Surati or Charotar breed of 
Gujarat, a smaller buffalo, but the mainstay of the Gujarat 
milk industry, two or three of which are kept by every sub¬ 
stantial cultivator ; and (4) the Mehsana breed, which is 
probably a cross between the Delhi and the Surati, good 
milkers, and more economical to maintain, as being less 
heavy, than the Delhi type. The animals in the big dairy 
stables of Bombay are mostly of the Mehsana and Delhi 
breeds.§ The Deccan and Central India breeds have a 

* Also called Montgomery. 

f Also called Hansi. 

t Also called Nellore in Madras. 

§ The number of animals sent annually to the Bombay stables is put 
at an average of 14,000. 

: I-(495) 

long, pointed horn and, compared with the other breeds 
mentioned, give little milk. Though buffaloes thrive well in 
districts of heavy rainfall, tire best are found in districts of 
moderate to light rainfall. 

26. The total number of ordinary cattle varies, as has 
been noted, from province to province, though the ratio of 
bullocks to cows and other cattle is much the same every¬ 
where, in spite of different conditions. This indicates a 
similarity in the method of management; and as the number 
of cattle in a district is regulated by the need for bullocks, 
the worse are the conditions for rearing cattle, the larger is 
the number of cattle of all kinds that the cultivator must 
keep. This is a situation which can only go from bad to worse, 
for the more cattle there are in a given tract the greater is the 
drain on the fodder supply, whether natural or cultivated. 
In India it is generally true that tire larger the amount of free 
grazing the more numerous are the animals and the worse is 
their general standard. 

27. The village bullock is obtained from two sources— 
the professional breeders and the cultivator’s own cows. The 
professional breeders inhabit the less populated and cultivated 
tracts, such as Central India, certain parts of the Punjab, 
Sind, Kathiawar, and northern Gujarat. Cultivators’ cows 
are found all over the country, but are relatively few where 
professional breeders are many. Thus, in northern Gujarat 
it is rare to find a cultivator in possession of a cow. In the 
Gangetic valley draught animals are partly home-bred, partly 
imported by dealers from the Punjab. In the east of the 
Central Provinces they are for the most part home-bred. In 
general, the home-bred bullock, the result of uncontrolled 
breeding by immature or degenerate sires, is a miserable 
animal, and also ill-fed, since it depends for its food either on 
an overcrowded common grazing area which produces little or 
nothing, or on what it can glean from the stubble of harvested 
fields. The animal of the professional breeder is relatively 
well bred, from a selected sire ; and as the young males are 
castrated and sold, no damage is done by immature mating, 
such as occurs in the mixed herd which wanders out from the 
village to the grazing grounds. If the monsoon is favourable, 
there is probably sufficient grass ; but unless there is some 
special stock of fodder or of cereal straw, or other reserve to 
tide over the lean season from March to July, the develop¬ 
ment of the stock will suffer. It was probably much easier 

to feed livestock in the semi-nomadic method of cattle-raising 
of the past than it is now. There is no doubt that in some 
tracts the area of the common grass-lands is diminishing as 
cultivation expands and that what is left of them is not of the 
same quality as it once was. And that is a serious matter, 
for most Indian bullocks get little but grass to eat from the day 
when they are weaned to the day when they are set to work. 

28. The various defects of Indian livestock just mentioned 
have been realized from the earliest days of the department 
of agriculture, to whom livestock improvement was entrusted 
in all provinces except the Punjab. From 1906-1920 cattle- 
breeding was in the hands of the Deputy Directors, and in most 
provinces cattle-breeding farms were established, which dealt 
with the local breeds of importance, though often on too 
small a scale. It was not till the service was re-established 
after the war that the necessity was realized of employing a 
full-time livestock officer, and of thus ensuring some semblance 
of a continuous policy in respect of breeding. Such an 
officer was appointed in most of the major provinces ; and at 
this time, or shortly afterwards, most departments materially 
increased their herds, and were able to provide bulls in 
increasing quantity. There are now thirty-nine cattle- 
breeding farms in India. In the Punjab, breeding at Hissar 
and elsewhere had the advantage of being controlled in the 
early stages by a veterinary officer with a knowledge of stock- 
breeding, and also of operating on a large scale. The first 
real movement towards improving the village livestock took 
place in the Punjab. Bulls from government farms were sent 
out to the district boards for village service, on condition that 
wherever such a bull was sent all scrub bulls should be castrated. 
There is no doubt that this steady output of bulls caused steady 
improvement in a tract which has the advantage of including 
fodder crops to some extent in the crop rotation. 

29. The table on the next page shows the progress made 
in the annual issue of bulls from government breeding-farms. 
The marked superiority of the service in the Punjab is obvious ; 
but in the United Provinces progress has been better than the 
figures indicate. The policy in this province is to reserve farm 
bulls for issue in certain reserved tracts where cattle-breeding 
is of importance, and to purchase animals from the Punjab 
•to serve as sires for issue to the ordinary village herds. The 
bulls in service at the present time are 200 in Assam, 487 in 
Bengal, 289 in Bombay, 137 in the Central Provinces, 181 in 


Madras, 5,035 in the Punjab, and 3,448 in the United Pro¬ 
vinces. Both villages and individuals are more willing to 
take over and maintain a bull in the Punjab and the United 
Provinces than they are in the cotton tracts of the Central 
Provinces and Bombay. In most provinces other than the 
Punjab and the United Provinces, a bull is issued on what is 
called the “ premium system,” whereby Government meets 
half the original cost and makes annual provision for three 
years towards its maintenance. 






Assam .... 





Bengal .... 





Bombay .... 





Central Provinces 


4 1 



Madras .... 





Punjab .... 

37 ° 


55 i 


United Provinces 



! 42 


30. Little has yet been done to improve the grass-lands, 
apart from a certain amount of. departmental research in 
Bombay and the Central Provinces and certain practical 
experiments carried out by the forest department in the United 
Provinces regarding the control of grazing on usar * and ravine 
lands, which have brought about an increase in the yield of 
hay. Cultivators, however, are now beginning to realize the 
advantage of growing fodder crops on their farms ; they have 
been stimulated pardy by the need for greater supplies in the 
off-season, partly by their increasing interest in the dairy side 
of animal husbandry, and partly by demonstrations of silage 
as a means of carrying over kharif fodders and surplus monsoon 
grass into the hot season. Many new fodders of considerable 
promise are in the experimental stage, whilst others are now 
well established, such as berseim in northern India and 
Napier grass, guinea grass, and lucerne in various irrigated 

31. The Indian catde-breeder has for generations con¬ 
centrated his attention on the working bullock and the female 

* See Chapter I, para. 7. 


has been regarded merely as the vehicle of reproduction, 
unless, indeed, she were a better milch animal than usual. 
She has had less than her fair share of food ; her progeny, 
especially her female progeny, have been deprived of much 
of her milk ; in short, the cow, however sacred, has not had 
much of a chance. In certain breeds matters have gone so 
far that the cow is now unlikely ever to give much milk. 
Breeding for work and breeding for milk are ultimately 
' antagonistic ; muscle and milk do not go together. And the 
department has so far followed the Indian cattle-breeder’s 
example. It has devoted itself to the improvement of the 
working breeds and done relatively little for the milking 

32. As the Indian cow was generally in low esteem as a 
milker, the first move towards improving the milk supplies 
was by mating with imported bulls—Ayrshire, Short-horn, 
and Holstein. This certainly led to enormous increases in the 
yield of the cross-bred progeny and became recognized mating 
in the military dairy herds. But it became clear at an early 
date that the progeny were peculiarly susceptible to the many 
epizootic diseases of India and that for the most part they 
deteriorated in the second generation ; and this means of 
improving the Indian cow has proved a failure. More 
recently, however, attempts have been made to create pure¬ 
bred herds of good milking types at Pusa, Lyallpur, Firozpur, 
and elsewhere ; there has been steady progress, and the milk 
yield of these herds, mostly Sindhi and Sahiwal, has year by 
year increased. Thus, the Lyallpur herd advanced from an 
average of 5-6 lb. per day in twenty-two years to 17-15 lb., 
and the Pusa herd in twenty years from 5-8 lb. to 18-5 lb. 

33. There was at one time a tendency to create “ dual 
purpose ” breeds, with males capable of doing harder work and 
females capable of giving more milk ; but though in the 
Kankrej, for instance, a higher milk yield can be secured with¬ 
out affecting the working ability of the male, in most breeds 
the increase in milk must generally be limited if working 
efficiency is to remain high. Cattle-breeding policy, therefore, 
is likely to take the form of improving certain working breeds 
in the less populated tracts and certain milking breeds in tracts 
where the population is thicker, where urban markets are 
available, and where the cultivation of fodder crops is possible. 
Less attention has been given to buffalo-breeding ; possibly 


the original buffalo was an animal of higher standard than the 
original bullock. 

34. The estimated amount of milk that is produced per 
annum is 690 million maunds.* Statistics, which are available 
only for certain areas, show that about 33 million cows are 
responsible for 240 million maunds and 14 million she-buffaloes 
for 2QO million maunds. The milk of the latter is considerably 
richer in butter fats, and is thus the chief source of ghi. But 
the consumption of milk and its products is extremely low. 
In European countries it averages 36 oz. per head per day; 
in India it averages 7 oz., from a minimum of 3-2 in Bengal 
to 15 in northern India. Of the total output of 690 million 
maunds , 215 millions are used as fluid milk, 364 as ghi, and 
the rest in other forms. Both milk and ghi, particularly in 
urban areas, are adulterated—the former by free use of water, 
the latter by admixture with other vegetable fats. India 
exports about 24,000 cwt. of ghi, chiefly to Malaya, and imports 
about 8,000 cwt. of butter (an import which has steadily 
risen from 1,000 cwt. to the present figure in the last ten years), 
10,000 cwt. of cheese, and two million cwt. of various forms of 
preserved milk, for the most part sweetened and condensed. 

35. ( b) Ovine .—The total population of sheep and goats 
is 90 million head, of which about one-third are found in 
Madras. Apart from a certain number of experiments with 
merino rams, so as to improve the fleece of these sheep, very 
little attention was given to these animals till the Council of 
Agricultural Research began to allot funds in certain provinces 
for breeding work in both classes. Little has so far been 
achieved, but the indications are that considerable improve¬ 
ments are possible. The supply of goats’ milk is capable of 
considerable increase, and as the upkeep of a goat is cheap, 
it will help to solve the problem of the village milk-supply. 

36. ( c) Poultry .—Poultry is another class of livestock which 
is gaining in importance. The first active efforts to improve 
the indigenous poultry on any large scale were made in the 
United Provinces shortly after the end of the war. Poultry 
improvement now figures in the programmes of many provinces 
and States, and has been in some cases stimulated by grants 
made by the Council of Agricultural Research. The move¬ 
ment towards rural uplift which has been prominent in the 
past five years has also intensified interest in poultry-keeping 

* A liquid maund is about gallons. 

as a subsidiary industry, at all events in villages where 
Muham m adans or low-caste Hindus predominate, for the 
better castes will have nothing to do with it.* It is possible 
to effect considerable improvements in the laying capacity, 
the size of the egg, and the size of the bird, either by replacing 
the indigenous birds altogether or by mating them with 
cocks of overseas breeds. The White Leghorn and the Rhode 
Island Red are most common, and both do well. Poultry 
disease is the chief obstacle to expansion, but this will be dealt 
with at an institute of animal husbandry which is on the eve 
of establishment at Izatnagar near Bareilly in the United 

37. The Veterinary Service .—The need for a civil veterinary 
department was first suggested in 1868, but the service was 
not established till 1891. At the present day it consists of 109 
gazetted officers of the Indian Veterinary Service and pro¬ 
vincial services consisting of Veterinary Inspectors and Assis¬ 
tant Veterinary Surgeons to the number of 1650. The largest 
department is in the Punjab, with 36 of the first and 408 of the 
second class ; but in this province cattle-breeding is one of its 
functions, whereas in most provinces the cattle-breeding staff 
is under the department of agriculture. The Commission on 
Agriculture pointed out how inadequate was such a staff to 
deal with the injuries, sickness, and, above all, the devastating 
epizootic diseases to which the livestock of the country are 
subject, and insisted that the Indian service should be increased 
three times and the provincial services four times. At present, 
there is one veterinary surgeon for approximately every 
1,200,000 head of catde and one hospital or dispensary 
assistant to every 100,000. All the major provinces employ a 
small staff of fully qualified veterinary surgeons, one of whom is 
the Director of Veterinary Services. The arrangements for con¬ 
trolling and paying the subordinate service vary considerably. 

38. Veterinary research is chiefly carried out at the 
institute at Muktesar in the Kumaun hills, where much 
valuable work on animal disease has been done. It provides 
the greater part of the serum required for preventive inoculation 
against rinderpest. In recent years subsidiary research 
laboratories have been established in most provinces, and the 
Council of Agricultural Research has provided the pay of 
provincial Disease Investigating Officers, who are engaged 

* Poultry are regarded as unclean by all but relatively low castes. 


in the local study of the more important causes of illness. 
They are additional to the regular staff. 

39. The principal duties of the service are the control 
and prevention of the major epidemic diseases, the castration 
of bulls, and the general treatment of ordinary ailments and 
injuries. The most prevalent diseases are rinderpest, 
haemorrhagic septicaemia, and foot-and-mouth disease, though 
there are a number of others which occasionally cause heavy 
losses. Control has improved enormously. Thus vaccination 
with goat virus, at a very low cost, will prevent an attack of 
rinderpest for several years. Haemorrhagic septicaemia, from 
which the buffalo chiefly suffers during a monsoon, can be 
prevented by inoculation before the epidemic season sets in. 
Legislation to enforce the early report of diseases and the 
control of movements of livestock has also facilitated the 
handling of epidemics. The number of castrations of 
undesirable males, especially in breeding areas, has doubled 
in the last eight years, and a much more general use is now 
made of the local dispensary if one is anywhere within range. 

The Council of Agricultural Research, which includes a 
veterinary expert, has provided funds for the foundation of an 
institute of animal husbandry, which will be chiefly engaged 
in considering the problems of nutrition and disease ; for 
the dairy research institute at Bangalore ; and for schemes 
relating to the nutrition, diseases, and improvement of sheep, 
goats, and poultry. 

40. (6) Better water-supply .—The principal features of the 
monsoon and the principal types of artificial irrigation have 
already been described.* Here, it will suffice to recall certain 
salient points. Firstly, from October to June most of India gets 
little or no rain. Secondly, the monsoon rainfall lasts from June 
to September ; but the quantity of it varies greatly in different 
parts of India. Thirdly, the kharif must be matured and the j 
rabi must be sown on the water provided by the rainfall. 
Fourthly, the rainfall is often short or ill-distributed and must 
then be supplemented by artificial supplies the value of which j 
is inestimable in most parts of India. The only tracts that 
can do without artificial irrigation are the western coastline, 

the Gangetic delta, and the black-soil areas. The principal 
types of artificial irrigation are canals, tanks, and wells, about 
which it is unnecessary to say more than has already been 

* Chapter X, paras. 26-31. 


said.* There are, however, other sources, notably streams f 
and swamps ( jhils ), which are freely used by cultivators 
whenever they are accessible. The cultivator’s method of 
raising water from these sources is peculiarly laborious. Two 
ropes are attached to each side of a shallow basket ( dugla ), 
which is made of plaited strips of either bamboo or leather ; 
the ropes are held by labourers, one to each pair ; they dip 
the basket into the stream, and swing it up on to a higher 
level, at the same time tilting the water out of it. If necessary 
the process is repeated two or three times. 

41. The part irrigation plays in the rural economy of 
different places varies greatly, but it is of importance chiefly 
in Sind, the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, the 
United Provinces, Bihar, and Madras. Of the 55 million 
acres which are protected by irrigation of some kind, over 
45 million are in these tracts, or (including the double-cropped 
areas) 56 million. The figures are shown in the table below. 


Areas in Thousands 

Percentage of 





Punjab . 






North-West Frontier 









United Provinces . 





19.3 60 


Madras . 

Bombay and Central 




Alluvial and 
red soils. 

Provinces . 




black soils. 

* See Chapter I, paras. 38 et seq. 

t The streams in question are usually such as are too small or flow at 
too low a level to be used for feeding canal-systems. On two such streams 
in the United Provinces, namely the Ramganga and the Kali Nadi (Black 
River), both tributaries of the Ganges, electrically-driven pumping 
stations have been installed, and they have thus been brought into the 
general canal-system. But even when cheap power is available, such 
pumping schemes seldom pay, and they are not likely to be used if any other 
method of irrigation is available. 


The total irrigated areas in British India in 1934-5 wer e, 
in round figures, 25 million acres from canals (both govern¬ 
ment and private), 6 million acres from tanks, i2| million 
acres from wells, with 5I million acres from pther sources—in 
all, 49 million acres. 

42. It has already been said that most departments of 
agriculture include an agricultural engineering section. This 
section has a variety of functions—the designing of improved 
implements and the introduction and control of agricultural 
machinery, such as oil engines, pumping plants, and tractor 
ploughs; but its most important duty is the improvement 
and increase of subsoil water-supplies. The amount of 
improvement that these engineering sections can achieve 
depends partly on their opportunities. These are most 
numerous in Bihar, the east of the Punjab, and the United 
Provinces—in particular, the last. Their work takes the form 
of tube-well construction and the improvement of open wells. 
A development mentioned in an earlier chapter,* whereby 
the Government of the United Provinces has undertaken the 
building of electrically-driven tube wells in its western districts, 
is the outcome of earlier work of the same land done by the 
Agricultural Engineers on behalf of large landowners. At 
the present day this agency, either on behalf of the irrigation 
department, who are in charge of the State tube wells just 
mentioned, or for private owners, builds over 450 new tube 
wells per annum, whilst the Punjab and Bihar engineering 
sections provide some 250 wells between them. The improve¬ 
ment of existing open wells is of little less importance. In 
most of them the water level is relatively high. But experience 
has shown that in the alluvial areas the outturn of such wells 
can be improved by about 1,500 gallons per hour by boring 
from 60 feet to 80 feet in the bottom of the existing well. 
This type of improvement is commonest in the United Pro¬ 
vinces, Madras, and Bihar. The Agricultural Engineers of 
the United Provinces sink over 100,000 feet per annum in 
about 1,800 wells, and in about 75 per cent, of them succeed 
in adding 1,500 gallons or more per hour to the old supply. 
Thus, in a period of five years they can add over ten million 
gallons per hour to the water-supply of a province—an addition 
which has no small effect on its safety and prosperity. Similar 
results, though not so extensive, have been obtained in Madras 

* See Chapter I, para. 39. 


and Bihar. But be it noted that whereas the discharge of an 
open well, even after it has been improved in the manner 
described, is not likely to exceed 2,500 to 3,000 gallons per 
hour, the average State tube well discharges 1cusecs—or 585 
gallons per minute .* 

43. In addition to increasing the water-supply, much 
attention has been devoted to the better use of irrigation and 
the better conservation of the natural rainfall. It is a well- 
known fact that the standard of farming is usually higher if 
irrigation is from a well than if it is from a canal. This may, 
to some slight extent, be due to the nature of the water ; but 
it is chiefly due to the fact that the farmer, having had to work 
himself to get his water, takes more trouble and is less wasteful 
in using it. Well irrigation, measured in man and bullock- 
power, is infinitely more expensive even with the best type of 
lift than canal irrigation. Canal rates in the Punjab are 12 
rupees per acre for cane, 6i rupees for cotton, and 5 rupees 
for wheat per season. In the United Provinces cane costs 
10 rupees and wheat 5 rupees per acre, if irrigated from the 
canals; if it is irrigated from the State tube wells, where water 
is sold not by area but volumetrically, cane will cost possibly 
15 rupees per acre per season ; but if it be irrigated from 
even a shallow open well, the cost will probably be 25 rupees. 
Differences of this kind make the cultivator more careful in 
the use of water. If he is using canal water, he is also apt to 
over-irrigate when his turn comes ; but continuous propaganda 
is having its effect, and on the older canals it is calculated 
that the same volume of water now supplies 30 per cent, more 
land than it did forty years ago. 

44. Conservation of rainfall in the soil is most necessary 
in those tracts where rainfall is often short and irrigation is 
not available, such as the south of Bombay, Hyderabad, and 
parts of Madras. Three schemes of dry farming f have been 
financed by the Council of Agricultural Research, which 
involve both increased water storage and selection of crop 
varieties which can mature with less irrigation. In tracts like 
Kathiawar, with a rainfall of 15 to 20 inches, many of the 
principles of dry farming, viz. deeper tillage and frequent 
hoeing, which facilitate the retention of moisture, have always 
been practised. 

* A cubic foot of water is gallons. 

f “ Dry farming ” does not imply complete absence of water, but 
absence of any water except such as is provided by the rainfall. 

7 : 

45- One of the farmer’s greatest difficulties is a weak and 
irregular rainfall. Not only does it decrease the food supplies, 
but it leads to those calamities which increase indebtedness. 
Further, a limited and seasonal rainfall in, for instance, the 
black-soil tracts means heavy work at one time and at another 
comparative idleness for months on end, so that many hours of 
the nation’s time are wasted. Irrigation of any kind, especially 
perennial irrigation, helps the farmer to avoid debt; above 
all, it enables him to keep himself busy on his land most of the 
year ; and the extension of irrigation facilities both increases 
the people’s prosperity and ensures the State’s revenue. 

46. (7) Better marketing facilities .—Good communications 
and speedier means of transport are of great importance 
to the cultivator, for on these depend his opportunities of 
disposing favourably of his produce and, to some extent, 
the decision of what he can most profitably grow. The 
gradual substitution of farming for market for the older 
farming for subsistence is undoubtedly due in the more fertile 
tracts to the improvements in transport, both by rail and 
road, which have taken place during the last three-quarters of 
a century.* Moreover, such improvements enable produce to 
be moved quickly and cheaply to places where demand exists, 
thus tending to equalize the prices of particular products, 
especially those used in the country. The days have almost 
passed when after a bumper harvest the produce was sold 
locally for next to nothing and a short harvest made even 
necessities unobtainable. Thanks to improved communica¬ 
tions the cultivator is now no longer in the hands of the local 
dealer in the matter of price ; the time spent and the strain 
on his bullocks in placing his produce on the market are 
reduced ; and he can now often profitably cultivate market- 
garden crops or maintain dairy stock as a regular part of his 
farming operations. But though progress has been consider¬ 
able, much still remains to be done, as a comparison of figures 
relating to India and the United States of America will 
show. Firstly, the density of population per square mile 
in British India f is 270 ; in the United States it is 41. 
In India the mileage of metalled roads to every 100 
square miles is 5-4 and 22 to every 100,000 of population, 
whilst similar figures for roads of all kinds are 20-2 and 84. 

* Cf. Chapter I, paras. 57 et seq. 

t Excluding Burma. 


In the United States the mileage of metalled roads to ioo 
square miles is 12 and to 100,000 of population is 383 ; for all 
roads the figures are 80 and 2,550. The importance of further 
improvement is fully realized by Government, and in most 
provinces there are now communication boards. With the 
rapid expansion of motor traffic, development and improve¬ 
ment of the main arterial and secondary roads is essential ; 
but the development of the country roads is of even greater 
importance to the cultivator, since they are the connecting 
links between both the village and the metalled roads and 
between one village and another. An improved main road 
is of little use to him if his access to it is hampered or impossible, 
as it often is in the heavier soils during the monsoon. 

47. The departments of agriculture have done much to 
improve the quality and to increase the quantity of the farmer’s 
outturn, but it is only of recent years that anything has been 
done to enable him to get a better price for the better quality 
or the additional outturn. To a certain extent an increased 
yield on his old price-basis has provided him with more to 
spend ; but he does not always reap the benefit of increased 
value due to better quality, especially when a reduction in 
yield was necessary to secure it. To some extent, especially 
in respect of cotton, this failure to get an adequate premium 
on quality has been met by propaganda, by the organization 
of special auction sales by the department, and by attempts 
at co-operative marketing. The fact, however, remains that 
in general the Indian farmer markets his crop under great 
disadvantages ; and till these can be removed, he will have 
difficulty in reaping the full benefit of better yield and still 
more of better quality. He is, for the most part, a small 
farmer ; except in certain areas he is still at heart a subsistence 
farmer ; and he has only a small and intermittent supply of 
produce for sale. His inherited experience centres in the 
work of his holding, and except in certain cotton-growing 
areas he knows little of commercial marketing. He is seldom 
in a position to hold up his crop after the harvest, when prices 
rule lowest; and even if he can afford to hold it up, he has 
not sufficient storage for the purpose. His standard of literacy 
is low. He is frequendy heavily indebted to the person through 
whom his produce will ultimately reach the market. Com¬ 
munications are even yet poor, causing him not infrequently 
to dispose of his surplus to an itinerant buyer, who is probably 
working without competition and invariably has a better 


knowledge than the farmer of the true value of the crop. It 
is unlikely that he is in touch with a regulated market, as such 
are relatively few ; and so if he does take his crop to a market, 
it will probably be one in which he will be the victim of dis¬ 
honest practices, and in any case will be selling his produce 
with little knowledge of the rates ruling in the larger markets. 

48. Of his possible bargains, the worst is enforced sale to 
the village bania, part moneylender, part grain-dealer, who 
is his principal creditor ; and until the removal of his indebted¬ 
ness frees him from the bania ’s clutches, he will be unable to 
take advantage of any marketing improvements that may be 
organized. Sale to itinerant buyers is also unprofitable, though 
that system is dying out where communications have been 
improved. Sale in some badly organized market is better 
than this, even though the scales are probably manipulated 
against him, though deductions for charitable and other objects 
are levied, though large samples are taken from him for which 
he is not paid, and though the broker through whom he sells 
favours the purchaser. 

49. The Commission on Agriculture emphasized strongly 
the need for regulated markets, working under strict rules to 
secure fair play ; for standardized weights and measures, which 
still vary considerably from province to province and market 
to market ; for better storage facilities ; for detailed market 
surveys ; and for the appointing to the provincial departments 
of marketing experts and other marketing officers. The 
Central Banking Enquiry Committee also pointed out the need 
for some central agency to advise and assist in coordinating 
marketing activities, particularly in the case of agricultural 
produce intended for export; for there have often been 
adverse comments regarding exports—with the exception of 
oilseeds—on the score of adulteration, dirt, and inferior 
processing. Accordingly, the Government of India in 1935 
created a strong central marketing staff and gave financial 
assistance to the provincial Governments so that they might 
employ an adequate staff of marketing officers, both superior 
and subordinate. Their work consists of investigation, 
development, and the provision of grade standards. The 
investigation consists of a close survey throughout the country 
of the most important commodities, grouped in subdivisions 
of crops and livestock products. Certain of these enquiries 
have now been completed and others are still in progress. 

The report on each commodity describes existing methods 
of marketing and trade ; makes suggestions relative to such 
matters as grades, containers, packing, and tentative proposals 
regarding improvements in market organization. Further 
development and provision of grade standards must naturally 
await the result of these surveys. The staff concerned with 
this work consists at the centre of the Agricultural Marketing 
Adviser, six senior and twelve assistant Marketing Officers. 
In addition there are forty-seven Marketing Officers in the 
provinces and thirty-six in the Indian States. An organized 
attempt, in fact, is now being made to rectify present defects. 

50. To enable the cultivator to secure a full premium for 
an approved quality, the most effective method is to establish 
a co-operative society which will teach the cultivator how to 
prepare his produce, will collect sufficient produce at one 
centre to permit of grading, and bring the producer into direct 
touch with the ultimate consumer. Little progress has so far 
been achieved in this class of work, except perhaps in connection 
with cotton. Societies for the sale of cotton, gur, tobacco, 
mangoes, and rice, are found in Bombay, and the cotton 
societies have made good progress ; their sales of improved 
varieties have steadily risen in value, till it is now worth over 
50 lakhs. The other societies, however, are not in so flourish¬ 
ing a state. In the United Provinces there is a steady increase 
in co-operative sale of sugar-cane to the factories, and also of 

Horticulture * 

51. Since the dietary of the Indian people is chiefly, and 
often exclusively, vegetarian, the cultivation of vegetables and 
fruit is a matter of considerable importance.! The ordinary 
peasant, farming as he does for subsistence, usually provides 
his household requirements from his own holding. All over 
the country, wherever the water-supply is sufficient, innumer¬ 
able cultivators possess each his tiny kitchen-garden-! Many 
cultivators also possess an odd fruit tree or two, whilst others 

* The following paragraphs are principally based on the Agricultural 
Commission’s Report, Chap. XVII, which deals with the subject at length. 

f The dietetic aspect of this matter is examined in Chapter VI, 
para. 46 et seq, especially paras. 55 and 58, where the relations between 
fruit and vegetables and the various vitamins is discussed. 

+ Cf. Chapter IV, para. at. It is also a common practice to grow 
cucumbers, marrows, and other members of the gourd family on the 

gather the products of trees and bushes that grow wild in 
uncultivated areas. I am not here concerned, however, with 
small-scale cultivation for domestic consumption, but with 
-large-scale cultivation for market. At present the area under 
fruit! and/vegetables is small : in 1925-26, it amounted only 
to Some 5.2 million acres out of a total cropped area of 257 
million acres,* and in 1933-4 it had fallen to 4.9 million acres, 
though the total area had risen to 267 million.f There is 
accordingly room for development, and there is also need for 
it, since the urban demand for fruit and vegetables has increased 
considerably in recent years. The experience of other 
countries shows that the substitution of horticultural crops for 
some part of the existing field crops would materially advance 
the prosperity of the cultivator. Nor is the change un¬ 
precedented, for it amounts to no more than the replace¬ 
ment of food crops by money crops. It remains to consider 
the difficulties in the way of such a change, and the best 
means of minimizing or removing them. 

52. Vegetables .—Many sorts of vegetables, both indigenous 
and exotic, are grown in India. J Commercial production is 
chiefly in the hands of certain castes which specialize in market- 
gardening^ The holdings are small, seldom exceeding three 
acres, but under a system of highly intensive cultivation they 
yield several crops during the year. The expenditure of these 
market-gardeners in seed, manure, and irrigation, is large, but 
so, too, are their profits. They are not only industrious but 
enterprising and skilful, as is shown by their readiness to 
respond to the constantly growing demand for high-class 
European vegetables, and by the excellence of their produce. 
There is, indeed, little that anybody can teach them about 
their special occupation. But they are small farmers, and 
suffer from the same disabilities as other small farmers. They 

* Agricultural Commission, Report , p. 589. 

t See diagram in para. 2 above. To these figures, however, shoul:! 
be added the area under condiments and spices, which in 1925-26 amounte d 

+ Roots, such as the carrot, onion, turnip, radish, potato, and yam : 
many kinds of peas, beans, and pulses (though these are usually reckoned as 
field-crops) : the cabbage, cauliflower, and other species of the same 
family : pumpkins, cucumbers, and other gourds : condiments and 
spices, notably chillies, garlic, ginger, and turmeric : miscellaneous 
vegetables, such as artichoke, brinjal, lettuce, spinnach and tomato. 

§ Such are the ICachhi, Koiri, and Murao in northern India. Tobacco 
is also one of their specialities. Cf. Chapter IV, para. 21. 


rarely command enough capital to extend their cultivation. 
They have only a limited supply of produce for sale. Their 
ignorance of market conditions prevents them from securing 
adequate prices, and especially from reaping the full benefit 
of better quality.* * * § They have also an important difficulty of 
their own. Since vegetables are perishable goods, large-scale 
market-gardening requires adequate transport facilities, and 
accordingly must be (and, in fact, is) located either close to the 
cities or towns where the products are sold or to the railways 
which serve them. I Some of these difficulties can be reduced 
or removed by applying to market-gardening the principles of 
Co-operation both in respect of credit and of sale. But in 
the present circumstances it is obvious that a change from 
the cultivation of field crops to market-gardening is beyond 
the power of most small farmers, since on the one hand they 
would be faced with the same financial and other difficulties 
as they are at present, whilst they would not possess either 
the special skill or the special knowledge of the market¬ 
gardening castes. A man who held sufficient land in a 
suitable locality and was possessed both of sufficient capital 
and sufficient business capacity would be able to make large 
profits out of market-gardening, provided that he had first 
acquired the requisite knowledge or else employed servants 
that had it. J But such men are rare amongst Indian cul¬ 

53. Fruit .—The position in respect of fruit is far less 
satisfactory than in respect of vegetables. Though, as has 
already been stated,§ many varieties of fruit are grown in 
India, yet it is only in certain restricted areas that fruit¬ 
growing is the principal means of livelihood of any considerable 
number of cultivators.!! But even in those tracts it is only 
in some orchards that cultivation is scientific, and marketing 

* See para. 47 above. 

t See Agricultural Commission, Report, p. 595 ; and also Chapter IV, 
para. 21. The modern mo tor-bus has probably enlarged the areas within 
which commercial cultivation of vegetables is profitable. 

t See Agricultural Commission, Report, p. 594, for instances. 

§ See Chapter I, para. 54. 

I! Those areas are the neighbourhood of Peshawar and Quetta on 
the north-western frontier : the Kangra Valley (Punjab), and the 
Kumaun districts (United Provinces), all in the Himalayas : certain parts 
of the Central Provinces and Assam, where oranges and other citrus fruits 
are extensively cultivated : and the mango-growing district of Konkan 

12—(-195) 177 

is on business lines. As a rule, both in those tracts and else¬ 
where, the growing and marketing of fruit is entirely 
unorganized. There are many who have fruit to sell. In 
many villages there are groves of mangoes or other fruit trees 
which belong to the proprietary body. Well-to-do landlords 
have their orchards ( baghichas ). Residents in cities and 
towns have their gardens. Government or district boards 
own the avenues of fruit trees which grow along the roadsides. 
But the total amount of money and effort which is expended 
by such owners on fruit production is small, and all of them 
are content to dispose of the produce to contractors, who 
make their own arrangements for gathering and marketing it.* 
Finally, there are many areas in India where fruit-growing for 
market would be profitable, but little or none is attempted. 

54. There are a variety of causes for this state of affairs. 

(1) The capital required to plant an orchard is con¬ 

(2) A certain time must always elapse before the trees 
begin to bear, during which time further expenditure must be 

(3) There is no “ tradition of horticulture ” amongst 
ordinary cultivators, who lack both the skill and the knowledge 
required in such matters as selecting varieties, planting, 
pruning, and spraying. 

(4) The prevalent fragmentation of holdings makes 
protection of the crop almost impracticable. 

(5) Fruit is specially liable to damage from such causes 
as frost, hail, and heavy rainfall. 

(6) Transport difficulties in the case of fruit are often more 
serious than in the case of vegetables, and not so easily over¬ 

55. Market-gardening can be located wherever transport 
facilities are available, but fruit can only be grown in suit¬ 
able conditions of climate and soil. Moreover, some of the 
best natural fruit-areas are situated in the Himalayas or the 
hills of Assam, where roads are either bad or do not exist 
at all, and the only means of transport are pack animals or 

* In private gardens even the scaring of birds is usually left to the 
contractor, whilst allotments for arboriculture in the budgets are seldom 


porters. Once railhead is reached these difficulties disappear ; 
but distances are often long, and in the absence of cold storage 
on the railways much fruit is damaged in transit, especially 
as packing is often unsatisfactory. 

56. Finally, marketing conditions leave much to be 
desired. The purchaser, by dealing with the contractor, 
loses a part of the profit which he would make if he dealt 
direct with wholesale firms. The contractor has also diffi¬ 
culties of his own. He is dealing with perishable goods ; 
cold-storage facilities in the markets are either limited or 
entirely absent ; gluts are frequent, and prices are constantly 
chaotic. Naturally he passes on his losses to the purchaser, 
whose profit is thereby still further reduced. Considering all 
these difficulties, it is obvious that fruit-growing is even less 
suitable than market-gardening for a small cultivator. It is 
not, however, beyond the capacity either of co-operative 
associations or well-to-do individuals, provided that they are 
guided by expert advice. 

57. Long before the present departments of agriculture 
came into existence, valuable work on the improvement of 
indigenous fruits, the acclimatization of exotic varieties, and 
the training of gardeners ( mails ), had been done by horticul¬ 
tural societies and the staff of Government gardens. When 
horticulture came under the control of the departments they 
continued to work on the same lines, but this work remained 
unscientific until after the War, when special horticultural 
officers were appointed in some provinces. Thereafter, 
largely as a result of the recommendations of the Commission 
on Agriculture,* interest in the cultivation of fruit was aroused 
and rapidly increased, whilst the Indian public is also being- 
educated in the dietetic value of fruit. Nurserymen and 
seedsmen have now made their appearance in India ; the 
number of orchards run on business lines, which deal direct 
with wholesale firms, is increasing. Strong fruit-growers’ 
associations have been established in the United Provinces, 
Bombay, and the Punjab. The Imperial Council of Agri¬ 
cultural Research has financed a number of investigations into 
the scientific cultivation of fruit, as well as into such subsidiary 
matters as cold storage, canning, and bottling. The Marketing 
Officers are already engaged in examining marketing conditions 

* See Report , pp. 598-9. 


with a view to their improvement. There is now a Horticul¬ 
tural Officer in most provinces.* In short, fruit production 
can look forward to a profitable future, which directly or 
indirectly will be to the benefit of the rural population. Nor 
will this benefit stop at production. Expansion and improve¬ 
ment of horticulture will lead to the introduction of new 
industries, such as the preservation of fruit and vegetables, 
and the manufacture of jam, which will also add to the 
prosperity of agriculturists by providing them both with 
alternative occupations and with an outlet for their surplus 

Cf. Chapter IV, para. 48. 


Medicine and Public Health 
Medicine and Public Health in Ancient India 
i. The Ayurvedic * system of medicine which is still 
widely practised among Hindus has its roots in the dim and 
distant past, f A good deal of information with regard to this 
system can be obtained from the writings of Susruta and 
Charaka, who were famous practitioners about 1,800 years 
ago. Susruta was a surgeon, and it is interesting to know that 
he emphasized the necessity for dissection of the human body 
both for theoretical and practical knowledge of surgery. 
The bodies used for dissection were allowed to putrefy so as 
to facilitate the exposure of the internal organs by the use of 
brushes. Surgical instruments of many kinds were in use and 
surgery was divided into two branches—general surgery and 
surgery of the head and neck. There were six branches of 
medicine : (i) general diseases ; (2) demoniacal possessions ; 
(3) infantile diseases ; (4) poisoning ; (5) the pharmacology 
of drugs for promoting health, beauty, and longevity ; and 
(6) methods of restoring vigour to the generative organs. 

2. The Ayurvedic system is claimed to be of divine origin : 
it appears to be purely indigenous and not to have been 
influenced by foreign systems of medicine. Physicians were 
held in high repute, they were trained by recognized masters 
of the art, and were governed by very strict rules of conduct. 
Their privileges were great; any one who refused their treat¬ 
ment was destined to go to hell, while those who accepted it 
were assured of admission to heaven even if they did not see 
the holy Ganges at the time of their death.+ In early days 

* Ayurveda means the Veda of life. 

t The medical system of the Arya invaders of India (circa 1500 b.c.) 
is to be found in the Athamaveda. The period when the Ayurvedic system 
was at its most flourishing was between 250 B.c. and 750 A.D., roughly 
covering the Buddhist period. 

i In Hindu belief, to die within sight of the Ganges ensures admission to 

the Ayurvedic doctors were Brahmans or Vaidyas,* but 
gradually the medical profession fell into the hands of men of 
lower castes. 

3. The description of their methods of diagnosis and 
treatment make curious reading. Signs and portents which 
had no apparent bearing on the disease entered largely into 
the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Even the personality 
and actions of the messenger who summoned the physician 
were regarded as of great importance, both in diagnosis and 
prognosis. The causes of most diseases were regarded as being 
derangements of wind, bile, and phlegm, but demoniacal 
possessions, the anger of supernatural powers, and the sins of 
the parents were also important factors. During the past 
five hundred years or so the Ayurvedic physicians and sur¬ 
geons have fallen far from the high position which they once 
occupied in the social scheme, but there are still a few highly 
respected practitioners of the system, and probably more 
people in India are treated for medical diseases in accordance 
with Ayurvedic principles than by doctors of the modern 
school. The Ayurvedic physicians are called Vaids ; | they 
rarely practise surgery except of a very minor kind. 

4. Another indigenous system, of relatively recent intro¬ 
duction, is that called Unani. This was introduced by the 
Muslim conquerors and was of Greco-Arabian origin, the word 
Unani being the Arabic form of Ionian.^ Schools for teaching 
the Unani system are said to have existed in Delhi, Agra, and 
Hyderabad ; but they had disappeared before the coming of 
the British and no records of them have been found. The 
practitioners of the Unani system are called hakims .§ 

5. Except for the religious observances which entered so 
largely into the lives of the people there is little evidence of 
organized public health activities in ancient times. More than 
two thousand years ago the great Emperor Asoka ordered that 

_ * Ear ly Hindu doctors were probably Brahmans. Subsequently, in 
their desire to preserve ceremonial purity, they seem to have abandoned 
medicine to the Vaidya caste which, according to Manu’s genealogies, was 
descended from the union of a Brahman father and a Vaisya mother. 
This caste also seems to have died out in time, though the name survives in 
Void. (See para. 3 below.) 

t Commonly baids. 

+ The Sanskrit form is Yavana. 

§ Pronounced hukeem ; to be distinguished from hakim, which means 
a magistrate or judge. 


wells should be dug and trees planted along the roads, and the 
tradition which was thus established seems to have persisted 
ever since, to the great benefit of the people of India. Some 
existing Indian customs may have had their origin in a con¬ 
scious or unconscious effort to promote public health. The 
caste system is obviously a forerunner of eugenics and its 
rigorous application has given it a far greater influence than 
the science of eugenics can hope to achieve. Child-marriage 
in early times may have been regarded as a means of ensuring 
the survival of the family at a period when famine, pestilence, 
and warfare were liable to wipe out a large percentage of the 
population.* Again, the sanctity of the cow was probably of 
protective value in assuring the survival of some cattle during 
times of famine, when there would be a natural tendency to 
kill off all the livestock, with the result that cultivation 
would be greatly hindered when the drought came to an 
end.f If there is any foundation for these speculations, 
they are examples of how customs which were helpful in 
certain conditions may outlive their usefulness and become 
positively harmful in the changed circumstances of modern 

6. There are no reliable estimates of the fluctuations of 
population in ancient times. One writer suggests that in 1650 
the population was 80 millions and a hundred years later 
130 millions. Sir Frederick Nicholson estimates that it was 
only 100 millions in 1800. These estimates are pure guesses, t 
We may reasonably surmise that before 1700 there were great 
fluctuations, between 40 millions and 100 millions. After one 
or more failures of the monsoon, the people must have died in 
large numbers of starvation and disease ; with the return of 
better times, the population would naturally increase rapidly 
until the numbers again pressed on the available food-supply, 
so that the next failure of the rains would find the people in 
a vulnerable condition. It may be that famines with their 
heavy death-rolls may have been followed by periods of plenty 
deserving the name “ golden age ; ” but these could not have 

* For other possible explanations of the origin of child-marriage, see 
Chapter II, para. 52, note, and references there given. 

t For other explanations of the sanctity of the cow, see Blunt, Caste 
System of Northern India, pp. 295-6. 

{ The first enumeration was made between 1867 and 1872 : the 
population was then 206 millions. The first synchronous census was in 

lasted long as a population living in peace and plenty could 
easily double itself every fifteen to twenty years, and therefore 
the pressure of population would soon bring the golden age to 
an end. There is ample historical evidence of the terrible 
destruction of life which used to happen in times of famine.* 
Even in recent years, despite the great effort made by Govern¬ 
ment to control famine, there have been great changes in the 
population of certain areas which are specially at the mercy 
of the monsoon. These have been aptly described as “ mighty 
swings of nature’s pendulum.” For example, in Rajputana 
during the successive decades since 1880 the following changes 
took place in the population : a rise by 20-6 per cent., a fall 
by 20-5 per cent., a rise by 6-9 per cent., a fall by 6-5 per cent, 
and finally a rise by 14-2 per cent. Such changes as these 
must be trifling compared with those which occurred in ancient 
times, when no organized efforts could be made to supply 
food for famine-stricken areas. Railways and irrigation have 
made it possible for Government to prevent any large-scale 
reduction of the population by starvation, whereas in the 
“ good old days ” nature was allowed to strike the balance 
between population and food-supply by her time-honoured 
methods of famine and pestilence, aided frequently by man’s 
intervention in the form of warfare. 

Early Stages of Medical Relief and Public Health 
under British Rule 

7. The coming of the British made little difference at 
first, for they had little to offer in the field of sanitation ; but 
with the rapid advance of knowledge of the causation, preven¬ 
tion, and treatment of disease, the way was opened for medical 
relief and public health. In the early days of the East India 
Company the British doctors confined their activities to the 
treatment of servants of the Company, for whom hospitals 
were opened as early as 1664. Towards the end of the 
18th century a hospital was provided for Indians in Calcutta. 
The records show that 115 in-patients and 101 out-patients 
were treated in 1794 and that the figures had risen to 218 and 
4)443 by 1803. In Bombay and Madras, hospitals for Indians 

* For famines, see Thompson and Garratt, Rise and Fulfilment of 
British Rule in India, pp. 489-493 ; Blunt, The I.C.S., pp. 177-185. For 
the famine of 1630, the first of which there is contemporary record, see 
Sir W. Foster, English Factories, 1630-33, p. 122. 


were opened about the year 1800. The first mofussil * hospital 
was established at Dacca about the year 1804 ; and by 1840 
there were about a dozen hospitals for Indians in various large 
towns besides the presidencies. 

8. At the beginning of the 19th century some instruction 
was given to Indian students in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine 
at the Sanskrit College at Benares and the Madrasa of Islamic 
studies at Calcutta respectively,! but the teaching was purely 
theoretical, no dissections or other practical work being carried 
out." Between the years 1822 and 1827 medical schools on 
western lines were opened in Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras; 
but these were of a primitive kind, instruction was given in the 
local vernaculars, and no dissections of the human body were 
performed-! The objection to touching dead human bodies 
which had arisen since the time of Susruta must have been an 
important factor in the decline of indigenous medicine in 
India. Very soon the students of the schools began to agitate 
for instruction in English ; § and in response to their demands 
the Calcutta Medical College was founded in 1835. A 
historical event was the first dissection of the human body 
(in modern times) by a Hindu, Pandit Madhusudan Gupta, 
in January 1836. This incident aroused so much enthusiasm 
that a salute of guns was fired from Fort William in honour of 
the occasion. Medical colleges were opened in Madras and 
Bombay within the next few years. The original staffs of 
these colleges were small; in Calcutta, for instance, there were 
only two teachers, both of them surgeons of the East India 
Company who were not allowed to carry on private practice. 

9. Vaccination was introduced early in the 19th century 
and gradually became popular, but apart from this it was not 
until the year 1880 that any organized effort was made to 
establish public health as an activity of Government, which 
prior to that time had apparently held the view that education 
and the provision of medical relief must first break down 
the opposition to public health measures by creating a feeling 
of confidence and good-will. This delay in introducing 

* Mofussil is a corruption of the Arabic mufassal —literally, separate. 
It is used to express the rest of a province or district, as opposed to the 
sadr or headquarters town of that province or district. Its most usual 
application, however, is to the country as distinct from the presidency 
towns in general, and Calcutta in particular. 

t See Chapter VIII, para. 2. 

} We read that in Calcutta the bodies of sheep were used for dissection. 

§ See Chapter VIII, para. 3. 


organized sanitation had one unfortunate result, for the' physi¬ 
cians and surgeons were already firmly entrenched and had 
little sympathy for the new-fangled idea of preventive medi¬ 
cine ; they argued that there was no popular demand for it, 
whereas the people were flocking in their thousands to the 
hospitals. The public health officers, therefore, were com¬ 
pelled to fight for the independence of their department, so 
that in some provinces there is still an undesirable tendency 
for public health and medical relief to work in watertight 
compartments. Full cooperation between these two comple¬ 
mentary branches of medicine is likely to be promoted by the 
recent formation of the central Public Health Board, to which 
reference will be made later in this chapter.* 

10. The first Sanitary Commissioners f were appointed 
in 1880 in the five chief provinces, Bengal, Madras, Bombay, 
the Punjab, and the North-West Provinces and Oudh. J In 1914 
the Government of India formulated a sanitary policy which 
would have been greatly in advance of anything that had been 
attempted previously, but the Great War came before action 
could be taken. 

Some General Considerations on Public Health 
in India 

11. Public health is usually regarded as being concerned 
almost exclusively with organized efforts made under the 
direction of medical experts for preventing disease and improv¬ 
ing the health of the people. This view of the subject is 
one-sided and positively dangerous. The best medical experts 
in the world, even if they were given unlimited powers to 
carry on public health activities within the boundaries which 
are normally assigned to them, would fail miserably if other 
lines of improvement in the conditions of life were neglected. 
Suppose for a moment that the public health services of India 
were to achieve complete success in stamping out malaria, 
cholera, small-pox, tuberculosis, and all the other great killing 
diseases of India, and suppose that nothing were done to 
increase the production of food or to restrict the growth of 
population, the inevitable result would be the replacement of 
the tragedy of death from disease by the greater tragedy of 
death from starvation. 

* See para. 17 below. 

t Now called Directors of Public Health. 

+ Now the United Provinces. 

12. Let me at once admit that some experts dissent from 
this view. They hold that the increased mental and physical 
efficiency resulting from the control of disease would prompdy 
raise the standards of life ; they believe also that the natural 
fertility of the people declines automatically during prosperous 
times, so that there need be no fear of over-population. 
Unfortunately the experience of other countries as well as of 
India lends little support to such a view. In India, thanks to 
the partial success of public health efforts, the death-rate has 
been greatly reduced, the birth-rate has also declined, but to 
a much smaller extent, so that the population has been growing 
more and more rapidly. Other things have, of course, been 
happening : the production and distribution of foodstuffs 
have improved owing to the construction of irrigation 
works, railways, and roads, and new industries have sprung 
up which provide sustenance for large numbers of people. 
Many authorities hold that the people as a whole are now 
better off than they were when the population was only half 
its present size, but we have no exact information to show 
whether or not this is true for India as a whole. There are 
certainly some places in the Punjab * and elsewhere in which 
production has outstripped reproduction; in other words, 
the increase in the supply of food and other commodities has 
been greater than the increase in population. This is a great 
achievement; but when we look at the state of nutrition of the 
people of India as a whole we find small reason for being 
content with existing economic standards of life. In any case, 
it must be quite clear that the state of health of a community 
does not depend only on the control of preventable_disease x ; it ■ 
depends equally on its state of nutrition and general economic 
standards. To be truly successful, a public health policy must 
be well-planned ; it must be worked out in terms of agricultural 
and industrial production ; it must look ahead and take into 
account the maintenance of a proper relation between the 
number of the people and the available supply of the neces¬ 
sities of life. If the masses of India were subservient to the 
orders of a dictator, he would frame the necessary plan' in the 
fields both of production and reproduction, and compel the 
people to carry it out; but in such matters pressure, let alone 
compulsion, is contrary to the established and generally 
accepted policy of the Indian Government, and accordingly 
the success of such a plan depends entirely on the willing 
* Notably the canal colonies. 


cooperation of the whole community. That can only be 
obtained by the spread of education. The word education 
must not be taken as referring only, or even chiefly, to the 
customary subjects of instruction in schools and. colleges : 
it is used in the wider sense of teaching not only children 
but also adults how to make life worth living—how to decide 
what they want to get out of life, and how to make and carry 
out a plan of life by which they can achieve their desires. It 
is, in short, an education of which the principal subject is “ life¬ 
planning,” which would use all effective forms of propaganda 
through the press, pamphlets, posters, lectures, the cinema, and 
wireless broadcasting.* Russia, Italy, and Germany have 
demonstrated the astonishing influence of propaganda : there 
is no reason why the diffusion of useful knowledge should not 
be equally effective in countries where freedom of speech 
exists. But propaganda can never be successful in India unless 
it is administered as a sugar-coated pill, with a large amount 
of sugar and only a little pill. Prosy talks about disease will 
never catch the attention of the people ; music, witty dialogues, 
and stories must be used as ear-openers ; then only will it be 
possible to “ put over ” a few scraps of useful knowledge. 
Education in the schools would also be far more useful if it 
were presented in a more attractive form. Joyless schools can 
only prepare the children for joyless and hopeless lives, f 

13. The real difficulty is to decide what should be taught by 
propaganda. This is a matter which calls for careful considera¬ 
tion by educationalists, public health and agricultural experts, 
economists and industrialists. The leaders of public opinion 
must be consulted, for the programme of instruction should 
steer clear of anything which would offend the religious beliefs 
of any section of the people. The observance of this principle 
need not give rise to any great difficulty, for no objection is 
ever raised to instruction in improved methods of agriculture or 
of prevention of disease. Such a problem as that of over¬ 
population would have to be handled with discretion, but 
there can be no objection to the treatment of the subject on 
strictly biological lines. J The advocacy of any special method 
of population-control is quite unnecessary ; all that is needed 
is a presentation of the underlying principles. When people 

* For broadcasting, see Chapter I, para. 64 ; for propaganda generally, 
see Chapter V, paras. 6-7. 

f See Chapter VIII, para. 36. 

+ See Chapter I, para. 84. 


have begun to realize the possibility of improving their lot in 
life by restricting the output of children, they will soon decide 
■for. themselves whether celibacy, delayed marriage, or other 
means are most acceptable to them. Every progressive country 
has consciously or unconsciously adopted the policy of popula¬ 
tion-control : religious and sentimental objections have never 
been able to offer effective resistance to the desire for an 
improvement in economic standards. There are undoubtedly 
religious prejudices in India which give rise to difficulties 
“when attempts are made to improve the conditions of life ; 
for example, the objection to putting old and diseased cattle 
out of their misery, the insistence on child-marriage, and the 
purdah system.* These ticklish questions can best be dealt 
with by Indians, who usually discuss them far more freely 
. than is possible for Europeans, restrained as they are by the 
. fear of giving offence. Indians on the whole are far less 
addicted to false modesty in matters of sex than Europeans; 
they often feel,.surprise, perhaps even scorn, of the reticence 
which convention imposes on Europeans when certain subjects 
are raised, kly own experience has always been that educated 
Indians are more broad-minded than Europeans in their 
attitude towards questions which many British officials are 
afraid to discuss, f One thing is certain—the problem of public 
health in India must be faced fairly and squarely. If the 
subject is regarded in the proper light as one which is concerned 
with everything affecting the health of the community, it 
must be admitted to be the biggest and most important 
problem of India. 

14. The following facts and figures show clearly how 
deplorable is the existing state of affairs, and how urgent is 
the need for revolution. J The average expectation of life of 
the new-born infant in India is less than half as many years as 

* See Chapter II, paras. 41, 45 and 52. 

f The following may be quoted as an incident which has a bear¬ 
ing on this point. More than fifty years ago a certain Governor when 
visiting a certain State was presented with an address in which he was 
asked “ to use his great influence and transcendent abilities to restrain, in 
some measure at all events, the inordinate, proclivity of the people to have 
excessively large families.” The Governor was indignant, and replied 
that “ he would do everything in his power for the increase, and nothing 
for the diminution, of Her Majesty’s subjects.” The people who presented 
the address were “ much surprised that he should have taken exception to 
so reasonable a request.” 

+ For a fuller discussion oi 
6g et seq. 

>f the vital stat 

Chapter I, paras. 


that of the English infant. The birth-rate in British India 
and Burma in 1935 was 35 per mille against 15 in England. 
The death-rate was 24 per mille against 12 in England. The 
infan t mortality rate, viz. the death-rate among infants under 
one year of age, was 164 for every thousand live births against 
57 in England. The natural increase of the population was 11 
per mille in India against 3 per mille in England. The increase 
in population of all India and Burma between 1921 and 1931 
was 34 millions (io-6 per cent.), or nearly as much as the whole 
population of France. If the present rate of increase continues 
the population will exceed 400 millions in 1941. The increase 
during the past fifty years represents an addition of about 
thirteen persons to every square mile. The annual number of 
births in British India and Burma averaged 4J millions between 
1881 and 1890 ; it was more than 9^ millions in 1935. These 
figures are very significant, and their implications deserve the 
most serious consideration. The registration of births and 
deaths in India is admittedly imperfect even in areas where 
registration is compulsory, but as more births than deaths are 
left unrecorded the rate of increase of the population must be 
even greater than that shown by the annual returns ; for 
example, in 1935, in certain rural areas of Madrals 38,000 
unrecorded births were detected and 11,700 deaths. 

15. The actual causes of death are fairly accurately 
recorded in the cases of plague, cholera, and small-pox, but these 
constitute only a small fraction of all the deaths. For other 
diseases the figures are almost worthless, although the total 
death-rate gives a fairly true picture of what is happening. 
The actual records for British India and Burma are in round 
figures as follows :— 


Average for 

Dysentery and diarrhoea 


Cholera .... 

Plague .... 



Small-pox .... 



Respiratory diseases 



Fevers .... 



All other causes . 




16. It will be seen that the great majority of the deaths 
are classified under the three heads : “ fevers,” “ respiratory 
diseases,” and “ all other causes.” It would really be less 
misleading to include all these three groups in the third 
of these categories, as it must be admitted that the reporting 
agents are quite unable to diagnose the diseases which they 
record under these heads. In his report for 1935, the Public 
Health Commissioner calls attention to the urgent need for 
more accurate records, as the health officers are severely 
handicapped in their efforts to apply preventive methods 
because they do not know what diseases are responsible for the 
mortality which they are trying to control. The figures for 
respiratory diseases are certainly far too low : pneumonia and 
tuberculosis of the lung must account for many more than 
483,000 deaths, and probably many of the deaths from these 
diseases are included under the heading “ fevers.” On the 
other hand the deaths from fevers are often supposed to be due 
chiefly to malaria, but it is unlikely that half of them are due 
to this disease. Attempts have been made to find out the real 
causes of death in certain areas; one of these was by Sir 
Leonard Rogers more than thirty years ago, and he was able 
to satisfy himself that the official returns for the area were 
hopelessly wrong.* 

The Public Health Activities of the Government 
of India 

17. Administration .—By the Government of India Act of 
1919 responsibility for medical relief and public health was 
transferred to the provincial Governments. Only a few subjects 
were retained under the control of the Government of India, 
such as legislation with regard to infectious diseases, external 
public health relations, port quarantine, statistics, and the 
medical research department. Under the present constitution, 
as laid down under the Government of India Act of 1935, the 
position remains much the same. The Government of India 
has now taken an important step which will bring it again into 
touch with public health activities in the provinces and so 
rectify a serious defect in the constitutional position. This 
step consists in the setting up in 1937 of a central Advisory 
Board of Health for the purpose of promoting coordination 

* He found, for example, that a child who had been drowned was 
returned as having died of fever. 


of effort between the provinces and States. This Board has 
no executive powers and therefore cannot encroach on the 
powers or responsibilities of the provincial Governments, but 
it is certain to have a great influence by providing for advice, 
consultation, and cooperation with regard to public health 

18. The Government of India has a small medical and 
public health section which is under the Member in charge 
of the department of Education, Health and Lands. The 
Director-General of the Indian Medical Service is the chief 
adviser to Government on all questions of a medical nature, 
while the Public Health Commissioner is his staff officer for 
public health. In technical matters the Public Plealth Com¬ 
missioner is in direct relation with the other departments of 
the Government of India and with the provincial Governments 
when they seek his advice. He deals with vital statistics 
and produces an annual report, which is of great interest 
and importance ; he represents the Government of India on 
international health bodies, supervises the health of the major 
ports, and their quarantine work ; he deals with pilgrims, 
and is a member of many committees such as those of the 
Indian Red Cross Society, the British Empire Leprosy Relief 
Association and the King George’s Anti-tuberculosis Fund. 
As secretary of the governing body of the Indian Research 
Fund Association and its Scientific Advisory Board, he is closely 
concerned with medical research. Not the least important of 
his duties are those connected with the new central Advisory 
Board of Health, of which he is secretary. 

19. Research .—Although there was no regular organization 
of medical research till the early years of the present century, 
many great discoveries have been made by workers in India. 
The epoch-making discovery that malaria is conveyed from 
man to man by certain kinds of mosquitos is the best known 
of these. It was made by Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, I.M.S.,* 
in 1898 as a result of pertinacious work carried out under great 
difficulties. Mention may also be made of the discovery by 
Leonard Rogers f of emetine as a cure for amoebic infection 
and of the modern treatment of cholera, and of the great 
additions made to our knowledge of malaria by Richard 

* The late Sir Ronald Ross, K.C.B., K.C.M.G. 

t Major-General Sir Leonard Rogers, K.C.S.I., C.I.E., F.R.S. 
(I.M.S. retired). 


Christophers.* These men have achieved international fame 
for their work ; but there are many others, both Indians and 
Europeans, who have rendered great services to India and 
the rest of the world by their discoveries in connexion with 
plague, kala azar, leprosy, cholera, malaria, and a host of 
other diseases. There are thousands of people in India who 
owe their lives to the patient researches which have been 
carried out by this band of workers. 

20. The Government of India, although its public health 
department has only a small staff of three technical experts, 
at the present time is following a progressive and enlightened 
policy in connection with medical research. It maintains a 
medical research department with a staff of twenty-six workers, 
who are recruited partly from the Indian Medical Service 
and partly from outside sources. The work is done in the 
central research institute at Kasauli, the all-India institute of 
hygiene at Calcutta, and in a number of provincial institutes 
to which members of the department are deputed. India 
has six Pasteur institutes—at Kasauli, Coonoor, Bombay, 
Patna, Calcutta, and Shillong, f These, in addition to 
treating persons bitten by rabid dogs, have recentiy begun to 
distribute anti-rabic vaccine to local centres so that preventive 
treatment against rabies is rapidly becoming available to 
patients within easy reach of their homes. These institutes 
are maintained by the provincial Governments with the excep¬ 
tion of that at Kasauli, which is managed by a committee. 
Nearly 45,000 patients were treated in India and Burma in 
I 934- 

21. The Research Fund Association, founded in 1911, is 
financed by the Government of India, and is administered by 
a governing body with official and non-official members. 
The governing body is advised by a Scientific Advisory Board 
composed of medical experts. The amount spent by the Associa¬ 
tion on research has varied between seven and twelve lakhs 
of rupees yearly. J Numerous important investigations have 
been carried out in connection with the great killing diseases 
of India. The Association maintains two very important 
organizations, the malaria survey of India and the nutri¬ 
tional research laboratories. The malaria survey, which will 

* Brevet-Colonel Sir Richard Christophers, Kt., C.I.E., O.B.E. 
(I.M.S. retired). 

t There is a seventh at Rangoon in Burma. 

+ Between £52,500 and £90,000. 



in future be called the malaria institute, has a budget of 
some two lakhs of rupees (£15,000). It carries out research 
work on malaria, advises the Government of India and pro¬ 
vincial Governments in connection with anti-malarial measures, 
and trains medical men in practical malaria work ; it also 
publishes a large number of important papers every year. The 
work of the experts in this department is recognized as being 
of great value to India and the whole world. The Govern¬ 
ment of India has recently distributed a large amount of 
quinine (45,000 lb.) to provincial Governments to supplement 
the amount which they had previously been distributing for 
the treatment of malaria ; and during the year 1936 it also 
gave to the Association a special grant of 10 lakhs (£75,000) for 
anti-malaria work, which will be used on the maintenance of 
anti-malaria projects in certain areas. Nutritional research 
is recognized to be of very special importance to India, and 
about a lakh of rupees (£7,500) yearly has been spent on it 
in recent times. 

22. The all-India institute of hygiene is maintained by 
the Government of India for research and training in public 
health. The Calcutta school of tropical medicine and the 
hospital for tropical diseases owe their existence to the enlight¬ 
ened and persistent efforts of Sir Leonard Rogers. The school 
receives an indirect subsidy from the Government of India, 
but is maintained by the Government of Bengal and by an 
endowment fund provided by the Jute, Tea, and Goal-mining 
Associations as well as by private benefactors. This school 
originally included an institute of hygiene, but thanks to the 
generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation the all-India institute 
of hygiene was provided with separate accommodation in a 
fine building. It still works in close collaboration with Lie 
school of tropical medicine, but is now financed by the 
Government of India. The two insdtutions, in addition to 
carrying out important research work, prepare students for 
the diploma and licence given by the State Faculty of Tropical 
Medicine of Bengal, for the D.P.H. of the Calcutta University, 
and for other examinations. 

Medical Relief and Public Health in the Provinces 
23. Medical relief .—In British India there are about 6,700 
hospitals and dispensaries with 69,300 beds, of which 8 per 
cent, are controlled by private organizations, the rest being 

maintained by provincial Governments, local bodies, and 
railways. About 4,300 of these institutions are in rural areas, 
and each on the average serves 62,000 persons. During 1935 
more than a million indoor and more than 65 million outdoor 
patients were treated in the hospitals and dispensaries of British 

24. The medical personnel employed in the provinces con¬ 
sists at present of 170 officers of the Indian Medical Service, 
*.1 of the Women’s Medical Service, 103 of the Indian Medical 
Department, 1,798 salaried medical graduates belonging to the 
provincial and other services, and nearly 6,600 salaried licen¬ 
tiates. There are also 674 graduates and 344 licentiates attached 
to the government hospitals in an honorary capacity, and their 
numbers are rapidly increasing. Nearly all the provincial 
capitals are well supplied with modern hospitals, as also are 
many of the divisional headquarters and some of the district 
headquarters ; most of the other hospitals and dispensaries 
are very modestly staffed and equipped. In the urban hospitals 
3,612 nurses are employed, but only 267 in the rural hospitals. 
For various reasons the number of trained nurses in the rural 
areas is seriously inadequate ; only six are employed in the 
whole of the Punjab, and the greatest number is in Madras, 
where there are 96. The work which is done by trained female 
nurses in Europe has to be relegated in India to male attendants 
and dressers, and the efficiency of the Indian hospitals is 
greatly impaired by the shortage of female nurses. 

25. A systematic effort has been made in Madras and the 
Punjab to supply medical aid within easy reach of every rural 
inhabitant. In Madras, 428 doctors receive a subsidy on 
condition that they reside in certain villages and provide 
medical relief for the sick poor. In the Punjab, 360 small 
dispensaries have been built, each of which is in charge of a 
subsidized practitioner. These are in addition to the older 
hospitals and dispensaries, which are staffed by whole-time 
medical men. The total cost of the hospitals in British India 
is over 392 lakhs of rupees.* There are ten medical colleges 
with nearly 5,000 students, and twenty-eight medical schools 
with nearly 7,000 students, in British India. 

26. Public health .—The cities and large towns of British 
India are fairly well supplied with officers of health, but in 
the rural areas the position is very unsatisfactory in most of the 

* £2,990,000. 


provinces. Only 146 whole-time officers of health holding a 
public health diploma (D.P.H.) are employed in the provinces. 
There are also seventy licentiates in public health. Of the 
247 districts in Bridsh India and Burma, only 128 employ 
medical officers of health : in the remaining 119 districts the 
civil surgeon or district medical officer is responsible for public 
health administration. In Madras, the Punjab and Bengal, 
nearly all of the districts have a health officer, whereas in 
Burma, Assam, Bombay, and the Central Provinces taken 
together there are only seven health officers. 

27. Some of the provinces employ a considerable number 
of health inspectors, and the arrangements for vaccination are 
usually sufficient to enable everyone to obtain protection 
against small-pox. Unfortunately large numbers of the people 
are apathetic with regard to vaccination, even when it is 
entirely free, and although the death-rate from small-pox is 
much smaller than it used to be, it still remains about 80,000 
to 90,000 a year in British India. Vaccination is now com¬ 
pulsory in more than two-thirds of the towns and in about 
two-fifths of the districts of British India. Revaccination is 
compulsory only in Madras. 

28. From the above brief sketch it will be realized that 
in the provinces there is no uniformity, in either the system 
of medical relief or in that of public health, and it would be 
quite impossible to give a detailed account of the various 
provincial arrangements. Voluntary organizations like the 
Red Cross, the Anti-tuberculosis Fund, the Leprosy Relief 
Association, the Maternity and Child Welfare Bureau, and the 
St. John’s Ambulance Association are making valiant efforts to 
reach the rural areas, but their resources are quite inadequate 
to deal with their respective problems in a satisfactory manner. 
The Junior Red Cross and Boy Scout organizations have made 
encouraging progress, especially in the Punjab. Large 
numbers of Boy Scouts from Lahore volunteered for work in 
connexion with the great earthquake in Quetta, and earned 
well-deserved praise for the valiant help which they gave in 
the face of great difficulty and discomfort. The Seva Samiti 
organization * has also done excellent philanthropic work on 
the same general lines as the Red Cross. It has become 
abundantly clear that young Indians of both sexes always 

* This is similar to the Boy Scouts organizations, but is independent of 

make a willing response when their spirit of service is stirred 
by an appeal from leaders who can command their trust and 

Medical Relief and Public Health under the 
Local Bodies 

29. The Public Health Commissioner in his annual 
reports finds himself compelled year after year to comment on 
the failure of municipalities to provide adequate funds for 
conservancy, water-supply, and drainage—these “ primary 
essentials of environment hygiene.” In the report of 1935, 
which is the latest available, he states that of 163 towns with a 
population of over 30,000 no less than fifty-one have no proper 
water-supply, while of 1,131 towns having a population below 
30,000 only 149 have a protected supply. The municipal 
income of all the towns of India is about 17J crores * * * § of rupees : 
the expenditure on conservancy, water supplies and drainage 
is about 4|- crores, or roughly 24 per cent, of the income. In 
rural areas the state of affairs is naturally much worse ; the 
district boards | have an income of 14-J crores, J and their 
expenditure on public health works is about two-thirds of a 
crore, or about 5 per cent, of the income. In Bengal the 
expenditure is highest, about 13 per cent., while in the Punjab, 
die United and Central Provinces, Bombay, and Assam it is 
3 per cent, or less. 

30. Water-supply .—In certain rural areas efforts have been 

made to supply the villages with wells or other forms of 
water-supply, but even when wells are constructed they often 
fall into disrepair through neglect. An interesting advance 
has been made in the western part of the United Provinces 
where advantage has been taken of the new hydro-electric 
installation to pump water from tube wells for bathing and 
drinking purposes.§ The water-supply of most villages 
comes from (1) wells, most of them being shallow and liable to 
pollution ; (2) tanks, which are even more dangerous, as 

the people usually bathe and wash their soiled clothes in the 
water ; (3) rivers and canals, which often serve to carry 

* £1 3.125,000. 

t These correspond generally to the county councils of England and 
Wales. For a description of them, see Chapter XI. 

+ £i 0,875,000. 

§ For a brief description of the tube well system, cf. Chapter I, para. 
48, and Chapter XII, para. 37. 


cholera infection to the villages along their banks.* The 
steps by which improvements can be effected in the water 
supply of rural areas are (i) the construction of good drinking- 
wells, provided, where possible with pumps; (2) the improve¬ 
ment of existing wells ; (3) the protection of wells and other 
sources of water-supply from contamination ; and (4) propa¬ 
ganda for the instruction of the people in the steps required 
for the prevention of water-borne disease, f 

31. Conservancy. —The municipalities of British India spend 
nearly two crores of rupees (£1,500,000) yearly on conservancy, 
but drainage and sewage disposal are good only in a few cities 
and only in some favoured parts of these. Water-closets are 
rare ; the usual method of disposal of night soil is its collection 
by sweepers and removal in carts. Considering the filthy 
state of the latrines and the swarms of flies which visit these, 
it is not surprising that cholera and other intestinal infections 
are common ; the wonder is that human beings can survive in 
the conditions which exist in many towns and villages. The 
expenditure on conservancy of the district boards is about 
5 lakhs (£37,500) yearly ; most of this is incurred in providing 
drains for a few of the larger villages. In rural areas generally, 
the open fields are the only latrines, so that the surroundings of 
villages are often filthy in the extreme. Efforts are being made 
in a number of places to test the possibility of introducing 
better standards of sanitation into rural areas. The great 
difficulty is that pure water-supplies, drains, and proper 
latrines are costly and that the villager cannot afford them ; 
neither can the district boards nor the provincial Governments. 
Here again we are forced to the conclusion that the only 
hope of betterment lies in educative persuasion to induce the 
people to plan for improved standards of life As someone has 
rightly said, the things that people do for themselves are 
economical and lasting, whereas the things that are done for 
them are costly and short-lived. 

32. Housing. —In some of the progressive localities of the 
Punjab the villager takes a pride in his house : he aims at 
having strongly built walls and roof, windows, and a fire¬ 
place. But in most of the small villages of India the living 

* Tanks, rivers, and canals, however, are seldom used to supply 
drinking water if a well is available. The well’s liability to pollution is 
due chiefly to the villager’s habit of bathing near its mouth. 

f The chief obstacle in the way of using pumps is their cost. The 
usual method of protecting a well is to build a parapet around its mouth. 


places are mud huts rather than houses.* In the average 
Indian village the conditions for the spread of the great 
killing diseases are ideal. Rats are encouraged to live in 
houses by the ample supplies of food and nesting places which 
are provided for them. Flies find collections of filth in which 
to breed and are given abundant opportunities for gorging 
themselves on food which is exposed for their benefit; 
unfortunately, they repay the hospitality which is offered to 
them by polluting the food with excrement containing 
microbes of cholera and other diseases which the flies have 
swallowed in the course of a previous meal. Lice and mos¬ 
quitos also find congenial conditions in which to thrive and 
multiply. Respiratory infections like tuberculosis, influenza, 
and pneumonia have favourable conditions for their con¬ 
veyance in the stuffy and ill-ventilated houses. The cultiva¬ 
tion and spread of the microbes of typhoid fever, dysentery, 
and cholera are promoted by unprotected water-supplies and 
by the accumulations of filth which are such prominent features 
of most villages. 

33. The Indian villager is now beginning to emerge from 
conditions of life that are mediaeval or even primitive—a 
critical period, which is always accompanied by excessive 
risk to life and health. Progressive western countries have 
had the same kind of experience, and their success in emerging 
from a dangerous environment shows that a way of escape is 
open to India. The change cannot be brought about by the 
unaided efforts of the State, for even if it were possible to provide 
model houses, pure water, and perfect drainage, these would 
be of little benefit unless the habits of the people were com¬ 
pletely changed. The first step must be to arouse in the minds 
of the people a desire for better conditions of life. This, too, 
can only be done by properly directed education. 

Maternity and Child Welfare 

34. The Maternity and Child Welfare Bureau of the Red 
Cross Society is an unofficial organization which has done 
excellent work by initiating, guiding, and stimulating action 
for the improvement of conditions of childbirth and infant 
welfare. The Bureau works in close cooperation with the 
public health departments, and has branches in the provinces 
and in some States. These branches have committees 

* Cf. Chapter III, para. 2. 


whose objects are to arouse interest in the subject, to employ 
female health visitors, nurses, mid wives, and trained dais* 
and to arrange for the training of women to carry out these 
duties. The funds of the Bureau and of its local branches are 
not enough to enable them to cover the enormous field which 
urgently needs attention. Efforts have been concentrated 
chiefly in the following directions:— 

(1) The training of indigenous dais, with a view to enable 
them to carry on their hereditary calling as midwives in a 
cleanly and skilful manner. 

(2) The maintenance of training schools for female health 
visitors. There are seven such schools, of which four receive 
grants from the Bureau. Five of these give training in English 
at present, but English is gradually being replaced by the 
local vernaculars except in the case of the central institution 
in Delhi, where the higher grades of pupils are trained for 
supervisory and administrative duties, and English is the 
medium of instruction. Unfortunately, there is a serious 
shortage of suitable candidates for training. Only sixty 
health visitors passed out of the seven training schools in 

(3) The production and issue of propaganda material, 
pamphlets, posters, films, slides, etc. 

(4) The provision of grants-in-aid for experimental 
schemes which hold out promise of improving the conditions 
of mothers and infants. 

35. Although the dirty village dai f holds sway in most of 
the rural areas and only the fringe of the subject has been 
touched, yet encouraging progress is being made : considerable 
numbers of dais have been trained in modern ideas of cleanliness, 
though it must be admitted that many of them fail to live up to 
their training. Wherever good maternity hospitals are opened 
the women soon begin to appreciate them, with the result that 
training in midwifery is being extended rapidly. Some 
provinces have taken the step of appointing a woman expert 
as technical adviser to the Director of Public Health, and as 
.inspector of maternity and child welfare activities. The work 
is still to some extent in the experimental stage : progress in 
the provinces is often on the lines of trial and error, but this 

* Dai here means midwife ; the difference between midwife and dai 
is one of qualifications. 

t See Chapter II, para. 55. 


is inevitable from the nature of the problem. The urgent need 
of work of this kind is shown by the high infant mortality 
rate (164 per mille in 1935) and the high maternal mortality 
rate. Exact figures for the latter cannot be given, but it is 
probably more than 20 per mille of births. There are 800 
maternity and infant-welfare centres in India, but many of 
these are hardly worthy of the name. 

Infant Marriage and Population-Control 

36. Educated Indians know all about the evils which 
result from infant marriage, though many of them do not find 
it easy to break away from the custom. If a European wishes 
to realize the radical difference which exists between the Indian 
and the European outlook on marriage, let him try to conjure 
up the vision of an English boy of sixteen or seventeen ap¬ 
proaching his parents with the proposal that he should marry 
a girl of fourteen with a view to having children as soon as 
possible. In all probability the economic condition of the 
people of England would be quite as bad as that of the people 
of India if infant marriage were an English custom. 

37. From the replies to a questionary which I issued a 
few years ago to the doctors of rural dispensaries in India, it 
appears that the average age at which Indian girls begin to 
cohabit with their husbands is about fourteen years, and that 
the average age at which these girls have their first baby is 
about sixteen. Each mother gives birth to about six children 
on the average, so that before the age of thirty most Indian 
women must already be worn out with child-bearing. Some 
reformers think that raising the marriage age of girls by three 
or four years will be a complete remedy for the existing evils. 
If this were done the mothers would be better educated and 
better fitted in every way for the task of child-bearing, but on 
the other hand more of the babies would probably survive, 
with the result that the increase of the population would be 
greater than ever. The experience of Ireland shows clearly 
that the problem of a swelling population cannot be solved by 
so simple a method as delaying marriage by a few years. 
Conditions of life in Ireland during the first half of the 19th 
century were similar in many respects to those of India to-day. 
Early marriages (at about twenty to twenty-five years of age) 
caused the population to increase from 4J millions in 1800 to 
about 8| millions in 1845. Then came the famine which more 

than decimated the population, while emigration relieved the 
pressure to the extent of a million and a half of people within a 
few years. At the present time the population is about 4J 
millions, and the people, who are now making a deliberate 
effort to secure a very modest standard of economic well¬ 
being, have found it necessary to revolutionize their marriage 
customs. More than a quarter of the population of the Irish 
Free State never marry at all, and 80 per cent, of the males 
between the ages of twenty-five and thirty are unmarried. In 
; spite of this the population is still increasing, though far more 
slowly than formerly. This example shows that population- 
control by delayed marriage and celibacy must be effected in 
a very drastic manner if success is to be achieved. 

38. A critic may object that Ireland is a western country 
where conditions of life are so different from those of India 
that no trustworthy analogy is possible. Let us look therefore 
at recent happenings in an oriental country. Japan is 
thoroughly up-to-date in her methods of dealing with pre¬ 
ventable diseases and as a result the population has doubled 
itself within the past half century. Dr. C. V. Drysdale* gives 
almost incredible figures, and I quote them with all reserve. 
“ The birth-rate in Japan has risen from 17 per mille in 1881 
to about 34 per mille, while the death-rate has increased during 
the same period from 11 per mille to almost double.” He 
suggests that some vigorous form of population-control was in 
force before the beginning of the modern epoch, about seventy 
years ago. The official figures published by the Japanese 
Government are not so striking. They show that between 
1890 and 1929 the birth-rate in Japan rose from 28-5 to 33-0 
per mille, while in England it fell from 31-4 to 18-3. The 
death-rate in Japan during the same period fell from 207 
to 20, while in England it fell from 18-5 to 11-5. The infant 
mortality rate in Japan rose from 15-3 per mille in 1899 to 
19-2, while it fell in England from 19 to 9-3. The expectation 
of life for infants under one year of age in Japan was about 
42J years in 1928, having fallen by nearly two years during 
the previous fifteen years ; in England it is about 58 years, 
having risen by nearly fifteen years during the past half cen¬ 
tury. The experience of Japan is of special interest to India. 
It shows clearly what can be expected to happen in a thickly 
populated country when a forward policy of economic develop¬ 
ment and prevention of disease is carried out while at the 
* President of the Malthusian League. 

same time the people indulge in unrestrained reproduction. 
Further, despite the industrial development in Japan which 
has greatly increased the output of commodities, the people are 
probably not so well nourished as they were fifty years ago. 

39. It must not be assumed that a rapid increase in popu¬ 
lation is in itself an evil; on the contrary, it may indicate a 
flourishing condition of the people. For example the French 
settlers in Quebec have increased from 60,000 in 1759 to nearly 
5 million at the present time, and yet they form a healthy and 
prosperous community. It is when the production of the 
necessities of life no longer keeps pace with the growth of the 
population that economic standards and health deteriorate. 
An important aspect of the population problem is that if the 
pressure of population on the means of subsistence becomes so 
great that the people are compelled to eat the entire produce 
of the land for the purpose of keeping body and soul together, 
there will be no available surplus for maintaining the structure 
of civilization. Schools, hospitals, police, law-courts, armies, 
and even railways must disappear, and the community will be 
reduced to a condition of savagery. There will be a hand- 
to-hand struggle for food, with the result that disease and 
famine must resume their functions in bringing about a natural 
balance between population and food-supply. When people 
speak of Nature as a gentle mother they display lamentable 
ignorance. Nature when left to herself does not create smiling 
fields but jungle and desert. Her methods are excessive 
reproduction and wholesale slaughter. Should we put a 
check on Nature’s destructive propensities and compel her to 
produce food on an increased scale, we must take care that 
she is not allowed to get her revenge. If we merely increase 
the food-supply and prevent disease, Nature will quietly bring 
about an increase in the population which, if allowed to progress 
without a check, soon brings us back to the starting-point. 
When we set to work to control Nature, we must be wary to 
see that the control is complete. Nature is a cruel mistress, 
but an excellent servant; and it is our business to see that 
she is made to work for us, not to dominate our lives. In one 
respect Nature must always be supreme. She has fixed once 
for all the inherited structure and the limits of longevity of 
each human being. But within the limits thus imposed we 
have great scope for shaping our lives. Throughout the ages 
mankind has often realized the necessity for restricting the 
population if comfortable economic standards of life are to 


be maintained. In uncivilized countries the usual method 
has been infanticide and slaughter, while in civilized commu¬ 
nities the births are restricted by celibacy, delayed marriage, 
continence, and the use of contraceptives. All these methods 
are merely forms of population-control.* 

40. Population-control should always be dealt with as 
a biological and economic question ; it is quite wrong to 
insist that people should employ any form of control which 
they consider wicked or repugnant. All that is needed is to 
convince them that some kind of control is essential to their 
well-being and they will then choose whichever method they 
prefer. Some western countries are practising population- 
control to such an extent that they are faced with the prospect 
of race-suicide. Certain opponents of population-control 
argue that the experience of these countries shows how dan¬ 
gerous it is to try to regulate the number of the people ; this 
argument is just as reasonable as it would be to advocate 
gluttony because some people injure their health by a slim¬ 
ming diet. There is one shining example of properly con¬ 
ducted population-control in Stockholm, where the prosperous 
members of the community have larger families than the poorer 
classes. There is no reason why properly directed education 
should not secure this happy state of affairs in other places. 

41. The subject of population-control has been emphasized 
because it forms the foundation of all public health effort. 
Nobody can pretend for a moment that a healthy community 
can exist when there is not enough food to go round. But 
emphasis on this aspect of the problem should not deter us 
from the equally important effort to reduce deaths from 
preventable disease. Again, there are certain critics who 
argue that the triumphs of disease prevention in cool climates 
cannot be repeated in a tropical country like India. Let the 
facts speak for themselves. In 1852 the death-rate among 
British troops in India was 69 per mille ; by 1875 it had 
fallen to 20, by 1900 to 13, and at the present time it is about 
2\ per mille. The death-rate among Indian soldiers has 
fallen from 11 per mille in 1900 to just over 2 per mille in 
1935. Among prisoners there has been a corresponding 
improvement. From the appalling figure of 100 per mille in 

* The term birth-control would be more suitable, but it has unfor¬ 
tunately been earmarked as a designation for the use of contraceptives, 
and therefore is now regarded as a highly controversial subject. 


1859) Ac death-rate has fallen to about io, a figure which 
would have been regarded as remarkable even so recently 
as 1900, when the mortality rate in the jails was 35 per mille. 
These figures show what has actually been achieved in con¬ 
trolled populations in India by improved sanitation. But a 
similar degree of success can never be secured in the civil 
population of India until there is a radical change in their 
outlook on life. The first requirement of a successful public 
health programme is to bring about this change in outlook. 

Drug Addiction in India 

42. Europeans have a tendency to exaggerate the evils of 
the opium and other drug habits which exist in India. Colonel 
Chopra, who has made a special study of the subject, points 
out that in extensive areas of all provinces the consumption of 
opium is less than that laid down by the expert committee of 
the League of Nations as being suitable for the medical and 
scientific needs of the population. Indeed, many people who 
have lived long in India have hardly ever seen an opium 
addict. Opium is taken by the mouth in small quantities by 
large numbers of people, but everything goes to show that very 
few opium-eaters become slaves of the habit. Probably the 
average Englishman suffers greater injury from alcohol than 
the average Indian does from opium. Opium-smoking, which 
is much more pernicious, is rarely practised except in certain 
parts of Assam, the Central Provinces, and Berar. In Assam 
there is one opium-smoker for every four opium-eaters ; in 
the other areas the proportion of smokers is much less. The 
Government of India and the provincial Governments have 
succeeded to a considerable extent in checking the habit of 
opium-smoking by legislative and executive measures. So 
far as opium in general is concerned, the Government of 
India has sacrificed a valuable source of revenue by severely 
restricting the manufacture of opium both for export and for 
internal use. Owing to the fact that poppy cultivation is 
completely under government control it has been possible 
to carry out these restrictions in a very effective manner, 
though at a great sacrifice of revenue.* In certain areas of 

* Poppy can only be cultivated under licence from the opium depart¬ 
ment. All crude opium must be sold to Government, and the manufacture 
of opium is a government monopoly. The revenue derived from opium 
has fallen from over 6 crores of rupees in 1891-92 to 2I crores in 1920-21, 
and to 25 lakhs, or one-quarter of a crore, in 1935-36) a sacrifice of over 


northern India, the morphia habit has been introduced : this 
has not attained large dimensions, but according to Colonel 
Chopra it needs careful watching, as its effects are far more 
serious than those of opium addiction. 

4.3. Throughout India the ancient but pernicious custom 
of giving opium to infants is still practised to some extent. 
The action of opium in checking diarrhoea and cough is 
usually the reason alleged for giving it to infants, but the sorely 
tried mother too often resorts to the practice for the purpose of 
putting her fretful baby to sleep. Many women who are 
employed in factories adopt this easy method of keeping the 
child quiet during working hours. The custom is, of course, 
not in the interests of the health of the involuntary addict. 

44. Indian hemp is a plant which grows wild in many 
places in north India, and is easily cultivated elsewhere. Its 
leaves {bhang), flowering tops ( ganja ), and a resin which exudes 
from the plant ( charas ),* have a strong narcotic action, but 
only a small proportion of the population (0-5 to 1 per cent., 
according to Colonel Chopra) are addicted to its use. None 
the less this plant is responsible for a considerable amount of 
injury to the mental and bodily health of large numbers of 
people in India. 

45. From the replies to a questionary which I issued to 
doctors in Indian agricultural villages it appears that only 
12-3 per cent, of the villagers take alcohol in appreciable 
quantities. Very few villagers can afford to drink alcohol in 
quantities which are likely to do them much harm. Cases in 
which indulgence becomes a dangerous vice are much less 
numerous than in western countries. The alcoholic content 
of the “ country liquors ” is low : f they are usually prepared 
by the fermentation of makua {Bassia latifolia), rice, or palm-juice, 
and are comparable to beer in strength. The policy of Govern¬ 
ment is to restrict the sale of alcoholic drinks to a limited number 
of licensed shops which are strictly controlled and are liable to 
have their licences cancelled in cases of misconduct. Universal 
experience has shown that the use of alcohol can be severely 
restricted by imposing stiff excise duties, but when these 
exceed a certain amount, or when total prohibition is attempted, 

* Of these charas is the most powerful and bhang the least powerful 
narcotic. Charas is for the most part imported from Central Asia. 

t Their strength varies from 25 to 50 degrees under proof. 


the consumption of alcohol always increases. The abolition of 
alcohol in India as in other countries would be of great benefit 
to the community, but the best practical policy is to reduce its 
consumption to the greatest possible extent by nicely regulated 
duties. Education and propaganda must be relied on to 
combat the “ will to drink.” People can be encouraged to be 
temperate, they cannot be compelled to be abstainers so long 
as the materials for making alcohol are within their reach. 
Prohibition is being tried as an experiment in some localities 
in India, but in view of the ease with which country liquor can 
be prepared anywhere,* there is reason to fear that prohibition 
will meet the same fate as in the United States of America. 
Taking the broad view, it appears that drug addiction is not a 
serious menace to the health or morals of the people of India. 
There is scope for reform, but other health problems are far 
more urgent. 


46. Nutrition is the most important and at the same time 
the most difficult of the problems of India. The progressive 
western countries are paying great attention to the question 
of the nutrition of the poorer sections of their people, but with 
them it is a question of poverty in the midst of plenty, whereas 
India has to face the far more troublesome problem of poverty 
in the midst of scarcity. Some experts maintain that the total 
production of food in India is inadequate for the needs of 
the people : others claim that it is sufficient.! All, however, 
are agreed that the great majority of the people are poorly 
nourished, not so much because of a total shortage of food 
as because the diet is lacking in some of the constituents 
which are needed to provide for growth and vigour. There 
has always been an impression that many people in India are 
ill-nourished, but the first scientific study of the subject was 
made by Lieut.-Col. D. McCay, I.M.S., who showed that the 
diets in use by most Bengalis were seriously deficient in the 
proteins which are essential to bodily development and 
physical strength. More recendy Sir Robert McCarrison f 
showed that when rats were fed on diets of the type in common 
use by robust Sikhs, their health was vastly better than that of 
rats fed on diets of the kind eaten by the people of southern 
India. These experiments show that animals of the same 

* All that is required to make a still is a few earthen pots and bamboos. 

t Cf. Chapter I, para. 80. 

{ Major-General Sir R. McCarrison, Kt., C.I.E., (I.M.S. retired.) 


stock are greatly affected by differences in diet, and suggest 
that the great differences in physique of the people of India 
depend, at all events in part, on food rather than on race. 

47. A few years ago I tried to find out something about 
the diets which are actually eaten by the peasants in various 
parts of India. The method employed was to issue a list of 
questions to a large number of doctors working in dispensaries 
in typical agricultural villages. From the replies it appeared 
that the average amount of milk taken by each adult was only 
3! oz. daily and the amount of ghi about | oz. The amounts 
varied greatly in different provinces; in the Punjab the daily 
ration of milk was 10 oz., while in Bengal, Madras, and the 
Central Provinces it was 2 oz. or less. The doctors were also 
asked to classify the people of their villages as “ well nourished,” 
“ poorly nourished ” and “ very badly nourished.” The 
replies gave an average for the whole of India of 39 per cent, 
well nourished, 41 per cent, poorly nourished, and 20 per cent, 
very badly nourished. These figures cannot be claimed to 
have any statistical accuracy, but they probably do not 
exaggerate the degree of malnutrition which exists in India. 
From the same survey it appeared that about 2J millions of 
people were suffering from rickets and more than 3J millions 
from night-blindness. Both of these diseases are due to 
vitamin deficiency and their occurrence indicates serious 
defects in the quality of the diet of the affected communities. 
The real object of this diet survey was to provide a prima facie 
case for a proper enquiry into the nutritional condition of the 
people of India. Within the past three years or so great 
interest has been aroused, and several workers are now engaged 
in making an accurate survey of the diets in various parts 
of the country. Dr. Aykroyd (Director of the nutritional 
research laboratory which is maintained by the Research Fund 
Association) has done important survey work in Madras, 
and has fully confirmed the opinions expressed by McCay, 
McCarrison and myself that the diets of most of the inhabitants 
of India are grossly deficient in proteins and vitamins. Dr. 
Aykroyd has also carried out a very interesting experiment on a 
group of boys of eleven to fifteen years of age living in a mission 
boarding-house in Madras. Half of the boys were given 8 oz. 
of dried skim-milk in addition to their usual diet, while the 
other half had their usual food. After fourteen weeks it was 
found that the average gain in weight of the boys who had 
taken milk was considerably more than that of the others. 

Also, in that short time the boys who had milk showed an 
average increase in height of one-third of an inch more than 
those who had no milk. This experiment showed clearly that 
the ordinary diet of these boys had been insufficient to provide 
material for proper bodily growth and also that milk, even 
when skimmed, is a valuable addition to the usual diet of 
children in southern India. 

48. Dr. Aykroyd has given the following examples of (a) an 
adequate and w-ell-balanced diet costing about Rs.5/8 a month, 
and ( b) of an inadequate ill-balanced diet costing Rs.2/8 a 
month, such as is eaten by millions of people in southern 
India. Unfortunately the adequate diet costs twice as much 
as the other, and so is beyond the reach of most peasants. 
It will be seen that w'hen cost is a primary consideration the 
quality of the diet suffers more than the quantity. 

i Insufficient and 

ill-balanced diet 

j Adequate and 

well-balanced diet 

Rice .... 

1 15 oz. 

10 oz. 

Cmnbu * 

! — 

1 5 oz. 

Milk .... 

■ 1 oz. 

i 8 oz. 

Pulses .... 

i 1 oz. 

i 3oz. 

Green-leafy vegetables 

Non-leafy vegetables 

6 oz. 

Fats and oils fgingellv) t . 

0-5 oz. 

2 OZ. 

Fruits (mangoes and ripe 


2 0, 


iposition of the above Diets 

Insufficient and j 

Adequate and 

ill-balanced diet . 

well-balanced diet 


38 grammes 

73 grammes 

Fats .... 

! '9 



367 „ 




2,590 „ 


o-i6 „ 

Phosphorus . 

o-6o „ 

i-47 „ 

Iron .... 

9 milligrammes i 

44 milligrammes 

Vitamin A . 

Vitamin B 

l60 „ 

Vitamin C 

15-0 milligrammes 

170 milligrammes 

Monthly cost. 

Rs.2.8.0 (3*. 9 d.) 

Rs. 5 to6 (-js. %d. togs.) 

* Tamil name of bajra. 
f Another name for sesamum. 



49. The low standards of physical development of the 
majority of the population in India are associated with im¬ 
proper nourishment, as also are the prevalence of such diseases 
as rickets, osteomalacia, keratomalacia, anaemia of pregnancy 
and one form of beri-beri. Lowered resistance to many 
other diseases such as dysentery, tuberculosis, leprosy, and 
pneumonia is caused by malnutrition. But it is useless to 
tell people to drink more milk, or to eat more fruit and 
vegetables, unless we can show them how these articles 
can be obtained in addition to and not instead of part of 
the usual diet. Already many people cannot obtain enough 
rice and other bulky cheap foods to satisfy their hunger. To 
suggest expensive foods to these people would be just as 
reasonable as the remark attributed to Queen Marie An¬ 
toinette who, when told that the people of Paris were clamour¬ 
ing for bread, was said to have replied, “ If they have no 
bread, why don’t they eat cake ? ” 

50. The increase which is occurring in the population adds 
greatly to the difficulty of providing an adequate food-supply, 
and it must also be remembered that much of this increase has 
taken place since the last widespread failure of the rains, so 
there is cause for anxiety as to what will happen when famine 
conditions next occur. Improved methods of agriculture, the 
proper use of cattle to provide a milk-supply, and the abolition 
of many wasteful customs would bring about a great increase 
in the food-supply; but even if these potential sources of income 
were exploited to the greatest conceivable extent, their 
benefits would soon be neutralized if early and improvident 
marriages continued to impose a heavy handicap on the 

51. Sir John Russell in his recent report on the work of 
the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research states that 
during the period 1909 to 1918, 0-89 of an acre was devoted 
to food crops for each person, and that in the period 1929 to 
1933 this had fallen to 0-79 of an acre. Probably the yield 
from each acre has increased ; but even if this has happened to 
such an extent that the people are now getting more food 
than formerly, there would be little reason for complacency, 
for the present diets are admittedly inadequate, considerable 
leeway has to be made up to bring them to a proper level, and 
at the same time provision has to be made for a rapidly 
increasing population. It is quite unnecessary to lay down 
precise rules with regard to diets. We have only to look at the 

splendid specimens of humanity seen in some parts of the 
Punjab to realize that their diets are excellent despite the fact 
that they have never heard of calories or proteins or vitamins. 
Plenty of water should be drunk, especially in hot weather, and 
preferably between meals. 

52. There is a small but growing section of the community 
in India which suffers from excess of food rather than from 
scarcity ; the well-to-do professional men of the large cities 
suffer to a remarkable extent from diabetes. The chief causes 
of this are excessive indulgence in sweet and starchy foods, 
combined with lack of exercise. Heredity plays a very small 
part, as is shown by the fact that the people of the same races 
who lead active lives in the country do not suffer from the 

Dietetic Diseases 

53. Protein starvation .—It has already been shown that the 
diets of most Indians are deficient in proteins. The analysis 
of the foodstuffs does not tell the whole of the story, because the 
proteins which are derived from vegetables are decidedly 
inferior in body-building value to those which are of animal 
origin. A real vegetarian could not attain a good standard of 
growth and health how’ever carefully he selected his diet. 
Fortunately, there are few real vegetarians, for the people 
who call themselves by this name have no hesitation in 
drinking milk, which is the best of animal foods ; many also 
eat eggs, which are scarcely inferior to milk as a source of 
animal proteins. Flesh foods are quite unnecessary, provided 
that animal proteins are supplied in the form of milk or eggs. 
If every growing child in India could have a pint, and every 
adult half a pint of milk daily in addition to their present diets, 
the physique and health of the people would undergo nothing 
short of a revolution. An important point in connection 
with proteins is that rice eaters cannot make up for the low 
protein content of the grain by eating more rice : most of the 
proteins contained in a small meal of rice can be absorbed and 
utilized in the body, but the same thing does not happen when 
a bulky meal of rice is eaten, because the digestive organs are 
unable to cope with the larger meal so that most of the protein 
is passed out in the stools. The only remedy for the ill-health 
caused by protein starvation is to supply more animal proteins, 
preferably in the form of milk and eggs. Protein starvation is 
not mentioned in the text-books as among the dietetic diseases, 

but in reality it is one of the most important of them : more 
than half of the people of India are suffering from it to a greater 
or less extent. 

54. Vitamin deficiency as a cause of disease. —Apart from 
general malnutrition, there are several dietetic diseases caused 
by special deficiencies in the diet. Many years ago it was 
known that sailors who lived for long periods on stale foods 
were very liable to scurvy, and that this disease could be 
prevented and cured by lime-juice or fresh vegetables. 
Recently it has been discovered that not only scurvy but 
several other diseases are due to the shortage in the diet of 
certain substances, to which the name vitamins has been given. 
These vitamins have been intensively studied, so that it is now 
possible to find out how much of each is contained in any 
article of diet. The chief vitamins which have been clearly 
recognized are called vitamin A, vitamins B and B2, vitamin 
C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. 

55. (1) Vitamin A deficiency.— Vitamin A is present in abund¬ 
ance in butter, eggs, pure milk, and green vegetables; there is 
very little in rice. Shortage of this vitamin causes night- 
blindness : in extreme cases there is a chronic inflammation of 
the eyes, which often goes on to keratomalacia, and may 
result in total blindness if proper treatment is not carried out. 
An old Indian remedy for night-blindness was goat’s liver, 
which has been proved to be rich in vitamin A. A more 
potent remedy is cod-liver oil : this is one of the richest sources 
of the vitamin. 

56. (2) Vitamin D deficiency.-— Vitamin D is found in milk, 
butter or eggs, and to a less extent in green vegetables. Lack of 
the vitamin causes rickets in children, and a terrible disease 
called osteomalacia in young women of child-bearing age. In 
both of these diseases the bones become soft and deformed. 
The quickest way of curing these two maladies is by giving 
cod-liver oil, which is specially rich in vitamin D as well as in 
vitamin A. Lack of sunlight greatly aggravates the ill-effects 
produced by deficiency in vitamin D, so that the diseases caused 
by shortage of this vitamin are specially common among 
women and children living in purdah. Prevention is by giving 
butter, fresh milk, eggs, and green vegetables, and by exposure 
of the body to sunlight. The serious deformities caused by 
osteomalacia are often permanent, hence the importance of 
early diagnosis and treatment. 

57 - ( 3 ) Vitamin C deficiency .—Scurvy is caused by a diet 
deficient in vitamin C, which is absent from rice, flour, butter, 
sugar, and dried vegetables, and is abundant in green vege¬ 
tables, tomatoes, mangoes, potatoes, oranges, lemons, and in 
most fresh fruits. In India we do not see many cases of full- 
fledged scurvy, with bleeding spongy gums and effusions of 
blood into the body tissues ; but large numbers of people suffer 
from general ill-health, anaemia, and debility because they do 
not get enough of the vitamin to keep the body in good condi¬ 
tion. A proper ration of fresh vegetables or fruit is a complete 
safeguard against any tendency to scurvy. Dry, stale, and 
over-cooked foods contain much less of this vitamin than 
uncooked foods. When fresh vegetables and fruits are scarce, 
they may be replaced by sprouted grains. McCarrison’s 
method of causing grains to sprout is to soak these (dal,* 
gram, wheat, peas, etc.), in cold water for 24 hours, then 
spread them on a damp blanket and cover them with a cloth, 
which must be kept constantly moist by sprinkling water on it. 
After two to three days the grains will have sprouted if kept in 
a warm place : they should be eaten raw or very lightly 

58. (4) Vitamin B deficiency .—Vitamin B is sometimes 
known as the antineuritic vitamin, because it prevents a kind 
of neuritis which is usually regarded as a form of beri-beri. 
There is still a good deal of obscurity about vitamin B ; at 
least two separate vitamins (Bi and B2) are included under the 
name, but wdiat the layman needs to know is that rice, especially 
over-milled or polished rice, contains very little of it. Wheat, 
millets, pulses, green vegetables, milk, and eggs contain a good 
supply of this vitamin, so that two or more of these articles 
should be taken with each meal. 

59. A word of caution must be given with regard to beri¬ 
beri, for although one form of the disease is caused by deficiency 
in vitamin B, there have been many cases and outbreaks of a 
disease to which the name beri-beri has been applied, although 
there has been no deficiency of vitamin B. Epidemic dropsy 
is regarded by some as a form of beri-beri ; it is common in 
Calcutta and other towns in Bengal, and always attacks rice- 
eaters. It appears to be a form of food-poisoning, which is 

* Dal is here used in its original meaning of pulse. The name, how¬ 
ever, is usually given to a decoction made from peas or pulses, resembling 
coarse pea-soup, which is eaten with rice or other food-grains. 

generally considered to be due to the formation of a poison by 
the action of certain bacteria on rice which has been stored in 
hot and damp places. Other experts suspect a poison which is 
sometimes present for some mysterious reason in mustard-oil. 
When this disease occurs, the safest way of prevention and cure 
is by cutting off both rice and mustard-oil from the diet so 
long as any cases continue to appear. 

60. For every person suffering from obvious disease due to 
vitamin deficiency, there are many whose health is impaired 
by shortage of vitamins. No special knowledge of vitamins 
is needed ; and diet which contains pure milk, butter, flour, 
dal, fresh fruits and vegetables in fair quantities is sure to 
contain plenty of vitamins of all kinds. Ghi , which is a form 
of clarified butter, is a doubtful source of vitamins, as it is 
often cooked to such a degree that most of the vitamins of the 
original butter are destroyed. 


Note on an enquiry into some Public Health aspects 
of Village Life in India 

A reference has already been made in para. 37 to a 
survey of public health conditions in rural India. The table 
gives a summary of some of the results of this enquiry. The 
figures are based on replies received from 571 doctors -working 
in typical agricultural villages. The doctors were asked to 
give facts which came within the scope of their personal 
knowledge, and, although statistical accuracy is not claimed 
for any of the figures, the table can be regarded as giving 
a substantially true picture of most of the conditions which 
are recorded. The figures for infant mortality may not be 
strictly accurate as there is often a doubt as to the exact age 
of a child at death, so that possibly children who were more 
than one year old at death may have been included. The 
figures for diseases like rickets, night-blindness, syphilis, 
gonorrhoea, leprosy, and tuberculosis cannot be accepted as 
reliable, but they are included as throwing some light on the 
degree to which these diseases occur. 



Public Health. The great Diseases of India 
Diseases in General 

1. Some of the ancient theories of the causes of disease 
are still accepted by uneducated and even by some educated 
people in India. Among these views are that disease is a 
punishment for the sins of the sick man or of his ancestors, a 
visitation by angry gods, a possession by evil spirits, or a 

2. Various ancient systems of treatment are still popular 
among the masses: of these the Ayurvedic, which is influenced 
by religious beliefs, has great popularity among Hindus, whereas 
the Unani system is specially favoured by Musalmans. Homoe¬ 
opathy has a number of adherents in the cities and towns. 
These systems of treatment are based on traditional theories 
of disease, and their practitioners have been aptly described by 
Mr. Gandhi as being “ devoid of the spirit of humility and 
research.” During the past hundred years or so, medicine 
has become scientific and has almost completely escaped from 
the baneful influence of tradition : its practice and teaching 
are based on the results of accurate observation and experi¬ 
ment. Progress in the acquisition of further knowledge is 
now more rapid than ever. The stock of valuable knowledge 
built up by the old systems is by no means ignored, but the 
medical scientist is no longer prepared to accept anything on 
authority ; every theory or statement is subjected to strict 
scrutiny and test by observers all over the world. To call a 
medical scientist an allopath is an insult; he refuses to sub¬ 
scribe to the allopathic theory, just as firmly as he rejects all 
other dogmas which are based solely on tradition and fail to 
stand the test of critical examination. Some of the greatest 
discoveries in medicine have been made by non-medical 

<£ COUNTRIES IN 1935 . «> 

200 , 


scientists—for example, Pasteur was a chemist—and every¬ 
thing that helps in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of 
disease is seized eagerly by the medical profession, no matter 
from what source it is derived. There can, ultimately, be no 
room for any system of medicine other than the scientific 
system which has already become universal throughout the 
civilized world. None the less, the indigenous systems are of 
considerable importance even at the present time. In spite of 
the rapidly increasing popularity of modern hospitals the 
majority of the people are still treated by practitioners of the 
ancient systems, some of whom have a considerable degree of 
skill and experience. In several provinces attempts are being 
made to restore the ancient systems, partly from an honest 
belief in their efficacy and partly from sentimental or political 
reasons. It would be just as reasonable to restore alchemy or 
astrology as to restore systems based on dogma ; but just as 
there are many adherents of astrology even in progressive 
countries, so also there will for many years be believers in 
dogmatic systems of medicine in India. 

The Chief Causes of Disease 

3. With the introduction of powerful microscopes a flood 
of light has been thrown on the causes of many diseases. 
Within the past sixty years or so the “ infinitely little ” parasites 
of cholera, plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, and a host 
of other diseases have been revealed. These parasites can be 
identified with as great certainty as crops in a field. There is 
no longer any discussion about the “ germ theory of disease.” 

4. The chief causes of disease may be classified as 
follows :— 

(a) Microbes, which cause most of the great killing diseases. 

(A) Parasites, which are larger and more highly organized 
than microbes. Hook-worm is an example of a parasitic 

(c) Lack of some essential element in the diet is responsible 
for a large group of diseases ; for example, scurvy, rickets, and 
some forms of beri-beri are due to deficiency in one or other of 
the vitamins. 

(d) Poisons, of which alcohol is the greatest offender. 

( e ) Physical agencies ; for example, exposure to the 
excessive heat causes heat-stroke. 

(f) Inherited defects of body structure are responsible for 
a few diseases, such as haemophilia and some diseases of the 
nervous system. 

(g) There is also a small group of diseases, the origin of 
which is somewhat obscure ; the most important of these is 

5. For the prevention of infectious diseases we must know 
how they are transmitted, and fortunately scientists have had 
as great success in acquiring this knowledge as in discovering 
microbes. The following are the chief means by which the 
important diseases of India are transmitted. 

(1) By swallowing material containing the microbes. 
Some of the chief diseases conveyed by infected food and drink 
are cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. 

(2) By inhaling droplets which are sprayed into the air 
by infected persons : this kind of infection is called “ droplet 
infection.” Persons who have influenza, tuberculosis of the 
lung, or any of the numerous respiratory infections often cough 
or sneeze ; in doing so they send out a spray of droplets of 
sputum ; each droplet may contain hundreds of microbes, 
which thus gain an entry to the respiratory passages of anyone 
who breathes the infected air. The droplets soon dry up 
after being expelled, and so may remain floating in the air of a 
closed room for a long time. In the open air or in a well- 
ventilated room the droplets soon get carried away by air- 
currents, so that the obvious means of preventing the spread of 
infection is to keep infected persons in the open air or in a 
well-ventilated room, where the only risk to other persons is 
by coming within the range of bombardment of the patient 
when he coughs or sneezes. 

(3) Several important diseases are conveyed from man to 
man by insects which have previously bitten infected persons. 
Malaria and dengue are conveyed by mosquitos, sand-fly 
fever and kala azar by sand-flies, and relapsing fever by lice. 
Plague is conveyed by fleas which have previously bitten 
infected rats. 

( 4 ) Syphilis, gonorrhoea, leprosy, and small-pox are 
examples of diseases in which the microbes are conveyed 
from man to man, either by direct contact or by contact 
with articles which have become contaminated by infected 

Some of the Important Diseases of India 

6. Malaria causes more sickness and loss of working-power 
than any other disease in India. Many millions of people 
suffer from malaria every year in India. We can only make a 
rough guess at the number of people who die of malaria in 
India, but on a conservative estimate the disease is responsible 
for more than a million deaths yearly. Many of these deaths 
do not occur during the actual attack ; they are due to other 
diseases, such as pneumonia or dysentery, which strike down 
persons already enfeebled by malaria. The loss of man-power 
due to malaria is enormous : in some areas a large proportion 
of the population lose several weeks of working time every 
year. Malaria has been known since the time of Hippo¬ 
crates, but its cause, a microscopic parasite which lives in the 
blood, was only discovered in 1880 by a French surgeon, 
Laveran. Sir Ronald Ross, working in Calcutta in 1898, dis¬ 
covered the secret of its transmission from man to man by the 
anopheles mosquito. This epoch-making discovery at once 
gave the clue to the prevention of the disease, but Ross 
experienced bitter disillusionment when he expected that 
mankind would promptly adopt suitable measures to control 
it. Wherever anopheles mosquitos have been exterminated, 
malaria has always disappeared : an example is the Panama 
Canal zone, where after a previous attempt to cut the canal 
had been foiled by a terrible mortality among the workers, a 
thorough application by the Americans of the discoveries of 
Ross enabled them to keep the labour staff healthy.* Malaria 
is caused by microscopic parasites which pass one phase 
of their life in anopheles mosquitos which have sucked the 
blood of infected persons. An anopheles mosquito sucks the 
blood of a person who has malaria : the parasites swallowed 
with the blood are male and female : almost at once after 
their entry into the stomach of the insect, they conjugate and 
produce large numbers of offspring, which after about eight to 
fourteen days penetrate the poison glands of the mosquito. 
When the infected mosquito bites a person it injects these 
parasites into his body, where they soon find their way into 

* Another example is connected with the Sarda canal in Oudh, of 
which the headworks and upper stretches lie in a very malarial tract. 
The building of this canal was made possible by anti-malarial measures 
carried out by a special staff belonging to the public health department of 
the United Provinces. 


the blood cells. During the following ten days or so the 
parasites multiply exceedingly, and begin to generate enough 
poison to cause fever, which often comes with shivering and 
passes off with sweating. Malaria, in natural conditions, is 
never conveyed in any other way than by the bite of infected 
anopheles mosquitos. The attacks of fever usually come 
every day or every other day, and unless proper treatment is 
carried out the consequences are very unpleasant for the 
victim. Anaemia, debility, and enlargement of the spleen are 
the chief results, and the disease tends to be chronic, with 
spells of freedom from fever followed by relapses. Sometimes 
the disease runs a rapid and fatal course, but fortunately these 
cases are exceptional, and are only likely to occur in places 
which are notorious for severe malaria. In such localities it 
behoves the newcomer to take strict precautions against 

7. No attempt will be made to deal with the symptoms or 
diagnosis of malaria, for these are outside the province of the 
layman ; but the following are some of the things that every¬ 
body in a malarious country ought to know. Malaria is very 
irregular in its distribution. Except for places which are at too 
high an altitude for transmission of the parasite, the greater 
part of India is malarious to a greater or less degree. In 
some places the disease is present throughout the year, but as 
a rule it is much more severe in the autumn than at other 
seasons. The autumn epidemics vary in intensity from year 
to year ; for example, in the Punjab there are annual out¬ 
breaks of moderate severity, but after longer or shorter intervals 
the province is attacked by very severe epidemics. Places 
where malaria is exceptionally severe are usually notorious, 
but there are localities in which the whole adult population 
has become “ salted ” by attacks in early life. In such places 
there may appear to be very little malaria, but any newcomer 
finds to his cost that the infection is very much alive, as he is 
likely to get a severe attack soon after his arrival. Malaria is 
more common in the country than in large towns. Those who 
aim at controlling malaria must first of all find out to what 
extent the disease prevails in the locality. A good rough-and- 
ready method of doing this is to discover how many of the 
children have enlarged spleens.* If the “spleen-rate” is above 
50 per cent., the place is very badly affected, but even when 

* Any doctor can show how this should be done in a few minutes. 


■only 5 per cent, to io per cent, of the children have enlarged 
spleens the place must be regarded as malarious. 

8. Only a few kinds of mosquitos are capable of con¬ 
veying malaria : even among the anopheles mosquitos only 
a few species are dangerous. It is a comforting thought that 
even if one is bitten by a mosquito capable of conveying the 
disease, no harm will be done unless the insect has previously 
bitten a person suffering from malaria ; and so one may be 
bitten by thousands of mosquitos without getting it. Never¬ 
theless, it is good policy to avoid being bitten by any mosquito, 
as far as possible. An important point is that anopheles 
mosquitos rarely bite except during the hours of darkness, so 
that anyone who can protect himself from mosquito-bite 
between the hours of sunset and sunrise need have no fear of 
getting malaria. 

9. The precautions which can be taken by the untutored 
layman who is living in a malarious locality are as follows. 
Avoid the bites of mosquitos from sunset to sunrise by living 
in a mosquito-proof room, or under a good and well-adjusted 
mosquito curtain. Those who resent such a restriction can 
reduce the risk of infection by wearing clothing w'hich protects 
the body, especially the ankles and neck, or by applying 
sketofa, or oil of citronella, every two hours to the exposed parts 
of the skin. During the hours of sleep a well-fitted mosquito- 
net is absolutely essential in malarious localities. A thorough 
attack on all mosquitos in the living and sleeping rooms by- 
flit or other insecticide spray is distinctly useful ; most people 
prefer the smell of flit to the bite of the mosquito. The early 
stages of the life of the mosquito are passed in water, where the 
mosquito larvae look like little wriggling worms. In some 
places it may be possible to ferret out and abolish the breeding- 
places. If this is impracticable, the larvae can be destroyed by 
soaking a small bundle of rags in kerosene and dragging this 
over the surface of the water so as to create a thin film of 
oil, which will quickly kill the larvae.* In a locality where 
malaria is really bad, the proper course is to call in an expert 
to make a survey of the area and advise as to what can be done. 

10. The risk of infection can be reduced by living at a 
sufficient distance from infected persons, and by seeing that 
everybody in the neighbourhood is thoroughly treated with 

* In some places the larvae have been reduced in numbers by stocking 
ponds and tanks with little fish which feed on them. 


quinine. The chief sources from which mosquitos become 
infected are young children, and therefore they must receive 
special attention when treatment is given to the people of the 
neighbourhood. Much controversy has raged round the 
question of quinine prophylaxis for malaria ; and it must be 
admitted at once that when an infected mosquito has bitten a 
person, neither quinine nor any known drug can be relied on 
to destroy the parasites during the first few days after their 
entry into the body. For this reason true prophylaxis is still 
unattainable. In spite of this limitation in the efficacy of 
quinine, it has been proved by long experience that a regular 
daily dose of six or seven grains of the drug will keep the disease 
in check when otherwise severe attacks would occur. For this 
reason the daily “ quinine parade ” often saves the situation. 
These daily doses should only be given when malaria is highly 
prevalent, and they should be stopped as soon as the epidemic 
comes to an end. In spite of the daily dose, slight attacks of 
malaria may occur, but they usually yield readily to a course of 
treatment. Soon after the end of the period of preventive 
treatment, attacks of malaria often occur even in people who 
have had no attack throughout the epidemic. These attacks 
also are readily amenable to a course of treatment. 

n. For an attack of malaria, if no doctor is available, five 
grains of quinine should be taken three or four times daily for 
five days as a first-aid measure ; but expert medical advice 
should be sought as early as possible, as it is very important to 
make an accurate diagnosis and to have a course of treatment 
suitable for the type of infection which is present. In most 
cases the diagnosis of malaria is easy : attacks of fever coming 
on with shivering every day or every other day in a person 
who has recently been in a malarious place, are very likely to 
be due to malaria ; but the most dangerous form of the disease 
may resemble typhoid or other fevers, so that the path of 
safety for anyone who gets fever while in a malarious place, or 
shortly after being in such a place, is to take quinine at once, 
but also to send for the doctor. The recently introduced 
remedies such as atebrin and plasmoquine have undoubted 
value in treatment, and they also have advantages over 
quinine in certain circumstances ; but they are highly potent 
drugs and must only be given under medical supervision. 
Quinine, on the other hand, is a safe and well-tried remedy 
which rarely fails to give excellent results, and it has the 
great advantage of being suitable for general distribution. 

The harmful effects attributed to quinine are mostly mythical, 
but it does no good in fevers other than malaria ; and it fails 
when, as too often happens, the stock mixtures contain only 
a fraction of the quantity which is prescribed. Quinine 
has a high market-value, and the mixtures supplied from 
dispensaries must be subjected to surprise tests, or otherwise 
the patients will rarely get proper doses of the drug. Tablets 
supplied by Government or good private firms can be relied 
upon to contain the stated quantities of the drug, but mixtures 
act more promptly and surely, provided that they are of the 
proper strength. 

Kala Azar 

12. In certain parts of Bengal and Assam kala azar is 
very common. It used to be regarded as a form of malaria, 
partly because it often occurs in malarious places and partly 
because its symptoms resemble those of chronic malaria. 
Prolonged fever, wasting, and enlargement of the spleen are 
the prominent features of kala azar. Up till recently the case 
mortality rate was about 90 per cent. ; now the treatment is 
so successful that a cure can almost be guaranteed. In the 
affected areas of Bengal and Assam special arrangements are 
made for the treatment of kala azar by intravenous injections 
of special preparations of antimony. 

13. The disease is caused by a special microbe distantly 
related to the malaria parasite, and conveyed in all probability 
by a kind of sand-ffy. More than 138,000 cases were reported 
in Bengal in 1935, with 17,500 deaths. The places most 
affected were Rangpur, Bakarganj, and Rajshahi districts. 
There were 11,000 cases in Assam with 845 deaths, mostly in 
Sylhet, Goalpara, and Kamrup districts, and over 2,000 cases 
in Madras, nearly all being in Madras city, Ramnad and Tin- 
nevelly districts. The disease also occurs in certain parts of 
Bihar and Orissa, the Central Provinces, and the United 
Provinces. Probably there were many more cases than those 
recorded ; but in badly affected areas the people have learned 
that the disease is curable and most of the victims come for 
treatment. A peculiar feature of kala azar is that it attacks 
certain areas and plays havoc in them year after year, but it 
is liable to wax and wane in the affected localities, and it has 
a tendency to extend into new areas while receding from 
others. For some reason, it is practically unknown west of a 
line drawn from Lucknow to Cape Comorin. The control of 


kola azar is one of the greatest triumphs of public health in 
India; but though many thousands of lives have been saved in 
recent years, there is still much to be done before a complete 
conquest of the disease can be claimed. 


14. Dengue is an unpleasant rather than a dangerous 
fever which comes on suddenly and lasts from three to seven 
days. Anyone who gets dengue is convinced that he has a 
very serious illness, yet the risk of dying is negligible, except in 
the case of persons who are already in very bad health. 
Dengue is caused by a virus invisible even with the help of the 
most powerful microscope. This virus is carried 
person to another by the tiger mosquito, which can be recog¬ 
nized by the white spots on its legs and by its persistence in 
returning to bite after it has been driven away.* 

15. Dengue is far more common than is generally sup¬ 
posed, even by most doctors. When it comes as an epidemic 
in a large town anyone can recognize it, but very often there 
are only a few' cases in the locality and these may not have any 
special features—merely fever for a few days with pains and 
aches all over the body. In cases of this kind diagnosis may 
be difficult, as the microbes which cause the disease are beyond 
the ken of the microscope. No medicine has any really 
curative action ; the best that can be done is to relieve the 
pains, which are sometimes so bad as to entitle the disease to 
its old name “ break-bone ” fever. Most of the patients are 
treated with quinine in the belief that they have malaria ; and 
as the temperature falls within a few days, the cure is naturally 
attributed to the drug, whereas Dame Nature deserves the 
whole of the credit. No great harm is done by taking quinine, 
whereas it would be a tragedy to withhold the drug if the 
fever were really malarious. Sometimes there is a spotty red 
rash about the third or fourth day of the fever, and sometimes 
there are two spells of fever, but in every case the temperature 
comes finally to normal within a week. 

* This is the mosquito which also carries yellow fever, a disease 
happily unknown as yet in India, despite the fact that all the conditions 
suitable for its spread are ready to hand with one essential exception—the 
virus. There is good reason to believe that if the infection of yellow fever 
were introduced to India, the disease would spread rapidly over a great 
part of the country; wherefore great care is being taken to prevent any 
infected person or mosquito from getting into India. 


Sand-fly fever 

16. Sand-fly fever is a first cousin or even a sister of dengue. 
It is caused by the same kind of virus and has much the same 
kind of symptoms, but the infection is carried from one person 
to another by a sand-fly. The fever comes on suddenly and 
seldom lasts more than three or four days. There is no rash 
or second spell of fever, and although the victim is usually very 
sorry for himself he can be assured of a complete recovery, 
drugs or no drugs. After an attack of dengue or sand-fly 
fever there may be a good deal of depression. This is often 
out of proportion to the degree and duration of the fever, but 
it usually passes off within a few days. 

Relapsing fever 

17. Relapsing fever is liable to occur as a great epidemic 
spreading over the greater part of India, especially in times of 
famine or scarcity. Its cause is a microbe which can be seen 
with the microscope in stained blood films ; it looks like a tiny 
corkscrew, and even under a very powerful magnification it 
appears so slender as almost to deserve the description “ length 
without breadth.” The microbe is conveyed from man to 
man by lice, and in no other way, although there is a closely 
related disease, very rare in India, which is conveyed by ticks. 

18. Relapsing fever can be a very fatal disease when it 
breaks out among ill-nourished people. It used to be common 
in England, where it was sometimes called famine fever, but 
with the great decline in the louse population the disease has 
disappeared, and is now- unknown. Louse-infested peoples 
are always liable to be attacked, though in a curiously spas¬ 
modic way. After causing havoc for three or four years the 
disease dies out spontaneously ancl appears to have taken its 
departure for good ; but several years later it returns and has 
another spell of baneful activity. 

19. An expert can make the diagnosis with absolute cer¬ 
tainty by examining the blood. The special feature of the 
disease is that in most cases there are two or three spells of 
fever, each lasting a few' days. These spells are separated from 
each other by a few days, during which there is no fever. It is 
this peculiarity of the disease that has caused it to be called re¬ 
lapsing fever.* The arsenical drugs which cure syphilis are 

* Sometimes cases of typhoid and other fevers are wrongly classed as 
relapsing fever when relapses occur ; the name should only be used for 
fever caused by the special microbe. 

I 5 —(495) 


also effective in relapsing fever, but they have to be used with 
caution as the patients are often so feeble that they cannot 
stand large doses of potent medicines. Fortunately, the disease 
can always be brought under complete control by the simple 
though troublesome method of “ de-lousing ” the affected 
population. People who keep their skin and hair well oiled 
with mustard or other oil are not infested with lice and so 
they escape relapsing fever. 

Typhus fever 

20. The classical form of typhus fever is spread by lice in 
the same way as relapsing fever, but for some reason it remains 
confined to the extreme north-western parts of India, so that 
it does not constitute one of the great public health problems of 
the country. There are three other closely related forms of 
typhus which occasionally attack persons in certain well- 
defined localities in India ; they are primarily diseases of rats 
and other rodents, and are conveyed from these to human beings 
by the bite of ticks, fleas, and mites, for which reason they are 
called tick typhus, flea typhus, and mite typhus respectively. 
Cases are frequent in the neighbourhood of Bhim Tal, Kasauli,* 
and other regions in the Himalayas. Several localities in the 
Central Provinces are also foci of infection, and cases have 
been reported from many other places in India. When camp¬ 
ing, shooting or fishing in the wilds, it is always desirable to 
keep a sharp look-out for ticks, and to remove these as soon as 
possible when they bite. Unfortunately, the tick often bites 
without causing the slightest pain, so that the mischief may be 
done before its presence is detected. The best precaution of 
all is to avoid the places where the disease is known to occur. 


21. Plague is steadily declining in most parts of India. 
The yearly average number of deaths from 1898-1918 was 
about 500,000, whereas between 1931 and 1934 it was 50,000, 
and in 1935 it wa s only 32,000. The only province in which 
the disease was severe in 1935 was the United Provinces, 
where 23,000 deaths occurred, the mortality rate per mille of 
population being 0-5. In Bengal only two deaths were 
reported, while Assam and the North-West Frontier Province 

* Bhim Tal is in the United Provinces, near Naini Tal. Kasauli is 
near Simla. 


were free from the disease in that year. The cause of the 
steady decline in plague is not quite clear ; neither do we fully 
understand why some areas, especially in Orissa and Assam, 
have never been invaded by plague. Plague is primarily a 
disease of rats, among which it is spread by the rat flea. 
Before plague appears among human beings, it is usual to find 
that rats begin to die in large numbers. When dead rats are 
found in a place where plague is endemic, the people know that 
the disease is likely to follow. The cause of the disease is 
the plague bacillus, which can be found in enormous numbers 
in the blood of rats which have died of the disease. Rat 
fleas which have sucked the blood of infected rats become 
heavily infected and convey the disease to other rats. These 
fleas do not normally feed on man, but if their usual hosts, 
the rats, have died or fled, they are compelled to seek nourish¬ 
ment from human beings, and so convey the disease to them. 

22. Although the disease seems to be disappearing we 
have no certainty that it will not flare up in future years. A 
few 7 practical points must therefore be noted. “ No rats, no 
plague,” is a truism ; and even in places where there is no 
plague it is well w^orth while to wage war on rats, as these 
animals devour enormous quantities of food which is badly 
needed by the people. The rat-population will always be 
found to be roughly proportional to the available food-supply, 
so that when all grain and other foodstuffs are stored in rat- 
proof stores and receptacles, the rats diminish in a remarkable 
manner. We cannot expect to exterminate them entirely, 
because a few will be able to subsist on odds and ends which 
they find in the fields. The important point is that rats 
invariably disappear from houses where they cannot get any 
food or shelter, so that the rat-proofing of houses and grain 
stores, combined with the protection of every kind of food in 
rat-proof receptacles such as covered tins will not merely protect 
from plague but will also be a great economy. Destruction 
by traps, poison baits, or fumigation cause a temporary reduc¬ 
tion in the number of rats but is not a permanent cure, for a 
single pair of rats can produce a hundred descendants in the 
course of a year if they can find plenty of food and shelter. 
Nevertheless, a campaign of rat-destruction is a valuable 
measure if carried out just before the plague season, or as soon 
as plague begins to appear.* The plague season begins in 

* But see Chapter II, para. 42. 


northern India early in January and ends in May or June, but 
it varies in different localities. 

23. When dead rats are found in a locality which is known 
to be liable to plague, everyone in the neighbourhood should 
be inoculated at once, as experience has shown that the deaths 
among inoculated persons are far fewer than among the rest 
of the population. Inoculation is an essential measure when 
plague threatens to invade the locality, but the permanent 
banishment of rats from the houses by the means already men¬ 
tioned is the best and cheapest scheme for preventing the 
disease. Any houses or locality in which dead rats have been 
found should be evacuated at once. Nothing should be 
taken away till the houses have been thoroughly disinfected. 


24. Unlike malaria, tuberculosis in India is far more 
common in towns than in the country. Most medical experts 
believe that the disease is spreading from the towns to the 
rural areas owing to infection being carried by villagers who 
have contracted the disease while working in the towns. No 
accurate survey has yet been made of the incidence of tuber¬ 
culosis in rural areas, but even if the disease is not so common 
in the villages as some experts believe, it is undoubtedly 
increasing, and is threatening to become a very serious problem. 
In every large city of India tuberculosis is terribly common, 
especially among girls and young women who live in purdah , 
where all the conditions favour the spread of infection and the 
progress of the disease. In western countries the disease is 
steadily diminishing, whereas in India it is increasing year by 
year in an alarming manner. 

25. Tuberculosis may attack any part of the body, but in 
the great majority of the cases the lungs or bowels are specially 
affected. The disease is caused by a microscopic bacillus 
which was first discovered by Koch in 1880. In most cases 
this bacillus enters the body by the inhalation into the lungs of 
droplets in the manner already described. Tuberculosis of 
the bowel often occurs as a complication of the lung disease, 
but it also may attack persons whose lungs have not been 
affected. In the latter group of cases the infection is usually 
contracted through swallowing food which has been con¬ 
taminated with the sputum of a person suffering from tuber¬ 
culosis of the lung. Sputum is very tenacious, so that the 

hands of people who are attending to tuberculous patients are 
very likely to convey numbers of bacilli to any food which they 
touch. Another likely way of conveying infection is by using 
the earth from a courtyard for scrubbing the feeding utensils. 
This earth is often contaminated by the sputum of persons who 
have tuberculosis of the lung : the sputum adheres to the 
vessel which is being “ cleaned.” and so the food becomes 
infected. Apart from infection with tubercle bacilli there 
can be no tuberculosis, but although the bacilli, which are the 
seeds of the disease, are its essential cause, another factor of 
almost equal importance is the soil on which the seeds are 
sown. The soil is the human body ; if this is healthy and well- 
nourished the seeds do not thrive unless they happen to be 
specially virulent or exceptionally numerous. Thus it happens 
that in communities consisting of people who are well fed, who 
live in well-ventilated rooms, and are cleanly in their habits, 
the disease tends to disappear surely and steadily. Very few 
people escape infection with tubercle bacilli, but they can resist 
ordinary doses of the germs if their bodies are in good fighting 
trim. For this reason tuberculosis can be regarded as a 
“ key ” disease : measures which are successful in its control 
will also prove effective against many of the other deadly 
diseases. If the people of India were properly nourished, if 
they avoided living in the same room with persons who cough 
and sneeze, and if they took precautions to avoid swallowing 
infection with their food and drink, their average duration of 
life would be doubled. But here again we must get to the root 
of the matter : proper nourishment and proper standards of 
hygiene are impossible so long as immature boys and girls are 
compelled to marry and have children for whom they cannot 
make proper provision. 

26. Dispensaries and sanatoria are of value, but dreir 
usefulness is strictly limited unless the economic standards of 
life are raised. An important point is that the disease is not 
hereditary : if the infants of tuberculous parents are removed 
at birth from contact with infected persons, they are no more 
likely to get the disease than other children. It is still more 
important to realize that the disease can nearly always be 
arrested if proper treatment is started early, and continued till 
the patient has been completely restored to health. Many 
tragedies result from the mistaken idea that the diagnosis of 
tuberculosis is the equivalent of a death warrant : the dread 
of hearing a verdict of tuberculosis keeps numbers of people 


from consulting the doctor till the disease is well established, 
with the result that cure is far more difficult and uncertain. 
Wherever possible, treatment should be started at a sanatorium 
where the patient will learn how his case should be managed 
and how to avoid passing on the infection to others. Nourish¬ 
ing food and rest are essential parts of the treatment, and 
patients can be looked after at home if they are properly cared 
for in a verandah or “ lean-to ” where they can have fresh 
air and be isolated, so as to prevent other people from becoming 
infected. The attendant must be instructed in the means of 
preventing the spread of infection from the patient. 


27. Influenza is caused by an infection, probably an ultra- 
microscopical virus, conveyed from man to man by droplet 
infection. It is constantly present in a mild sporadic form, 
but its real prevalence is unknown because of the difficulty 
of distinguishing mild influenza from other catarrhal infec¬ 
tions with similar symptoms. At long intervals of years 
influenza sweeps over the world as a devastating pandemic. 
In 1918-19 about 10 million persons died of influenza in 
India, so that within a few months there were nearly as many 
deaths from this disease as there had been from plague during 
the whole of the preceding twenty-four years. Sooner or later 
there will probably be another pandemic, but it is to be hoped 
that this will not be so deadly as its predecessor. The pan¬ 
demics tend to occur at intervals of twenty to thirty years. 
The infectiousness of the disease is extremely high, so that 
precautions which are adequate for preventing the spread of 
other respiratory infections usually fail completely in the case 
of influenza. Apparently the virus of the disease is capable of 
causing infection even when it is present in the air in very 
small doses, so that the droplets by which it is carried have an 
exceptionally wide range of action. Experience shows that 
the only way of preventing the spread of infection is by keeping 
the patients in the open air and by insisting that the attendants 
should keep well away from the “ line of fire ” of the droplets, 
which are expelled when the patient coughs or sneezes. In 
existing conditions little can be done in India to prevent the 
disease : even in progressive European countries the preven¬ 
tion of catarrhal infections has not been successful, because the 
people have not properly realized the importance of droplet 
infection, and the necessity for isolating persons who cough and 

sneeze. Work on the virus of the disease is progressing and it 
seems possible that an effective means of immunization may be 
discovered within the next few years. 

Diseases of the respiratory system 

28. Pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases 
are responsible for a large part of the total mortality in India, 
and many of the millions of deaths attributed to “ fevers ” 
are really due to them. The official returns of causes of death 
do not throw much light on the relative frequency of pneu¬ 
monia and other infections of the respiratory system, but it is 
certain that taken together they cause more deaths than 
cholera, small-pox, or any of the other dramatic diseases. The 
problem of these diseases is twofold : on the one hand, they 
are caused by microbes which enter the respiratory tract by 
droplet infection as described in the sections on influenza and 
tuberculosis ; on the other hand these microbes are effective 
causes of disease and death in direct proportion to the degree 
of malnutrition of the community. Improvement in economic 
standards and in hygiene must therefore go hand-in-hand if 
the mortality is to be reduced. 


29. Cholera used to occur in great epidemics throughout 
the world, but it has disappeared from every country in which 
reasonable standards of hygiene have been adopted. There is 
no serious disease which is easier to eradicate than cholera, 
provided that an intelligent effort is made by the community. 
Cholera belongs to the group of diseases caused by special 
kinds of microbes which are swallowed and then multiply in the 
intestine. Everyone who gets cholera has recently swallowed 
food or drink contaminated by excreta coming from an infected 
person. The source of infection is almost always a person 
who has the disease or is recovering from it, so that as cholera 
is a short and dramatic illness which is easily recognized, there 
is seldom any excuse for failing to take precautions. Nurses 
and doctors who are constantly handling cholera patients have 
no difficulty in protecting themselves and others by taking 
simple precautions. If all cases of cholera were notified 
immediately and placed under proper control, the disease would 
soon disappear. There are exceptional cases in which persons, 
who are called cholera carriers, have recovered from cholera 
and yet continue to harbour infection for a considerable time ; 


but in communities where the most elementary rules of 
sanitation are observed there is little to fear from carriers. 

30. The commonest ways in which infection is spread 
are the following :— 

(1) The contamination of drinking water by the stools of 
patients ; if a stool is passed near a well, pond or stream, or if 
the soiled clothes of a cholera patient are washed in the water, 
the infected material may get into it. 

(2) The bacilli often get on the hands of person who look 
after cholera patients, so that unless the hands are thoroughly 
disinfected after contact with the patient or any article soiled 
by his excreta or vomit, any food or milk which is touched by 
the contaminated hands is likely to become infected. 

(3) Flies, which have made their horrid meal on infected 
excreta, are liable to settle down on food or drown themselves 
in milk, and so convey the bacilli. 

31. For those who have to deal with cholera in the absence 
of a doctor certain precautions are essential, which should also be 
taken in every case in which there is sudden diarrhoea accom¬ 
panied by vomiting, even though many of these cases w'ill turn 
out to be some other disease. Summon the doctor without 
delay, but in the meantime act as follows :— 

(1) The patient should be isolated, and should be looked 
after by one or two reliable attendants, nobody else being 
allowed to enter the room. 

(2) The stools and vomit should be disinfected by adding 
an equal quantity of carbolic acid diluted to a strength of 
about one part of carbolic to five of water. If no disinfectant 
is available, the stool should be burned on a fire. The soiled 
clothes should be burned, boiled, or put into a lotion of one in 
five carbolic acid. 

(3) Afterhandling the patient, the hands should be washed, 
and then dipped for a few minutes in a lotion of carbolic acid 
one part, and water twenty parts. 

(4) Flies should be excluded by pinning muslin gauze 
over the windows : any flies which have entered the room 
should be killed by fly-fiaps, or by thoroughly spraying with 

(5) All drinking water and milk used by the persons living 
in the neighbourhood should be boiled, and then covered to 
prevent flies from getting into them. 


(6) All food should be cooked and eaten while still hot ; 
and no raw fruit or vegetables should be eaten. 

(7) A close watch should be kept on every one who has 
been in contact with the patient and on all the people in the 
neighbourhood, so that they can be promptly brought under 
control if they show signs of the disease. 

(8) Everybody in the locality should be inoculated without 

32. The first symptoms of cholera are diarrhoea and 
vomiting ; the stools at first show no special features, but soon 
they become colourless and watery with whitish flakes floating 
in them. These are the so-called “ rice-water stools.” Soon 
also there is collapse and painful cramps in the limbs ; the 
skin becomes cold and the features pinched. The average 
death-rate in untreated cholera is 40 per cent, to 60 per cent. 
The diagnosis of cholera is usually very easy, especially when 
an epidemic is in progress. The disease which is most often 
mistaken for cholera is food-poisoning. This resembles 
cholera as it comes on suddenly with diarrhoea, vomiting, and 
abdominal pains, but it differs in the following respects : 
(1) there is less collapse as a rule ; (2) it is usual to find that 
several persons who have eaten the same meal are attacked 
almost simultaneously, and within a few hours of eating the 
offending article of diet ; (3) the stools usually remain brownish 
in colour, whereas in cholera they soon become almost colour¬ 
less. To the lay mind the sudden onset of diarrhoea and 
vomiting in several persons within an hour or so of each other 
is very alarming, but in reality when this happens it usually 
turns out that the disease is food-poisoning. Food-poisoning, 
formerly known as ptomaine poisoning, is rarely fatal. The 
interval between swallowing the infection of cholera and the 
appearance of the first symptoms is seldom less than thirty-six 
to forty-eight hours, and varies considerably, so that the first 
cases rarely appear in such rapid succession as happens with 

33. The treatment of cholera cannot be carried out by 
the layman, for intravenous injections are usually necessary ; 
but the patient’s chances of recovery will be improved by giving 
him one of the first-aid remedies, such as permanganate of 
potash pills, kaolin, or the essential oils mixture. Some of 
these medicines will usually be found even in the smallest 
village dispensaries. No food should be given, but plenty of 


water, which should be sipped in small quantities so that a 
pint or so is taken every hour. Most of the water will be 
vomited, but even so it will help to wash out the poisons. 

34. The public health aspects of cholera .—The disease is less 
common than formerly, yet it still claims about 200,000 
victims every year in India. Bengal, Madras, Behar, Assam, 
Orissa, and the United Provinces are frequently visited by 
great epidemics ; indeed, the only provinces in which cholera 
rarely occurs in epidemic form are the Punjab and the North- 
West Frontier Province, but even in these constant vigilance is 
needed to prevent the disease from gaining an entry. Pil¬ 
grimages are notoriously favourable to the spread of cholera ; 
when great crowds of people gather together under conditions 
in which proper sanitation is well-nigh impossible, it is not 
difficult to realize how a single carrier of infection or a single 
case of cholera may convey the disease to a number of pilgrims. 
So it happens that pilgrims often become infected at the place 
of pilgrimage and reach their homes before symptoms of the 
disease appear. After the great Kumbh melas * which take 
place every twelve years at Allahabad and Hard war, I great 
epidemics of cholera have often followed in the United Prov¬ 
inces j and Bihar, even though only a few cases of cholera 
may have occurred in the pilgrim camps. The health author¬ 
ities do their utmost to protect the pilgrims from cholera, but 
with such densely packed masses of humanity it becomes 
impossible to ensure complete freedom from infection. Inocu¬ 
lation against cholera has proved very successful during 
epidemics. The hope of eliminating the disease lies in 
immediate notification of the first cases, immediate isolation of 
the victims under proper control, and the prompt inoculation 
of all the people exposed to the risk of infection. Now that 
the masses have begun to appreciate the value of anti-cholera 
vaccine, it may soon become possible to introduce the whole¬ 
sale inoculation of all pilgrims before they reach the camps. 
In Bengal alone more than 2,300,000 persons were inoculated 

* Kumbha is a sign of the zodiac, corresponding to Aquarius. The 
melas, which are bathing fairs, are held when Brihaspati, corresponding to 
the planet Jupiter, enters this sign—an event which occurs every twelfth 

t Hardwar and Allahabad (under its Hindu name of Prayag), are 
two holy places of pilgrimage on the Ganges : the former is near the spot 
where the river emerges from the Himalayas into the plains, the latter is 
at the junction of the Ganges and Jumna. 

+ Such an epidemic has taken place in the present year (1938). 


in 1935, and in Madras nearly 1,goo,000. The total number of 
inoculations in British India was nearly 7 millions in the same 

Enteric fever or typhoid fever 

35. Half a century ago there were some European medical 
experts who believed that typhoid fever was rare or even 
unknown among Indians, despite the well-known fact that a 
large proportion of young Europeans in the services caught the 
disease within the first few years of their stay in India. The 
explanation of this paradoxical state of affairs is that the infec¬ 
tion of typhoid fever was (and still is) so widespread, that most 
Indian infants suffer from the disease, and so acquire an 
immunity which often lasts throughout life. Numbers of 
adult Indians do get typhoid fever, but not nearly so many as 
might be expected considering the unhygienic conditions in 
which they live. Since the days of universal inoculation against 
typhoid, it has ceased to be normal for European officers to 
get the disease : inoculation has provided them with an arti¬ 
ficial immunity, resulting from the injection of many millions 
of killed bacilli. This immunity is not 100 per cent, perfect, 
but it has reduced the risks to a small fraction of what they 
used to be. 

36. Typhoid fever is caused by a bacillus which enters 
the body in the same way as the cholera bacillus. The illness 
usually appears about ten days or a fortnight after swallowing 
the infected food or drink ; but cases have been recorded in 
which the onset has been within five or six days, and others in 
which it has been delayed till three weeks, after exposure to 
infection. The fever begins insidiously and lasts for two to 
four weeks as a rule. The carriers of infection play a much 
greater part than in the case of cholera. In the British Army 
in India every person who handles the food of the soldiers is 
tested to find out if he is a carrier before being employed ; and 
the same rule ought to be adopted in the case of all private 
servants, despite the fact that the risk of dying from typhoid 
has been reduced by inoculation to about one-seventh of what 
it used to be. Little account is taken of typhoid fever as a 
public health problem in civil life in India, because epidemics 
are almost unknown except in residential schools and other 
similar institutions ; but another paradox connected with 
typhoid fever is that when improved hygiene lessens the risk 
of infection to young children, more cases occur among adults, 
and so the disease attracts greater attention. When hygienic 


conditions are still further improved the disease becomes rare ; 
and so when, owing to some break-down in the precautions, 
an epidemic does occur, it becomes front-page news. 

37. Typhoid fever should be suspected when fever comes 
on gradually, the temperature rising higher each day so that 
after five or six days the patient is suffering from constant high 
fever with prostration. The precautions against infection are 
the same as those for cholera : treatment in a hospital is 
desirable as skilled attention is essential. The case mortality 
rate is about 10 to 15 per cent., but is probably much lower 
in infants, who often pass through an attack without its being 

38. There are three chief types of the disease known as 
typhoid, para-typhoid A, and para-typhoid B. The vaccine 
used for inoculation against the three types is known as 
“ T.A.B.” vaccine. The protection afforded by inoculation 
gradually disappears, so that it is desirable to repeat the 
inoculation at yearly intervals for three years, and afterwards 
every two or three years. 

The dysenteries 

39. There are two great groups of disease of which the 
symptoms are frequent motions containing blood and slime : 
these can only be distinguished from each other by expert 
examination of the stools and so they are both included under 
the name “ dysentery.” One of these kinds of dysentery is 
caused by bacilli, and so is called bacillary dysentery ; the 
other is caused by amoebae , and is called amoebic dysentery'. 
The infection of both types of dysentery is conveyed in the 
same way as that of cholera and typhoid fever, and the 
prevention of all these diseases is on the same lines. 

40. The treatment of amoebic dysentery is quite different 
from that suitable for bacillary dysentery, so that expert 
examination is essential for the purpose of making an accurate 
diagnosis. Many cases of diarrhoea, especially in infants, are 
caused by the bacilli of dysentery. Among otherwise healthy 
persons the normal course of a case of bacillary dysentery is 
spontaneous recovery provided that suitable treatment is 
adopted ; and bad after-effects are infrequent. Amoebic 
dysentery is much more liable to become chronic : relapses 
are frequent, and hepatitis or even liver abscess is a frequent 
sequel in cases which have not received expert treatment. 

One of the greatest triumphs of modern medicine is the cure 
of amoebic dysentery and the prevention of liver abscess by 
emetine, which was found by Sir Leonard Rogers to have just 
as specific an action on the amoeba as quinine has on malarial 


41. Although sprue is, to some extent, a mystery disease, 
its treatment is now so thoroughly understood that a cure can 
be promised, provided that the patient faithfully carries out 
his doctor’s instructions and that the disease has not been 
allowed to progress too far. In every case of unexplained 
diarrhoea which lasts more than three weeks sprue should be 
suspected. When the disease is established the stools are 
frequent, colourless, and usually frothy, sores are common on 
the tongue, and there is a progressive loss of weight and 
strength. Nowadays there is little excuse for allowing the 
disease to progress to such an extent as to cause serious 
deterioration of health. Prevention consists in a well-balanced, 
properly cooked diet containing a proper proportion of high 
grade protein and of all the necessary vitamins. Persons who 
suffer from sprue have usually lived on over-cooked highly 
spiced meals eaten at irregular times, and their diet has been 
deficient in vitamins. Indians rarely suffer from sprue unless 
they have adopted a faulty European diet. Dysentery and 
diarrhoea undoubtedly predispose to sprue. The treatment 
is essentially a matter of diet, but the regime should be con¬ 
scientiously followed under the direction of a doctor for a 
considerable time after apparent cure, and care should be 
taken to avoid the errors of diet which were responsible for the 


42. Although the microbe which causes small-pox is still 
something of a mystery, the means of preventing the disease 
has been known for many years. Complete freedom from 
small-pox can be guaranteed to any community by the simple 
process of universal vaccination in infancy and at intervals of 
five years. Several countries have completely eliminated 
small-pox by compulsory vaccination every ten years ; but in 
India where the disease persists in so many localities, the path 
of safety for each person is vaccination every five years and also 
whenever small-pox is prevalent in the neighbourhood. Critics 
are sure to argue that revaccination seldom “ takes ” when 


carried out five years after previous vaccination, and therefore 
is unnecessary. A more reasonable view of the case is that 
when revaccination is unsuccessful it causes no inconvenience, 
and gives the assurance that protection is complete : on the 
other hand, if it does “ take,” we know that it was necessary, 
so that the slight discomfort involved is a small price to pay for 
the insurance against small-pox. There are rare cases in 
which the protection afforded by vaccination becomes much 
diminished even after one or two years, so that revaccination 
becomes desirable whenever small-pox appears in the locality. 
If the entire population were vaccinated every ten years the 
disease would soon be eliminated, because there would not be 
enough susceptible persons to supply fuel for the flames of 
infection. Conditions are quite different in a community in 
which a large proportion of the people are unvaccinated or 
have only been vaccinated in infancy, so that there are large 
numbers of susceptible persons, and the spread of the disease 
is greatly facilitated. Nobody in India should be led astray 
by reports of what is happening in England, where less than 
half of the children are vaccinated, and yet small-pox rarely 
causes a death. Conditions in England are very different from 
those in India, because for some reason small-pox of the serious 
type has died out in England, whereas in India there were 
280,000 cases of small-pox in 1935, with 90,000 deaths, the 
mortality rate being about 32 per cent. In view of these 
eloquent figures it is not strange that anti-vaccinationists are 
rare among educated Indians. If only the cranks and faddists 
in England who are trying to prevent Indians from being 
vaccinated, could be transferred in an unvaccinated condition 
to places where severe small-pox is raging, India would soon 
be released from the flood of well-meaning but dangerous 
propaganda to which it is now exposed. 

43. The infection of small-pox is spread by contact with 
persons who are suffering from the disease or by contact with 
clothing which they have worn, and probably also by flies which 
have settled on the infected persons and afterwards on sus¬ 
ceptible persons. Droplet infection probably plays a part in 
the spread of infection. In a place where the disease is present 
there is no possibility of ensuring safety from infection except 
by vaccination. Quite commonly people with mild forms of 
the disease travel by trains or omnibuses and so spread the 
infection. The disease is most common in India during the 
first half of the year, the worst months being April and May. 



44. Leprosy used to be quite as common in Europe 
as in tropical countries, but with improved sanitation and a 
rise in economic standards of life it has disappeared from 
most progressive countries. It is common in India : pro¬ 
bably the total number of lepers is more than a million, 
but this figure includes a large number of mild cases which 
formerly would not have been recognized. The distribution 
of the disease is very irregular : in certain parts of southern 
and eastern India 2 per cent, to 3 per cent, of the population, 
in some groups of villages no less than 5 per cent, or 6 per cent., 
are victims of leprosy. On the other hand, the Punjab as a 
whole is remarkably free from the disease, though the Kangra 
valley and a few other areas are badly affected. In Central 
India the disease is relatively infrequent. Wherever a survey 
of an affected locality is carried out by experts, the disease is 
found to be much more common than was suspected, but many 
of the extra cases are of the mild type which would not be 
recognized by a layman. The Mission to Lepers maintains 
thirty-five asylums and aids fifteen, providing altogether for 
nearly 10,000 lepers with the help of government grants. 
There are also a few institutions maintained by provincial 
Governments and local bodies, but the total accommodation 
is less than 11,000 beds. Most of the inmates of the asylums 
arc impoverished, and are in an advanced stage of the disease. 
The vast majority of the lepers in India are living in their 
homes or eking out an existence by begging. Thanks to the 
work of Sir Leonard Rogers, Dr. Muir, and others, leprosy has 
come to be recognized as amenable to treatment, and efforts 
are now being made in several places to establish special 
dispensaries where lepers can obtain treatment and advice. 
There are about 450 such dispensaries in Madras, 200 in 
Assam, 200 in Bengal, 56 in Bihar and Orissa, 57 in the Punjab, 
34 in Bombay, 30 in the Central Provinces, and 18 in Central 
India. No less than 765 doctors have received special training 
in the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy at the Calcutta 
school of tropical medicine, where valuable research work on 
the disease is carried on. 

45. The disease is caused by a bacillus which is very 
similar to the tubercle bacillus. Infection is conveyed by 
contact with lepers, and an important point is that recent 
acute and severe cases are much more dangerous to the 
community than the old burnt-out cases with disfiguring 


mutilations, or the mild cases of leprosy affecting the nerves. 
Children are much more susceptible to infection than adults. 
The disease is not hereditary, and the children of lepers, 
if separated from their parents at birth, run very little risk of 
contracting the disease. The problem of controlling leprosy is 
on all fours with that of controlling tuberculosis : it depends on 
the isolation of infectious persons, the adoption of hygienic 
habits, and the improvement in economic standards of life. 

46. Although leprosy may occasionally attack the rich 
and well-nourished when they have received a heavy dose of 
infection it is essentially a disease of poverty, malnutrition, and 
dirty habits. History teaches that it will always disappear 
from communities which raise their standards of health and 
cleanliness. Leprosy in its early stages is amenable to per¬ 
sistent and prolonged treatment, and although it cannot be 
claimed to be entirely curable it is certainly entirely pre¬ 

Hook-worm disease 

47. Unlike the previously described diseases, hook-worm 
disease is caused by a parasite which is easily visible to the 
naked eye when separated from the intestinal contents in 
which it lives. The hook-worm is more than half an inch in 
length and looks like a piece of thread. It lives in the upper 
part of the small intestine, where it attaches itself like a tiny 
leech to the inner lining of the bowel. When hundreds of the 
worms are present they cause anaemia, which is sometimes 
fatal. The life history of the hook-worm would sound almost 
incredible if it had not been demonstrated in the clearest 
possible manner. The female worm lays a large number of 
microscopical eggs, which pass out of the body with the stools. 
If the eggs come in contact with water or damp grass, each of 
them becomes a very tiny larval worm invisible to the naked 
eye. If the larva comes in contact with the human skin, it 
promptly bores its way through a pore of the skin into a vein 
and then is carried by the blood-stream to the lungs. Here 
it bores its way into the air passages, and wriggles along 
these till it reaches the upper end of the windpipe, from which 
it passes into the gullet. It is then carried with the food to the 
small intestine, where it attaches itself and grows into an adult 
worm. Infection is caused by walking in damp grass or pools 
contaminated by infected faeces. The disease can be detected 
with great certainty by examining the stools with a microscope 
and discovering the eggs. 


48. Many millions of people all over India harbour hook¬ 
worms, but in the majority of cases the number of the parasites 
is so small that they do little harm. Still the disease is of 
great importance, as in many localities a large percentage of 
the people suffer from anaemia and weakness, and a con¬ 
siderable number of deaths are due directly or indirectly to the 

49. The method of controlling the disease is simplicity 
itself; it consists in the use of proper latrines from which the 
larvae have no chance of reaching the skin of human beings. 
Bored-hole latrines have been found very effective in many 
localities; but any kind of latrine which is protected from the 
rain and kept clean is quite adequate. The whole secret of 
success in connection with latrines is that they should be the 
most convenient and comfortable places for defecation, other¬ 
wise people will continue to case themselves in a promiscuous 
manner and so infect the surroundings of the house and village. 
The wearing of leather shoes is a protection for those who have 
to walk in damp grass contaminated by faeces, as the larvae 
usually find their way into the body through the skin of the 
feet and ankles. The treatment of the disease must be carried 
out under medical supervision, as the worms can only be 
expelled by potent drugs which are dangerous in unskilled 

Venereal disease 

50. The most important of the venereal diseases are 
syphilis and gonorrhoea. Both of these diseases can be 
conveyed by non-venereal contact ; for example, a good many 
surgeons have contracted syphilis when operating on infected 
patients, and infants often become infected with gonorrhoeal 
ophthalmia at the time of birth. Still, it is true to say that 
the vast majority of cases of syphilis and gonorrhoea result 
from sexual intercourse with infected persons. Both diseases 
are distressingly common in many parts of India, especially 
in the cities and large towns. Venereal disease has not hitherto 
been tackled in India with the energy which is demanded by 
the gravity of the problem, although in Madras and some other 
provinces steps have been taken to organize modern treatment. 
The best method of combating venereal disease is to enlighten 
the community with regard to the damage which is done there¬ 
by, not only to those who suffer in consequence of their own 
fault, but also to the innocent wives and children on whom are 
visited the sins of their husbands and fathers. 

51. It may truly be said that “ the fear of venereal disease 
is the beginning of wisdom.” The false modesty which prevents 
Europeans from discussing venereal disease is probably respon¬ 
sible for the failure of the voluntary organizations in India to 
carry out a campaign of propaganda against an evil which is 
doing so much to sap the health of the people. We cannot 
stamp out venereal disease by ignoring its existence. 

52. Prevention of the disease is extremely simple : it 
consists in the avoidance of irregular sexual intercourse. The 
treatment of syphilis is now exceedingly effective in the hands 
of well-trained experts, but these are far too few and millions 
of people are deprived of the opportunity of regaining their 
health because of the lack of properly trained specialists. 
Specific remedies for gonorrhoea are now under trial, and 
although these are not yet so effective as the drugs employed 
for the cure of syphilis, much can be done by skilled treatment 
to diminish the duration of the attack and to prevent the serious 
complications which result from neglect of the disease. 


53. Everybody knows that hydrophobia results from the 
bite of a rabid animal, usually a dog or a jackal. When bitten 
by any animal, whether rabid or not, it is a wise precaution to 
apply a little pure carbolic acid to the wound by tying a swab 
of cotton-wool, which has been soaked in the acid, tightly 
round the end of a thin stick of wood, which should be of such 
a size that the acid can be thoroughly applied to the wound 
right down to its deepest part. 

54. In every case of a bite by a jackal it must be assumed 
that the animal is rabid, and anti-rabic inoculation should be 
started at the earliest possible moment. Any doctor can 
tell the patient where the treatment can be obtained. In the 
case of a dog’s bite, the nearest doctor should be consulted as to 
the necessity for treatment : in cases of doubt, the patient 
should go to the nearest hospital where anti-rabic treatment is 
available. Dogs which suddenly become furious and rush 
around biting everyone who comes near them are nearly 
always rabid, and immediate treatment is necessary. If the 
dog which has bitten a patient appears to be healthy it should 
be securely tied up and kept under observation for a week : 
if at the end of that time it is still well, there need be no fear of 
its having been rabid at the time of biting. 



55. Bites by poisonous snakes are far less frequent than is 
commonly supposed. To avoid the risk of treading on a snake 
in the dark, it is an invariable rule to carry a hurricane 
lantern or electric torch when walking about after nightfall, 
either indoors or outside. But in the daytime snakes usually 
keep to their holes, and if they do wander about they are 
almost blinded by the light, so that they cannot strike with 
accuracy unless they are actually touched. In the unlikely 
event of being bitten by a snake the best course is at once to 
tie a band tightly round the limb just above the bite, and also 
above the elbow or knee so as to arrest the flow of blood to the 
part. The inner tube of a bicycle or a rubber cord is far 
more effective than an inelastic band, but if nothing else is 
available a piece of cloth or handkerchief should be used, and 
tightened by inserting a stick under the band and twisting it 
round. Then examine the wound. If there are two rows of 
small punctures the snake is almost certainly harmless. But 
if there are only one or two puncture marks the snake is likely 
to be poisonous, and usually there will be a painful swelling 
at the site. 

56. If a poisonous snake has really struck home with its 
fangs, drastic action is necessary. Several criss-cross cuts 
should be made with a sharp knife in the skin right down to the 
bottom of each puncture, and as much as possible of the poison 
should be squeezed out. Free bleeding is to be encouraged. If 
a snake-bite outfit is available, permanganate of potash crystals 
should then be rubbed into the depth of the wounds made 
by the knife. The ligature should not be kept on for more than 
half an hour, but within this time it should be possible to get 
rid of most of the poison in the manner described. Two 
pieces of rubber catapult cord about twelve inches long, a 
sharp knife, and a small bottle of permanganate crystals form 
a good snake-bite outfit which can easily be carried about 
by those who are exposed to special risk of snake-bite. If 
anti-venene is available, this should be injected at the earliest 
possible moment. The patient should be kept quiet while 
treatment is being carried out, as exertion is likely to 
promote the absorption of the poison into the circulation. 
The essentials in dealing with a bite by a poisonous snake 
are the immediate application of a ligature to the limb and 
the immediate removal of the poison which has been in¬ 



57. There are probably two million blind persons in India 
although the census tables record only 601,000. Most of the 
cases of blindness are either preventable or curable. Cataract, 
which is common in old people, is easily cured. A well- 
known Indian surgeon in the Punjab has operated on well 
over 100,000 eyes affected by cataract, and in the vast majority 
of these operations has been completely successful in restoring 
sight. Cataract is most frequent in dry, hot places like the 
Punjab, where there are several hospitals which specialize in 
the operation for the cure of this disease. Most victims of the 
disease can obtain complete relief by going for a few days to 
one of these hospitals. Failures are very few in the hands of 
any of the highly skilled operators who are available. 

58. Most of the other forms of blindness are entirely 
preventable. Keratomalacia is the chief cause of blindness in 
southern India : this is due to deficiency of vitamin A in the 
diet, and its prevention and cure have already been stated. 
Gonorrhoeal ophthalmia is nearly always caused at birth, 
the eye being infected by the microbe of gonorrhoea which is 
present in the vagina of a mother who is suffering from the 
disease. In many places the midwives are taught to put a 
few drops of a weak solution of nitrate of silver into the eyes of 
every new-born babe : when this is properly done the disease 
is always prevented. The reason for applying the drops to 
every baby is that many cases of gonorrhoea are impossible 
of detection, so that the only safe plan is to treat all new¬ 
born children. Trachoma is a disease highly prevalent in 
some parts of India : if neglected the eyes may become blind. 
The prevention of this form of blindness is thorough and 
prolonged treatment of all cases of trachoma by a skilled 
doctor. There are other forms of disease caused by infec¬ 
tion with microbes carried into the eye by dust, flies, or the 
pigments which are so often used to “ beautify ” the eyes of 
children. Cleanliness is the best preventive of these, and if all 
forms of inflammation of the eyes were promptly and skilfully 
treated, subsequent cases of blindness should never occur. 
Syphilis is a cause of blindness ; this disease is both preventable 
and curable. A syphilitic mother should always be thoroughly 
treated during pregnancy. In advanced stages of leprosy 
blindness often results ; early treatment of the disease and 
proper care of the eyes of lepers are the obvious means of 
prevention. Small-pox is another important cause of prevent- 

able blindness. Many cases of blindness are caused by the use 
of domestic or quack remedies, which are widely used in the 
treatment of diseases of the conjunctiva. The great majority of 
cases of blindnesss are therefore preventable or curable : only 
a very small proportion are due to inherited defects or to 
diseases for which the cure is still unknown. 

Summary of the Methods of Disease Prevention 

59. From the foregoing account of the commonest 
diseases of India, it is apparent that the average duration of 
life could easily be doubled and that most of the terrors of 
existence could be removed by the universal application of 
the following simple rules. 

(1) Maintain the nutrition of each individual by increas¬ 
ing the production of milk and other nourishing foods, and by 
regulating the output of babies so that this may bear a suitable 
relationship to the supply of the necessities of life. 

(2) Protect food and drink from contamination with 
faecal matter resulting from direct pollution or from the 
activities of flies. 

(3) Avoid inhaling air which is infected by droplets 
expelled from the air passages of persons who have respiratory 

(4) Avoid the bites of mosquitos, lice, fleas, and other 

(5) Keep fit by outdoor exercise. 

(6) Avoid poisons such as alcohol and opium. 

(7) Avoid promiscuous sexual intercourse. 

(8) Seek the advice of a good doctor when you feel ill, or 
when any infectious disease breaks out in the locality in which 
you are living. 





The Early Stages of Educational Development 

1. Little is known of the state of education before the 
commencement of British rule. At that time literacy was 
either an accomplishment for the few or else acquired as 
necessary for certain vocations, such as the priesthood, com¬ 
merce, and public service. According to the old religious 
books, the training for the priesthood was extremely elaborate. 
A Brahman boy of the age of eight became the chela , or disciple, 
of a guru, or religious teacher, and spent some fourteen years 
under his tuition. Hindus other than Brahmans received their 
learning from private teachers or in schools maintained by 
private persons in the towns or large villages, which were known 
as pathshalas. Higher education was imparted chiefly in 
religious institutions by learned pandits, who specialized in 
certain branches of Sanskrit learning, and often received 
stipends from kings or pious patrons. Young Muhammadans, 
in the same way, were taught by learned maulvis in schools 
attached to mosques, which were known as maktabs. The 
chief principle of this ancient system of education was the 
individual relationship that existed between teacher and 
scholar—the relationship of a tutor with his pupil, not of a 
master with his class. The media of instruction were Sanskrit 
for Hindus and Arabic or Persian for Muslims—which lan¬ 
guages, so far as India was concerned, were dead languages. 

2. The East India Company as a commercial institution 
had no concern with education. When it became an adminis¬ 
trative body it recognized, though slowly, that it was the duty 
of an Oriental ruler to patronize learning, and it was in partial 
fulfilment of that duty that Hastings founded a Madrasa 
of Islamic studies at Calcutta in 1781, that Jonathan Duncan 
founded the Sanskrit College at Benares in 1792, and that the 

Company for many years continued to pay stipends to learned 
pandits and maulvis. But its concern was with learning 
rather than with education, for it was not till a much later 
date that education was regarded as a function of government. 

3. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, 
a demand for education in English arose amongst those castes 
and classes that were accustomed to take government service, 
which they desired to learn because it was not only the language 
of the administration but also of the law courts. The first persons 
to provide English education in India were certain Baptist 
missionaries at Serampore. From about 1811 Lord Minto, 
as Governor-General, and an evangelical group led by Wilber- 
force in England began to press for English education in India ; 
and under this pressure the Company, very unwillingly, 
agreed to the insertion of a clause, in the Charter Act of 1813, 
which authorized educational expenditure amounting to one 
lakh * yearly for the “ encouragement of learned natives of 
India, and the promotion of a knowledge of the sciences.” 
For a while this allotment was not spent. In 1823 a committee 
of public instruction was appointed to distribute it, and at 
first spent it entirely on the promotion of oriental studies. 
But the popular demand for English education grew stronger, 
and the committee split into two factions—Orientalists and 
Anglicists. The result was a deadlock until Lord Macaulay 
was appointed president of the committee in 1834, and in his 
famous educational minute of February 1835 declared himself 
an Anglicist. Lord William Bentinck, then Governor-General, 
took the same view', and in a resolution of March 1835 decided 
that “ the object of the British Government should be the 
promotion of English literature and science.” From that time 
higher education in India became, and has since always 
remained, education in western knowledge of all kinds, whilst 
the old oriental learning has for the most part sunk to the 
position of an optional subject in university curricula. Owing 
to the backwardness of the vernaculars there were only four 
possible media of instruction, namely Sanskrit, Arabic or 
Persian, and English. The first three were dead ; the fourth 
tvas not only alive but also in regular use. It would have been 
just as difficult to translate the terminology of English learning 
into Sanskrit or Arabic as it would have been to translate 
it into the vernaculars. Whichever of these three languages 

* Equivalent at the time to £10,000. 


was selected as a medium of instruction, the student must 
learn it as a language before he could receive instruction in 
other subjects through it. And so the medium selected was, 
not unnaturally, English ; and so far as secondary and 
university education are concerned, is so still to a very large 

The Educational Frame-work 

4. Coming to more recent times, the policy defining the 
development of modern education in India is laid down in 
five important documents : 

(a) Sir Charles Wood’s despatch of 1854 ; 

(b) the despatch of 1859 ; 

(c) the report of the Hunter Commission of 1882 ; 

(d) the Government of India’s resolution of 1904 ; 

(e) the Government of India’s resolution of 1913. 

5. In these successive pronouncements the State recognized 
its responsibility for providing “ those vast material and moral 
blessing's which flow from the diffusion of useful knowledge,” 
and, in striving to carry out that purpose, it has associated 
with itself other agencies which are encouraged by grants-in- 
aid to maintain schools and colleges. The main function of 
Government, therefore, has been to guide and control the 
progress of education ; and accordingly departments of public 
instruction were established. As that control should be exercised 
with impartiality, a policy of strict religious neutrality was 
adopted by Government in respect of its own institutions.* 

6. Sir Charles Wood’s despatch also provided for the 
creation of universities which, by the award of degrees, would 
standardize the teaching given in the colleges. Accordingly, 
the universities of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay were 
created in 1857 ; that of the Punjab in 1882 ; and that of 
Allahabad in 1887. In 1904 the Universities Act was passed 
as a result of the findings of a commission appointed by Lord 
Curzon, its main object being to reconstruct the governing 
authorities of universities and to vest in them the power to 
control and inspect colleges. It is now a matter for regret 
that Lord Curzon did not apply his great energy and capacity 
rather to strengthening the school foundations at a time when 

* Vide Sir Philip Hartog, Tear-Book of Education, 1932, pp. 685-700, 1 
in which a valuable sketch of the early beginnings will be found. Also 
Dr. W. Meston, Indian Educational Policy : its Principles and Problems.- 

that task would have been comparatively easy. In later years 
the number of universities has been increased to seventeen.* 
While the earlier universities were of the affiliating type whose 
functions were confined very largely to the work of examining, 
some of the later universities are of the unitary type and arc 
responsible directly for the provision of teaching. 

7. A radical change, largely unperceived at the time, 
was introduced by the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms in 1920. 
Hitherto the Government of India, subject to the orders of 
the Secretary of State (himself responsible to the British 
parliament), had been primarily responsible for education, 
especially for the definition of educational policy ; and even 
such measures of decentralization to provincial Governments 
as had been adopted were jealously guarded both by the 
Secretary of State and by the Government of India. As a 
result, there was a danger of lifeless uniformity and a stifling 
of local initiative. In igao, however, education, along with 
other nation-building activities, became a “ transferred 
subject ” and was controlled by Education Ministers, each 
responsible to the local legislature. Though many advantages 
resulted from this innovation, there was the disadvantage 
that there ceased to be an educational policy for all India. 
The Government of India no longer took part directly in the 
development of education in the governors’ provinces, and 
also became debarred from correcting by means of subsidies 
the wide disparity in provincial finances which are available 
for education. 

8. It soon became apparent, however, that the transition 
from centralized control to provincial self-sufficiency and 
exclusiveness had been too abrupt. The Government of 
India began to realize that a government which is not concerned 
with education is in danger of holding aloof from the main 
stream of national activity ; and provincial Governments 
themselves became aware of the dangers of isolation and felt 
more and more the need of fuller information regarding what 
was going on elsew'here. Accordingly, the Inter-university 

* In addition to the five older affiliating universities there are Benares 
Hindu (1915), Patna (1917), Aligarh Muslim (1920), Lucknow (1920), 
Dacca (1920), Delhi (1922), Nagpur (1923), Andhra (1926), Agra (1927), 
and Annamaiai Universities, together with the University of Mysore and 
the Osmania University, Hyderabad. The University of Allahabad is 
now of the unitary type, its affiliating functions having been inherited by 
the University of Agra. 


Board was instituted in 1924 ; and in 1935 the Central 
Advisory Board of Education was revived and reconstructed. 
The latter body includes the Education Member of the Govern¬ 
ment of India, the Educational Commissioner, provincial 
Ministers or Directors of Public Instruction, representatives 
of the Inter-university Board and of the central legislature, and 
nominees of the Government of India.* 

Educational Organization and Agency 

9. A further preliminary to a discussion of the present 
system of education in India is a brief description of its structure 
and agency. There are two branches of the school system : 

(1) the English or Anglo-vernacular branch, stretching from 
the English or Anglo-vernacular middle schools to the high 
schools and leading to matriculation and beyond ; and 

(2) the vernacular or, as it might be termed, the rural branch, 
comprising the vernacular middle schools. The main dis¬ 
tinction between these two branches is that whereas in the 
former the study of English occupies a dominant (some think 
too dominant) place in the curriculum and the English medium 
is used, especially in the higher classes, in the latter English 
is only taught, if at all, in optional classes and the medium is 
vernacular. As will be seen later, this distinction is now being 
widened by attempts to impart to the vernacular branch a 
rural bias. The opinion is now held that the employment of 
the English medium is apt to blunt the intelligence of the 
pupils and that more rapid progress would be made by the 
employment of the vernacular medium. Though the verna¬ 
cular medium is now being used more extensively, linguistic 
studies (including Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit) still pre¬ 
dominate in the schools. 

10. Each branch is divided into stages, though, as will 
be indicated later, the objective of each stage is ill-defined. 

(a) University stage .—The university course is usually 
divided into (i) a two-year intermediate stage, (ii) a two-year 
pass or honours degree stage, and (iii) a two-year post¬ 
graduate stage leading to the M.A. or M.Sc. degrees. In 
some universities such as Dacca, Allahabad, and Lucknow, 
students are admitted to the university after the inter¬ 
mediate stage ; in some, again, there is a three-year honours 

* Vide Sir Philip Hartog, Year-Book of Education, 1937, pp. 4S7-85. 


(b) School stage. —The school course is divided into the 
primary, middle, and high stages, but there are considerable 
variations both in duration and terminology.* 

(c) Vocational schools. —There are also a much smaller 
number of industrial and technical schools of varying grades. 
The correlation between general and vocational education 
is unsatisfactory, and pupils embarking on vocational training 
have rarely acquired a sufficient grounding of general educa¬ 
tion.! There are also professional courses leading to degrees 
in medicine, law, engineering, agriculture, commerce, and 

( d ) Schools for domiciled community. —Children of the 
domiciled community are normally educated in European 
and Anglo-Indian schools, but pupils often join Indian colleges 
after having passed the matriculation or intermediate examina¬ 
tions or their equivalents. 

(«) Chiefs' colleges. —There are five chiefs’ colleges % 
which cater for the ruling chiefs and the landed aristocracy. 
The present tendency is to approximate their methods and 
standards to those of the ordinary schools and to liberalize 
their rules of admission. 

(f) Doon School. —The Doon School at Dehra Dun is of 
interest in that it seeks to absorb such of the traditions of 
English public schools as may be suitable to India. 

11. Examinations. —Examinations occupy a prominent 
place in Indian education. The completion of the vernacular 
course is marked by the vernacular final examination. On 
the English side an Anglo-vernacular middle school examina¬ 
tion is held in some provinces ; and in all provinces there is 
later either the matriculation or equivalent examination. 
In the university there are in succession the intermediate, 
the bachelor’s, and the master’s degree examinations. This 
frequency of examinations is often criticized. From an early 
age Indian pupils are subjected every two years to the ordeal 
of a public examination ; after each interruption they spend 
perhaps half a year in accommodating themselves to new 

* The diagram facing p. 274 will remove ambiguity. 

t Vide A. Abbott, Report on Vocational Education in India. Mr. Abbott 
was formerly H.M. Chief Inspector of Technical Schools, Board of Educa¬ 
tion, England. 

t These are Mayo College, Ajmer ; Daly College, Indore ; Rajkumar 
College, Rajkot; Aitchison College, Lahore ; Rajkumar College, Raipur. 


conditions and often to new surroundings, and half of each 
second year in cramming for the next examination. Thus 
there can be little continuity of study or training of character ; 
and this is the main reason why the many improvements in 
the internal economy of schools, which are widely canvassed 
in India, are so rarely adopted. Moreover, these examina¬ 
tions have little purpose or significance ; they are but as 
milestones along the often unprofitable road towards a degree 
in which but few are successful. The casualty lists in each 
successive examination are appalling. 

12. The excessive value attached to university qualifica¬ 
tions is accentuated by the importance given to them by 
Governments in their recruitment even to subordinate posts 
in their service. The Central Advisory Board were so 
impressed by the dangers of this practice that they recommended 
that “ candidates desirous of joining the subordinate clerical 
services of Government and of local bodies shall pass such 
qualifying examinations as may be prescribed and should not 
be more than nineteen years of age at the time of their 
examination.” * 

13. Statistics .—In actual form there is considerable 
uniformity in educational statistics, which are incorporated 
in annual and quinquennial reports in accordance with 
statistical tables prescribed by the Government of India, but 
in practice there are disturbing complications. In Madras 
and Bombay, Standards V-VII on the vernacular side are 
classified as “ primary ” and not as “ secondary,” as is done 
in other provinces. As a result, the enrolment and expendi¬ 
ture in primary education are inflated, while they are deflated 
in the secondary sphere in comparison with other provinces. 
There is a reverse practice in the Punjab and the North-West 
Frontier Province, where there are large numbers of lower 
middle schools with only six classes. These schools are 

* The Government of India has recently issued a circular letter to the 
provincial Governments dealing with this matter. They suggest that in 
the case of posts for which the requisite qualifications can be secured with¬ 
out a collegiate course the maximum age should ordinarily be nineteen, and 
that in other cases the age should be twenty-one. They also suggest the 
holding of a competitive examination at the age of seventeen which would 
be an indispensable preliminary to candidates for practically all official 
appointments. Success in this examination would give no prescriptive 
right to a government appointment, but failure in it would constitute a 
final bar to such service .—Times Educational Supplement, February 19th, 



classified as “ secondary ” and not as “ primary',” with the 
result that pupils even in the primary classes of these schools, 
together with the expenditure on them, are included in the 
figures for secondary education. The explanatory notes in 
Punjab reports do not altogether remove the ambiguity.* 

14. Maintenance of colleges and schools .—Colleges and 
schools are ordinarily maintained by private agency or by 
local bodies, Government itself maintaining only a few colleges 
and high schools and scarcely any institutions below that 
status. Christian missions f have played a valuable part 
in the maintenance of schools and colleges. Primary schools 
are ordinarily maintained by local bodies in the United 
Provinces, the Punjab, the Central Provinces, Bombay and 
Assam, but in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Madras either by 
private associations or individuals. 

15. Control of colleges and schools .—The control of colleges 
is vested in universities in accordance with a number of Acts 
which have been passed from time to time, before 1920 by 
the central legislature and after that date by the provincial 
legislature concerned. The intermediate classes form a 
difficult border-line between school and university. In the 
United Provinces they are part of the school system and are 
subject to the Board of High-school and Intermediate Education, 
which conducts the examinations equivalent to matriculation 
and intermediate in other provinces. There is a similar board 
at Dacca in Bengal. In the sphere of high schools control 
is often divided between the university and the education 
department. Whereas the latter authority administers grants- 
in-aid, the former authority usually conducts the leaving 
examination and prescribes the courses for it. In Bombay 
and Bengal, for example, schools are inspected by both 

16. A provincial department of education exercises its 
control over schools in accordance with the Educational Code, 
a dull but important document. That control is necessarily 
more stringent in its own than in other schools. All schools, 
however, are subject to annual inspection ; and the conditions 

* The main educational figures are published annually by the Educa¬ 
tional Commissioner in the Statistical Abstract. 

f Vide the report of the Lindsay Commission on Christian higher educa¬ 
tion in India ; also Christian Education in India, by Sir George Anderson and 
Bishop Whitehead. 


for grants-in-aid should be a potent lever for ensuring efficiency. 
Efforts not altogether successful have been made to insist on 
reasonable security of tenure for teachers in privately managed 
schools ; and in most provinces there are provident funds on a 
contributory basis. 

17. Subject to local self-government Acts, the control of 
primary schools is vested in local bodies or, as in Madras and 
the United Provinces, in specially constituted local authorities; 
but provincial Governments have reserved to themselves only 
limited powers to correct abuse and inefficiency. In Bombay, 
for example, even the responsibility for inspection has been 
transferred to local bodies, with the result that the Ministry 
of education possesses only scanty means even of ascertaining 
whether the large sums of money voted by the legislature have 
been wisely spent. 

18. Technical and industrial schools are ordinarily 
controlled by the provincial departments of industries. 

19. Controlling agencies .—The agency for exercising control 
also requires brief description. In the Government of India 
education is included in the portfolio of the Member-in-charge 
of the department of Education, Health and Lands, who is 
assisted by the Educational Commissioner. In the governors’ 
provinces it is controlled by the Education Minister, himself 
responsible to the provincial legislature, and is administered 
by the Director of Public Instruction. In most provinces 
there is an Education Secretary who is a member of the Indian 
Civil Service, while in a few provinces the Director of Public 
Instruction also acts as deputy secretary and deals direct 
with the Minister. 

20. There are a number of inspectors and inspectresses 
of varying grades and responsibility. In all provinces except 
Madras there are Divisional Inspectors, and subordinate to 
them are Deputy, District, Assistant, and other grades of in¬ 
spectors.* The task of the inspecting staffs in India is more 
complicated than in England, as they are not only responsible 
for the inspection of schools but are also executive officers 
engaged in duties other than those of inspection. These 
additional duties impose on them a severe strain and a divided 
allegiance. For example, while they inspect all schools in their 

* A useful summary of the inspecting staffs in each province, together 
with an account of their several duties, is given in an appendix to Education 
in India, 1935-6. 


several areas, they are also in direct control of government 
schools in those areas. Again, a District Inspector is in the 
delicate position of having to serve two masters—the district 
authority and the education department; and the claims of 
these two masters are often conflicting. In theory, an inspector 
should be confined to the task of inspection and be there¬ 
fore in a position to give an impartial account of the schools 
which he inspects; and executive officers should be appointed 
by the local bodies concerned. A few such officers have 
been appointed, but it is open to question whether further 
additional expenditure would be justified on that account. 

21. Educational services .—The educational staffs of govern¬ 
ments, including teachers in government institutions, are 
included in the educational services. Until recently there 
were the Indian, provincial, and subordinate educational 
sendees. The first of these services was recruited by the 
Secretary of State and the two others locally. On the advice 
of the Lee Commission, recruitment to the Indian Educational 
Service was abandoned ; and, after long delay, new provincial 
services have been created. In all provinces except Madras 
the present services are divided into Classes I and II, with 
separate cadres for men and women. The subordinate ser¬ 
vices, including as they do the vast majority of posts and of 
varying scope, must inevitably be unwieldy. In most provinces 
there is a time-scale which is apt to place a premium on 
seniority and thus beget apathy. In a few provinces the service 
is divided into grades, promotion from one grade to another 
being dependent on efficiency rather than on length of service. 

22. Training institutions .—Bearing in mind that the well¬ 
being of an educational system primarily depends on the 
efficiency of teaching, the training of teachers is of great 
importance. In most provinces there is at least one training 
college preparing students for the degree of bachelor of teaching. 
In some provinces there are other colleges or classes preparing 
students with intermediate or matriculation qualifications for 
a diploma or certificate. There are also in each province a 
number of institutions for the training of primary school 
teachers. Most of these are maintained by Government, but 
in Bengal the guru -training * schools still persist, though they 
appear to have outlived their usefulness. 

* For guru, see para. i. In later times the guru’s chief duty was to 
communicate to his disciple the prayer of initiation into any particular 


The Importance of Educat 

23. An attempt to appraise the merits or demerits of the 
system of education thus introduced and organized would be 
beyond the scope of this chapter. The intention is rather 
to examine the position from the point of view of the social 
services, especially in rural areas wherein reside nine-tenths 
of the population of India. Even this limited scope is formid¬ 
able enough, as education is the central subject which holds 
the key to improved well-being in a number of directions. 

24. On the one hand, education is enchained by forces 
over which it has little or no control. It is difficult, for 
example, to be optimistic regarding future progress so long 
as parents are living in penury and are steeped in debt; there 
can be little wonder that children are withdrawn from school 
as soon as they can work in the fields and add, however 
minutely, to the family income.* It is difficult also to expect 
regular school attendance so long as children are enfeebled 
by ill-health and inadequate nourishment.f The task of 
providing schools is also embarrassed by the lack of easy com¬ 
munications, which often renders it necessary to create more 
schools than would otherwise be required. Even the con¬ 
struction of school buildings is attended by peculiar difficulties; 
in the north-west, for example, intense heat, biting 'cold, and 
all-pervading dust have to be taken into account. 

25. The persistence of social customs such as purdah and 
early marriage presents further complications. Not only is 
it usual for girls to be educated, if at all, separately from their 
little brothers, but it is also rare for women to teach even in 
primary schools for boys. Little boys are therefore denied 
the more sympathetic and efficient teaching which is expected 
from women. It is unnecessary here to dilate on the influence 
of the home in education and of the mother in the home. 
In consequence of the backwardness of girls’ education, 
pupils tend to live dual lives ; half of each day is spent at 
school, where they are engrossed in school studies and school 
activities, but the other half of each day is spent in an environ¬ 
ment which is often antagonistic to those studies and activities. 

26. Communal dissension also leads to an unnecessary 
multiplication of schools. In Bengal alone more than 900,000 

* Cf. para. 32 below (“wastage”). 

t Cf. Chapter VI, paras. 46 et seq. (“ nutrition ”). 


pupils attend maktabs * or schools attached to the local mosque. 
It is also doubtful whether it is advisable for children to be 
brought up from early childhood until early manhood in the 
narrowing atmosphere of a communal institution. Segrega¬ 
tion in education is rarely advisable. A further contributory 
cause of the multiplication of schools is the attitude towards 
the depressed classes. Until recently the normal method of 
supplying the needs of these unfortunate children was by 
means of separate schools, thus crystallizing the stigma of 

27. Perhaps the most depressing obstacle to educational 
progress is the very dullness of village life. The poverty of 
communications, in spite of recent improvements, still throws 
villagers very largely on their own limited resources and 
denies them contact with the outside world.f Relapse into 
illiteracy is therefore frequent ; and village boys and girls, 
once they have left their homes to receive education in the 
towns, are reluctant, not unnaturally, to return and serve the 
countryside. Thus village life is lacking in leadership. 

28. Such are some of the main difficulties which beset the 
path of education, but there is another and equally important 
side of the picture. The other beneficial services are them¬ 
selves dependent very largely on education for their successful 
development. An education department, with its network 
of schools and with its staff of inspectors of varying grades, 
has at least the advantage of intimate contact with the in¬ 
numerable villages of a province, and its active cooperation 
is imperative. And in India the village schoolmaster has 
perhaps a richer scope and a wider responsibility than else¬ 
where ; he may even be the only literate adult in the village. 
Though in England, for example, the progress of the country¬ 
side is often promoted by the landed squire, the village parson, 
and the country doctor, these agencies if they exist at all in 
India are often even antagonistic to reform. Oliver Gold¬ 
smith was fully justified in his warm appreciation of the Irish 
parson, who was the prop and stay of the village, and was 
“ passing rich with forty pounds a year.” The urgent need 
of the Indian countryside is a constant supply of vernacular 

* See para. 1. 

f But see Chapter I, paras. 57 ct seq. : and Chapter II, para. 61, 
where the extent to which this isolation has been removed by improvement 
of communications is indicated. 


teachers, of the village and from the village, suitably selected 
and suitably trained, who will be “ passing rich ” with forty 
rupees per mensem. 

29. There are many ways in which such a teacher can 
assist, often indirectly, in the regeneration of a village. In the 
sphere of public health, for example, he can at least assemble 
the children together with their parents for the purpose of 
vaccination or inoculation, and subject himself first to the 
much-dreaded ordeal ; he can also, on the outbreak of an 
epidemic, take early precautions such as disinfecting the village 
well ; and, bearing in mind the importance of early action 
in such cases, he can give timely notice to the nearest local 
authority. Similarly, provided that he has become acquainted 
with the rudiments of Go-operation, he can at least influence 
the villagers in the right direction and, as soon as the ground 
has been sufficiently prepared, advise the local official that the 
time is ripe for instituting a co-operative society ; that done, 
he can assist in its management. If in a larger school, he can 
organize a society for the benefit of the pupils. In agriculture, 
again, the school farms and gardens can be such that villagers 
will be stimulated to believe in and to give a trial to improved 
methods and implements. 

30. These are not mere suggestions, as much has been 
done already in these directions—so much so that a friendly 
critic has recently deprecated the tendency to overburden 
schoolmasters “ with responsibilities beyond their powers ”, 
and has urged that “ the schools should not have tasks for the 
enlightenment of the adult community forced upon them 
and then be left alone to perform them. Unless the other 
services can provide someone of purpose who is in a position 
to give continuous aid to the schools in the discharge of its 
wider activities, it were better that the school limited itself 
to its own modest, but always exacting, duty of educating 
children.” He further pleaded for “ a closer cooperation 
between education and other services which have the welfare 
of the rural community at heart. It is obvious that the efforts 
of these other agencies are bound to be wasteful unless the 
seed is sown on fruitful ground, and the only fruitful ground 
is a physically responsive and educated community. In other 
words, the education service and the health service, with 
which it ought always to be associated, should be recognized, 
and openly recognized, as the basic social services.” He also 

suggested that " one of the crying needs of India is an effective 
schools medical service.” * 

31. It is not open to question that the main duty of a 
schoolmaster lies within the four walls of his school and that 
he can best promote rural and social reform by an efficient 
discharge of his school duties. In other chapters accounts are 
given of many laudable measures which are being taken in the 
direction of reform, but these measures, however salutary 
they may be in themselves, lack the essential conditions of 
success. There is not at hand a peasantry' sufficiently educated 
to appreciate their value, nor is there a resident and indigenous 
agency to guide their development. Success should not be 
dependent on spasmodic efforts from without ; there should be 
a widespread movement from within ; and that movement is 
itself dependent on a suitably devised system of education. 
We shall now consider how far these two conditions are likely 
to be supplied. 

Primary Education 

32. Number of schools .—There are approximately 170,000 
primary schools in India ; and, in addition, a smaller number 
of primary departments of secondary schools, vernacular and 
Anglo-vernacular. The primary stage is limited to four or five 
classes. The enrolment of these classes approximates eight 
and a half million pupils. The average enrolment of a primary' 
school is only 52. The output of these classes, especially 
from the point of view of attaining literacy, is disappointing. 
On an average, only 25 per cent, of the boys and 13 per cent, 
of the girls reach Class IV, where literacy may be expected. 
This serious diminution in numbers is due mainly to “ wastage ” 
and “ stagnation.” By the former term is meant the prema¬ 
ture withdrawal of children from school at any stage before the 
completion of the primary course ; by the later term is meant 
the retention in a lower class of a child for more than a year. 

33. Girls’ education .—The position of girls’ education is 
even more disappointing. The enrolment of girls is only in 
the ratio of 1 to 4 of boys and this disparity is largely increased 
in the secondary and university stages. The separate girls’ 
primary schools are usually minute in size and single-teacher 

* S. H. Wood, Report on Vocational Education in India, Preface, pp. 14, 
15. Mr. S. H. Wood is Director of Intelligence, Board of Education, 


schools predominate. It is difficult to define this disparity 
in terms of money, as the expenditure on girls enrolled in boys 5 
schools is debited to boys’ education ; but the ratio of i to 6 
will not be wide of the mark. The Hartog Committee 
recommended that “ in the interests of the advance of Indian 
education as a whole, priority should now be given to the 
claims of girls’ education in every scheme of expansion.” * 
This advice has been largely unheeded. It is not surprising, 
therefore, that in view of these depressing circumstances 
drastic remedies are advocated ; notably by an extension of 
co-education and of compulsion. The latest figures indicate 
that about 40 per cent, of the girls at school are educated in 
co-educational schools, f Apart from Madras, where more 
girls attend co-educational than separate schools, the practice 
of co-education is unusual. All provincial Governments, 
however, are now striving to extend the practice and, as a 
necessary preliminary, to increase the supply of women teachers, 
special efforts being made to provide for the training of wives 
of village teachers. This is of vital importance, as co-education 
should not be confined to the pupils, but should be extended 
to the staffs. Girls should not be admitted to boys’ schools 
merely on sufferance. 

34. Compulsory education .—The application of compulsion 
is in accordance with a number of provincial Acts and is 
permissive at the option of local authorities, who are often 
reluctant to face large additional expenditure from their 
limited resources. The period of compulsion is six years, 
unless the primary course has been completed before that 
time. In the Punjab, compulsion is applied to about 3,000 
village school areas and to sixty municipalities, but it has 
been found difficult to devise means for enforcing attendance. 

35. Success depends very largely on the conditions in 
which compulsion is applied. Suppose, by a stretch of 
imagination, that the teaching in schools became so admirable 
and attendance so regular that every child of school-going age 
completed the primary course in four years, not only would the 
results be pre-eminently satisfactory, but the cost would be 
comparatively small. Suppose, on the other hand, that the 

* Indian Statutory Commission (Hartog Committee), Interim Report, 
P- 347- 

f This percentage includes Burma, where co-education is prevalent ; 
it will be much smaller for India proper. 


teaching became so defective and attendance so irregular 
that no pupil completed the course even in six years (the 
limit of the compulsory age), not only would the results be 
disastrous, but the cost would be immense. In other words, 
as was pointed out by the Royal Commission on Agriculture, 
it is better first to eliminate “ wastage ” than “ to strain after 
the last truant.” It is also of doubtful morality to compel 
parents to send their children to school unless the schooling 
is worth while. There is the further danger of flooding the 
countryside with attendance officers who might batten on the 
poor and make education a byword and a reproach. Com¬ 
pulsion, therefore, should be applied wherever conditions are 
favourable, but only in such cases ; and this is an argument in 
favour of applying it to schools rather than to larger areas. 
In Madras an interesting variant has been’introduced by which 
once a child has entered school, he should be compelled to 
remain there until the limits of the compulsory age or the 
completion of the primary course. But an essential pre¬ 
liminary to widespread compulsion is improvement both in 
the teaching and organization of schools. 

36. Primary curricula.— Much criticism is levelled against 
the curricula of primary schools, especially on the ground of 
their limited scope ; but it is the methods rather than the 
scope of the teaching that is open to objection. Children in 
the infant classes in India spend too much of their school 
days in immobile “ study.” They spend too much time with 
books, pens, and pencils. Little is attempted to satisfy and to 
develop their wider interests. Mr. Wood has made a valuable 
generalization which needs careful attention. “ It has been 
impressed upon us,” he says, “ that the main purpose of 
primary education is to secure permanent literacy. We 
regard this as an unbalanced view of the purpose of education 
at any stage ; and even if we accepted it we could not subscribe 
to the present method of attempting to secure literacy. 
Literacy, like happiness, is not achieved by pursuing it as a 
narrow objective ; it is a by-product of satisfying activities. 
Literacy does not consist in reading and writing, but in the 
use of reading and writing, and, it may be added, of speaking 
and listening. A child will not master these simple skills nor 
form the habit of using them unless they are required for 
purposes which are significant to him rather than to his 
teacher. Conning books, learning by heart, and chanting in 
unison have their legitimate place in the discipline of training, 


but they do not by themselves constitute an education for 
young children.” * 

37. Training of male teachers .—The teacher is therefore 
of greater importance than the curriculum ; and it is by 
better training that the teacher can be improved. Only 55 
per cent, of the primary school teachers have received training, 
the percentage ranging from 79-6 in the Punjab, 72-3 in the 
United Provinces, 67-6 in Madras, to 48-5 in Bombay, 31-3 in 
Bengal, and 29-5 in Assam. Moreover, the qualifications even 
of those who have been trained are often inadequate. The 
most suitable qualification for admission to a vernacular 
training institution is the vernacular final examination, as 
pupils who have completed the course in vernacular middle 
schools should not only possess a reasonable measure of 
general education but also be in touch with village conditions ; 
the matriculate who has spent much of his time in acquiring 
only a superficial knowledge of English and is often divorced 
from village life, is rarely suited to village work. Un¬ 
fortunately, in provinces where the vernacular system is weak, 
the right type of recruit is seldom available. The Hartog 
Committee offered trenchant, but valuable, advice in this 
connection. “ As matters stand in India,” they say, “ effective 
arrangements for training vernacular teachers must, ordinarily 
speaking, precede the expansion of primary schools ; and the 
training of vernacular teachers itself depends upon a good 
supply of recruits from the vernacular middle schools. Hence, 
money spent on expansion and improvement of vernacular 
middle schools and on vernacular training institutions will 
find a larger and more permanently fruitful return than 
money spent on almost any other of the many objects which 
are dear to the heart of the educationist.” j 

38. The arrangements for training are unsatisfactory in 
many provinces, in that training is provided in large numbers 
of small classes attached to schools ; a policy of concentration 
in larger and more effective training institutions is required. 
There are usually both junior and senior training courses ; 
but only the better teachers are admitted to the senior course 
after having completed the junior course. The junior course 
is usually of one year ; and the senior course of one or two 
years. In this connection, Mr. Wood has made both a 

* Vide S. H. Wood, loc. cit., pp. 10-11. 

t Indian Statutory Commission (Hartog Committee), Interim Report, 
P- 77 - 

pertinent criticism and a valuable suggestion : " The lowest 
age of admission to a training institution is a year or two in 
advance of the age at which an intelligent boy would complete 
the middle school course. There is thus a gap during which 
some boys, having no defined course to follow, may be lost to 
the profession or spend their time, until they are old enough 
to enter a training institution, unprofitably. . . . We think 
that the future teachers should be ‘ caught ’ early ; and instead 
of being given a comparatively- short course a year or two 
later, should at once be admitted to a vocational course of at 
least three years’ duration.” * 

39. Training of women teachers— The training of women 
primary school teachers is a problem even more complex. 
The general backwardness of girls’ education and the paucity 
of vernacular middle schools render it difficult to obtain suitable 
recruits for training ; but the chief difficulty is that young 
women, not unnaturally, are reluctant to face the uncongenial 
and sometimes unsafe experience of service in remote villages. 

40. Salaries of primary school-teachers. —The salaries of 
village teachers are often inadequate; even in progressive 
provinces they approximate only Rs.20 (or 3or.) a month, 
while in Bengal they often do not exceed Rs.5 (or 7 s. 6 d.) a 

41. The position of the village teacher is one of difficulty ; 
the words of Mr. Wood are again apposite. “ The village 
teacher may be single-handed. He may have to work in quite 
unsuitable and overcrowded premises, he may be faced with 
the complete indifference of parents and neighbours, and he 
may even be subjected to political and other pressure which, 
if he does not bow to it, will threaten his security of tenure. 
The head teacher, if there is one, may be unsympathetic, and 
the children whom he has to teach may be apathetic, trouble¬ 
some, or irregular in their attendance, because of disease or 
ill-nourishment or from other causes. ... He may be ill- 
paid and lack the status in the community which his vocation 
merits.” * In these circumstances the village teacher needs all 
the guidance, encouragement, and support that he can get. 
It is therefore disappointing to read from reports that in most 
provinces the inspectorate is weak both in numbers and in 
quality. It is in their relations with village schools and teachers 
that officers of the district staff can give valuable assistance, 

S. H. Wood, loc. cil., p. 25. 


and, by joining in their recreations, they can also do much to 
mitigate the charge of “immobile study.” It is also essential 
that the teachers should attend refresher courses. “ There 
must surely be in India people of good will and distinction, not 
directly concerned with education, who would be willing to 
attend refresher courses for the purpose of living with teachers 
for a few days and talking to them about experiences and 
issues in a way which would release them from too narrow 
a concern with their own problems and relate them and their 
vocation to the world at large.” * 

42. Primary school administration .—Even the model teacher, 
however, needs to work in a school system which is satisfactorily 
administered. Unfortunately, the Indian primary system is 
poorly administered, especially in a faulty distribution of 
schools. Whereas in some places there is a glut of schools, 
in others there is a grave deficiency. A Director of Public 
Instruction was once moved to complain that in each village 
five schools were expected where one would suffice : a district 
board school for boys, a district board school for girls, a 
maktab, a pathshala ,f and a school for the depressed classes. 
Marked improvement has been made, however, in the attitude 
towards the depressed classes. In place of the segregate schools 
there is now a determination in every province to admit these 
unfortunate children to the ordinary schools along with the 
less unfortunate children. There is, doubtless, the danger 
that they will not be permitted to penetrate into the class¬ 
rooms and will have to be content with a few crumbs of 
instruction on the verandah outside; but old-time prejudice 
is fast disappearing. J With the advance of co-education, 
unnecessary duplication will be further reduced. There are 
also signs that the maktab and the pathshala will be absorbed 
into a national system of primary education. Many of the 
schools are ephemeral, especially those under individual 
ownership. The Hartog Committee found that in the Madras 
Presidency “ although in a single year as many as 8,226 new 
schools were opened, as many as 5,479 primary schools were 
closed.” § 

43. An unfortunate result of the faulty distribution and 
duplication of schools is the large number of single-teacher 

* S. H. Wood, loc. cit., p. 25. 

f See para. 1. 

t See Chapter II, para. 47. 

§ Report, p. 6 q. 


schools, in which a teacher, often none too well qualified, is 
expected to deal single-handed with three or four classes. 
More than 50 per cent, of the primary schools are of this type, 
the percentage of such schools to the total ranging from 80-3 
in Bengal to 27-3 in the Punjab and 23-2 in the Central 
Provinces. Many schools, again, are lower primary schools 
with only three classes in each (there are 40,000 in Bengal 
alone), and in these schools the chances of obtaining even a 
modicum of literacy must be extremely precarious. In most 
provinces a policy of consolidation is now' being attempted. 
In Madras, for example, the objective is that no teacher shall 
teach more than one class at the same time, and that each class 
shall contain the full complement of pupils. 

44. An unhealthy feature of the administration of primary- 
schools by local bodies is the excessive number of transfers of 
teachers ; this practice is unfortunate in that it militates against 
a village school becoming a village institution in w'hich village 
folk can take pride and interest. 

Vernacular Middle Schools 

45. Vernacular middle schools open up a most promising 
field of development. Provided that they receive encourage¬ 
ment and support, provided that the teachers have been 
suitably selected and trained, provided that the teaching is in 
harmony with village conditions and requirements, they 
should in course of time supply the two main conditions 
essential to success in the task of rural reform. 

46. Vernacular middle schools: (1) Bengal .—The position 
of these schools varies considerably in the several provinces. 
In Bengal they have been permitted to fall into almost 
hopeless decay; they now number only about fifty as against 
3,000 middle English and high schools. The Bengal report 
is lugubrious on the subject: “ In spite of the rural and 
agricultural character of the province, the middle verna¬ 
cular schools, in which boys might obtain a good general 
grounding, have never been popular. The vernacular system 
of education, which should be the prop and stay of rural 
development, tends more and more to deteriorate. The 
thought of matriculation dominates, with the result that a 
very large number of pupils, whatever be their bent and 
competence, flock to English secondary schools.” * Thus 

* Bengal Education Report, 1934-35, pp. 10-11. 


it is that, having completed their education in the primary 
schools, which, being usually of the three-class and single¬ 
teacher variety, are of little value, pupils must almost inevitably 
continue their schooling in English schools, with their eyes 
glued on matriculation and in surroundings divorced from 
rural life. In other provinces, particularly Bihar and Assam, 
which are contiguous to Bengal, the tendency persists for the 
replacement of vernacular by Anglo-vernacular middle schools. 
Whence, then, is to arise that widespread movement and that 
indigenous agency which are so vital to rural reform ? 

47. (2) Bombay. —Fortunately, in certain other provinces 
attempts have been made to develop vernacular middle schools 
in a manner that should promote the interests of the country¬ 
side and stimulate a spirit of leadership in the villages. The 
initiative was taken some twenty years ago in Bombay by 
instituting agricultural schools called Loni schools after the 
name of the first of their kind, but the experiment did not 
prove successful. The schools were expensive and therefore 
unsuitable for imitation ; they could not withstand the 
competition of the ordinary schools and therefore did not 
attract pupils ; they may not have received the support 
they deserved. But they failed mainly because they were 
prematurely vocational, and the pupils did not possess that 
foundation of general training which is an essential preliminary 
to vocational training. They have now given way to what are 
generally known as “ agricultural bias schools.” * 

48. (3) Punjab .—A salutary corrective was supplied shortly 
afterwards by the Punjab Government in its determination to 
develop a sound system of rural education by the extension 
and improvement of vernacular middle schools. Their 
number was rapidly increased from 656 in 1922 to 2,431 in 
1930. For the purpose of rendering their teaching more in 
touch with rural conditions, small farms or garden plots were 
attached to a number of them. The teaching of agriculture 
was entrusted to senior vernacular teachers who had received 
additional training in the agricultural college at Lyallpur. 
This attempt to enrich the middle vernacular course was 
subsequently developed by the introduction of the subject 
of rural science, which is taught on practical as well as on 
theoretical lines. The Punjab Government also realized 
that the mere prescription of new and improved courses, by 

* See Chapter IV, para. 51. 


themselves, would be of little value unless the main body of 
teachers understood both the letter and the spirit of the new 
ideas. The courses of training for all vernacular teachers 
have therefore been recast and the senior course extended 
from one to tw^o years. Efforts are also made in the training 
institutions to stimulate a practical interest by the teachers in 
matters concerning the improvement of rural conditions. 

49. (4) The United Provinces. —Progress has also been 
made on similar lines in the United Provinces. “ There can 
be little doubt that vernacular middle education is the most 
efficient and valuable section of the educational system of 
these provinces. For a sum commensurate with the income of 
the parent a boy receives an education in most of the subjects 
that he is likely to need on leaving school. The school is in 
or near the village, the course is designed for village life. 
Text-books and curriculum alike put emphasis on the rural 
character of vernacular middle education. While the high- 
school boy and the B.A. are generally divorced from the 
atmosphere of village life and are definitely trained to think 
and act in terms of city life, the boy w'ho passes the vernacular 
final examination is definitely a product of the country.” * 

50. (5) The Moga school. —Perhaps the most complete 
illustration of what a vernacular middle school should be is 
provided by the American Presbyterian Mission in its school 
at Moga in the Punjab, which has attempted to carry out the 
advice of the Fraser Commission,! a body w'hich w'as appointed 
by an inter-missionary conference to consider the position and 
the prospects of village education in India. The school is a 
model of its kind ; its teaching is such that it escapes the 
depressing “ wastage ” so common in India ; and the school 
farm and village crafts provide the right background of village 
service. Even more valuable is the class for village teachers, 
who are trained in matters pertaining to the advancement 
of the countryside and later become the prop and stay of village 
folk among whom they serve 4 

The Urgency of School Reconstruction 

51. This brief description of vernacular middle schools 
and of the vital place which they should occupy in a scheme 

* Education Report of Ike United Provinces, l 934 - 5 > P- 18. 

■f Village Education in India , pp. 50-51. 

J Visitors are always welcomed by the Rev. and Mrs. A. E. Harper, 
who are in charge of this admirable institution. 


of Indian education would appear to indicate that the key 
has been found to a well-devised system of rural education, 
and that all that is now required is steady improvement and 
expansion of what already exists. Unfortunately, the 
vernacular system is depressed by a false conception of the 
values of education. In the popular view the vernacular 
and English systems are not parallel schemes of education, 
as there is a decided implication of superiority attached to 
English studies and of inferiority to vernacular (or rural) 
studies. Hence, vernacular education labours under the 
handicap of inferiority. It is in this way that the English 
system is antagonistic to rural progress ; and that, at the very 
time when an indigenous agency is so urgently required for 
guiding measures of rural reform, the better gifted pupils, 
who might in time have supplied that agency, are being sucked 
into the towns in order to pursue a purely literary and urban 
form of education. Such being the conditions of village life, 
it is difficult to expect them on the completion of their education 
in the towns to return and serve the countryside. 

52. Unfortunately, a similar inferiority is attached also 
to vocational or industrial schools, with the result that not 
only are they comparatively few in number, but they attract, 
generally speaking, only those pupils who are of inferior 
attainments. In consequence, Indian industry does not receive 
the support that it needs ; and the qualifications of the foreman 
class, so vital to the progress of industry, are sadly defective. 
Thus, the well-being of Indian industry as well as of the Indian 
countryside are jeopardized by the present trend of Indian 
education.* Unfortunately, also, owing to the fact that the 
English system of education is almost entirely of the literary 
type, pupils prolong unduly a purely literary form of education 
and thus become averse from practical training and occupa¬ 
tions. Hence, India is faced not so much by a problem of 

* “ All sections of the community, with their different occupations, 
traditions and outlook, and with their different aptitudes and ambitions, 
have little, if any choice of the type of school to which they will send their 
children. In fact, the present type of high and middle English school 
has established itself so strongly that other forms of education are opposed 
or mistrusted, and there is a marked tendency to regard the passage from 
the lowest primary class to the highest class of a high school as the normal 
procedure for every pupil. There is nothing corresponding to the exodus 
from many English secondary schools either into practical life or into a 
vocational institution.” (Hartog Committee, Report, p. 104.) 


unemployment as of unemployables. Those who might have 
promoted the well-being of Indian industry and of the Indian 
countryside now loiter in the market-places, seeking work and 
finding none. It is not surprising, therefore, that high schools 
and colleges are being congested more and more by pupils 
and students who are unfitted for the type of education which 
they provide, and are thereby prevented from giving to the 
more gifted students, whether from town or country, the 
education and training which they deserve and which the 
country needs.* 

53. The system of English education has therefore been 
subjected to much scrutiny and criticism.j The Central 
Advisory Board in its meeting in December, 1935, made a 
valuable summary of the position and expressed the following 
opinion. “ The following considerations, among others, 
necessitate a new attitude towards educational problems : 

“ (a) the increasing desire among educationists and 
others to bring about changes in the educational 
system in view of the altered conditions of life ; 

“ (b) the growing volume of unemployment among the 
educated classes ; 

“ ( c ) the emphasis laid on a purely literary form of 
instruction in schools ; 

“ (d ) the inadvisability of too frequent examinations ; 

“ ( e) the large number of ‘ over-age 5 pupils in the senior 
classes of high schools ; 

“ (f) the increasing number of students in universities 
who are unable to benefit by university instruction 
and, in consequence, the difficulty in making 
satisfactory provision for the better qualified 
students and for research ; 

* The number of university students of all kinds rose from 67,000 in 
ig22 to 92,000 in 1927 and to 98,000 in 1931 ; the number now stands at 
117,000 ; vide Education in India, 1934-5. 

j- The following references are of value : Calcutta University (Sadler) 
Commission, Report; Indian Statutory Commission (Hartog Committee), 
Interim Report, 1929 ; Government of India, Tenth Quinquennial Review, 
1927-32 ; Punjab University Enquiry Committee, Report , 1932-33 ; Un¬ 
employment (Sapru) Committee, Report; Resolution of Government of 
United Provinces, dated August 8th, 1934; Resolution of Government of 
Bengal, dated July 27th, 1935 ; Report of Hyderabad Government, by the 
late Mr. A. H. Mackenzie and Fazil Muhammad Khan, 1936. 


“ (g) the need of developing training of a more practical 
type than at present and of making provision for 
such training, especially for those with little or 
no literary bent, and of adjusting it to the scheme 
of general education ; 

“ (A) the advisability of developing a suitable scheme 
of rural education by which boys and girls in 
rural areas shall be given such training as would 
develop in them a capacity and desire for the 
work of rural reconstruction.” 

The Board then recommended that “ a radical readjust¬ 
ment of the present system in schools should be made in such 
a way as not only to prepare pupils for professional and 
university courses, but also to enable them at the completion 
of appropriate stages, to be diverted to occupations or to 
separate vocational institutions.” The Board proceeded to 
define the several stages and to suggest for each a definite 
objective. The primary stage was to extend over four or five 
years ; the lower secondary stage over five or four years ; the 
higher secondary stage over three years ; and the degree stage 
was to be of three years. 

54. In forwarding the resolutions to provincial Govern¬ 
ments, the Government of India endorsed the view that 
expert advice would be of value, especially “ for the planning 
of vocational training,” and offered to bear the expense thereof. 
As a result, Mr. S. H. Wood, Director of Intelligence to the 
Board of Education in England, and Mr. A. Abbott, formerly 
Chief Inspector of Technical Schools, visited India during the 
winter of 1936-7 and paid particular attention to the position 
in the United Provinces, the Punjab and Delhi province, 
thereafter writing their report, which is well worth reading. 
They supported the general scheme of reconstruction as 
contemplated by the Board; and they emphasized the 
importance of a basis of general training in lower secondary 
schools on which vocational schools should be established and 
developed. Mr. Abbott also suggested that the vocational 
training thus given should be of a general nature and that the 
staffs of “ junior vocational schools ” should be as fully qualified 
as those of the secondary schools. Both emphasized the 
importance of vernacular middle schools, which they regarded 
“ as potentially the most significant educational institution 
in a country in which about 90 per cent, of the population 

live in rural areas. There is little hope of permanently 
improving the conditions of village life and of making the rural 
population responsive to fruitful ideas unless the younger 
generation is educated beyond the primary stage up to an age 
when boys and girls realize that they are becoming social and 
economic assets to the community.” * 

Higher Education in Rural Areas 

55. A further handicap from which vernacular middle 
schools suffer is that facilities for a continuance of education 
on similar lines are very meagre. The agricultural colleges, 
which are described in another chapter,! provide facilities 
for study up to the degree standard ; there is also the Imperial 
Institute of Agricultural Research, which has recently been 
moved from Pusa to Delhi. These institutions, in con¬ 
junction with the university departments of science, have done 
much in the direction of research, but they are not such as to 
promote a spirit of leadership in the countryside. “ What 
India needs to-day, more perhaps than anything, is a new and 
a wider system of education in the villages, a system which 
will be capable of expansion, which will be in harmony with 
village conditions, which will train up boys and girls desirous 
of remaining a part of the village and of spending lives of 
service to the progress of the countryside.” j The possibilities 
of expansion in this direction have been indicated at Moga, 
with its training class for village teachers. That part of the 
training w'hich is associated with village improvement could 
be made applicable to many categories of village worker ; 
and, in addition, an institution thus enlarged would provide a 
locus for refresher courses, the importance of which has been 
stressed by Mr. Wood. 

The Education of Adults 

56. Reference has already been made to the deadening 
influence of village life and to the serious relapse into illiteracy. 
It is therefore unfortunate that such efforts as have been 
made in the direction of adult education have achieved only 
modified success, especially in rural areas. The methods of 
instruction are often unsuitable. An adult desires to make 
more rapid progress than a child and, not unnaturally, 

* Report on Vocational Education in India, p. 13. 

t See Chapter IV, para. 50. 

J Anderson and Whitehead, Christian Education in India, p. 104. 


becomes wearied by conning a school primer. It is unreason¬ 
able also to expect that a teacher, after carrying out his duties 
by day, will attack with eagerness his additional duties by 
night ; or that an inspector can inspect schools both by day 
and by night.* * * § Perhaps the most effective preliminary to the 
successful introduction of adult education in the countryside 
would be to stimulate a desire for learning by providing 
vernacular literature of the right type, by practical lectures 
and talks, by the display of lantern pictures or preferably 
cinema films, by broadcasting and other such means. 
Promising beginnings have been made in these directions ; 
and the broadcasting department in Delhi f has already taken 
the initial steps for bringing the countryside under its influence. 

57. Progress has also been made in providing facilities 
for physical recreation not only for school children but also 
for adults. In the Punjab, for example, some sixty certificated 
teachers have undergone an intensive course in physical 
training, while a few of them have been assisted subsequently 
to attend further courses in Europe. These men have been 
appointed physical supervisors and, as such, have given 
similar courses in all vernacular training institutions, with 
the result that most village teachers should now be competent 
to impart physical instruction. These supervisors have also 
done valuable service in stimulating a love of games and 
physical exercise, even among adults in rural areas. The 
Y.M.C.A. physical training school in Madras has made a 
similar contribution in these directions. Indians possess 
considerable skill in the playing of English games such as 
cricket, football, and hockey (especially the last), and the 
Olympic Association has done much to afford encouragement. + 
These games, however, require money, time, and space, which 
are not always available in India. It is therefore advisable 
to encourage other games such as volley-ball and Indian 
games such as kabadi.§ 

* In the United Provinces, where adult schools have been set on foot 
by co-operative rural welfare societies, it is the practice to turn them after 
three years into reading clubs. 

f See Chapter I, para. 64. 

% At the present time there are not only an all-India and provincial 
Olympic associations, but district Olympic associations, too. These hold 
their sports and send their winners to compete in the provincial associations’ 
sports, whilst winners in the latter are sent to represent their province in 
the sports of the all-India association. 

§ This game resembles prisoners’ base. 


58. To this task the Boy Scouts and, to a lesser extent, 
the Girl Guides have made great contributions. Indeed, they 
can claim already to have afforded widespread facilities for 
healthy and inexpensive recreation ; they have instilled in the 
youth of India a desire for service ; and they transcend the 
narrowing limits of caste and creed. The main criticism of 
their activities is that they are too dependent on the schools 
and the school-teachers. There is thus much scope for young 
officers on the district staffs in these directions, and also in 
teaching young India to play English games. 


Madras. —A pupil can join any class or form of a secondary school for 
which he is found fit. There is no restriction whatever in passing from an 
elementary (vernacular) school to a secondary (English) school. There is 
no departmental rule determining the class in which a pupil may begin 
the study of English. In secondary schools it is usual to begin English in 
Class IV ; an earlier commencement of the study of English is discouraged. 
In some elementary schools English is taught in Standard IV, and higher 
standards if a teacher qualified to teach English is available. 

Bombay. —In some selected vernacular schools arrangements are made 
to teach English in Standards V, VI, and VII by attaching separate classes, 
which are known as “ English classes.” In addition, there are special 
classes in English for boys, who have passed the vernacular final examina¬ 
tion, in which a special and intensive course is followed to enable them to 
complete Anglo-vernacular Standards I—III in one year. 

Bengal .—In Bengal pupils who have read English as an optional 
subject in a vernacular school may pass from Class VI of such a school to 
Class VII of a high English school, while others pass to Class V. 

United Provinces .—The bottom three classes have been detached from 
Government high schools. They now form a distinct class of schools 
known as “ preparatory schools.” 

Punjab. —In the Punjab also the tendency is to detach from each 
Government high school the first four classes. 

Bihar and Orissa. —In Bihar and Orissa, those who have not read English 
as an optional subject in the vernacular school pass into Class IV of an 
English school, but in some schools they pass into a class (below Class VIII) 
in which special instruction in English is given to such boys. Those who 
have read English may pass into Classes VIII, VII, VI, or V according 
to the progress they have made in that language. 

Central Provinces .—In the Central Provinces, English may also be taken 
as an optional subject in a vernacular school from Class V. 

Assam. —In Assam, primary classes are not attached to any high or 
middle English schools. English has been introduced as an optional 
subject in middle vernacular schools. 

*Special Classes. —In the United Provinces, Punjab, and the North-West 
Frontier Province there are two special classes attached to certain Anglo- 
vernacular schools. Boys who have passed the vernacular final examina¬ 
tion and desire to enter an Anglo-vernacular school are required to spend 
two years in these classes, mainly in the study of English, before proceeding 
to Class VIII in the United Provinces, and Class IX in the Punjab and the 
North-West Frontier Province. In the Punjab if a boy desires to go over to 
an Anglo-vernacular school after passing Class VI of a vernacular middle 
school, he can do so by studying for one year in the first special class, after 
which period he can join Class VII of an Anglo-vernacular school ; pupils 
in vernacular middle schools who have passed in optional English in the 
vernacular final examination can proceed direct to Class IX. In the 
North-West Frontier Province, a pupil having completed the lower middle 
school course, after receiving instruction in the special class attached to a 
high school for one year and having successfully completed the course may 
join Class V II of that school. 



Industrial Labour 
Classification of Indian Industries 

i . The industries of India, according to the census termino¬ 
logy, fall into two classes—organized and unorganized. An 
industry is regarded as organized if it employs in all not less 
than 10,000 persons, in establishments that employ not less 
than ten persons each. The unorganized industries are the 
numerous handicrafts such as are carried on in cottages and 
workshops. These unorganized industries are of great import¬ 
ance, for not only are they the old indigenous industries of 
India, but they still give employment to a far larger number 
of workmen than the organized industries. At the census of 
1931, out of a total of over twenty-six millions employed in 
plantations, mines, industry, and transport, five millions was 
taken as the probable figure for organized labour.* 

Organized Industries 

2. In 1929 a representative Royal Commission 7 presided 
over by the Rt. Hon. J. H. Whitley, who had a short time 
previously resigned the speakership of the House of Commons, 
was appointed to enquire and report on the existing conditions 
of labour in industrial undertakings and plantations in British 
India, on the health, efficiency, and standard of living of the 
workers, and on the relations between employers and employed. 
The Commission’s masterly report, which was published in 
1931, forms the principal basis of the account of industrial 
labour contained in this chapter, so far as it relates to organized 
industries. These can be arranged in classes according as they 
are connected with factories, mines, railways, dockyards, and 
plantations. It will be convenient to begin by a brief account 
of these various classes separately. 

* Census Report, India, p. 285. 

7 Referred to in this chapter as the Labour Commission. 


3. Classification of factories. —Factories can be subdivided 
into regulated and unregulated. A regulated factory is one 
to which the Factories Act of 1934 applies, and is defined in 
that Act as “ any premises, including the precincts thereof, 
wherein twenty or more workers are working, or were working 
on any day of the preceding twelve months, and in any part 
of which a manufacturing process is being carried on with 
the aid of mechanical power, or is ordinarily so carried on.” 
The unregulated factory is one in which mechanical power is 
not used or less than twenty workers are employed ; but the 
provincial Government may declare any factory in which ten 
or more workers are employed to be a regulated factory, 
whether power is or is not used. 

4. Regulated factories fall under the Act into two classes, 
the seasonal and the non-seasonal or perennial. A seasonal 
factory is one which is concerned with the handling of a parti¬ 
cular crop as it becomes available, and is open for less than 
180 days in a year. Under clause 4 of the Act, factories 
engaged in cotton-ginning, cotton and jute-pressing, the decorti¬ 
cation of groundnuts, and the manufacture of coffee, indigo, 
lac, rubber, sugar, and tea are all classed as seasonal ; but 
the provincial Governments may exclude from that category 
any of those factories that normally works for longer than 180 
days, and include in it any other kind of factory that normally 
works for less than that period. To a newcomer from Europe 
the most striking features of industrial life in India are 
the predominance of three industries—the spinning and 
weaving of cotton and jute, with engineering and metal works ; 
the importance of the seasonal factory ; and the absence of a 
permanent factory population. 

5. Geographical distribution of factories, (a) Mon-seasonal 
or perennial. —There are in all some 5,000 perennial factories, 
employing some 1,300,000 workers. Of the latter, about one- 
half are employed in two industrial areas, namely Calcutta 
and the Hooghly tract around it, and Bombay, both city and 
island. Both Calcutta and Bombay, as important ports and 
commercial centres, possess a considerable variety of industries, 
but each has its own speciality, namely jute and cotton re¬ 
spectively. With the exception of four mills in Madras * and 
one in Bihar, all the Indian jute mills, employing some 290,000 
operatives, lie in a strip of about sixty miles long and two miles 

* These Madras mills, however, use a fibre differing from true jute. 


broad on each side of the Hooghly above and below Calcutta. 
Bombay, where the first successful cotton mill was started in 
1853, still dominates the cotton industry in spite of its increasing 
tendency to expand into smaller towns conveniently situated 
in the cotton-growing country. Of these, the most important 
are Ahmedabad and Sholapur in Bombay and Cawnpore in 
the United Provinces.* The cotton industry employs about 
428,000 people ; the Bombay presidency is responsible for 
about 75 per cent, of its output. Of minor industrial centres, 
the most important are the provincial capitals, such as Madras, 
Delhi, Lahore, Lucknow, and Nagpur, in each of which there 
are a certain number of large factories and many small ones, 
which serve the miscellaneous needs of the city and its vicinity. 
Other industrial towns of importance are Cawnpore, with its 
cotton and woollen mills, its leather, saddlery, boot, and brush 
factories, and its chemical works ; and Jamshedpur,| the 
centre of the iron and steel industry, which has attracted to 
itself other subsidiary industries. There are two other large 
iron and steel works in Bengal, J and Government ordnance 
factories at Cossipore, Ishapur, Dumdum (Bengal), Kirki 
(Bombay), and Jubbulpore (Central Provinces). The 
engineering workshops of the railways are situated either in 
or near provincial capitals, such as those of Moghalpura near 
Lahore, Lillooah near Calcutta, Matunga and Parel in 
Bombay, Perambur near Madras, and Lucknow ; or in rail¬ 
way settlements that have become towns, such as Khargpur 
in the Midnapore district of Bengal, and Jamalpur in Bihar ; 
or in towns that have no other industry, such as Trichinopoly 
in Madras, Jhansi in the United Provinces, and Dohad in 
Bombay. There are many engineering workshops of other 
kinds in the larger towns, for the upkeep of tramways, tele¬ 
graphs, motor-transport, electrical works,§ and shipping ; 
the number of these is especially large in Calcutta and its 

* The total number of cotton mills in British India in 1933-34 was 
313, of which there were 209 in Bombay, twenty-nine in Madras, twenty- 
three in the United Provinces, nineteen in Bengal, eleven in the Central 
Provinces, ten in the Punjab, six in Delhi, five in Ajmer-Merwara, and one 
in Bihar and Orissa. There were also fifty-five mills in the States and three 
in the French settlement of Pondicherry. 

t For Jamshedpur, see Chapter I, para. 53. Jamshedpur has now 
100,000 inhabitants. 

* One of these is at Barakar, near Raniganj. It was founded in 1875, 
and is the oldest factory of the kind in India. 

§ There are also hydro-electric generating works outside the urban 
areas. See Chapter I, para. 48. 


neighbourhood. Iron foundries, usually on a small scale, 
are widely distributed, whilst the manufacture of kerosene 
oil-tins is employing an increasing number of workmen in the 
presidency towns. 

6. It will suffice to describe the main distribution of other 
perennial factories by provinces. Flour mills and printing 
presses are to be found in all provinces ; so, too, are oil mills, 
but they are most numerous in Bombay. Bengal possesses 
rice and paper mills, potteries, chemical works, and factories 
which produce cement, lime, leather, glass, lac, paints, soap, 
and matches ; whilst recently no less than ten factories, with 
4,500 operatives, have been started to produce rubber shoes. 
In Bombay there are paper, woollen, and silk mills, dyeing and 
bleaching works, and soap, match, and glass factories—the 
last a new venture. Madras has rice mills, tanneries, and brick 
and tile factories. In the United Provinces, apart from the 
Gawnpore factories, there are woollen and paper mills, 
leather, glass, and match factories, tanneries, and a resin dis¬ 
tillery. The Punjab has cement works, carpentry works, and 
woollen mills, and has recently started a rubber works. Bihar 
and the Central Provinces produce cement, lime, and pottery, 
and Bihar bricks and tiles.* It is to be noted, moreover, that 
in recent years some European manufacturers, to avoid the high 
duties imposed on their goods, have begun to set up branch 
factories of their own in India, The leading cigarette-makers 
in the United Kingdom now send manufactured tobacco to 
India, where it is rolled into cigarettes. Some of the leading 
soap-manufacturers of the United Kingdom are now producing 
most standard brands in their Indian branches. The Dunlop 
Rubber Co. supplies the Indian market from its factory at 
Calcutta with all kinds of rubber goods, notably tyres. Messrs. 
Courtauld & Co. have set up an artificial silk factory near 
Bombay. Finally, the famous Swedish and Japanese matches, 
formerly imported in large numbers, are now being manu¬ 
factured in the country—to a certain extent, out of wood from 
the Indian forests. 

7. (b) Seasonal .—There are in all some 3,700 seasonal 
factories employing about 300,000 workers. Of these, about 
130,000 are in cotton-ginning and pressing factories which are 
found mainly in Bombay, the Punjab, Madras, and the Central 

* Labour Commission, Report, pp. 6-10 and 77-8 ; Annual Reports 
on the working of the Factories Act, passim. 


and United Provinces, and form the most important group of 
such factories. The cotton-ginning season varies from two to 
seven months in different areas, but there is practically no 
time of year when cotton is not being ginned in some part of 
India. Jute presses are confined almost entirely to Bengal ; 
their season extends from July to December. The number of 
factories which make sugar direct from cane has increased 
enormously in recent years, and is now about 170 ; they are 
most numerous in the United Provinces, Bihar, and Bombay, 
but there are some in Bengal, the Punjab, and Madras. The 
season varies, but nowhere does it exceed three months ;* in 
the United Provinces it lasts from the end of December to the 
beginning of March, whilst in Madras it does not begin till 
the end of February. There are tea factories in Assam, Bengal, 
and Madras ; in Northern India they are not open in the cold 
weather, and the work is everywhere intermittent as well as 

8. Unregulated factories. —The conditions of labour, 
especially of child labour, which prevail in many unregulated 
factories are very unsatisfactory, and the Labour Commission 
drew a lurid picture of the abuses which they found existing 
in some of them. The manufacture of bidis (Indian cigarettes), 
for instance, is an urban industry, partly carried on in the 
home, but mainly in small workshops. Many of these are 
dark, crowded, ill-ventilated, and insanitary, with damp mud 
floors on which workers sit or squat through a long working 
day—for hours of wnrk are seldom regulated and the work¬ 
shops are open day and night. There is no regular recess 
and no weekly day of rest. Children of five years of age are 
often made to work for ten or twelve hours on a miserable 
pittance, and controlled by corporal punishment and other 
strict disciplinary measures, t The provincial Governments 
could do something to improve the lot of these workers if they 

* This is due chiefly to defective production. Different types of cane 
mature at different times, but at present the cultivator rarely grows more 
than the type which matures earliest. In the United Provinces attempts 
are being made to induce him to grow all types, so that he may keep up 
a supply of cane to the factories for a longer period, in which case they 
will probably become perennial. 

7 Labour Commission, Report, pp. 75-9 ; Annual Reports on the 
working of the Factories Act, passim ; Indian Sugar Committee, Report, 

J Labour Commission, Report, pp. 90-8. Other industries in which 
similar abuses prevail are shellac manufacture and leather-tanning. 


would use more freely their power to extend the provisions 
of the Factories Act to any manufacturing establishment em¬ 
ploying at least ten persons. But the difficulties of the problem 
—one of which is the heavy cost of providing an adequate 
inspecting staff—and the urgency of other labour legislation 
have so far proved obstacles to the passing of an all-India Act, 
though the Government of India has recently made proposals 
for such legislation to provincial Governments. 

9. Mines and quarries .—The geographical distribution of 
Indian minerals has already been described.* Goal, far the 
most important of them, accounts for over three-fifths of the 
quarter of a million people employed in mines and collieries, 
and four-fifths of those who work underground, f Ninety per 
cent, of the present output of coal, which during the last decade 
has ranged round 20 million tons, comes from a group of coal¬ 
fields in Bengal and Bihar—Raniganj, Jharia, and Bokaro, 
lying in a narrow tract running westwards from Raniganj for 
about 100 miles. Adjoining them further to the west is the 
smaller Karanpura field, with the Giridih field about fifty 
miles to the north. Of the other fields, the most important 
is the Pench Valley field in the north of the Central Provinces. 

10. Indian coal-seams are much thicker than European. 
Most of the seams exceed 10 feet ; the Jharia seams average 
20 feet, whilst some are from 60 to 80 feet thick. In the Bokaro 
field there is one seam of over 100 feet thick, which produces 
nearly a million tons of coal a year, and is worked from the 
surface. The Indian miner, therefore, is more fortunate than 
the European miner, for he can almost always stand upright 
at his work.j: On the other hand, most seams of good- 
quality coal in India give off fire-damp, and the local explosions 
due to it are both strengthened and lengthened by the presence 
of coal dust, which is a source of danger to all mines, for a very 
small amount is sufficient to render the atmosphere in¬ 
flammable^ The Indian coal-miner is also liable to a common 
and even greater danger. In the early days of coal-mining, 
extraction was often excessive. The pillars that are left are 

* See Chapter I, para. 56. 

t Chief Inspector of Mines, Report, 1936, pp. 62 and 103. 

{ Labour Commission, Report, pp. 112-14. 

§ Coal Mining Committee, Report, 1937, pp. 54-7. This contradicts 
the opinion of the Labour Commission, who held that inflammable gas 
was unknown and that most mines could be safely worked with naked 


often inadequate to support the remaining coal and their 
premature collapse may lead to a sudden subsidence in which 
lives may be lost both above and below ground, as well as 
much valuable coal. Such a subsidence may be followed by 
dangerous fires caused by spontaneous combustion.* * * § This 
peril exists in most Indian coal-fields, but is most serious at 
Jharia, where there are now about forty permanently burning 
fires in twenty-two different collieries.! The other minerals 
which are extracted in India—iron, gold, manganese, mica, 
salt, and a variety of building stones and materials—give work 
between them to about two-thirds of the number of persons 
that are employed in the collieries. 

ir. Railways .—Indian railways extend over some 43,000 
miles. In 1934 the exact figure was 42,953, a length which 
exceeds that of any other country except the United States of 
America. Thus the railway administrations, with their total 
staff of about 800,000 men, are the largest employers of 
organized labour in India, and their policy in respect of wages 
and other labour problems has important reactions on the 
labour conditions throughout die country. But that policy 
is by no means uniform, nor is the practice which is based on 
it. This lack of uniformity is in part due to differences in the 
nature of the administrations themselves. About 45 per cent, 
of the total mileage is directly managed by the State, j the 
remainder being directly managed by private companies 
which, except in the case of certain branch lines, are domiciled 
in England. The supreme authority is the Railway Board, 
consisting of a Chief Commissioner and three other members.§ 
But whereas in respect of labour matters it has full control of 
the state-managed railways, it can only make suggestions for 
reforms and improvements to the company-managed railways. 
Again, in both classes agents have full powers to regulate the 
appointment, pay, promotion, leave, and dismissal of sub¬ 
ordinate -workers ; but whereas the agent of a state-managed 
raihvay is responsible to the Board which delegated those 
powers to him, the agent of a company-managed railway is 

* Coal Mining Committee, Report, 1937, p. 32. 

j Chief Inspector of Mines, Report, 1935, p. 21. 

t About 74 per cent, is owned by the State. The system in respect of 
ownership and management is highly complicated. See Anstey’s Economic 
Development of India, pp. 130 et seg., especially p. 133. 

§ One of the members is in charge of general administration and 
personnel, which includes labour matters. 


responsible to his directors. There are other factors which 
prevent uniformity of practice in the treatment of labour 
matters on different railway systems. Amongst these are the 
length of the railway itself; the climatic and ethnological 
attributes of the territories through which it passes ; the 
intellectual and economic conditions of the people living in 
those territories; the nature and extent of the traffic available ; 
and the earning capacity of the system itself. 

12. Plantations .—There are in India plantations of tea, 
coffee, cinchona, and rubber * * * § ; but of these tea is far the most 
important. The coffee industry suffered severely from blight 
and insect pests in the period 1862-85, and the production is 
now small. The cinchona area is also small, and the crop 
suffices for only a part of the Indian market, J Rubber has 
passed through many vicissitudes in the last twenty years, and 
its future is still uncertain. But tea is one of the chief Indian 
exports. Out of the total labour force in plantations of over 
a million, nearly seven-eighths are employed in tea gardens 
and over one-half in the tea gardens of Assam. There are 
factories attached to these plantations, which are classed under 
the Factories Act as seasonal.;’: The chief difficulties in these 
plantations are connected with their labour supply—a matter 
dealt with elsewhere.§ 

Sources of Labour in Organized Industries 

13. Everywhere in India the organized industries draw 
their unskilled labour not from the towns but from the villages. 
For the most part they are able to confine recruitment to the 
surrounding rural areas ; but in some centres they are com¬ 
pelled for different reasons to go further afield. Bombay, 
being hemmed in by the sea on the one side and a narrow 
coastal plain flanked by high mountains on the other, draws 
its labour mainly by sea from the densely populated Ratnagiri 
district to the south and by land from the precarious Deccan 
districts of Ahmednagar, Poona, and Sholapur to the south¬ 
east. Labour must be imported from a distance to the Hooghly 
area because the Bengali people have less inclination for factory 
work than other Indian races, though their dislike of it is 
rapidly diminishing ; to Jamshedpur, because it was established 

* For their locations, see Chapter I, para. 54. 

t The main source of supply for the whole world is Java. 

+ See para. 4 above. 

§ See para. 23. 


in a tract of almost virgin forest, where labour was not to be 
found ; and to the tea plantations of Assam, because they lie 
in tracts that were originally uninhabited or sparsely in¬ 
habited. The main collieries in Bengal and Bihar, which 
lie in or near country inhabited by aboriginal tribes, originally 
drew the whole of their labour force and still draw most of 
it from those tribes ; but they are now recruiting workmen 
from more distant areas in ever-increasing numbers, because 
they are more adaptable, more assiduous, and more regular in 
attendance than the aboriginals. The tracts from which all 
this labour principally comes are the eastern districts of the 
United Provinces, the western districts of Bihar, the northern 
and eastern districts of the Central Provinces,* * * § and Orissa ; 
whilst the northern districts of Madras also supply labour to 
the tea plantations, and there are few provinces which are not 
represented in the labour force of Jamshedpur. j But workmen 
in other centres than the three mentioned and in other mines 
and quarries ; % the railway gangmen, porters, pointsmen, 
signalmen, and shunters, the dockyard labourers,—these are 
all recruited in the neighbourhood of the places where their 
work lies. 

14. Characteristics of the labour supply .—It is in the fact 
that factory labour in India is drawn from rural areas and 
frequently from long distances that the Labour Commission 
found the most fundamental difference between the factory 
worker of India and the West. “ The latter is drawn mainly 
from persons brought up in the towns, and partly from those 
who have abandoned the country for the towns. The Indian 
factory operatives are nearly all migrants. But tire difference 
does not end here. In India the migration from the rural 
areas to the factories is not in the main a permanent exodus ; 
it is, in the minds of those who undertake it and to a large 
extent in fact, a temporary transfer, and the recruit to industry 
continues to regard as his home tire place from which he has 
come.” § For a true understanding of the position it is 
necessary to amplify this statement. In the seasonal factories, 
which deal only with agricultural products after they have been 

* These districts also supply the labour of the large manganese mines 
in the same province. 

•f Labour Commission, Report, pp. 10-11. 

+ The salt mines of the Punjab are worked by hereditary miners, 
who depend entirely on the salt mines for their livelihood. 

§ Labour Commission, Report, pp. 11-12. 


harvested, and where no great degree of skill is required, the 
workers are essentially agriculturists, most of whom, in fact, 
continue to live in their own homes.* In the collieries many 
of the aboriginal workers were attracted by the grant of land 
and live on colliery property, devoting a part of their time to 
agriculture ; whilst others live sufficiently close to the coal¬ 
fields to be able to return to their home for periods, long or 
short, when agricultural work is plentiful. Again, on the 
railways many gangmen live in villages near the permanent 
way and are apt to desert the line and return to the land at 
seed time and harvest. But it would be a mistake to suppose 
that the main industries of India are manned entirely by 
agricultural labourers who foresake the plough to add to their 
income by a brief spell of work in the city. The employer is 
no longer compelled to engage men who are prepared to work 
only for a few months in the year ; though the industrial 
exodus may be temporary, it is now prolonged. The true 
position is that most industrial labourers are at heart villagers, 
with a village upbringing and a village tradition. The great 
majority of them come from the agricultural classes, though 
some look back to village crafts rather than to village fields. 
But these emigrants, whether they be cultivators or artisans, 
look on their villages as their homes even though they have 
taken their families with them. All through their period of 
exile they nurse the hope of returning to their homes when their 
work is over, and do their best to maintain contact with them, 
even if the contact consists in nothing more than sending 
remittances to close relatives. It is only in a few centres, 
such as Ahmedabad, Nagpur, and Madras, that any large 
numbers of labourers have no ties with the village and look 
upon the city as their home—such folk as the Moslem weavers 
of Ahmedabad, and members of the depressed classes in all 
three centres, whose interest in the land was never substantial. 

15. What drives the villager to migrate to an industrial 
centre ? Poverty is the most potent cause. Over large parts 
of India there are already more persons on the land than are 
required to cultivate it, and in present conditions more than 
it can comfortably support.! There has always been a large 
class of landless labourers, earning a meagre living in good 
seasons and reduced to penury in bad ones, which is constantly 
receiving fresh recruits as the result of indebtedness, quarrels, 

* A large proportion of them are women. 

t Cf. Chapter I, para. 77. 


and the need or desire of a landlord to increase his own 
cultivation. Even among families which retain their holdings, 
individual members are frequently forced to abandon their 
ancestral occupation from such causes as a rise in rent, the 
growth of debt, or an increase of the family itself. Nor is 
economic pressure confined to agriculturists. The village 
craftsman feels the blast of competition from the factory. 
The textile mills employ many weavers whose families used 
to work on handlooms. The village leather-worker, the 
carpenter, and the blacksmith must transfer their allegiance 
to the rival which is supplanting them. Another potent cause 
of the migration from agriculture to industry is to be found in 
the serious social disabilities from which large strata of the 
population * * * § suffer ; these disabilities lose much of their force 
in the industrial areas, and those who suffer from them have 
shown themselves increasingly eager to take advantage of the 
freedom that industry offers. Lastly, the world of industry 
also offers a refuge to those who would escape from family 
conditions that have become intolerable, from the penalties 
of the law, or from the more severe penalties with which the 
caste visits offences against its moral and social code.f 

16. Whilst these causes explain the villager’s willingness 
to leave his village, they do not explain his anxiety to return 
to it, which the Labour Commission regarded as the most 
striking element in that migration. The chief cause is the 
deep attachment which every Indian peasant feels to his land, 
his home, and his family4 If he migrates elsewhere, then he 
must sever himself from the first two and probably from the 
third as well, for industrial employment suitable for women 
and children is scarce § and the problem of their maintenance 
can be solved more easily and more cheaply in the village than 
in the town. Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens uxor. Such 
migration, moreover, may involve complete change of environ¬ 
ment. The worker will often find himself amongst strangers, 
whose language, culture, and customs are all alien to him. 
His health will often suffer from changes of climate and diet. 

* I.e. the depressed classes. 

■f Cf. Chapter II, para. 31, on the weakening of caste authority and 
the means of escaping from it. 

% Cf. Chapter I, para. 79. 

§ Of all the workers in regulated factories, about six-sevenths are 
males over fifteen years of age ; the number of children is about 12.000, 
and is rapidly diminishing. , 


His sanitary habits may be fraught with peril in his new 
surroundings, yet cannot easily be altered. There are also 
other dangers from sickness and disease and from the new and 
insidious temptations of city life. His working hours are 
transformed; continuous labour under rigid discipline takes 
the place of spasmodic work with long hours of leisure. Lastly, 
the constant turnover of the labour force which, for these 
causes and others peculiar to Indian labour, occurs in most 
industries, prevents the establishment of personal and friendly 
relations with his employer. The driving force in industrial 
migration comes from the village end of the channel. The 
city, as such, has no attraction for villagers, and few of them 
would remain in industry if they could secure sufficient food 
and clothing in the village. They are pushed, not pulled, to 
the city. 

17. Contact with the village, however, has some sub¬ 
stantial advantages. Most industrial workers possess better 
physique than could be built up in many industrial centres. 
Holidays, which many workers can spend in their villages, are 
a great source of strength of mind and body. There is usually 
some kind of home to fall back on when need arises, and the 
benefits are not solely economic. Migration probably quickens 
the minds and enlarges the outlook of a far greater number of 
workers than it corrupts. The industrial worker brings to his 
village when he returns to it a new education, and helps to 
diffuse throughout the countryside a conception of liberty and 
independence that is new to village society. Whatever view 
may be taken of the distant future, it is not advisable that the 
most striking feature of Indian industrial conditions, the long- 
continued connexion of the industrial labourer * with the 
village, should be discouraged. 

Recruitment of Labour 

18. (a) Factories .—In the early days of Indian industrial 
development there was an acute shortage of labour, which was 
mainly due to the rapidity of that development, and employers 
had to seek their workers in the highways and byways. But 
this shortage is at an end and most managers of perennial 
factories can now obtain the workers they require at their own 
gates. In some factory industries, more especially engineering 
and metal works, labour contractors are still numerous, but 

* Labour Commission, Report, pp. 11-20. 


they are now not so much contractors as subordinate employees, 
whilst most of them also can secure labour at the factory gate. 
Nevertheless, though it is no longer necessary to go into the 
villages to secure labour, relatively few employers have yet 
assumed the responsibility for engaging their workers. The 
function is still left far too much to intermediaries and especially 
to jobbers, whose position in the Indian factory organization 
is one of its most striking features. 

19. The jobber, known in different parts of India by such 
names as sardar, mukaddam, or maistri* combines a number 
of functions. He is usually a promoted workman, with such 
a man’s limited education and outlook. His primary re¬ 
sponsibility is the supervision of labour; in a large factory 
there may be a hierarchy of such jobbers, f On occasion the 
jobber also acts as assistant mechanic and helps to keep the 
machines in running order ; it is he who gives the worker all 
the technical training he gets. He is the intermediary between 
the employers and workers. It is generally he whom the 
worker must approach to get a job or a transfer to a better 
one. It is to him that the employer goes when he wishes to 
notify changes to the workers or to acquire information 
regarding their needs and desires. The jobber has many 
temptations to make a financial profit out of his duties, and 
only too often yields to them. Such abuses are all the more 
easily perpetrated because so many of those responsible for 
management have an insufficient knowledge of the vernaculars 
and in talking to their workers must rely on the jobbers as 
interpreters. When jobbers are in the habit of exacting a 
bribe on all fresh engagements, it is in their interest to secure 
that such engagements are numerous—which explains that 
remarkably large turnover in many Indian factories which has 
already been mentioned.£ 

20. In the rice mills, which were formerly classed as 
seasonal factories, but are now mostly classed as perennial, 
the bulk of the male labour is engaged through maistris or 
contractors, and may move from mill to mill as work offers, 
often returning to the villages at harvest or other times. In 

* A corrupt form of mistri, meaning, literally, artificer or mechanic. 

t Such a hierarchy would include women overseers for the depart¬ 
ments staffed by women, such as the rolling and winding and waste-picking 
departments of the cotton mills, and the sack-sewing departments of the 
jute mills. 

+ See Labour Commission, Report, pp. 21-4. 


other seasonal factories the practice varies. In cotton-ginning 
and pressing factories, labour is predominantly local, and is 
generally engaged directly by the manager ; but in some 
cases, particularly in the Punjab, a labour contractor is 
employed who engages workers by the day. In the jute presses 
all labour is employed and paid through contractors, who 
undertake to work at a fixed rate per bale. The workers 
receive advances, which are small if they belong to the locality, 
but substantial if they are recruited from distant places.* 

21. (b) Mines and quarries .—Although collieries,' like 
perennial factories, have now less difficulty in securing labour 
than they had in the past, many workers must still be engaged 
at a distance, and colliery proprietors must still spend, directly 
or indirectly, substantial funds on recruiting, which is carried 
on in several different ways. In some cases the management 
sends out recruiters of its own. In other cases a contractor 
is engaged to supply labourers who will be employed and paid 
by the management. Occasionally, a sariar , himself a miner, 
will bring a gang of his own men to the mine and make himself 
responsible for the work that his gang undertakes. But the 
commonest method is to employ a “ raising contractor,” who 
receives a fixed payment per ton in return for which he not 
only supplies labourers but also mines the coal and loads it 
into wagons. In all these systems the procedure of securing 
recruits is much the same. The recruiter or his agent visits 
a village, usually one with which he has a regular connexion, 
makes advances, pays railway fares, and brings the workers 
to the coalfields. But an increasing number of labourers, 
many of them from long distances, are now finding their own 
way to the coalfield without the assistance of a recruiter, and 
frequently return year after year to the same min e f 

22. (c) Railways .—The railway labour force falls into 
three main classes, and the method of recruiting each differs. 
The gangmen on the permanent way are recruited in neigh¬ 
bouring villages by the permanent-way inspectors, who also 
select semi-skilled workers ; whilst skilled artisans are usually 
recruited by works subordinates. The unskilled staff in the 
stations and goods-sheds are recruited by station-masters and 
traffic inspectors, whilst skilled hands are recruited by senior 
subordinates. The workshop labourers are usually engaged by 

* Labour Commission, Report, pp. 76-9. 

t Labour Commission, Report, p. 116. 


works managers on the recommendation of foremen. Semi¬ 
skilled workmen are usually selected for promotion if they have 
acquired experience in the unskilled ranks, and some ultimately 
develop into skilled workmen ; but most of these last are men 
who have been trained in particular trades or, to a smaller but 
ever increasing extent, are apprentices who have undergone 
workshop training of four to six years. 

23. (d) Docks .—The demand for dock labour is inter¬ 
mittent, depending on the arrival and departure of ships, the 
size and nature of the cargo, and the monsoon. The port 
authorities accordingly maintain a permanent establishment, 
but most of the labour employed in loading and unloading is 
casual, being engaged by stevedores or other contractors as 

24. (e) Plantations .—On the plantations labour has always 
been recruited from a distance ; and the transfer of a constant 
stream of families, many of them drawn from aboriginal 
tribes, presented administrative difficulties from the outset. 
The recruiting was in the hands of professional contractors, 
who were ready to use undesirable devices to secure the large 
rewards obtainable for the supply of labour. As a result of a 
long series of enactments which began as early as 1863, a 
system was eventually evolved under which recruitment was 
entrusted entirely to emissaries, themselves labourers, sent 
out from the gardens ; but though it largely eradicated the 
former abuses, it did not remove the difficulty of securing an 
adequate supply of labour. Accordingly, in 1932, legislation 
of a new type was passed, namely the Tea Districts Emigrant 
Labour Act (XII of 1932). Control of recruitment has been 
reduced to the minimum necessary to prevent abuses. In 
any area from which emigration is declared to be “ controlled,” 
recruitment may only be carried on by approved employing 
interests under license, and subject to various restrictions 
designed to prevent misrepresentation and to secure the comfort 
of the recruit on the journey. Any such “ controlled emigra¬ 
tion area ” may be notified a “ restricted recruiting area,” * 
in which there is stricter control, whilst recruitment can only 
be carried on by tea-garden labourers or licensed recruiting 
agents. The Act also contains provisions to safeguard the 
health of those recruited, to protect women and children, to 

* No controlled emigration area has yet been notified a restricted 
recruiting area. 



secure to all emigrants and their families a right of repatria¬ 
tion, which normally accrues after three years’ service, and to 
punish offences. The Act is administered by a Controller 
of Emigrant Labour, whose special duty it is to supervise 
emigration from the recruiting areas and to watch over the 
labourers after they reach the gardens. This officer has so 
far been a member of the Indian Civil Service, with head¬ 
quarters at Shillong. The Director of Public Health in Assam 
is also empowered to inspect plantations. 

Industrial Legislation 

25. Regulated factories .—The welfare of workers in regulated 
factories, both perennial and seasonal, is governed by the 
Factories Act XXV of 1934, the last of a series of similar Acts 
of which the first was passed in 1881.* It is a consolidated 
measure which replaces all former legislation. It regulates 
working hours, and lays down in considerable detail the 
measures which the employer must take to ensure the health 
and safety of his employees. In all these respects it is more 
favourable to the latter than former legislation. And it is 
worthy of mention that, in the opinion of Mr. Harold Butler, 
the Director of the International Office, the conditions pre¬ 
vailing in large-scale industry in India do not compare un¬ 
favourably with those in many European countries, and the 
regulation of working conditions in large factories is perhaps 
more advanced than in any other Asiatic country, f 

26. The adult’s working hours are limited in perennial 
factories to ten hours per day and fifty-four $ hours per week, 
and in seasonal factories to eleven hours per day for men and 
ten hours for women, with a weekly figure of sixty hours. 
Every adult must have a whole holiday on Sunday, unless he 
has had or will have a holiday on one of the three days 
immediately preceding or immediately following any parti¬ 
cular Sunday.§ No adult may work for longer than six hours 

* The other Acts were passed in 1891, 1911, and 1922. The present 
Act was amended in 1935, 1936, and 1937, but the amendments are of 
minor importance. 

t Harold Butler, Problems of Industry in the East, with special reference to 
India, French India, Ceylon, Malaya, and the Netherland Indies, 1938, pp. 10-11. 

+ This period is extended to fifty-six hours if a factory is engaged in 
any continuous process. 

§ This enables the substitution for a Sunday of one of the numerous 
Hindu or Muhammadan holidays. 


before he has had an interval for rest of at least one hour ; 
nor may his hours be spread over more than thirteen hours 
without the special permission of the provincial Government. 
For women, this period must ordinarily run from 6 a.m. to 
7 p.m., though the provincial Government may vary these 
limits to any span of thirteen hours between 5 a.m. and 
7.30 p.m.—a provision which ensures to every woman a full 
night’s rest. In special circumstances the provincial Govern¬ 
ment may modify all these restrictions except the woman’s 
daily limit of ten hours; whilst it has also power to control 
or prohibit the use of overlapping shifts. 

27. Nobody under the age of twelve years may be 
employed at all; and nobody under the age of seventeen 
years may be employed unless he has been medically certified 
as fit for employment. Between the ages of twelve and fourteen, 
both inclusive, the worker is a “ child ” : his hours are limited 
to five per day ; they may not be spread over more than 
seven-and-a-half hours, and must fall between the same times 
as in the case of women. A worker of fifteen or sixteen years 
of age is an “ adolescent ” : he can be engaged as an adult 
if he is medically certified to be fit for adult employment, but 
otherwise he can only be employed on the conditions applying 
to a child. The provincial Government has power to lay down 
physical standards to which children and adolescents must 

28. In the interests of the worker’s health the Act provides 
for the cleanliness of the factory, for its ventilation and lighting, 
for a sufficient supply of drinking water, latrines, and urinals, 
and for the prevention of overcrowding. In respect of tem¬ 
perature and humidification, matters of great concern in a 
tropical climate, it lays down that the true criterion of danger 
and discomfort is not the humidity but the cooling power, which 
is dependent conjointly on the temperature of the air, 
its humidity, and its movement. Employers are also obliged 
to protect their workers from inhaling gas, dust, and other 
impurities that may be generated in the course of work, and 
to provide them with water for washing wherever they come 
in contact with injurious or obnoxious substances. In all these 
matters the provincial Governments have power to prescribe 
methods, standards, and patterns. They can also insist on 
the provision of first-aid boxes; of creches for the use of young 
children wherever more than fifty women are employed ; of 
adequate shelters for use during periods of rest wherever there 


are more than 150 workers ; and they can prohibit the 
admission to specified classes of factories of children who 
cannot be lawfully employed there. For the safety of the 
workers, the Act makes full provision for the fencing of dan¬ 
gerous machinery and for precautions against fire, including 
suitable exits and means of escape. The provincial Govern¬ 
ment may make rules to protect workers from various industrial 
hazards, to prohibit the employment of women or children in 
hazardous processes,* and to regulate the working of transport 
within factories. Finally, the penalties prescribed by the Act 
for offences relating to working hours and holidays and the 
employment of women, adolescents, and children have been 
increased considerably, and there is now a minimum penalty 
laid down for convictions after the first. 

29. Unregulated factories .—As has been stated above, no 
central legislation has yet been passed to govern unregulated 
factories. The Central Provinces legislature, however, in 
1937, passed an Unregulated Factories Act. This Act applies 
to workshops employing fifty or more persons and engaged in 
the manufacture of bidis, shellac manufacture, and the tanning 
of leather—all of them industries to which the Labour Com¬ 
mission had drawn pointed attention ; but it can also be 
extended to other industries and to workshops employing as 
few as twenty-five persons. It goes further than the Com¬ 
mission’s proposals in some respects, notably in providing for 
the limitation of hours for adult workers, f 

30. Mines .—As the Factories Act of 1934 is the charter 
of workers in factories, so is the Indian Mines (Amendment) 
Act of 1935 the charter of workers in mines. It is the last of a 
series of Acts, of which the first was passed in 1901,+ each of 
which was more favourable to the worker than its predecessor. 
Under the present Act the working hours above ground are 
the same as in perennial factories under the Factories Act, 
namely ten hours per day and fifty-four per week. Below 

* Instances of such are: work with rubber solutions and soluble 
chromium compounds ; cellulose spraying ; sand blasting ; operations 
relating to the manufacture and use of chemicals and explosives ; certain 
glass-making, lead, ceramic, and cement processes ; the handling of wool, 
hair, bristles, hides, and skins. The oiling and cleaning of machinery 
when in motion under power is prohibited to women and children under 
the Act itself, and in certain cases may be altogether prohibited by the 
provincial Governments. 

t Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, pp. go-i. 

+ Other Acts were passed in 1923 and 1928. 


ground there is only a daily limit of nine hours ; but this 
limit is applied to the relay (or shift), and not merely to the 
individual. The result is that for the average worker, the time 
elapsing between his leaving the surface and his emerging 
again is nearer eight hours than nine, which period includes 
not only his hours of work but also the time spent in finding his 
way from the surface to the working place, and from the 
working place back to the surface. The age-limit for child 
workers has been raised from thirteen to fifteen years, whilst 
it is also provided, as in the Factories Act, that no person 
between the ages of fifteen and seventeen may be employed 
below ground unless he has been medically certified as fit for 
such work. 

31. In 1928 women formed nearly 30 per cent, of the^' 
labour force employed underground in coal mines. Under 
the Act of that year, however. Government made regulations 
which (1) prohibited the employment of women underground 
in all mines except those in the principal coalfields and the 
salt mines of the Punjab ; and (2) provided for an annual 
reduction in the exempted mines of the number of women 
thus employed, in such a manner that by 1939 the employ¬ 
ment of women should cease altogether. The process, how¬ 
ever, was completed by 1936, two years earlier than the time 
originally appointed. 

32. The Mines Act of 1901 had provided for the establish¬ 
ment of Mining Boards for the consideration of proposed 
legislation, the settlement of disputes between inspectors and 
owners regarding by-laws, and the consideration of such cases 
as were referred to them instead of to a court of inquiry. The 
Act of 1935 gives the workers the same number of representa¬ 
tives on these boards as the employers, namely two, and 
provides that these should be nominated by registered trade 
unions if they include a substantial proportion of the miners. 

It was also laid down that courts of inquiry, when appointed 
to enquire into accidents, should invariably publish their 

33. Further mining Acts have been passed, in 1936 and 
1937, to deal -with the growing danger from fires and explosions. 
These give the Government of India power to promulgate 
temporary regulations relating to safety in mines without 
previous notice or publication, and enlarge both the field 
that can be covered by such regulations, and the powers 


of the inspectorate to issue safety orders applicable to individual 
mines. They also provide for the formation of central rescue 
stations when required, for the establishment of rescue station 
committees, and for the levy of a cess to finance them.* 

34. Railways .—The International Labour Conference f at 
Washington in 1919 adopted a Convention relating to hours 
of work, which was ratified by India in 1921, and prescribed 
for India that the principle of a sixty-hour week should be 
adopted in factories, mines, and also “ in branches of railway 
work especially specified for this purpose by the competent 
authority.” The Conference of ig2i at Geneva adopted a 
similar Convention relating to a weekly period of rest, which 
was ratified in 1923. These Conventions have been operative 
for some years in respect of railway workshops and railway 
collieries, which come under the Factories and Mines Acts 
respectively ; but there were practical difficulties in extending 
them to other branches of railway activity, and it was only in 
1930 that an Act was passed under which statutory rules were 
made to give effect to them. These rules have since been 
made, and have been applied to all the state-managed railways, 
but so far only to three company-managed railways, namely 
the Bombay, Baroda, and Central India, the Madras and 
Southern Mahratta, and the Bengal and North-Western 
- railways.^; On the whole the conditions of labour are more 
satisfactory on railways than in factories and mines : the wage 
rates are higher, the rules regarding the grant of holidays and 
leave are more liberal. Because of these attractions not only 
is a better type of applicant available for railway service, but 
the supply of applicants is generally in excess of the demand. 

35. Docks .—In the docks of Madras the hours of work are 
eleven per day, with an hour’s recess; in all other ports they 
are limited to nine hours a day, as recommended by the Labour 
Commission. The provincial Governments, under the pro¬ 
visions of the Indian Ports (Amendment) Act of 1931, have 
prohibited the employment of children under twelve on the 

* Indian Labour Legislation, 1532-37, pp. 30-34. 

t India is a member of the International Labour Organization, the 
headquarters of which are at Geneva : she is entitled to send a delegation 
consisting of representatives of Government employers and workers to the 
annual International Labour Conference; and has a permanent seat on 
the governing body of the International Labour Office. 

t Labour Commission, Report, pp. 156-7 ; and Report on the action 
taken on the recommendations of the Labour Commission, 1936, p. 6. The rules 
were applied to the Bengal and North-Western Railway in 1937. 


handling of goods ; but the Labour Commission’s recommenda¬ 
tion that the age should be raised to fourteen, though accepted 
in principle by the Government of India, has not yet been 
implemented. The safety of dock-workers has been secured 
by the Indian Dock Labourers Act XIX of 1934, under which 
an extensive code of rules is being framed, providing for the 
maintenance of safe approaches over wharves, docks and 
quays, of safe means of access to ships, for the rendering of first- 
aid in cases of accident, for testing lifting machinery and for 
reporting accidents.* 

36. General labour legislation, (a) Workmen’s compensation .— 
Until 1923 no compensation was due to any workman, or to 
his dependants, except in the case of death. The first Work¬ 
men’s Compensation Act was passed in 1923, and recognized 
the right of compensation in all cases of personal injury by 
accident arising out of and in the course of employment, and 
in all cases of the contraction of specified industrial diseases. 
It covered ten classes of workmen, including all those employed 
in factories, mines, and docks, and most railway workers. 
The scope of the Act was greatly enlarged by the Amending 
Act XV of 1933. The existing classes were widened and new 
classes were added, notably workers in plantations and on 
ships of all nationalities whilst within territorial waters. The 
Act has also been extended by notification to workers engaged 
in certain hazardous occupations, connected mainly with 
forest work. It is now estimated to cover about 6,000,000 
workers, against the 4,000,000 covered by the previous Act. 
The scales of compensation have also been improved. For 
death the amount payable, which formerly ranged from Rs. 240 
to Rs. 2,500, now ranges from Rs. 500 to Rs. 4,000. For 
permanent total disablement, the figures are now from 
Rs. 700 to Rs. 5,600, against former figures of Rs. 336 and 
Rs. 3,500. The rates for temporary disablement have also 
been improved, especially at the lower end of the scale ; whilst 
the number of diseases is constantly being increased by 
notification.! As it was clear that workmen and their depen¬ 
dants had not been fully aware of their rights, the Act of 1933 

* Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, pp. 3-4. 

t The diseases are such as lead or phosphorous poisoning, benzine 
poisoning, and chrome ulceration. See Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, 
pp. 45—51. A further widening of the classes and additions to the diseases 
were made by an amending Act passed in March, 1938. For the rates, 
see p. 406. 


laid on employers the obligation of reporting fatal accidents 
to the Compensation Commissioner, who would then inform 
the dependants ; whilst it also enlarged the list of dependants 
and relieved them of the need for approaching the employer 
before filing an application for compensation. 

(b) Payment of wages .—In perennial factories and on the 
railways the most usual- method by which an employer en¬ 
deavours to maintain efficiency and discipline is the imposition 
of fines,* and though the total loss of wages by fines was 
nowhere large and in all but a few centres was extremely small, 
yet the method was obviously liable to abuse, especially when 
the fines in cotton textile mills took the form of handing over 
to the weaver any cloth from his loom which he had spoilt in 
the course of manufacture, and deducting from his wages its 
wholesale selling price, f Accordingly in 1936, the Payment 
of Wages Act was passed to regulate this system, and also to fix 
the periods for and to prevent delays in the payment of wages. J 
It applies to employees on a pay of Rs.200 (£15) per mensem 
or less : and in tide first instance only to factories and railways, 
though it can be extended by notification to mines, plantations, 
workshops, docks, oil-fields, and various transport services. 
According to the usual .practice in Indian industrial establish¬ 
ments, the maximum wage period is one month.§ Payment 
must ordinarily be made within seven days of the end of the 
wage period, and within two days when an employee is dis¬ 
charged. Payments in kind are prohibited. The Act pro¬ 
hibits fining of children and the recovery of fines by instal¬ 
ments, and limits the maximum fine in any month to half an 
anna in the rupee of the worker’s earnings.[| The Act also 
lays down that fines may only be imposed for specified acts or 
omissions, of which a list must be posted for the information 
of the workers ; whilst the sums received in fines must be 
spent on some object, approved by competent authority, which 
is beneficial to the employees as a whole. Deductions from 
wages for damage to goods or loss of money are specifically 

* This method is much less common in mines and practically unknown 
in plantations. 

f Labour Commission, Report, pp. 216-7. 

t This Act (IV of 1936) broke entirely new ground, for the only 
previous law in these respects was the obsolete Employers’ and Workmen’s 
(Disputes) Act of i860, which was repealed in 1932. 

§ The Labour Co mm ission proposed weekly payments, but public 
opinion was adverse to the change and the proposal was dropped. 

|| This is equivalent to 3^ per cent. See p. 406. 


limited to cases in which the goods or money were given to 
the employee in a fiduciary capacity and the damage or loss 
was directly due to his neglect or default. Deductions are 
also permitted for housing provided by the employer, and 
for such other services as may be approved by Government, 
but not deductions for tools and raw materials. Deductions 
on account of advances given before employment begins are 
prohibited, unless these are made from the first wage-payment; 
and no advances for travelling expenses can be recovered. 
Subject to rules made by Government, an employer is able to 
recover up to eight days’ wages where workmen collectively 
absent themselves without reasonable cause; whilst an 
Amending Act (XXII of 1937) enables employers to withhold 
pay from workers who, although present, unreasonably refuse 
to work. This is specially aimed at “ stay-in ” strikes.* 

(c) Indebtedness .—Indebtedness takes a high place among 
the causes responsible for the low standard of living of the 
Indian worker. According to the estimate of the Labour 
Commission at least two-thirds of all industrial workers are 
in debt, most of them for a sum exceeding three months’ 
wages. The rate of interest usually charged is 1 anna per 
rupee per month or 75 per cent, per annum. The main 
causes of indebtedness are social and religious ceremonies, 
as is also the case with the peasantry ; and unemployment due 
to sickness, dismissal, strikes, lock-outs, and trade depressions, f 
The Commission recommended that an attempt should be 
made to remedy the evil b reducing the worker’s borrowing 
capacity, and in pursuance of that recommendation the Code 
of Civil Procedure has been twice amended. By Act XVI 
of 1936 imprisonment for debt was abolished, except where 
recalcitrance or fraud was proved. Act IX of 1937 dealt with 
the recovery of debts through employers. In the case of 
servants of Government, of local bodies, and of the railways, 
whose pay exceeded a certain minimum, the law formerly 
allowed decree-holders to secure the attachment in advance 
of any sum up to one-half of the judgment-debtors’ salaries ; 
and there were many cases of such attachment. The new 
Act of 1937 has greatly modified these provisions. In the case 
of all workers, by whomsoever employed, drawing not more 
than Rs.ioo (£7 10 s.) per mensem, attachment is prohibited. 
In the case of employees of Government, local bodies, and 

* Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, pp. 35-9- 

| Labour Commission, Report, pp. 224-9. 


railways on higher pay than Rs.ioo, attachment is prohibited 
in respect of the first Rs.ioo and of one-half the remainder. 
No attachment in respect of the same decree or decrees may 
last for longer than twenty-four months in all, and when that 
period is over, there can be no further attachment till another 
twelve months have passed.* * * § 

37. The Central Provinces legislature has led the way 
in carrying out the recommendations of the Labour Com¬ 
mission regarding the liquidation of debt, by passing the 
Adjustment and Liquidation of Industrial Workers’ Debt 
Act (V of 1936). Like most measures of the kind its provisions 
are complicated, and a brief account of it will suffice. A 
workman whose debt exceeds the value of his assets plus a 
sum equivalent to three months’ wages f can, by setting this 
Act in motion cause his debts to be scaled down by a court 
to a sum that he can pay in a reasonable time. The court 
has power to examine his debt transactions, and to reject such 
as appear to it unfair ; to reduce usurious rates of interest, 
and in particular to disallow any aggregation of interest to a 
sum exceeding the principal; J to liquidate the debts thus 
adjusted, in the first place by realization of the assets, and in 
respect of any remaining balance by assigning to the creditors 
for a period that may not exceed three years a total sum, which 
varies from one-sixth of the debtor’s monthly wage if he has 
two or more dependants, to one-third if he has none. 

38. There are many moneylenders who, for the recovery 
of their debts, prefer to resort to methods of violence and 
intimidation rather than to the processes of law. Armed with 
lathis, they are often seen waiting outside the factory gates on 
pay-day, ready to pounce on their debtors as they emerge. 
The Central Provinces Protection of Debtors Act (IV of 1937) 
makes molestation for the recovery of a debt punishable, and 
includes in the term obstruction, violence, intimidation, 
persistent following of the debtor, and loitering at or near his 
residence or place of work. An Act of the same character, 
though more limited in scope, has been passed in Bengal, 
namely the Bengal Workmen’s Protection Act, IV of i935-§ 

* Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, pp. 17-18. 

t The term in the Act is “ average income ” from all sources. In 
practice, however, average income would generally mean average wages. 

% This is according to an old principle of Hindu law, known as 

§ Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, pp. 16-22. 

Trade Unions and Trade Disputes 

39. Trade unionism in India has had a short and chequered 
history. As early as the eighties of the last century efforts 
were made to organize the mill hands of Bombay in support of 
proposals for labour legislation, and in 1890 a Millhands’ 
Association was formed.* But this did not survive, and prior 
to the War organization scarcely extended beyond the better 
paid railway employees and some classes of government 
servants. The grave economic difficulties and the political 
turmoil of the years immediately following the end of the War 
led to the formation of a large number of trade organizations. 
Most of these disappeared when conditions returned to normal, 
but some, more genuine than the rest, survived, and in spite 
of local checks and universal handicaps, others were steadily 
added to them. The Trade Unions Act of 1926 f marks an 
important stage in the history of the movement. The principal 
difference between that Act and similar legislation in Great 
Britain and the Dominions is that it applies only to those 
unions which seek registration under it, which registration is 
voluntary. Registered unions incur certain obligations : the. 
most important are that they must confine their expenditure 
to trade union objects; they must furnish audited accounts; 
whilst not less than one-half of their executive officers must be 
actual workers. On the other hand, registration confers on 
trade unions and their officers a certain measure of immunity 
from civil suits and criminal prosecutions. 

40. It is difficult to assess the present-day strength of the 
movement because unions vary greatly in form and character. 
At the bottom of the scale are those unions which possess few 
members other than their office-bearers, who find this the 
easiest way of placing themselves in the public eye. Such 
unions, however, are less numerous than they formerly were, 
especially in Bengal. Next come the ad hoc unions—organiza¬ 
tions designed to secure some definite and immediate object, 
which either dissolve or lapse into a state of suspended anima¬ 
tion when they have achieved, or failed to achieve, the purpose 
for which they were formed. But most unions are now per¬ 
manent and regular organizations. The railways, including 
railway workshops and transport workers, provided about 
150,000 of the 270,000 members ofunions registered in 1935-36, 

* By Mr. N. M. Lokhande, the first of India’s labour leaders. For 
the pre-War period, see Anstey’s Economic Development of India, pp. 314-15. 

f This Act came into force on January 1st, 1927. 


whilst seamen provided another 26,700. Textile unions have 
been slow to organize and register, and their membership in 
1935-36 was small, below that of the seamen’s unions.* The 
movement in Madras began in 1918, when the Madras Labour 
Union, consisting of workers of the Buckingham and Carnatic 
Mills, came into existence ; and Madras still remains a focus 
of trade union activity. In Ahmedabad the workers, with the 
exception of the Moslem weavers, are organized into groups 
of craft unions, which participate in a common federal associa¬ 
tion called the Textile Labour Association.! Elsewhere the 
tendency is to organize by individual factories, and not by 
occupations. Mining workers are poorly organized and 
plantation workers not at all. If one judges purely by figures 
of membership in the unions making returns, trade unions 
are strongest in Bengal, the Punjab, and Bombay,! but the 
figures are heavily weighted by the membership of the railway 
unions ; and outside that field, it is probably as true today 
as it was when the Labour Commission reported, that trade 
unionism is strongest in Bombay and weakest, having regard 
to the potentialities, in Bengal.§ 

41. There are various obstacles to the development of 
trade unions in India. Amongst them are the migratory 
nature of labour ; the desire of many workers to escape, sooner 
or later, from industry ; the poverty of the average worker, 
to whom a small subscription is frequently an appreciable 
burden ; differences of race and language ; and sometimes 
the active opposition of the jobbers. Even more fundamental 
difficulties are the ignorance of the workers and their conse¬ 
quent exploitation by politicians. India has still to produce 
trade union leaders such as have made trade unionism in Great 
Britain both powerful and respected. “ They do not realize 
that the functions of a trade union leader differ widely from 
those of a leader of a labour community ; ” || that his business 
is not to destroy the present capitalistic system but to do the 
best that he can for labour within it. Communists in and 
outside India have made strenuous efforts to capture the 
movement, not without success ; the labour troubles in 

* Note on the working of the Indian Trade Unions Act during 1935-36, p. 4. 

t For a description of this association, see A. Mukhtar’s Trade Unionism 
and Labour Disputes in India, Chapter IV. 

2 Labour Commission, Report, pp. 317-21. 

§ Note on the working of the Trade Unions Act, jgs6, p. 3. 

|| A. Mukhtar, op. cit., p. v. 


Bombay in 1928, for instance, are supposed to have been 
fomented by communist propaganda. Dissensions in the 
labour ranks came to a head at the end of 1929. Most of 
those unions which were under the more experienced and 
responsible leaders seceded from the old All-India Trade 
Union Congress, which came into being in 1920, and formed 
themselves into the All-India Trade Unions Federation. In 
May, 1931, the All-India Railwaymen’s Federation tried to 
bring the two bodies together at a unity conference which was 
convened in Bombay. This conference, however, was unable 
to frame a constitution for an amalgamated organization which 
would prove acceptable to both parties; and yet another body, 
the National Federation of Labour, was formed. In 1933, 
however, this body and the old All-India Trade Unions 
Federation were amalgamated under the name of the 
National Trade Unions Federation, which is now the largest 
and most representative labour organization in India.* 

42. Another obstacle to the development of trade unionism 
is the unwillingness of employers to recognize unions, for which 
there are various reasons—that the members are only a minority 
of the workers concerned ; that other unions are already in 
existence ; that outsiders have been introduced into the 
executive ; that the unions have declined to dismiss obnoxious 
office bearers ; or that they are not registered under the Act. 
Following a recommendation of the Labour Commission, 
Government has set an example by issuing revised rules in¬ 
tended to facilitate the recognition of the unions of their own 
non-industrial employees, and by encouraging them to-secure 
registration. | 

43. Trade unions in India have almost exclusively con¬ 
fined their activities to securing concessions from employers, 
and few of them have done anything in the way of mutual 
help. The Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association has shown 
what can be achieved in that direction, in spite of the difficulty 
of raising any appreciable subscription from Indian workers. 
Its elaborate range of welfare work includes the maintenance 
of a savings bank, a hospital, a number of educational institu¬ 
tions, and circulating libraries. It has also purchased land on 
which it has built model tenements for workers.J 

* A. Mukhtar, op. at., Chapter V. 

•f Report regarding administrative action taken by Governments on the Labour 
Commission’s recommendations, 1936, p. 16. 

$ A. Mukhtar, op. cit.. Chapter IV. 


44- Trade disputes .—Closely connected with the question 
of trade unions is that of trade disputes. These reached their 
maximum in 1928, when there were 203 disputes involving 
over half a million workers and the loss of nearly 22 million 
working days. The strikes of that year showed a remarkable 
increase in picketing and intimidation, sometimes resulting 
in violence and bloodshed, whilst the influence of extremist 
leaders was apparent in a resort to lightning strikes without 
any indication being given of the nature of the workers’ 
grievances. After 1928 there was a striking decrease in in¬ 
dustrial unrest, and in 1935 less than one million working 
days were lost by some 134,000 workers. There were several 
causes for this decline. Firstly, the appointment of the Labour 
Commission and the publication of its report was followed by 
a period of intense legislative and administrative activity on 
the part of the central and provincial Governments, designed 
to improve the lot of the worker and to promote industrial 
peace. Secondly, there was a substantial fall in the cost of 
living, coupled with the rise in “ real ” wages resulting from 
the time-lag and other causes. A third factor was a marked 
reduction in the activity of extremist leaders.* For some 
months past, however, another wave of industrial unrest has 
been sweeping India. It is probably due in part to a rise in 
prices, in part to the desire of labour—or at all events of labour 
leaders—to take advantage of the opportunities presented by 
the inauguration of democratic government in the provinces. 

45. Trade disputes legislation .—The investigation and settle¬ 
ment of trade disputes are governed by the Trade Disputes 
Act of 1929. The machinery which it provides takes the form 
either of a court of inquiry or a board of conciliation. The 
court is intended to investigate and report on such questions 
connected with the dispute as may be referred to it by Govern¬ 
ment ; the board is intended to secure if possible a settlement 
of the dispute. The object of both is to utilize public opinion 
in order to prevent or shorten industrial disputes. The Act 
penalizes lightning strikes and lock-outs in public utility 
services, and declares illegal any strike or lock-out which seeks 
to further any object other than a trade dispute within the 
industry to which the strikers or employers belong, or to coerce 
Government by inflicting hardship on the community. The 
life of the Act was restricted to five years, but it was made 

* Industrial Disputes in India, 1929-36, pp. 2-4. 


permanent by Act XIII of 1934. An amending Act passed 
in April, 1938, empowers provincial Governments to make 
permanent or temporary appointments of conciliation officers, 
whose duty it will be to mediate in trade disputes and to 
promote their settlement. These officers may be appointed 
for particular areas or particular industries and are given 
powers of entry and inspection. The amending Act also 
extends the definition of public utility service to tramways 
and inland steamer services. 

46. This amending Act has been anticipated in some 
respects by the Bombay Trade Disputes Conciliation Act, 
which was passed in x 934. It at present applies only to Bombay 
city and its suburbs, and only to the textile industry, but can 
be extended to other parts of the presidency and to other 
industries. It provides for two appointments : first of a labour 
officer, whose primary duty is to watch the interests of workmen 
with a view to promoting harmonious relations between 
employers and workmen, and to obtain redress of their 
grievances; and secondly, of “ conciliators,” whose primary 
duty is to enquire into and settle disputes. The Commissioner 
of Labour is the Chief Conciliator, but Special Conciliators 
may also be appointed for particular areas, whilst Assistant 
Conciliators can be appointed as required. Conciliators have 
power to institute proceedings either on application or on their 
own motion, to compel employers to appoint delegates to such 
proceedings, to enforce attendance and the production of 
documents, to take evidence, and to enter premises. If the 
workmen do not appoint delegates to conciliation proceedings 
when requested to do so by the Conciliator, the Labour Officer 
is required to act as their delegate. Thus the Act not only 
secures conciliation by official agency, but provides for the 
official advocacy of workmen’s interests, both in formal and 
informal dealings with employers.* 

47. Due in no small measure to the personalities of the 
two Labour Officers so far appointed,! the Act has worked both 
smoothly and effectively, and deserves to be widely imitated. 
Somewhat similar machinery, which is at present in the experi¬ 
mental stage, has recently been set up for railways by executive 
orders. A Conciliation Officer has been appointed with head- 

* Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, pp. 23-27. 

t The first was a member of the Indian Civil Service ; the second of 
the Indian Police. 


quarters at Calcutta. His duty is to establish, contact with the 
administrations of the East Indian and Eastern Bengal railways, 
with recognized trade unions of railway workers, and with 
other committees and similar bodies which are concerned with 
the relations between the administrations and their employees. 
He is also responsible for endeavouring to settle trade disputes 
and to maintain harmonious relations between employers and 
employed. Ultimately, an Industrial Advisory Board, con¬ 
sisting of three members, will be set up ; it will deal with 
disputes referred to it by the Conciliation Officer in which he 
has failed to secure a settlement, and report its decision to the 
Railway Board or the agent concerned. 


48. The Labour Commission in their report draw a vivid 
picture of the miserable conditions in which industrial labour 
is too often housed. In most industrial centres the growth 
of population has outstripped the available accommodation, 
with the result that congestion and overcrowding are common, 
sanitation is neglected, and the paucity of latrines enhances 
the pollution of air and soil. Houses often lack plinths, 
windows, or ventilation ; and except in Bombay, where lack 
of space has given birth to the chawl, they usually consist of a 
single small room into which the only entrance is a doorway 
so low that a man must often stoop to enter it. Chawls in 
Bombay are tenement houses, three or four stories high, with 
at least one family and occasionally more residing in each 

49. Housing in the mining areas presents special difficulties. 
There is a shortage of sites possessing solid foundations, due 
to the subsidences which frequently result from underground 
work. Again, miners who come from the same village or 
group of neighbouring villages prefer to crowd together in the 
rooms of one block even though more accommodation is 
available elsewhere; whilst those who work in different 
shifts often arrange to live in the same set of rooms alternately. 
In 1915-16 the Governments of Bengal and Bihar established 
boards of health for the Asansol area in the Raniganj field 
and for the Jharia field respectively ; but though these boards 
have devoted much attention to the' housing of labour in the 
mining areas the conditions, for the reasons given, are still 

* Labour Commission, Report, pp. 270-4. 


far from satisfactory. The companies usually provide rent- 
free houses, but though these are made of brick and cement 
concrete, they are seldom fitted with windows, and are there¬ 
fore dark and badly ventilated. As in the factory areas, 
sanitary arrangements and latrine accommodation are both 
inadequate.* On the plantations it is the usual custom for 
employers to provide rent-free houses for their resident 
labourers at their own expense, without assistance from 
Government or any other public or private agency. Though 
the housing conditions are better than in other industrial 
areas, yet even in the plantations plinths are seldom provided, 
space is often insufficient, and light and ventilation are often 
entirely ignored, f It is clear from this account that the 
housing problem, perhaps more than any other of the problems 
relating to the welfare of industrial labour, demands more 
attention than it has yet received, whether from Government, 
the local authorities, or the employers. Of the three, the 
employers, or at all events a section of them, are the least open 
to criticism. They have done most, though their responsibility 
is the smallest. The one bright spot in the gloomy picture, 
according to the Labour Commission, is that in a number of 
centres the more progressive employers have made an effort 
to provide housing. The quality of that housing may vary 
greatly, but nevertheless the worst accommodation provided 
by employers is almost everywhere better than the best alterna¬ 
tive accommodation available. The Commission recom¬ 
mended that the Land Acquisition Act should be amended to 
enable industrial concerns to secure land for the housing of 
their employees. This recommendation was carried out by 
the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, XVI of 1923, which 
provides for the acquisition of land not only for workmen’s 
dwelling-houses, but also for the provision of amenities con¬ 
nected with housing, j 

Unorganized Industries 

50. No survey of the problems of industrial labour in 
India would be complete without some account of those 

* The boards of health mentioned above, however, have done much 
to prevent diseases, to improve medical arrangements, and to control 
sanitation ; whilst the Jharia water board has provided a large and well- 
protected water-supply. On the general question, see Labour Commission, 
Report, pp. 133 and 279-80. 

f Labour Commission, Report, pp. 408-9. 

% Indian Labour Legislation, 1932-37, P- 



cottage and small-scale industries which do not come within 
the purview of the Factories Act and are not likely'to come 
within the purview of any future Act that may follow it. 
These unorganized industries are of two kinds. The first 
consists of those village handicrafts, dating back to the earliest 
times and scattered all over the country, which produce the 
simple articles needed to clothe and house the population and 
to provide them with tools, utensils, and furniture. These 
handicrafts include the manufacture of cheap textile goods, 
pottery, basket-making, wood-work and metal-work, work 
connected with the preparation of ordinary agricultural 
products, such as the grinding of grain, the milling and husking 
of rice, the pressing of sugar, and similar work connected 
with any special products of the locality, which vary from coir 
and hemp to indigo and perfumes. There has never been 
any great scope for expansion in such industries, for even 
today the Indian peasant is content with the simplest of 
clothes, the simplest of houses, and a minimum of tools, utensils, 
and furniture.* Even the well-to-do villager will be content 
in the matter of clothes with a coat, a couple of loin-cloths, 
and a strip of cloth to tie round his head ; in the matter of 
housing, with a hut made of mud, bamboos, and arhar thatch ; 
in the matter of furniture, with a rope bedstead, a lamp, a 
mirror, and a few utensils of metal for cooking his food and of 
earthenware for storing his goods. The second class of un¬ 
organized industries also date back to very early times, and are 
situated for the most part in various urban centres. They were 
connected with the production of specialities and luxuries 
for export abroad, and for use at the courts and amongst the 
wealthier classes. Amongst the goods produced by these 
industries are textiles of superior quality, such as the brocade 
(■ kincob) of Benares, the embroidered muslin ( kamdani) of 
Lucknow, and the printed calicos of both these places and of 
Farrukhabad. There are also ornaments, vessels, and articles of 
all kinds, made in gold and silver, in carved ebony, sandalwood, 
stone, marble, and ivory ; a large variety of artistically-wrought 
metal goods—iron, brass, copper, and bell-metal—together with 
gold and silver thread, glass, embroidery, leather, enamel, and 
jewellery of all kinds. These industries, though they serve an 
extensive market, are carried out by the same simple methods 
and tools as are employed in the village handicrafts. They 
continued to flourish during the first half of the nineteenth 

* See Chapter III, para. 3. 


century, but when the Indian market was invaded by the cheap 
products of factories they began to decay. The village hand- 
loom industry suffered from the competition of imported 
Lancashire goods. Industries such as dyeing, pottery, and 
oil-pressing have lost ground before large-scale substitutes 
such as aniline dyes, metal utensils, and kerosene oil ; whilst 
brass and copper have been replaced by imported enamelled 
ironware, glass, and crockery. Finally, such processes as the 
grinding of grain, the milling of rice, and the pressing of sugar 
are now carried out in seasonal factories—flour mills, rice 
mills, and sugar factories. The luxury industries, though they 
have not been so seriously affected by the competition of 
machine-made goods, have suffered from changes in taste 
amongst both foreign and Indian consumers. Since the middle 
of the last century there has been a marked decline in the 
attention paid by European customers to quality, design, 
and workmanship. The foreign tourist is now only too 
easily satisfied with any trash so long as its pattern contains a 
sufficient number of goddesses, bulls, tigers, and lotus flowers. 
The Indian prince who used to buy brocades and silks now 
buys European broadcloths. Instead of furnishing his palace 
with the artistic products of Indian craftsmen, he causes it 
to be furnished by London firms. Instead of buying elephants 
and decorative elephant-housings, he buys silver-plated motor- 

51. Nevertheless, though some of these industries, notably 
hand-spinning, are dead and some others are dying, yet there 
are many which still survive. The cotton-weaving industry, 
for instance, is still important ; its importance may be gauged 
from the fact that the number of handlooms still at work is 
nearly two million, and the number of workers is over two- 
and-a-half million.* Cotton-spinning and silk-weaving and 
spinning are included in these figures, but the number of 
workers engaged in them is small. The village artisan in 
wood and metal, the potter and the tanner, still have their 
regular clienteles.! Many of the luxury industries, moreover, 

* These figures are taken respectively from the report of the Cotton 
Textile Tariff Board of 1933 and the tables in the Census Report (India) of 
1931. The number of bales of cotton used by the industry is estimated at 
750,000 annually. Handloom cloth is still much in demand by the villagers, 
because it is more durable than mill-made cloth, whilst for certain cere¬ 
monies the cloth used must be handwoven. 

f See Chapter II, Appendix I on jajmani. 


have never been affected by factory competition, and are 
still carried on in large or small urban towns practically all 
over the country. Within the United Provinces, for instance, 
there are the manufactures of brocade, silk muslin, satin and 
velvet cloth, embroidered cloth, printed calicos, carpets, 
art metal-wares (brass, copper, and silver), fancy pottery, 
toys and lacquer wares, bead and glass bangles, carved 
woodwork and perfumes ; and the list does not pretend to be 
complete. It is true that many of these industries are no 
longer as prosperous as they were in the past. Trades that 
used to be permanent are now seasonal ; for instance, it is 
only during the summer that there is any demand for chikan 
work or silk muslins, and only festivals and the marriage 
season create a demand for brocade or satin. Nevertheless, 
they still show considerable vitality and deserve encourage¬ 
ment, not only because of their value in providing work for the 
hereditary craftsmen engaged in them, but also in furnishing 
subsidiary occupations for the peasant when agricultural 
work is slack, thereby enabling him both to increase his 
income and to use profitably time which would otherwise be 

52. The economic condition of cottage workers, however, 
leaves much to be desired. Their extreme poverty renders 
them an easy prey to merchants, who advance materials at 
high prices, together with cash just sufficient to enable them to 
eke out a poor subsistence, and in return take over the finished 
goods at prices entirely incommensurate with their real value. 
In some cases the seasonal nature of the demand for their goods 
makes it difficult for them to make both ends meet in spite of 
hard work and long hours, whilst if the crops fail the demand 
for the products of cottage industries falls and the earnings of 
the cottage workers also fall. They are, in fact, less able than 
ordinary agriculturists to resist calamity, and they present a 
special and somewhat difficult problem to Government in 
times of famine. Many of them, moreover, work in small 
workshops, where the conditions are as unhealthy as they are 
in those unregulated factories which have already been 
mentioned.* Perhaps the most important obstacle in the 
way of improving the lot of the artisan is his own ignorance of 
modern commercial methods. He works in a little shop in 
some back street of a small town ; he is quite content to 
produce sufficient goods to finance his daily needs, and if he 
* See para. 8 above. 

receives an order, sees no reason why he should not postpone 
carrying it out until his daily needs once more become pressing. 
In such circumstances it is difficult to foster the introduction 
of Indian art-wares into foreign markets. Lastly, there is little 
organization for marketing such products and few attempts 
are made to cater for the taste of the consumer.* 

53. Nevertheless, something has been done in recent years 
to improve the lot of cottage workmen. They are the special 
care of the departments of industry in all provinces, and of 
the industrial conferences which have, of late, been annually 
convened by the Government of India. Special grants have 
from time to time been made to promote the development of 
the cotton handloom industry and of the silk and woollen 
cottage industries. In all provinces the departments are 
striving to demonstrate new and improved processes and to 
give practical training in them ; to solve technical difficulties ; 
and to form co-operative societies for the purchase of materials 
and the marketing of the finished products. In some provinces 
there are schools maintained for the instruction and training 
of artisans, generally in their ancestral crafts. There are, 
for instance, weaving schools for boys, as well as weaving 
institutes for adult artisans, in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Madras, 
the Punjab, and the United Provinces. There are similar 
schools for other handicrafts, such as dyeing, knitting, carpet¬ 
making, the making of toys, and the weaving and spinning of 
jute. The number of exhibitions, either organized or assisted 
by Government, is rapidly increasing, and these play an 
important part in stimulating a demand for the goods exhibited. 
From time to time, also, Governments send exhibits of their 
provincial products to foreign exhibitions.! But much still 
remains to be done, and more organization is necessary if the 
small industries are to produce for their workers a reasonable 
standard of living. 


54. Before April 1st, 1937, when the new Government of 
India Act came into operation, labour was a provincial reserved 
subject—in other words, the provincial Governments in dealing 
with labour matters were subject to the superintendence, 
direction, and control of the central Government. Under the 

* S. G. Panandikar, Industrial Labour in India, Chapter XVI. 

t E.g. the Wembley Exhibition of 1924 and the Toronto Exhibition 
of 1935. India also participates annually in the British Industries hair. 


new constitution, however, the regulation of labour, together 
with safety in mines and oil-fields remains a completely federal 
subject. Unemployment is in the sphere of the provincial 
Governments; whilst the federal and provincial legislatures 
have concurrent powers in regard to factories and welfare of 
labour, conditions of labour, provident funds, employers’ 
liability, workmen’s compensation, and health insurance, 
including invalidity pensions and old-age pensions. In respect 
of these matters, therefore, a provincial law which is repugnant 
to an existing federal law can only become valid if it receives 
the assent of the Governor-General or of His Majesty, and even 
so may be overridden by further federal legislation. In the 
Government of India labour questions are handled by the 
department of labour, which was formed as recently as 
November 8th, 1937. The new department is in the charge of 
a Member of the Governor-General’s Executive Council, and 
has as its administrative head a Secretary to Government. 
The Chief Inspector of Mines is its adviser in all matters 
connected with mines ; his headquarters are at Dhanbad 
in the Jharia coalfield. There is a somewhat similar organiza¬ 
tion in the provinces. Labour questions are dealt with by a 
department of the secretariat, which has as its administrative 
head a Secretary to Government, and since April 1st, 1937, 
is in charge of a Minister. No province has as yet a separate 
department of labour with a specialist head directly responsible 
to Government, though the three presidencies have officers 
who carry out some of the duties that would fall to such a 
department. Madras has a Commissioner of Labour, who is 
Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation and Registrar of 
Trade Unions as well, and is also responsible for the administra¬ 
tion of the Factories Act and of other matters connected with 
labour. In Bombay the Commissioner of Labour, in addition 
to being responsible for statistics and intelligence,* is also 
Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation, Registrar of 
Trade Unions, and Chief Conciliation Officer, but is not 
concerned with the administration of the Factories Act. In 
Bengal the Labour Commissioner is a Deputy Secretary to 
Government, and is also Registrar of Trade Unions and 
administers the Factories Act. There is, however, a separate 
Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation. In the United 
Provinces the Director of Industries, whose headquarters are 
at Cawnpore, is ex officio Labour Commissioner, and also ex 
* This branch of work is more developed in Bombay than elsewhere. 


officio additional Inspector of Factories.* In provinces other 
than those already mentioned, each of which, it should be 
noted, has a Chief Inspector of Factories, the Director of 
Industries is usually Registrar of Trade Unions and acts as 
general adviser on labour matters. The Chief Inspector of 
Factories provides expert advice within his own sphere and 
frequently on labour matters which do not fall strictly within 
it. In the Punjab Commissioners of divisions, in the Central 
Provinces all District Judges, in Berar three additional District 
Judges, in the United Provinces, Bihar, Orissa, and Assam all 
District Magistrates, and in Bihar also a few Subdivisional 
Officers, are Commissioners under the Workmen’s Compensa¬ 
tion Act. All District Magistrates are Inspectors of Factories 
under the Factories Act and may, subject to certain reserva¬ 
tions, exercise the powers of Inspectors of Mines under the 
general or special orders of the provincial Government. 

* The United Provinces Government has recently appointed a whole- 
time Commissioner of Labour. 




Co-operation in other Countries 

1. It is not generally realized that the number of co¬ 
operative societies in India exceeds that of any other country 
in the world : India has 104,000 societies, Germany 52,000, 
France 35,000, U.S.A. 31,000.* The co-operative movement 
in India is not, therefore, a curious sideline which only 
enthusiasts follow, but an element of outstanding importance 
in the national life. 

2. A co-operative society is a voluntary organization of 
persons in a group to work on an equal footing for the promo¬ 
tion of their economic interests. It should be noted that the 
group: (1) is voluntarily formed ; (2) places all its members 
on an equal footing ; (3) aims at a common end which is of 
benefit to all the members (it will be shown later that the 
economic advantage may be indirect, such as health, no less 
than a direct increase of wealth) ; and (4) expects each 
member to work for that end. It is not sufficient to take shares 
and thereafter do nothing, as a shareholder in a joint-stock 
company may do if he pleases. 

3. Certain primitive types of association existed in various 
countries from the earliest times, but, having no legal basis, 
were often temporary. Cheese, for instance, was manu¬ 
factured from milk by farmers who worked in rotation in 
Swiss and Italian villages. Co-operation in its modern sense, 
however, as defined above, dates from the end of the eighteenth 
century, the first English “ store ” having been founded in 
1795. Many others followed, but were short-lived, and the 

* International Labour Review, xxix, 6, 1934. The U.S.S.R. had 
210,000 collective farms, but these are not co-operative societies ; almost 
all the free societies of the U.S.S.R. have been suppressed. India had 
108,000 societies in 1936. 


beginning of distributive Co-operation, i.e. wholesale purchase 
and sometimes joint manufacture of domestic and other 
necessaries for sale to the members from their own co-operative 
shops, is now reckoned from the opening of the Rochdale 
Pioneers’ Society in 1844. The fundamental principles of 
consumers’ Co-operation are that : (1) goods be ordinarily- 
sold at their market price ; (2) the resulting surplus, (which in 
the hands of a private trader would be his profit, and is often, 
though incorrectly, so called in a co-operative society), be 
divided among the members at the end of each year, after 
provision for a reserve fund to guard against losses, and each 
member’s dividend be proportionate to the business which he 
has done with the society during the year, only a moderate 
rate of interest being paid on shares ; and (3) payment for 
goods be made in cash. Broadly speaking, these principles 
have been maintained, while consumers’ Co-operation has 
spread throughout the towns of Europe, North America, and 
Australia. In southern and eastern Europe there is a tendency 
to demand sales below the prevailing market-price—a policy 
which facilitates business with the poorest classes, but exposes 
the society to greater risks, if an unexpected loss during the year 
has to be met from a smaller surplus. In northern and 
western Europe and in Great Britain also there is a tendency 
to grant credit instead of insisting on cash payunents, either in 
order to help those members whose incomes are low during a 
strike or other unemployment or because well-to-do members 
find it inconvenient to pay cash for daily purchases. Never¬ 
theless, the three principles quoted are still very' widely 
acknowledged and generally observed. In India and through¬ 
out Asia the co-operative shop has made little progress. Its 
difficulties will be mentioned later. 

4. In the same decade which saw the foundation of the 
Rochdale Pioneers, the distress and impoverishment of the 
poorer classes, rural and urban, in Germany led Raiffeisen 
and Schulze-Delitzsch to form co-operative societies of a 
different type but with similar principles. In 1848 Raiffeisen 
and in 1849 Schulze-Delitzsch, working at first on a basis of 
philanthropy', created associations for the supply of money, 
raw materials, or domestic goods to industrious villagers or 
artisans. After a short experience they adopted in place of 
philanthropy the principle of mutual help, and co-operative 
credit societies began to multiply in Germany and to be 
imitated elsewhere. The Schulze-Delitzsch societies operate 


for the most part in the towns and have comparatively large 
share capital and wide membership, in which many agri¬ 
culturists are included. The Raiffeisen societies are smaller, 
with small shares and a rural (though not exclusively agricul¬ 
tural) membership ; and this difference between the two 
types, due to the different needs and conditions of urban and 
rural life, has persisted wherever the credit movement has 
been extended. The liability of members in an urban society 
is usually limited, since there is less mutual acquaintance 
among them ; the larger share capital also gives a certain 
protection against losses and offers security to depositors and 
other creditors. In a rural society, in which the members, 
living in a single village or commune, know one another well 
but cannot afford to take up big shares, the liability of each 
member towards his society is unlimited : i.e. in the event of 
of the society’s liquidation, but not otherwise , each member is 
liable with all his property for the repayment of deposits or 
other sums which the society owes. It is, however, not 
uncommon to find urban credit societies in which the members 
are artisans or labourers adopting the plan of unlimited 
liability, while rural societies of which the members are well- 
to-do farmers or in which large loans are granted (e.g. mortgage 
associations) prefer a limited liability. 

5. Co-operative credit, in one or other of these two forms, 
has spread throughout the world. It has brought relief to 
the peasant or small farmer, offered him a road of escape from 
the high interest-charges of the private moneylender, and 
taught him the value of honesty, thrift, and punctual payment 
of his dues. In all co-operative societies (1) membership is 
voluntary, and consequently no person who voluntarily enters 
a society is justified in objecting to penalties which may fall 
upon him if he fails to comply with its rules ; (2) the members 
in general meeting or through the managing committee 
which they elect are entitled to refuse the application of any 
person for admission if they regard him as likely to be an 
unsatisfactory member. By no means all credit societies 
achieve their objects. If the members are disloyal and do not 
repay their loans, if they elect an incompetent or selfish 
committee, or if they seek to make profits by lending or 
investing in an unsafe manner, societies fail and have sooner or 
later to be liquidated ; but thousands of small and large 
societies in towns and villages, managed by simple but honest 
men, are flourishing and bringing happiness to those who 

would in their absence be unable to borrow, even for the most 
useful objects, or would only be able to do so at excessive 

6. The intention of the co-operative shop and of the 
co-operative credit society is to secure for men of small means, 
who are willing to bind themselves by rules of loyalty, mutual 
help, and prompt payment, the same advantages which a 
wealthier person, buying, selling, or borrowing on a bigger 
scale and with substantial property to support his credit, can 
enjoy in his independent dealings. A bank will not be willing 
to lend at a moderate rate of interest, if at all, to a five-acre 
farmer from whom it will be difficult to realize the money in 
case of default; but it will more willingly lend money to, and 
an individual will more readily deposit his surplus funds with, 
a group of thirty to fifty such farmers, since they are not all 
likely to become dishonest or to be unable to repay their loans 
at the same moment. Similarly, a housewife making her 
daily purchases must, when buying from an ordinary shop, 
pay the full retail price, including the profit of the shopkeeper ; 
but when 500 wives and husbands take shares in a co-operative 
shop their money is used to make wholesale and therefore 
cheaper purchases. Each then pays to the shop the retail 
price, but receives back the difference in the form of a dividend 
on purchases at the end of the year. 

7. Fifty or five hundred persons in association being 
stronger than one, then fifty or five hundred societies will be 
stronger than one society wherever the desired object—loan- 
money, sound goods, or a favourable selling market—has to 
be procured from persons or institutions who find it con¬ 
venient, as it usually is, to deal with big customers. Credit 
societies therefore join together in co-operative banks, which 
receive deposits from the public or loans from commercial 
banks on terms more advantageous than a single society could 
obtain, and thus render the money cheaper and more readily 
available to their member-societies. The co-operative banks of 
several counties or districts may unite to set up a provincial 
or regional bank, and the edifice may be crowned by a national 
co-operative bank. 

8. The same idea has been applied to a vast number of 
enterprises in which individuals have grouped themselves in 
order to obtain more economically or more effectively what 
they require or to sell their agricultural or industrial produce 


on better terms. Agricultural purchase and agricultural 
marketing by farmers, grouped in supply or sale co-operative 
societies, were soon undertaken in Germany and elsewhere, 
not only by those who had learned in credit societies the 
enhanced power given to them by association, but also by 
others whose first need was not of money-credit but of reliable 
and tested implements, manures, and feeding stuffs, or of a 
better market for bulked and graded wheat, fruit or livestock. 
Thus though supply (purchase) and marketing (sale) co-opera¬ 
tive societies have been organized in thousands by European 
farmers or artisans and have worked side by side with the credit 
societies, the credit movement has been insignificant in 
comparison with co-operative supply and marketing in 
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the 
United States of America.* The great co-operative organiza¬ 
tions for the sale of grain and fruit, cattle, sheep, and pigs, 
tobacco and cotton in these countries are comparable in size 
and efficiency with any commercial company ; yet at the base 
they rest on local associations of farmers who through their 
delegates control the district and regional unions and through 
them the national federations. 

9. If good manure is to be profitably used, if good milk or 
meat is to be profitably produced, the farmer must understand 
his business, and separate societies, often registered under the 
co-operative law, have been found necessary for agricultural 
improvement, for the maintenance of bulls or other breeding 
stock, for the propagation of selected seed or trees, for the 
hiring of expensive machinery. The producer, too, and his 
family must be in good health if he is to work vigorously 
and well. Co-operative housing, health societies, education 
societies, thrift and provident societies, are as essential to the 
prosperity of the farmer or any other producer, urban or rural, 
as credit or a co-operative shop. The exact requirements of 
the citizen which Co-operation in a given country is suited to 
meet and the precise form which his co-operative societies 
will assume depend on local circumstances and have to be 
thought out by the co-operative leaders, though always with 
reference to the experience gained, sometimes at heavy cost, 
in the rest of the world. There is no advantage in repeating 

* In a few European countries, notably Denmark, the credit society 
has been of less importance than other types. A small country with a 
negligible internal market has no use for credit unless it can sell its goods 

an expensive mistake in order to assert independence. Know¬ 
ledge is bought at a price and nothing is gained by paying 
twice over for it. 

Development of Co-operation in India 
io. The normal holding * * * § of a farmer varies in different 
parts of India, but seldom exceeds ten acres and is often much 
less. Some of these peasant farmers own their land, others 
are tenants, with or without a protected (occupancy) tenure, f 
on the estates of landlords ; the proportion between the two 
classes also varies in different places,} but few farmers of either 
class possess any fluid capital; they live close to the margin 
of subsistence, and a considerable proportion of them are 
supported from one harvest to the next by means of loans 
from moneylenders, grain-merchants, or co-operative credit 
societies, which they repay partly or in full when the harvest 
has been reaped and the produce sold.§ If the creditor is 
a grain-dealer the produce may be delivered to him and no 
cash will change hands at all. The peasant being a simple 
and frequently an illiterate man, with little idea of punctuality 
in payment of debt and with a great respect for the social 
rules which bind him to expenditure on marriages and at other 
festive occasions, the tendency is towards an increase of his 
indebtedness. The monsoon is uncertain, crops may fail, and 
only the fortunate or the very provident farmer succeeds in 
reducing or completely clearing his obligations to his creditors. 
Credit, too, is now more freely allowed to him by individual 
lenders than of old. In the days of insecurity which preceded 
British rule lending money to a peasant was a risky proceeding. 
The borrower might disappear through one cause or another, 
and if a suit—an unusual remedy—were brought in a court 
of law, the conduct of the judge w r as not always strict, nor was 
there a regular and easy procedure for recovery of money 
decreed against the debtor. Credit was therefore seldom 
given. But when, under British rule, the land was at peace, 
rights to property were clearly laid down, and the courts 

* The normal holding is much the same as the economic holding. 
See Chapter IV, para. 32. 

t See Chapter III, paras. 20, 24, 25. 

+ See Chapter III, paras. 19 et seq. The difference depends on the 
nature of the proprietary and tenant rights of different provinces. 

§ On the general question of agricultural indebtedness, see Chapter III, 
paras. 59 et seq. 


applied a recognized system of law and a regular method of 
recovery, lending became safer, and the peasant, who was 
unaccustomed to credit, hastened to borrow. His own 
imprudence, together with the high rates of interest which it 
necessitated, soon brought about an enormous increase of 
indebtedness, and the problem of relieving rural debt presented 
itself to the Government of India. 

ix. An agricultural bank, which was to receive special 
privileges from the Government, was proposed in 1882, but the 
plan was rejected on account of the heavy cost of paying off 
the peasants’ prior debts, by means of public money, in the 
area in which it was to operate.* Government loans on a more 
cautious system were authorized in India by the Land Improve¬ 
ment Loans Act and Agriculturists’ Loans Act of 1883-4, and 
such loans ( taqavi ) are still granted by revenue officers under 
a close supervision which guards against loss but inevitably 
hampers their issue on a generous scale. Sir Frederick Nichol¬ 
son, I.C.S., deputed by the Madras Government in 1892 to 
study methods of agricultural credit abroad, reported in 
1 895-7 i n favour of the co-operative credit society, saying, 
“ find Raiffeisen.” Nicholson referred to the indigenous 
Nidhis or Chit funds of Madras as indicating that the co-opera¬ 
tive idea might take root in India, f 

12. Experimental societies were meanwhile being tried 
in Bengal, the United Provinces, and the Punjab, but were 
registered, if at all, under the complicated Companies Act. 
The Famine Commission of 1901 endorsed the co-operative 
plan and the Co-operative Credit Societies Act was passed 
after careful deliberation in 1904. It was based to a large 
extent on the Friendly Societies Act of Great Britain, and with¬ 
drawing the societies from the provisions of the Companies 
Act provided for the appointment, in each province, of a Regis¬ 
trar of Co-operative Societies, with such Assistant Registrars 
as might be required. The Registrar was to arrange the annual 
audit of each society ; he might refuse the application of any 
group of persons for registration, and liquidate any society 

* The experience of Egypt subsequently proved the danger of lending 
to individual small farmers from an agricultural bank. 

f “The members of these Nidhis pool their savings by fixed monthly 
subscriptions. Every month lots are drawn, according to which the monthly 
collection is taken by one member.” L. C. Jain, Indigenous Banking in 
India, p. igg. 


which he held to be insolvent or to be working in a manner 
contrary to the by-laws (framed in accordance with co-operative 
principles), which"had been approved by him at the time of 
registration. These are still the chief legal powers and duties 
of a Registrar of Co-operative Societies, though in practice, 
owing to the circumstances of the Indian population, he 
directs also a force of Inspectors who guide and advise the 
societies but have seldom a legal authority. 

13. In 1912 the Co-operative Societies Act was passed, 
enlarging the field of Co-operation to cover (1) primary 
societies of other types than credit, and (2) central or secondary 
societies, i.e. every kind of bank, federation, or union. In 
1915 the Maclagan Committee reviewed the position of the 
whole movement, and its report, though in certain respects 
now out of date, is still of high value for all students of Co¬ 
operation in India. Several provinces * have implemented 
the power given to them under the Government of India Act, 
1919, to legislate for Co-operation as a transferred subject. 
The changes made by these laws in the all-India Act of igi2 
have been in the direction of increasing the power of the 
Registrar to deal with recalcitrant individuals and societies 
by compulsory arbitration of disputes, supersession of managing 
committees, or more vigorous action in liquidation. The 
major Indian States have followed the example of British 
India in passing co-operative laws, appointing Registrars, 
and assisting the education and supervision of the societies. 
In certain States money is directly advanced by the ruling 
authority to finance the societies, but this practice is rare in 
British India. 

Co-operative Credit in India 

14. In view of the general rural indebtedness, it is not 
surprising that the credit society should have proved more 
acceptable to the Indian peasant than any other type of 
organization. So long as the burden of debt, much of it 
inherited from his father and grandfather, weighed on his 
shoulders, he was unwilling to listen to argument about 
selected seed, to buy improved cattle and tools, or to join with 
his neighbours in an effort towards the combined sale of 

* Bombay 1925, Burma 1927, Madras 1932. A few amendments 
have been made by the United Provinces, Central Provinces, and Bihar 
and Orissa ; and a comprehensive revision of the Act is now contemplated 
in Bengal. 


produce. He was not at liberty, indeed, to sell his produce 
otherwise than to the moneylender or grain-dealer from whom 
he had borrowed, and from whom he would certainly need 
to borrow again. His constant care was to satisfy this creditor, 
whom he dared not offend until a better and an equally sure 
source of credit was opened to him. The credit society, then, 
was rapidly multiplied. In 19x2, when the revised Act was 
passed, there were over 8,000 societies, in 1922 the number 
had risen to 50,000, in 1929 to 100,000 * ; and 80 per cent, 
of these were credit societies, rural or urban. Since 1930, 
in consequence of the agricultural depression, there has been 
little change in the net total ; liquidations have been approxi¬ 
mately equal to new registrations, though the health and 
stability of the movement are being slowly restored. Rural 
credit societies in India follow the example of the Raiffeisen 
societies in Germany in limiting their area to a single village, 
or sometimes a closely adjacent cluster of hamlets, and adopting 
unlimited liability. The normal Indian society will consist 
of thirty or forty members, f cultivators (owner or tenant) 
for the most part; but it frequently includes also one or two 
village artisans, landless labourers, and even small shop¬ 
keepers. There is seldom an office building, the registers 
being of moderate size and such as the secretary may without 
inconvenience keep in his own house. The officers and 
members of the managing committee are unpaid. Wherever 
a literate resident of a village can be found to act as secretary 
without payment, as is very often the case, the entire annual 
expenditure on the “ office ” may be a rupee or two for a new 
account-book and some annas’ outlay on postage stamps. 
In the absence of a literate resident, itinerant paid secretaries 
may serve a group of perhaps eight to ten societies, and 
member-secretaries sometimes receive an annual honorarium 
of small amount. Once in the year the members come together 
in a general meeting, listen to the annual balance-sheet and 
statement of accounts, as explained to them by the president, 
secretary, and treasurer, and proceed to the discussion of any 
general questions which arise—such as the relations with the 
central co-operative bank or banking union which finances 
them, the possibility of lowering the rate of interest on loans, 

* There are 660,000 villages in India, excluding Burma. 

j In southern and western India the membership tends to be higher : 
60-70 in Madras and too-120 in Bombay. In the United and Central 
Provinces, Bihar, and Orissa it is often much lower. 


the action to be taken against defaulters—and to the election 
of officers and a managing committee for the coming year. 
The maximum amount of deposits or loans from the bank or 
other non-members which this committee is empowered to 
accept during the year is also fixed by the general meeting ; 
for their liability to creditors of the society being unlimited, 
this is their opportunity to limit with prudence the risk which 
they consent to carry. Other general meetings are called 
whenever occasion arises throughout the year, for instance, 
on the arrival of a co-operative officer who may have useful 
advice to give. 

15. The managing committee, of perhaps five or seven 
members, carries on the business of the society in numerous 
meetings. An active committee may hold several meetings 
in a week, a sluggish committee will not sit once in three 
months. Meetings are called at short notice by means of a 
village messenger—a prescribed day or date is uncommon— 
and are very informal. The committee has to consider applica¬ 
tions from members for loans, to examine the real necessity 
of the borrower and the appropriateness of the sum for which 
he asks, to supervise the preparation, by the secretary, of the 
bond or promissory note for each loan given, to accept two 
other members offered as sureties by the borrower, and to 
sign the bond and the minute-book in token of their approval. 
The committee arranges the borrowing of funds from the bank, 
directs the treasurer to remit to the bank the available surplus 
when recoveries have been made, controls the demand-state¬ 
ment showing the amount due from each debtor which the 
secretary draws up, and decides whether legal or other steps 
are to be taken against a defaulter or whether an extension of 
time is to be granted. A maximum limit of credit which may 
in case of need be allowed to each individual member has to 
be laid down at the beginning of each year, and the total 
borrowings of a member may not exceed the limit thus set for 
him. Loans are granted for : (1) productive objects, such as 
cultivation and trade ; (2) objects which are not immediately 
productive but are necessary to productive activity, such as 
house-building, medical attention, payment of rent and taxes, 
or the education of children; and (3) certain domestic 
expenditure on marriages, funerals, and other similar cere¬ 
monies,* which cannot be avoided but which should be 

* See Chapter II, para. 22. 



kept down to a level within the means of the borrowing 
member. The facilities for borrowing offered by the private 
moneylender are such as to tempt the weaker characters 
away from the co-operative society and into his counting- 
house. It is only the stronger minds which will recognize 
the advantages of controlled credit at a moderate rate 
of interest and of punctual repayment even at the price of 
discomfort, over easy credit for any and every object at a 
high rate of interest, without embarrassing pressure for full 
repayment until the total debt has crept up to a ruinous figure ; 
and consequently the co-operative societies in India, knowing 
the unstable character of many borrowers, their illiteracy 
and simplicity, and the importance of removing them from 
temptation, endeavour to meet all the legitimate requirements 
of their members, for ceremonial as well as productive purposes, 
and by giving reasonable but not extravagant advances to 
leave them no excuse for resorting to the moneylender at all. 
Societies in Europe and America lend for productive purposes 
only,* but the foresight of the cultivator is better developed 
in these continents and social pressure towards reckless 
expenditure is less severe. 

16. The proceedings described above are those of a society 
which is working as it should work ; it cannot be claimed 
that more than a small percentage are thus satisfactory and 
truly co-operative in their methods. Societies are classified 
annually by the Registrars as A, B, C, or D, and the central 
banks advance money to A and B societies after less detailed 
inquiry as to the intended use of the loan than in the case of 
G societies. The D societies receive no new loans, and are 
under threat of cancellation and liquidation. An A society 
is one which conducts its own affairs in a punctual and business¬ 
like manner in conformity with the law and its own registered 
by-laws, receiving no help from official or non-official staff 
other than the annual audit required by the Act. For the 
purpose of this audit a staff of co-operative auditors is main¬ 
tained in each province, sometimes as employees of the 
provincial Government, elsewhere under a provincial co-opera¬ 
tive union or the central banks. B class societies are those 
which work wisely and well, keeping their own accounts, 

* Yet the rule of “ productive loans only ” is very often ignored in 
practice, and in Europe too it is found inadvisable to drive an otherwise 
sound member to the moneylender by denying him when he is determined 
to incur a reasonable but unproductive expense. 


issuing and recovering loans, but not so securely co-operative 
in spirit or method that they can dispense with periodical 
visits of advice and stimulation from the Supervisors or Sub¬ 
inspectors employed by the provincial union. The majority 
of Indian societies, however, are classed as C, i.e. not useless 
nor under threat of cancellation, but either unable to keep 
their own accounts (in which case no society, however excellent 
in other ways, is classified higher than C), or hampered by the 
default of many members in repayment of loans. The lessons 
of punctuality and integrity are not easily taught or learned 
among an illiterate peasantry, and if the members of the 
managing committee are reluctant to take action against 
recalcitrant debtors or, still worse, are themselves the heaviest 
borrowers and the most stubborn defaulters, then the position 
becomes serious. Nevertheless in C societies too there will 
usually' be found a minority 7 of members who repay their 
loans at the due time, have no dealings with moneylenders, 
and are practising thrift and reducing their ancestral load of 
debt. The C society, it must be repeated, is not useless ; but 
the Supervisor, who lives and works within a circle of thirty 
to sixty villages, writes up or checks the accounts every two 
or three months, teaches the officers, the managing committee, 
and the members, urges them to mend their ways, and assists 
in the preparation of demand-statements at harvest time. 
Some provinces engage itinerant secretaries to write the 
accounts of groups of societies which include no literate 
member ; but these men, who are less responsible and often 
less trustworthy than Supervisors, are diminishing in number. 
The provincial unions hold classes for the instruction of 
secretaries and office-holders, and the evil of rural illiteracy is 
slowly, very slowly, being overcome by juvenile and adult 
education. The success of many illiterate societies is, mean¬ 
while, quite astonishing, and it should not be imagined that 
illiterate peasants cannot, if they really desire, understand 
Co-operation and manage a good credit society. 

17. The number of societies of all types in an Indian 
province or State may vary widely.* On the official side they 
are registered, inspected, audited, and wffien necessary struck 
off the register by the Registrar, who is supported by one or 

* According to the latest returns (1936), there were 23,500 in Bengal, 
22,500 in the Punjab, 13,400 in Madras, 5,800 in Bombay, and 4,300 in 
Gwalior State. The Madras and Bombay societies are larger than those 
of Bengal and the Punjab. 


more Deputy Registrars, a handful of Assistant Registrars, and 
a staff of Inspectors. The Maclagan Committee recommended 
the appointment of an Assistant Registrar for every 1,000 
societies and an Inspector for 200. Those provinces in which 
the societies are most numerous are gradually appointing an 
Assistant Registrar in each district and an Inspector in each 
tahsil or taluka* Within such limits the charge of co-operative 
officers may considerably exceed the figure of 1,000 and qoo 
societies, and it is desirable to aim at a contraction of the area 
under an Assistant Registrar or an Inspector. The non-official 
organization consists of local unions f of societies for mutual 
supervision, central banks in each administrative district 
or section of a district for finance, a provincial co-operative 
union for the employment of Supervisors J and sometimes of 
auditors (licensed by the Registrars), and a provincial co-opera¬ 
tive bank. There is an association of all the provincial unions, 
and another of the provincial banks. The former conducts 
a Co-operative Review, as do also some of the provincial 
organizations for their own areas. The field work of the Super¬ 
visors is controlled by the Inspectors and the Assistant Regis¬ 
trars ; provincial unions and provincial banks work in friendly 
collaboration with one another; but a Registrar in India is not, 
as is the Registrar of friendly societies in England, a sedentary 
officer. He and his staff are continually on tour and in close 
touch with the primary societies and their unions and banks. 
The primary societies are the sole members of the unions and 
the majority of members in the banks. The latter contain 
also individual shareholders whose business experience and 
education adds strength to these institutions. 

18. The Maclagan Committee on Co-operation, which 
reported in 1915, dealt with the movement in all parts of 
India. Local crises led subsequently to several provincial 
inquiries. The King Committee (1922) recommended a 
decentralization of control and finance in the Central Pro¬ 
vinces, where centralization had been exceptionally close. 
The Oakden Committee (1926) brought about, amongst other 
administrative changes, a transfer of the supervisory function 

* In the United Provinces there is one Assistant Registrar per division, 
and one Inspector per district. 

t It is not possible to mention all the provincial systems. The 
employment of Supervisors by the central banks is diminishing, and pro¬ 
vincial unions have taken the place of the latter in most provinces. 

J In some provinces they are called Sub-inspectors. 


in the United Provinces from the central banks to a provincial 
union ; the Townsend Committee (1928) made a number 
of proposals concerning Madras, where primary societies 
had been granting long-term credits on the lines of a mortgage 
institution. Mortgage banks are now being set up to perform 
this duty. 

19. Despite the weaknesses which were brought to light 
in these inquisitions, the co-operative movement appeared to 
be healthy and strong in general when the blast of the agri¬ 
cultural depression struck it in 1929-30. Agricultural prices 
fell disastrously, cultivators became entirely unable to pay 
either their taxes or their debts, and credit was for the time 
destroyed. It should be emphasized that (1) the depression 
was not confined to India, but was world wide ; it fell on 
agricultural countries, such as India and China, somewhat 
later than on industrial countries, but with more disastrous 
effect, since the cultivator has no alternative occupation to 
farming ; (2) the blow was not felt only by co-operators 
but by every person in the country, rural or urban. It 
did not indicate any defect peculiar to Co-operation. 
Nevertheless, many Indian credit societies for the time 
ceased to function. Borrowers did not and indeed could not 
repay their debts ; central banks refused to finance primary 
societies and reserved all their funds to meet the prior claims 
of their depositors. The result was that in a comparatively 
short time old and new deposits began to accumulate in the 
banks, since money was everywhere idle, but the deposited 
money could not be lent to societies, which were unable to 
repay what they already owed. Arrears of principal and 
interest mounted up, and though an exact estimate of rural 
debt in India cannot be made, the suggested figure of Rs.900 
crores (£675,000,000) * of rural debt before the depression 
is now believed to have risen by 50 per cent, or even to have 
been doubled. The same evil may be observed throughout 
the world ; capitalism and other economic systems were not 
less distressed than Co-operation. 

20. Relief was to some extent given by the action of 
the provincial Governments, which remitted large sums 
due on account of land revenue and taxes and reduced 
by special legislation the burden of rents and debts, f 

* This is the estimate of the Banking Enquiry Committee. See 
Chapter III, para. 59. 

t Cf. Chapter III, para. 65. 


Endeavours were also made to liquidate ancestral and accumu¬ 
lated debt by means of debt conciliation boards, to which we 
shall refer again.* Co-operators at first awaited a recovery 
of agricultural prices, and when this did not occur, proceeded 
to exert pressure on the worst defaulters by means of compulsory 
arbitration, enforcement of awards through law courts, and the 
seizure of property in execution. Thousands of societies were 
cancelled and brought into liquidation ; but cultivators in 
many instances were really unable to repay and even those 
who could have done so received much support in refusal from 
their fellow-villagers. Land seized in execution frequently 
found no buyer. 

21. More recently the creditor central banks and the 
Registrars have been engaged in an attempt to revive all but 
the hopeless societies by means of (i) a general reduction of 
rates of interest on loans and deposits throughout the move¬ 
ment ; (ii) an extension of the period of repayment of out¬ 
standing debts ; and (iii) a reduction of the debts themselves 
by applying retrospectively the lower rates of interest fixed for the 
future. The reserve funds f of the societies and their subse¬ 
quent annual surpluses were thus substantially lowered, but 
the debtor, whether individual or society, saw his debt brought 
down to a less alarming magnitude, and was more inclined to 
repay whatever he could. Prior to the depression, interest 
on loans to societies by central banks had ranged from ~j\ to 
12 per cent, per annum,* and on loans by societies to members 
from g§ to i8f per cent. As much as 7 per cent, was often 
paid on a fixed deposit for a year. In Bombay, Madras, and 
the Punjab the lower of these lending rates is now general 
and there has been a similar reduction in some societies else¬ 
where. The annual rate on fixed deposits in central banks 
is now 3 to 4 per cent.§ or less. The result has been a certain 
unfreezing of credit. Money is being lent and repaid again 
in the better organized provinces and the great block of idle 

* Cf. also Chapter III, para. 65. 

t This fund enables the society to reduce and ultimately to stop its 
own borrowings ; and also to reduce the rate of interest on members’ 

X The figures here given are the normal figures. There were lower 
rates—and even higher ! 

§ Some central banks now lend at 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, to societies 
which are punctual in repayment. In the east of India, however, i3f per 
cent, is still often charged by primary societies against their members. 


funds is slowly being dissolved. Liquidation of bad societies 
continues, but the power of supersession of managing com¬ 
mittees, bestowed on the Registrar by some of the new co¬ 
operative Acts of the provinces, has been utilized where it 
seemed likely that vigorous action might restore the situation. 
Madras has in particular adopted this policy ; agents were 
appointed in 1937 in more than 1,000 societies. 

22. At the same time co-operators, asking themselves 
why their societies did not face the depression with more 
courage, have decided that lack of co-operative education is 
the cause. An illiterate cultivator, close to the margin of 
subsistence, requires skilled and patient teaching if he is to 
understand the value of a sustained effort towards punctuality 
and thrift, and is not merely to regard a co-operative loan 
as manna from heaven or bounty from the Government. His 
teachers, then, must themselves be well taught, and many 
of the Supervisors and Inspectors have in the past enjoyed 
too little opportunity of really understanding co-operation. 
Only the Punjab had held an annual training course of 
adequate length (tw’o months, now four months) for candidates 
under selected (co-operative) educational Inspectors, and 
had added to this a year’s practical training in the field 
before appointment. The grant of Rs.15 lakhs (£112,500), 
allotted by the Government of India in 1934 for the benefit of 
the movement, has been reserved for co-operative education 
of the staff and of the societies, and has been distributed among 
the various provincial Governments for this purpose. A training 
course for Inspectors, less advanced and shorter courses for 
Supervisors and Sub-inspectors, classes for the instruction of 
secretaries, office-holders, and members of managing com¬ 
mittees of societies, are now being held or planned in all 
provinces under the control of the Registrars where the teach¬ 
ing of Inspectors is concerned, and under the provincial 
co-operative unions or institutes in other cases. 

23. It is not less important that the Registrar himself 
should be fully trained for his highly technical and responsible 
duties. A study of Co-operation in India and in Europe, 
experience in the field before appointment to the highest 
post, and continuous reading and thought during his tenure 
of office will qualify a competent man ; without these he is 
likely to find his equipment inadequate, and the earlier 
Registrars are aptly described in the report of the Commission 


on Agriculture as “ blind leaders of the blind.” The registrar- 
ship is not a charge which can be entrusted to an officer, 
however able, as a mere alternative to duty in a district. 

24. Reference has been made to the pressure of India’s 
rural debt and to its recent increase. The credit society of 
the Raiffeisen type is intended to meet short-term needs, and 
the by-laws of such societies in India provide for the repayment 
of ordinary loans, intended for the raising of crops, the market¬ 
ing of produce, or the purchase of requirements, within a 
period varying from six months to two years, and only in 
exceptional cases should advances be made for a longer time. 
The cultivator, however, who is paying 25 per cent., 37J per 
cent., or even a higher rate per annum to the moneylender, is 
always anxious to borrow at 9, 12, or 15 per cent, from a credit 
society and to pay off the moneylender’s dues. His repay¬ 
ments to his society thus fall into arrears and the Raiffeisen 
society is being misused for the purpose of clearing old debt. 
For this its funds are insufficient and the joint unlimited 
liability of the members is unsuitable. Moreover, some 
cultivators are really insolvent and cannot hope to pay their 
old debt at its face value, which always includes a large 
proportion of compounded interest.* The remedy freely 
proposed in India is the mortgage bank, raising its funds at 
a low rate of interest by the issue of debentures to the public, 
and lending to individual landholders on the security of their 
property for a long term of years. It will be realized that the 
basis of such a bank is quite different from that of the Raiffeisen 
society. Its security is property, not the joint pledge and mutual 
supervision of a group of persons in a single village, who 
know one another well and will accept unlimited liability 
because they can watch the application of all money lent and 
can exert pressure on the borrower to repay at harvest time. 
None of these things is true in a mortgage bank. The members 
are scattered over a wide area, do not know one another, 
and can only enforce payment by seizure of a defaulter’s land. 
A village mortgage society is impracticable, for it could not 
afford to pay for the skilled management which mortgage 
business demands. The mortgage banks of Germany ( land - 
schaften ), the mortgage credit associations of Denmark, and the 
similar institutions in other European countries, in North and 
South America and in Japan, are not co-operative societies, 
though there is a limited liability of all members for the debts 
* Cf. Chapter III, para. 62. 


of their bank. In India, too, the mortgage banks, though 
registered under the co-operative law and supervised for the 
sake of convenience by the co-operative officers, are not and 
cannot be co-operative in the same sense as the institutions of 
short-term credit. 

25. The first co-operative mortgage bank in India was 
that of the Jhang district in the Punjab, registered in 1920. 
The maximum period for any loan was twenty years and the 
maximum amount Rs.5,000 (£375) ; and no loan was to exceed 
twenty times the land revenue paid on the mortgaged property. 
There are now twelve mortgage banks in the Punjab, but with 
one exception their area has been restricted to a portion of 
a district in the hope of assuring some mutual control 
by borrowers over one another. They have been financed 
by advances made by the Government through the provincial 
co-operative bank and by an issue of Rs.5 lakhs (£37,500) 
of debentures with a government guarantee of interest. Only 
one or two of the banks have worked successfully, and arrears, 
which had begun to appear before the depression but were of 
manageable amount, have now become very heavy. The 
banks are particularly hampered in this province by the legal 
restriction on the sale of agriculturists’ land to other classes.* 
It is fair, however, to point out that mortgage banks through¬ 
out the world have been seriously embarrassed during these 

26. Mortgage banks have been founded with a limited 
range in other provinces. The latest returns show ten (with 
a central mortgage bank) in Bombay, ten in the Central 
Provinces, and five in the United Provinces and Bengal ; but 
only in Madras has notable progress been made. There the 
central mortgage bank, created in 1929 and reinforced by a 
special Act (X of 1934), had eighty-two affiliated banks in 
1936, each operating in a confined circle of villages. Deben¬ 
tures are issued by the central bank at 4 per cent, or less with a 
government guarantee, and money is passed on to the local 
banks at 5 per cent., which lend to individual borrowers at 
6 per cent. The working capital in 1936 was Rs.89 lakhs 
(£667,500), a mere drop in the ocean of rural debt, which 
was estimated by a recent investigator at Rs. 200 crores 
(£ i 50,ooo, oo °) in Madras alone. Nevertheless, a cautious 
beginning has been made, and Madras enjoys the advantage 

* This restriction is the result of the Punjab Land Alienation Act. 


over the Punjab of assessing the mortgaged lands at post¬ 
depression values * instead of their earlier price. 

27. An almost indispensable ally of the mortgage bank 
is the debt conciliation board. Rural debt includes so much 
compounded interest and agricultural prices have fallen so 
disastrously that creditors are willing to accept a much smaller 
sum than that which is nominally due if they are sure of 
receiving it. Conciliation boards bring together the debtor 
and all his creditors, estimate the amount which he can pay 
in a reasonable number of years, fix instalments for the pay¬ 
ment of this amount, and cancel the balance. The local 
officers of Government are usually made responsible for 
recovering the instalments due and given the necessary 
powers, f In the Central Provinces, under the Debt Concilia¬ 
tion Act of 1933, fifteen boards have been established and have 
settled many lakhs of old debt. New boards are being created, 
while others complete their task and are dissolved ; and if it 
proves feasible to coordinate the conciliation boards with 
mortgage banks, and thus pay over immediately to the creditors 
the entire sum awarded, creditors will no doubt be ready to 
abate still further their claims for money which would other¬ 
wise have been irrecoverable. The problem, however, is far 
from simple, and the remedy for an evil may have curious 
reactions. Money is borrowed freely from private lenders 
for extravagant purposes, while a co-operative society does not 
lend for extravagance ; yet in some provinces the claims of 
societies are scaled down by conciliation boards as severely 
as those of extortionate lenders. One consequence, therefore, 
of the establishment of a board may be a refusal of co-operative 
debtors to pay what they owe to their societies, pending a 
reduction of the amount. A debtor, moreover, who is suddenly 
released from his burden, lacks the strength of character which 
is built up by steady effort, and will seldom be punctual or 

* The post-depression value of land is much below the pre-depression 
value, a fact due to the depression itself. In the United Provinces debt 
legislation of 1934, whenever it was a question of selling or transferring land 
to satisfy pre-depression debt, the amount of land to be sold or transferred 
was calculated at its pre-depression and not at its post-depression value : 
e.g. with a pre-depression value of Rs. 100 per acre and a post-depression 
value of Rs. 50, the amount of land to be sold or transferred in satisfaction 
of a debt of Rs. 500 would be five acres instead of ten acres. 

t The procedure under the United Provinces Encumbered Estates 
Act is similar to that here described, but the agency is a court of law 
specially appointed, not a conciliation board. 


conscientious in repayment to a mortgage bank. Foreclosure 
on a large number of mortgages is politically and economically 
inadvisable, and in those States, such as Bhavnagar, in which 
the Government, already the landlord of the cultivators, clears 
their debts at its own cost by “ conciliation ” and becomes 
the sole creditor, a dangerous situation may arise. In some 
provinces debts due to co-operative societies are excluded from 
the scope of the boards, which thus assign the entire surplus 
income of each debtor to his other creditors, leaving nothing 
for the society. 

Other Forms of Co-operation in India 

28. Attention has hitherto been devoted to the question 
of debt and credit because this evil darkens the horizon of 
the Indian cultivator, artisan, labourer, or clerk, and almost 
excludes other matters from sight. For the same reason the 
co-operative credit society developed before other branches 
of the movement. It has not, however, occupied the entire 
field. Supply societies providing for the joint purchase of 
goods for the benefit of members number about 1,000 ; pro¬ 
duction societies and sale societies (not always distinguishable 
from one another) 4,700 ; consolidation of holdings societies 
1,500 ; and health, thrift, better living, and irrigation societies 
about 1,000 each. Smaller groups comprise insurance of men 
or livestock (250), better farming (250), housing (300), arbitra¬ 
tion (100), labour (100), stock-breeding (200), and many 

29. The weakness shown by the credit movement under 
the stress of the agricultural depression has led many to hold 
that amongst a simple and largely illiterate rural population 
with a low standard of living, as in India, the principles of 
co-operative credit cannot be fully grasped unless a general 
enlightenment of the peasant, a stimulation of his energies, 
and an elevation of his ethical and commercial standards 
accompany or even precede the invitation to thrift, loyalty, 
and foresight which the credit society offers. In other words, 
pressure on the vicious circle in which the peasant moves 
must be exerted from a number of directions and in coordina¬ 
tion. The campaign of “ uplift ” or rural reconstruction 
to which this belief has given rise ■will be discussed in a later 
chapter ; but it has induced some co-operators to argue that 
credit societies should not have been the first organized in India. 

* The figures here given are not intended to be exact. 


Marketing, for instance, should have come before credit. 
Such thinkers point to the great development of co-opprative 
marketing in America, Denmark, and elsewhere ; but it 
should be borne in mind that: (i) the cultivator in those 
countries was never so heavily burdened with debt as the 
Indian cultivator, in proportion to his capital and other resources ; 
(2) newly broken soil may be more productive than old soil, 
and America has turned towards credit organization in recent 
years since her new land has all been taken up ; (3) some 

countries, such as Ireland, organized the credit society first, 
as an alternative to the moneylender, and gave their attention 
to marketing later on. The same may be done in India. It 
is improbable that the Indian peasant would have been loyal 
to or submitted to the strict rules of a marketing society before 
his burden of ancestral debt had been lightened.* 

30. Consumers’ Co-operation in the form of shops is 
rare in India, the most successful example being the Triplicane 
Society of Madras, which also grants credit. Other stores are 
located in colleges and institutions, where a measure of con¬ 
tinuous and disinterested supervision is given by the staff. 
Many co-operative shops in the towns were founded during the 
period of high prices at the end of the War, but soon failed for 
lack of skilled management or through the disloyalty of their 
members. The margin of profit secured by the private shop¬ 
keeper in commodities of daily use is not wide in India, and 
though the quality of his goods may be uneven or bad, con¬ 
sumers' in general are not yet ready to pay a higher price for 
higher quality or to give their labour and their loyalty con¬ 
tinuously in order to keep the price down. 

31. Agricultural supply societies, ordering on an indent 
from members and maintaining no shop, are not often needed 
in India, peasants being content with an occasional joint 
purchase of seed or fertilizers through a credit society; but 
societies of handloom-weavers and other artisans, whose 
demand for raw material is constant, purchase it in bulk to 
the great advantage of their members. These societies, 
numbering about 3,000, frequently undertake the marketing 
of manufactured commodities as well, and may be placed 
in the categories of either supply or sale. 

* See Co mm ission on Agriculture, Report, p. 403 : and para. 14 
above. A marketing society would be useless when the only possible 
purchaser was the bania. 


32. The marketing of agricultural produce has been 
hindered by the inability of the peasant to deliver it in a clean 
condition at the promised time and also by a certain reluctance 
of commercial firms to deal with co-operative bodies. Close 
supervision over the quality of goods and over the punctuality 
of supply is needed, together with the employment of skilled 
agents to negotiate with the buyers ; and agriculturists may 
be unwilling to pay for such skill and are often incompetent 
to control their own agents, who may then succumb to 
temptation. Joint sale of cotton is, nevertheless, conducted 
effectively by a group of societies in Bombay Presidency which 
are supported by co-operative pressing or ginning factories, 
and have overcome boycotts and other obstacles. Milk 
societies (250) in Bengal maintain a central pasteurizing plant 
in Calcutta, and there are dairy societies which rise and 
fall in other provinces. Cane is sold through special societies 
in the United Provinces, and there are cane-growers’ societies 
on a smaller scale elsewhere. In Madras the loan and sale 
society and in the Punjab the commission shop receive the 
produce of members for storage and subsequent sale without 
bulking or grading. Reference has already been made to sale 
by artisans’ societies. Co-operative sale is growing, but is 
subject to many infant maladies. The Government Market¬ 
ing Officers, lately appointed, will be in a position to give 
valuable advice.* A possible line of advance is through 
such bodies as the provincial co-operative marketing society 
of Madras, which is to link together the loan and sale societies 
and the co-operative stores and place them in touch with the 
general market. 

33. Housing is an intermediate form of co-operative 
activity, between purchase and sale. In a housing society 
the members either unite their forces, their credit, and their 
savings to build houses which are occupied and owned by them 
individually when the purchase-instalments have been paid, 
or set up an apartment-building in which individual members 
become tenants, paying rent to the society. The construction 
of the houses is not undertaken by the members; a joint 
contract is given by them through their society to a builder. 
In Europe the building society is not, as a rule, registered under 
the co-operative law, though its practice is usually co-operative. 
In India building societies seek co-operative registration, the 
members feeling the necessity for guidance and supervision, 

* See Chapter V, para. 49. 

which would not be available on the same terms if an ordinary- 
company were formed. The latest returns show over eighty 
societies in Bombay and 200 in Madras. Nearly all are urban, 
but there was an ambitious scheme for a rural model town 
adjoining Lahore in the Punjab which, after a promising 
development in the first few years, fell later into trouble. 
The provincial authorities advance money to housing societies 
on favourable terms, but the project for a central housing 
society in Madras which would distribute these funds to 
primary societies was not approved by the Madras Government. 

34. When a definition of a co-operative society was given 
at the be ginnin g of this chapter, it was noted that the economic 
advantage pursued by the members need not be direct. A 
direct advantage is generally sought, as in the cases of Co¬ 
operation for credit, purchase, or sale ; but when we turn to 
such matters as the improvement of agricultural methods, 
the pursuit’* of health, the education of adults or children, 
the avoidance of extravagance or evil habits, and the inculca¬ 
tion of thrift, then the object is not itself so immediately 
profitable in a financial sense, though it is obviously a means 
of gaining a real benefit. The readjustments in the social life 
of India which have followed upon contact with European 
nations have been slow and painful, and not free from harmful 
elements. Legislation for social ends is still a comparatively 
novel conception to the bulk of the Indian population, while 
the traditional social structure, however well adapted to the 
requirements of the country several generations ago, does not 
readily accommodate imported ideas and practices which it 
may, nevertheless, be inevitable to introduce. The co-opera¬ 
tive society, itself an importation, having proved acceptable 
to India and being of a very flexible nature, is well suited to 
become the seed-bed of new thoughts and the testing-ground of 
their fitness for application in practice. Hence there have 
sprung up in India, more than anywhere in the world, original 
types of co-operative society, some of which deserve to be 

35. Most conspicuous of all achievements is the consolida¬ 
tion of holdings. An Indian cultivator’s farm of normal 
size, if all situated in one place and intensively cultivated, is 
sufficient to provide a reasonable living whether in Europe, 
in America, or India. But it is composed in India of tiny 
fields scattered at a distance from one another and unsuited 

for intensive or intelligent farming. This fragmentation * 
causes immense loss to the agricultural population as a whole. 
The same evil formerly existed in Europe, but has been over¬ 
come during the last two centuries by legislation which brought 
about, on the application of a majority of farmers in any 
village, a compulsory reallotment of the land in consolidated 
blocks. The Indian peasant, it was held, was not ready for 
such compulsion, and co-operative societies for voluntary 
consolidation, organized in the Punjab from 1920 onwards, 
have now reallotted nearly 1,000,000 acres with the help of 
village accountants [patwaris) lent to the societies by the 
Government. The United Provinces have recently followed 
suit with 100 societies, Baroda State has nearly as many, 
and the experiment is being tried in other areas also.I In 
the Central Provinces from the first and in the Punjab subse¬ 
quently contributions towards the cost of the work have been 
made by the farmers; but even without such payment it is 
a remarkable triumph to have induced the peasant to surrender 
his beloved though uneconomic fields and accept a new 
holding. Confidence in the co-operative staff and a recogni¬ 
tion of what co-operative credit has done for the peasant’s 
benefit were the causes which led him in the first place to 
listen to so alarming a proposal. J 

36. Better farming is an end pursued in diverse ways and 
under various titles. Irrigation societies (1,000 in Bengal 
and a few elsewhere) embank a stream or a channel in which 
only seasonal water flows in order to use the stored water in 
the dry months. Land-reclamation (by prevention of erosion 
or eradication of harmful weeds) is carried on in every province 
on a minor scale. Crop-protection societies fence or wall 
round the cropped area of the village, and have in Bombay 
been granted the legal right to compel a recalcitrant minority. 
Seed-unions multiply improved seed for distribution to 
members ; other better farming societies maintain demonstra¬ 
tion plots in order to convince members that a selected variety 
of seed, recommended by the agricultural officers, is really 
better than their own and will grow in their own soil.§ Yet 

* For a full account of fragmentation and subdivision of holdings, 
which should be distinguished, see Chapter IV, paras. 30 et ssq. 

f For similar action in the Central Provinces, taken under a special 
law, see Chapter III, para. 58. 

$ For a description of an actual case of such consolidation, see 
appendix to this chapter, p. 342. 

§ Cf, Chapter V, para. 6. 


another type pledges its members to come together and listen 
to the agricultural officer and to adopt experimentally, .in 
their own fields, one at least of the seed varieties or implements 
or methods of cultivation which he lays before them. It 
is, indeed, this assembling of the peasants to listen in a receptive 
mood which is the chief service of the better farming society. 
Agricultural officers can reach the large-scale farmer and can 
spare time for him; but scientific knowledge does not, in 
India at least, filter down from big to small farmers. The latter 
are distrustful, and it is only when a group of thirty, fifty, or 
more are collected that the expert can afford to argue with them 
and they will consent to weigh his arguments. 

37. The same principle—a mutual promise by a group 
of men to do jointly what each of them knows that he ought to 
do but few will separately carry out—underlies the co-operative 
adult schools, in which members meet, under the village school¬ 
master, to learn to read and write.* These schools sometimes 
preceded the organization of an adult literacy class by the 
education department, but the zeal of the latter has now in 
most districts rendered co-operative pioneering superfluous. 
Compulsory education societies are those in which the parents 
of children of school-age, in a village in which the compulsory 
education law is not yet in force, bind themselves to send their 
children regularly to school and to submit to a fine, imposed 
by their own society’s committee, in case of failure to do so. 
Where such societies prosper, the compulsory education law 
is often applied to the village, and the society’s work is 

38. Co-operation for health is most advanced in Bengal, 
where over 1,000 co-operative anti-malarial societies are 
registered, and pledge their members to combat the mosquito 
and to adopt preventive measures against malaria.f They 
depend greatly on the collaboration of the local authorities 
(union boards {), but are valuable in stimulating these bodies 
to action and need not be entirely ineffective where the local 
authority remains inert. Medical societies also exist, as in 
Japan and Yugoslavia, for the employment of a doctor and the 
maintenance of a dispensary or hospital in tracts in which the 
Government cannot yet afford to establish one. In all these 

* In the United Provinces such co-operative adult schools are usually 
turned after three years into reading clubs. 

t See Chapter XII, para. 18. 

j See Chapter XI, para. 37. 

33 6 

cases the members pay a recurring contribution towards the 
cost, and are in consequence more inclined to use the facilities 
which, if provided freely, they only too often disregard. 

39. Thrift is a natural ally of co-operative credit and indeed 
of all social welfare. Most Indian credit societies inculcate 
thrift in their members by demanding regular instalments of 
share money,* to which a compulsory annual deposit is added 
in certain provinces. Persons who have a constant income, 
on the other hand, ought not to require credit unless in 
exceptional circumstances, and are invited to make provision 
for future expenditure which can be foreseen, such as weddings 
and education, and also for unforeseen emergencies, such as 
sickness and funerals, by means of thrift societies in which 
they make deposits of a stated amount in every month. These 
arrangements are popular among schoolmasters, but are not 
confined to this class. About 1,500 cash or grain thrift societies 
are registered in the Punjab, and the idea is now spreading in 
the United Provinces and other parts of India. 

40. Mention should here be made of Go-operation among 
women. A movement so intimately touching domestic life 
and finance will not flourish without the housewife’s help. In 
the distributive societies (stores) of Europe the wife is often a 
member as well as her husband, and is always the principal 
buyer. Indian women are less easily taught and organized, 
on account of their general illiteracy and the restrictions 
imposed by custom, but attempts have been made to reach 
them. An Inspectress and a small staff of Sub-inspectresses 
in the Punjab promote thrift and better living through 250 
women’s societies, and the same idea is taking root in Bengal, 
Bihar, Orissa, and the United Provinces. It will spread, 
but is hampered by the scarcity of literate women who are 
able to undertake the duty of a whole-time and trained 
co-operative organizer. 

41. Thrift should be accompanied by the avoidance of 
extravagant and wasteful expenditure. In the arbitration 
society, members pledge themselves to bring all their disputes 
before the committee, which if it cannot reconcile the parties 
refers the matter to arbitrators chosen from a panel of respected 
local men. Their award is to be binding, and though no man 

* In rural societies a share is usually Rs. 10 or Rs. ao, paid up in ten 
or twenty instalments. Urban societies may have a share of Rs. 100, 
paid in 100 monthly instalments. 


may lawfully be prohibited from resort to a legal tribunal, it is 
lawful for the society (through its committee) to fine a member 
if he goes to the law-court in contravention of his pledge. 
Co-operative arbitration societies grow slowly, but exceed a 
hundred in the Punjab, which has been a fertile field of experi¬ 
ments in “ social ” co-operation. They require the participa¬ 
tion, as members, of almost the entire population of the village 
if quarrels are really to be prevented. Other kinds of society 
may settle disputes between their own members, who will 
perhaps be only a section of the inhabitants, but only a special 
arbitration society can secure a general peace and save the 
village from the ruinous cost of litigation. 

42. It is possible, further, if the consent of the whole or 
almost the whole village can be obtained, to pursue a variety 
of social objects through a co-operative better-living society. 
When this type was first evolved, the intention was to check, 
by a mutual pledge of the members, the excessive expenditure 
on ceremonies, especially weddings, which only too often left 
the married persons and their parents saddled for ever with an 
intolerable debt. Certain forms of ceremonial outlay were 
forbidden by resolution of a general meeting, while a maxi¬ 
mum standard was prescribed for others, e.g. for presents of 
jewellery to the bride. Since expenditure on social occasions 
is largely competitive, this plan of mutual restraint was wel¬ 
comed and several hundred societies were organized, which 
had a useful influence. The agricultural depression, however, 
rendered extravagance less likely for the time, and better¬ 
living societies or rural reconstruction societies in the Punjab 
(750), in the United Provinces (350), with minor groups in 
Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, Bombay and Madras, occupy them¬ 
selves with health and medical assistance, agricultural and 
technical education, and practice erection of walls and fences, 
destruction of water-hyacinth,* encouragement of local crafts, 
reform of undesirable customs, and so on. The association 
of the co-operative movement with the rural reconstruction 
campaign is discussed in a later chapter. It should, however, 
be borne in mind that in such a country as India, in which 
democratic institutions are being set up, the training of the 
citizen and the peasant in the ideas of joint effort for the public 
good, of toleration for opinions conflicting with his own, and 

* An agricultural pest, common in Assam, Bengal, and Madras. 
See Commission on Agriculture, Report , pp. 380-1. 

of amicable argument for the settlement of differences is 
absolutely essential if a national government is to be stable 
and progressive. No centre of education, no form of discussion 
is so good a training ground as the co-operative society. Here 
a man learns to listen and to speak, to convince others, and 
to admit his own error. He becomes an intelligent citizen of 
the new India. 

43. Some co-operators hold that the co-existence of several 
societies for different purposes in the same village is incon¬ 
venient, since it multiplies the books and accounts, which have 
all, in the end, to be kept by a few village leaders. General- 
purpose societies have accordingly been registered in several 
areas, e.g. in Orissa, which take power to give credit, to buy 
and sell produce and requirements, and to do anything which 
the village may need. Europe and America, on the contrary, 
emphatically support the single-purpose society, and experience 
in India leads towards the same conclusion, though the general- 
purpose society may be serviceable for a while in very back¬ 
ward districts. Co-operation seeks to teach even the humblest 
to take part in the management of his society or societies, 
and he will best do this if the proceedings and accounts are 
simplified by the treatment of only one class of business in 
each institution. 

Comparison of Various Provinces 

44. It is somewhat invidious to attempt a comparison 
between the achievements of the various provinces in the 
co-operative field. Recent inquiries, conducted at the time 
of the distribution of a special grant by the Government of 
India for the promotion of the movement, indicated that the 
position was most secure in Bombay, Madras, and the Punjab ; 
ground was being slowly regained in the United Provinces, 
but Bengal, Bihar, and the Central Provinces were compara¬ 
tively unstable.* The strength of Bombay lies in : (i) the 
financial resources and business efficiency of the Bombay cen¬ 
tral co-operative bank, which operates both as a provincial 
institution and also, through branches in several districts, 
directly as a district bank ; and (ii) in the ability of the 
Bombay provincial co-operative institute to recruit and train 
honorary organizers, who perform certain of the duties entrusted 
by the institutes of other provinces to their paid employees. 

* Orissa and Sind had not yet been constituted separate provinces. 

The substitution of such honorary workers for full-time paid 
servants is regarded by many co-operators as a step forward, 
though a certain proportion of full-time men will always be 
required. Bombay is also entitled to pride itself on its urban 
societies for credit, housing, and the cotton-sale societies at 
Gadag and elsewhere. Madras has two claims to distinction : 
in the first place a system of district banks, headed here also 
by the provincial bank, which has been accounted by touring 
observers the best in the country; and secondly, a develop¬ 
ment of co-operative mortgage banking which may, if 
cautiously promoted and not hurried, go far to solve the 
problem of ancestral debt and enable the landowner to under¬ 
take improvements. A defect of Madras Co-operation in the 
past has been the grant, by credit societies intended only for 
short-term lending, of long-term loans on the security of 
landed property, and the immobilization of resources resulting 
from such loans led to the appointment of the Townsend 
Committee in 1928. Mortgage banks remove the danger of 
and the necessity for such loans by credit societies. The 
Punjab has built up a more independent primary village 
society than other provinces ; the human material available 
in the villages is more vigorous than elsewhere, and the lower 
density of population renders possible, especially in irrigated 
districts, a higher standard of living. Co-operative societies 
in the Punjab appear to govern themselves more fully than in 
southern or eastern India, but mortgage banking has been 
unsuccessful. The importance of training the inspecting and 
supervising staff has been long realized, and the Punjab system 
of co-operative education has been examined by co-operators 
from other parts of the country with a view to imitation. 
To this education is largely due the expansion of the move¬ 
ment in the direction of thrift, better farming, and better 

45. The United Provinces reorganized, after the report of 
the Oakden Committee in 1926, the methods of supervision and 
guidance of societies which had been followed by the central 
banks. Supervisors were brought under the control of a 
provincial non-financing institute, and after a necessary period 
of consolidation, a new move forward was made on lines of 
rural reconstruction through “ centres ” in which the activities 
of all departments are co-ordinated. * Co-operation is regarded 

* Reference is made to these centres in Chapter XII, para. 37. 


as part of a wider effort towards better living, and the progress 
thus made in the United Provinces has influenced the views of 
co-operators throughout India. Credit societies and certain 
district banks are, however, still embarrassed by frozen debts, 
and the economic and mental condition of the tenants in the 
eastern half of the province renders difficult the creation of 
self-governing village societies. A beginning has been made 
in a similar campaign of reconstruction in the Central Pro¬ 
vinces, but the co-operative form of organization is here less 
frequently employed for the purpose. The structure of the 
movement in the Central Provinces was for many years highly 
centralized. Unwise financing of societies by the central 
organs together with the neglect of co-operative education 
led to a crisis in 1921—2, from which a recovery has not yet 
been effected. 

46. The eastern provinces have been hampered by the 
same lack of independent spirit among the peasantry, most of 
whom are tenants or subtenants, which affects the east of the 
United Provinces. The number of societies in Bengal is large, 
but the credit societies are weak. Praise is due to the anti- 
malarial societies and the irrigation societies, which have 
proved that even a depressed peasantry is capable of self- 
help for an object recognized to be desirable and not calling 
for daily action or self-restraint, such as is necessary in co¬ 
operative credit. Training of the staff and of the co-operators 
has been deficient in all the eastern provinces. 

47. Indian Go-operation lies in the trough of the wave, 
but to speak of failure is absurd. The world is recovering from 
an economic disaster ; and co-operators everywhere, cutting 
their losses, have been forced to devise new methods of working, 
new safeguards against trouble. The probable lines of 
development in India during the next decade are : 

(i) A stricter separation than in the past between short¬ 
term credit from the ordinary credit society and long-term 
credit from the mortgage bank ; 

(ii) An expansion of the non-credit societies, both in the 
direction of supply and marketing and towards the general 
rural reconstruction which India needs ; 

(iii) Fuller education of the staff and members in the mean¬ 
ing of Co-operation, and a closer control over the movement 
by a skilled official or unofficial agency, until the process of 
education has made a great advance. 


Appendix.—Note on the “ Consolidation op Holdings ” in 

Kishanpura Village, Rupar Tahsil, Ambala District, 


The entire village area of 344 acres was handed over at the 
end of 1933 by its 116 landowners and occupancy tenants. In 
consequence of the abolition of numerous field-boundaries, an 
excess of 2 acres was found after the completion of the work in 1934. 
Every owner and occupancy tenant received the same amount of 
cultivable land in one or two places which he had formerly held in 
(on the average) six places. The twenty-two fields of Santokh 
Singh, marked in red, and the fourteen fields of Ajit Singh, marked 
in green, were brought together in a single block for each man ; 
they will now be able to sink wells in their own holdings. There 
are many similar though less striking cases. The number of fields 
into which the 344 acres had been formerly divided was reduced 
from 643 to 179. The excess area resulting from the abolition of 
boundaries was used for three purposes : 

(i) one acre near the village was reserved for a school, together 
with a playground ; 

(ii) a drain, marked in blue, was dug to carry off the surface 
water from the village ; 

(iii) cart-roads, marked in yellow, were provided for every 
owner to reach his fields, without passing over the fields of others 
than near relatives. 

The land immediately surrounding the residential village itself, 
which was formerly held in common and was a frequent cause of 
quarrels and litigation, was divided at the request of the people. 
Plots were reserved for shops, for a bathing-place, and for the 
residences of village menials, while the remainder was shared out 
among the villagers for the purpose of separate cattle-sheds and 

The landowners and occupancy tenants paid a voluntary con¬ 
tribution of g| annas * per acre of cultivated land, amounting to 
Rs. 212 in all, towards the cost of consolidation, and a further sum 
of Rs. 200 was subscribed by all residents for the division of the 
area adjacent to the village. The rights and claims to this latter 
area were complicated, and much time and labour were required. 
These payments did not, however, cover the entire cost of employing 
apatwari on special duty for eight months or of supervising his work 
through superior staff. The cost to Government, which is difficult 
to reckon in the case of a single village, will have been about 
Rs. 600. 

The Kishanpura co-operative consolidation of holdings society 
was registered with the 116 owners and occupancy tenants as its 
members. The by-laws bound each member to accept the land 
allotted to him in repartition, but no compulsion was necessary, 
all differences of opinion being amicably decided. 

* About xof d. Rs. 212=^15. i8i.; Rs. 200=^15, 



Local Government and Social Administration 

i . There are two principles on which a system of local 
government may be based. Neither of these can be applied 
in its entirety without leading to either a state of disorder or 
an unduly intense centralization. The local authorities may 
be regarded as parts or agents of the central government, 
which controls them in all essentials, leaving them only such 
discretion as is necessary in order to adapt its instructions to 
the conditions of the locality ; or the local body may be 
treated as an autonomous entity, existing of its own right 
(even though created by a law of the central government) 
as a separate but subordinate government, and subjected only 
to such control as will ensure reasonable efficiency in adminis¬ 
tration. Such control, even under the former system, may be 
so lax as to leave the local body virtually autonomous ; or, 
under the latter system, so close as to cramp the freedom 
of local authority and deprive it of the stimulus towards good 

2. It will be useful for students of local government in 
India to examine briefly the principles and methods of local 
administration in foreign countries. It is undesirable simply 
to transplant to Indian soil an institution which is adapted to 
other conditions and may have its roots laid deep in a national 
history. Such experiments are seldom successful ; the initia¬ 
tion in India of what was supposed to be the British system 
may have been too close and necessary adjustment to Indian 
requirements may have been neglected. Such adjustment is 
in itself a difficult process, calling for knowledge both of India 
and of the country in which the institution grew up. Never¬ 
theless, comparison and contrast of foreign and Indian methods 


should be profitable, providing food for thought to adminis¬ 
trators and their critics, and tending to check the pace of over-. 
hasty reformers. 

Local Government in England 

3. The English boroughs, having a history of growth as 
long as that of the King’s government—for many English 
boroughs are as old as Parliament and must have enjoyed a 
consciousness of common interest for an even longer time— 
have always been treated as autonomous in principle, though 
subject to the central power. Rural government lay, however, 
in the hands of local magnates who, as justices * of the peace, 
maintained law and order and were gradually entrusted with 
other functions. From 1600 onwards they were called upon 
to name overseers of the poor in each parish and to levy and 
spend a rate for poor relief. The rate was assessed on the 
annual value (i.e. the actual rent, or the estimated rent if it 
were not rented) of every house and building in the parish, 
and though all agricultural land and some industrial establish¬ 
ments have recently been exempted from assessment, this local 
rate remains the principal source of revenue for all English 

4. Special committees for education, health, and highways 
were formed in the nineteenth century, but it was the Local 
Government Acts of 1888, 1894, and 1929 which built up the 
present English system. There is now a county council for 
each county J and for London, under which are urban district 
councils and rural district councils in the counties, and borough 
councils in London, and under them again a parish council or 
(in small parishes) a less formal parish meeting. Very large 
and wealthy regions of each county (except London) are, 
nevertheless, separately incorporated as county boroughs and 
enjoy independence of the county councils. There are no 
district councils under the county boroughs. Other towns are 
incorporated as boroughs without having the status and 
functions of a county borough, and hold a position similar 
to that of an urban district council; for the purpose of this 

* Comparable with rural honorary magistrates in India. 

t The English local rate rests on a wider basis than the Indian rural 
rate on land only, and resembles the house and property tax of Indian 

+ Certain very large counties, such as Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, 
have more than one county council. 


summary review it is needless to distinguish between the two 
last types of authority. 

5. The members of all these councils are elected * ; but 
county councils and boroughs appoint aldermen, either from 
their own number or from outside. District councils have no 
aldermen. All councils elect their own chairman (known in a 
borough as the mayor), who may be a non-member. County 
councils, borough councils, and district councils divide their 
duties among committees (for education, finance, roads, etc.), 
to which are co-opted persons who are not members of the 
council. The police committee of each county consists half 
of members of the county council and half of justices of the 
peace. These two “ non-democratic 55 elements in English 
local government, the co-option of aldermen and the co-option 
of non-members on the council committees, deserve attention 
as illustrating the freedom of English politicians and citizens 
from an excess of logic—a vice of which, indeed, Englishmen 
have seldom been accused—such as would render their 
democratic institutions unworkable. The aldermen, who serve 
for six years, enable the council to maintain, if desired, a 
continuous policy, while the non-members, as aldermen or as 
members of the committees, supply direct or expert knowledge 
frequently lacking in the councillors. 

6. The parish meeting is the descendant of the primitive 
community gathering which in every country of the world 
originally settled the common affairs of the village or the 
town-parish and elected, if necessary, a parish council for 
current business. After falling into the background in the 
nineteenth century, the‘ parish councils and meetings were 
given a legal footing by the Act of 1894, just as village 
panchayats f have in the last few decades been revived by law 
in India. The liveliness of a parish authority J varies with the 
size of the population and the temper of the leading citizens. 
Its main duties are to manage parish property, if any, e.g. 
common land, to maintain rights of way, to provide small 
allotments of land for cultivation, and to complain to the 
government or a higher local authority if it objects to the 

* For three years, one-third retiring annually; aldermen hold office 
for six years, one-half retiring after each three years. 

■f See Chapter III, para. 14. 

% The legal parish is not always, especially in urban areas, a parish 
of the Church, though it sprang from the ecclesiastical parish which was 
once the natural unit of self-government. 


proceedings or the negligence of the district council. A parish 
council may also undertake, under a series of “ adoptive ” 
Acts,* to establish and manage a public library, playgrounds, 
baths and wash-houses, lighting, a fire brigade, and a cemetery. 
Its services are supervised by a clerk, sometimes receiving 
a small salary, and an honorary treasurer. A rate up to 
sixpence in the pound on land and buildings may be imposed 
by the parish authority, but is collected on its behalf by the 
district council. The parish authority has ceased to be 
important in the towns. There are about 13,000 rural 
parishes. They have not, as have the majority of village 
panchayats in India, a judicial duty of any description. Pro¬ 
posals have been made for the abolition of parish councils, on 
the ground that under modern conditions the minimum unit 
of local government should cover a greater area ; but there 
will always remain certain “ parish pump ” business which is 
best conducted on the spot, and there is value in fostering a 
community spirit even in so small a unit as the parish. 

7. Above the parish stands the rural or in some cases the 
urban district council. There are about 600 and 800 councils 
of these two classes. The rural district council f may extend 
over twenty or thirty parishes, from each of which one represen¬ 
tative is elected to it for three years, one-third of the members 
retiring annually. It is the rate-collecting authority both for 
its own purposes and for those of the county council above it 
and the parish councils below it. Thus a county council may 
fix in any year a rate of 51. in the pound for its own needs, and 
each rural district council will add to this a further sum, perhaps 
another 55., on its own account, and will collect the ior. % from 
all assessees having land or buildings within its jurisdiction. If 
,any parish has imposed a further rate of its own, say 3 d., the 
rural district council will collect ior. 3d. in that parish, and will 
pay over to the county and the parish councils the shares due 
to them. 

8. The district council, rural or urban, is intended to be 
the authority most immediately in touch with the ordinary 
citizen, carrying out most of the administrative duties which 

* I.e. Acts which allow an authority to extend its field of activity by 
special resolution. 

t Distinguish this official and legal authority from the unofficial and 
voluntary rural community council, discussed in the next chapter. 

2 ICU ' * n C; '~ C ~ P ounc - °f actual or estimated rent, or “rateable 


affect him either in its own right or on behalf of the county 
council. It is concerned with public health, education, roads, 
housing, lighting, recreation grounds, libraries, cemeteries, 
and water-supply, and a host of minor functions, and entrusts 
them (i) to committees of members plus co-opted non¬ 
members, and (ii) to officials who are appointed by the council 
and work under the general guidance of the committees. 
The chairman may or may not be active, according to his 
temperament, but has in any case no specific powers. There 
is a cotmcil clerk who exercises a general supervision, and a 
treasurer, an engineer, a surveyor, a health officer, and a 
sanitary inspector. The central government lays down 
certain qualifications for the four last officers and contributes 
towards their pay or the cost of the services which they carry 
on, thus maintaining the requisite control and a suitable 
standard of efficiency. The tendency is towards an increasing 
centralization of power in the hands of the county councils 
or the central government, especially where the weaker rural 
district councils are concerned, in order to secure the proper 
execution of duties which are of interest to the nation as a 
whole. Health and highways, for instance, are obviously 
not solely of local importance, yet some rural authorities are 
unable to provide either the necessary cost or fully qualified 
personnel. It has, therefore, been suggested that at least the 
rural district councils be abolished (the urban districts are 
richer and have fewer difficulties to face), and that the county 
councils or higher regional bodies undertake all that the 
parishes cannot do. Efficiency might thus be enhanced, 
to the detriment of local responsibility. 

9. The county councils are also elected for three years, 
but all members except half of the aldermen retire at the end 
of that period, some continuity being assured by the remaining 
half of the aldermen. Certain county boroughs have their 
own police forces and manage their own higher education. 
The county council is the sole authority for police, for higher 
education, and for elementary education in the rural areas.* 
It is the principal road authority, though it may and usually 
does have the work done by the district councils; it maintains 
such institutions as mental hospitals and reformatories, which 
are not needed in each district; and it possesses a general 
power of intervention if a district council or a non-county 

* The rural district council assists the county council as its agent in 
respect of schools, roads, and other functions. 


borough neglects to carry out any important task incumbent 
on it. Agriculture, too, is the business of the county council 
rather than of smaller local bodies, and experts in agriculture 
as well as inspectors of education and other services keep the 
county council informed of the necessity for action. The 
clerk is often a lawyer, on a substantial salary of £1,000 or 
more ; he has litde legal power, but is able by means of his 
expert knowledge and tact to link together the work of the 
technical officers and of the committees and to exert a quiet 
but real influence on the proceedings of the council. Urban 
districts and the smaller boroughs enjoy a somewhat fuller 
independence than the rural districts, especially in the matter 
of building by-laws and of education ; they lie, however, 
within the field of the county councils. 

10. The. improvement of communications throughout 
England and the organization of more economical services 
over large areas are leading towards a system of regional 
boards or joint committees for the control of such matters as 
river-drainage, supply and distribution of electricity, water- 
supply, hospitals, and higher educational institutions. Joint 
arrangements of this kind are usually made by county councils 
and county boroughs in combination, though smaller authori¬ 
ties are also at liberty to combine, e.g. for the appointment of a 
joint health officer. This tendency towards regional organiza¬ 
tion is growing stronger under pressure of necessity, but all 
local bodies in England, high and low, are jealous of their 
rights and powers, and much regrettable friction and waste 
is the consequence. 

11. In addition to their income from rates on land 
and buildings, county councils and county boroughs for 
many years before 1929 received from the State grants 
calculated at varying percentages of their expenditure on 
various objects, which amounted to about one-fifth of their 
total income of £400,000,000 annually. Two-fifths of this 
income were derived from rates and two-fifths from trading 
services such as transport, water, and light. From 1929, 
however, a system of block grants was introduced which were 
based on population, though allowance was also made for 
comparative needs in order to rectify the inequality of resources 
between rich and poor districts. The change resulted in a 
reduction both in the total amount of grants and in their 
proportion to the total income of the local bodies; but new 
specific help has subsequently been given. The recent transfer 
34 8 

of unemployment relief to central control, for instance, has 
relieved local authorities of a large part, though not the whole, 
of the cost. The government has also now agreed to meet the 
bulk of the expense on local precautions against air raids. 

12. County councils pass on a share of the block grant 
to the district councils and smaller boroughs for the service 
which they render in respect of such objects as education 
and health. District councils may in their discretion assist 
parishes to carry out works of public benefit such as drainage. 
Money from the central government thus filters down to the 
most remote villages. In return, the various Ministries of 
Health, Education, Labour, and Agriculture through their 
own inspectors watch over the use of the money, whilst the 
auditors of the Ministry of Health audit the accounts of all 
local authorities except the larger boroughs. 

13. Loans for productive or unproductive works may be 
raised by local authorities with the sanction of the Minister of 
Health. The amount now outstanding is over £500,000,000. 

14. The hierarchy of authorities has been so briefly 
described that it may appear to be more regular and orderly 
than it actually is. There is in reality a great diversity of 
methods and a variable distribution of powers which an 
observer may according to his preference characterize as 
flexible or chaotic. Historical causes have made the English 
system a jig-saw puzzle into which new pieces have from time 
to time been fitted and are still being inserted as opportunity 
offers. But any attempt to establish local government in 
England on a logical plan would evoke strong opposition. 
The system works well enough in England, though not ideally ; 
but the British Dominions have not attempted to imitate those 
parts of the system which are clumsy and illogical, and no other 
European country has imitated it at all. It is not a system of 
completely independent and autonomous local bodies, which 
could not anywhere be created without disrupting the State. 
The United States of America rejoices in a still more flexible 
and chaotic system, but it is not that of England. Certainly no 
English method or institution should be adopted for use in 
India without close examination and a comparison with the 
ways of other countries. 

Local Government in Foreign Countries 

15. American local government has grown out of systems 
familiar to the original settlers, who were Dutch, French, and 


Spanish as well as English. In conformity with the principle 
of separating legislative and executive functions which underlies 
all American administration, the control of administration by 
directly elected councils is far from general; on the contrary, 
it is often the mayor and the chief executive officers who are 
elected by a popular vote, while the council, which may be 
either directly or indirectly elected if it exists at all, has less 
control than in England over the proceedings of the officials. 
The local authorities are those of the township, the county, 
the borough, and the city. The township is a rural area, 
larger than the English parish, but without its historical 
background ; and it is losing some of its importance because 
the prosperous American, for various reasons, does not display 
the same interest and pride in its government as the English 
farmer, parson, or squire. The counties are also losing 
importance because their councils, or boards of supervisors, 
Save little authority over the directly elected officers. The 
borough is smaller than in England, falling within the town¬ 
ship area, but has certain powers of its own. The city until 
recently lay in the jurisdiction of the county ; but the larger 
cities have now secured virtual independence, and are moving 
towards the position of the English county borough. There is 
a tendency for the States * to take over the duties of the rural 
bodies, both township and county, but they seldom interfere 
in urban affairs unless a grave scandal occurs; and the big 
cities are perhaps more autonomous than anywhere in the 
world. Income is derived mainly from a tax on the capital 
value of land and buildings, whereas the English assessment is 
on the annual value ; the State’s government makes few grants 
to local authorities, and in a number of States a city may add 
to its powers of taxation and to its administrative functions by 
its own will. 

16. The results of this municipal freedom have been that 
(i) a bolder policy is followed in America than in England, 
and more has been undertaken and done ; (ii) there has been 
mismanagement and corruption, by no means universal but 
sufficiently widespread to cause comment. Seeking to preserve 
the virtue of vigour in local government and to cure the 
attendant evils, Americans have had recourse to three remedies, 
all of which are strange to England though one is now being 
applied in India. Firstly, the mayor, who in America is directly 

* I.e., the States which are united under the federal government. 


elected by the people (not, as in England, by the council), 
has been given a dominating position in which he overshadows 
his councillors and himself appoints many of the municipal 
officers. These “ strong mayors,” as they are called, have 
proved effective and vigorous, but not always impartial or 
impeccable.* The second remedy is that in place of a mayor 
and council the people elect commissioners, | who divide the 
duties among themselves, thus combining the legislative and 
administrative powers which America usually prefers to 
separate. The “ commission ” system is popular in cities of 
moderate size, though in the largest cities the administration 
is too technical to be controlled by non-technical commissioners. 
The third course, which is being increasingly adopted in 
American cities, in some American counties, and in a few 
European cities as well, is the appointment, by the commission 
or the council, of a “manager” who is the chief executive officer, 
preparing the budget, carrying out all council resolutions, 
and appointing all his subordinate officers. The commission 
or council who appoint the manager lay down the lines of 
policy and sanction expenditure. This plan secures vigorous 
administration and enables the elected body to prevent 

17. A check on the local council or manager may also 
be exerted by retaining for the electorate the rights of 

(1) requiring a referendum on certain classes of proposal; 

(2) initiating action in the council by a petition or requisition 
signed by a certain percentage of the electors; and (3) dis¬ 
missing an official from office by a public poll taken on the 
demand of a certain percentage. These devices are perhaps 
useful where an officer has been publicly elected, but not when 
he has been appointed by an elected council which has itself, 
sooner or later, to come before the electorate again. 

18. The maximum amount which each local authority 
may raise by loan is fixed for it by law of the State in which 
it lies ; a fresh sanction is not, as in England, required on the 
issue of each loan, but on reaching its maximum a local body 
falls into grave difficulties. 

19. In Europe the totalitarian States have abolished the 
right of free election to local bodies and have sometimes 

* Other mayors in America are armed with less power, and may in 
consequence be virtuous but ineffective. 

7 Five is a usual number. 

dispensed with local councils entirely. Where they survive, 
they have only a consultative function. Local government 
is in the hands of a prefect, who is the agent of the central 

20. In the U.S.S.R. the town and village soviets are 
elected by the people, but these soviets then elect the higher 
local bodies, and so on up to the highest authority. The 
process is controlled throughout by the communist party, 
and has not yet been tried in a country in which opinion is 
free. The experiment would be interesting. 

qi. Other European countries have elective local authori¬ 
ties, but the prefect (comparable with a district officer in India) 
possesses a controlling power. In France, the best example 
of this system, every city, town, or village * is a commune with 
a municipal council, which sits for six years and elects its own 
mayor. The council is entitled to pass resolutions on any 
matter of local interest, but major financial expenditure has 
to be approved by the prefect and some questions regarding 
fairs and markets require the approval of the council of the 
departement. The mayor, who frequently receives a salary, is 
the executive officer of the commune and is also the agent of the 
central government. He may be suspended by the prefect 
and dismissed by the government. 

22. In addition to arrondissement f councils, which are not 
very active, there is an elective council of each departement 
which elects its own chairman and (like the county councils 
in England) imposes certain taxes, assessing on each arrondisse¬ 
ment the amount to be so raised, approves loans, and maintains 
institutions (major roads, training colleges, mental hospitals) 
which concern the whole of its area. Its executive officer is 
the prefect, who with a small advisory council, appointed by 
the government, nominates the officers of the departement, 
prepares the budget for its council, and supervises the 
mayors and the communes. The principal source of income 
for communes and departements is a cess calculated on the State 
taxes on land and buildings and on trades and professions.J 

* Sometimes the commune is a group of villages. 

t Arrondissement corresponds to the Indian taJisil or taluka, departement 
to the Indian district. 

+ These taxes are no longer levied by the State, but their assessment 
roll is kept up as a basis for the calculation of the cess. The cess was 
formerly collected together with the taxes, as in the case of the Indian local 
rate, which is collected together with the land revenue. 


There are also minor local taxes, and octroi survives in some 
communes , but is gradually being suppressed. By recent legis¬ 
lation the right of the prefect to interfere in the business of 
communes has been slightly curtailed, but he remains the 
dominant figure in the picture of local administration, and his 
control over all councils, especially those of the communes, is 
continuous and close. No resentment against this practice 
is felt by the majority of French citizens, who prefer order to 
chaos and are as a rule content to leave action and even the 
lesser matters of policy to an executive officer, when they have 
had an opportunity for a frank expression of opinion and for a 
pronouncement on the major questions of general policy. 
The councils in France have seldom a historical background, 
for the entire country was redistributed in departements after 
the French Revolution. There is therefore a greater disposi¬ 
tion than in England to place efficiency before local jealousy. 
The presence of the prefects also checks the corruption which 
has invaded America. 

23. Reference must further be made to the “ adminis¬ 
trative courts ” by which in nearly all European countries a 
dispute between two local authorities or between an authority 
and an official or a private citizen is decided. There is no 
recourse, as in England and America, to the ordinary courts 
of law. The final appeal in such disputes is to the council 
of state, consisting of ministers, of administrative officials, 
and of other councillors nominated by the government. 

Local Self-Government in India 

24. We have now reviewed three different plans of 
administration : the English, in which local pride and tradition 
tend to obstruct efficiency, and which is only made to work, 
in the haphazard English fashion, by the public spirit of the 
citizen as councillor and by the supervision of the central 
government as the source of money-grants ; the American, 
in which public spirit is less continuously in evidence, but 
business efficiency is saved by substituting a strong man or 
commission for unreliable councils ; and the French, in which 
public opinion willingly surrenders the task of administration 
to official authority, preserving democratic control only over 
the principles of policy and guarding against excessive bureau¬ 
cracy by the right of electing a council and of action in an 
administrative court. We have to compare the Indian plan 
of local government with these three. 



25. It is unnecessary to consider the administration of 
Indian towns before the days of British rule ; there is no 
evidence of an autonomous municipal authority. In the 
villages the panchayat, a group of elders, self-constituted or 
nominated by the various occupational classes and castes, 
managed the daily business of the community, but had no 
statutory basis. In British times local government goes back 
to 1687, when Madras was given a municipal constitution by 
a charter of James II. The corporation consisted of a mayor 
and twelve aldermen, fully equipped with silver mace and 
scarlet robes. Seven of the aldermen were Indians, and there 
were also burgesses. The corporation had both judicial and 
administrative duties ; the administrative duties consisted in 
the levying of taxes for the building of a guildhall, a jail, and 
a school-house, and for “ such further ornaments and edifices 
as shall be thought convenient for the honour, interest, orna¬ 
ment, security, and defence 15 of the corporation and the 
inhabitants, and also for the payment of the salaries of the 
municipal officers, including a schoolmaster. The principal 
reason for introducing this municipal constitution was that the 
Company believed that the people would more willingly pay 
“ five shillings to the public good, being taxed by themselves, 
than sixpence raised by our despotical power.” But the 
corporation neither raised taxes nor carried out any of its 
administrative functions, though it rendered good service as 
a judicial body. It is recorded that on one occasion the 
mayor asked permission to levy an octroi duty that he might 
provide the necessary funds for cleansing the streets. In 
1726 this constitution was extended to all the three presidency 
towns ; the corporation was apparently a non-official body, 
for neither the mayor nor the aldermen (seven of whom were 
English) were Company’s servants. The functions of this 
corporation were mainly judicial. The Charter Act of 1793 
enabled the Governor-General to appoint justices of the peace 
in the presidency towns, who in addition to their judicial 
duties were to provide for scavenging, road-repairs, and watch 
and ward, to be paid for from the proceeds of a tax on houses 
and land. It will be noted that this early legislation closely 
followed the English models of the time. The next great 
change occurred after the passing of the Indian Councils Acts 
’ in 1861, when the local legislatures set themselves to introduce 
new municipal constitutions, and since then each presidency 
town has been governed by its own Act. At the present time 

a majority in all three corporations are elected by the rate¬ 
payers or by special constituencies, such as chambers of 
commerce and universities, and only a minority are nominated 
by Government. The president in Bombay and the mayor 
in Calcutta are elected by the corporation, but in Madras he is 
appointed by Government. 

26. The British Government began to extend local 
government beyond the presidency towns as early as 1842, 
when an Act was passed for Bengal only, to enable “ the 
inhabitants of any place of public resort or residence to make 
better provisions for purposes connected with public health 
and convenience.” It could only take effect on the applica¬ 
tion of two-thirds of the householders, and as the taxation 
was to be direct, the law nowhere met with popular acceptance. 
It was only introduced in one town, the inhabitants of which, 
when called on to pay the tax, not only refused but prosecuted 
the Collector for trespass when he attempted to levy it. Another 
Act followed in 1850, which applied to the whole of British 
India ; like its predecessor, it was permissive, but it was also 
more workable, as it made provision for indirect taxation. It 
was freely used in the North-Western Provinces (now the 
Province of Agra), and to some extent in Bombay, though in 
Madras and Bengal it was ineffective. From 1864 to 1868 a 
series of Acts were passed by the local legislatures, as a result 
of which many municipalities were formed under com¬ 
missioners, who were, in fact, generally nominated (except in 
the Punjab and the Central Provinces), though election was 
made permissive. Between 1871 and 1874, as the result of a 
resolution of Lord Mayo’s Government of 1870 in which stress 
was laid on the need of arousing local interest in the manage¬ 
ment of funds devoted to local purposes, another series of 
provincial Acts were passed, which introduced the elective 
principle and greatly widened the sphere of municipal activities. 
In 1881 Lord Ripon declared in a famous resolution that he 
desired to promote the political education of the people and 
to induce intelligent men to take a share in the management 
of their own local affairs : and in 1883-84 provincial Acts 
were passed which carried local administration, both urban 
and rural, a long step forward. The elective principle was 
greatly extended ; many towns were given the power to elect 
non-official chairmen ; and municipal finances were increased, 
partly by relieving them of the cost of the old “ town police,” 
partly by transferring to them some items of provincial 


revenue. Most municipalities, however, still had official 
chairmen; the post was usually held by the District Officer, 
who for all practical purposes was also the board’s executive 
officer, whilst expenditure to a certain extent was officially 
controlled ; for as the Indian citizen was entirely unaccustomed 
to responsibility or self-government, a controlled system of 
this kind was inevitable and reasonable at the time. The tax¬ 
payer and ratepayer gradually realized, especially in the towns, 
that a higher standard of sanitation, road-maintenance, and 
other amenities was worth paying for, and even in the villages 
the connection between payment to Government and the return 
from Government in the form of services was slowly perceived. 
Roads and schools were appreciated more readily than sanitary 
measures, but hospitals for men and beasts, at first regarded 
with suspicion, began to attract patients. 

27. It was in Bombay that local government was first 
introduced into rural areas, where in 1869 an Act was passed 
which associated non-official committees, whose members 
were government nominees, with the District Officer in the 
management of a cess raised to finance such local objects as 
roads, schools, and dispensaries. From 1870 onwards the 
progress of rural self-government followed much the same lines 
as municipal self-government. A series of provincial Acts 
were passed in the early seventies, and another series in the 
early eighties, which were based on the resolutions of the 
Governments of Lord Mayo and Lord Ripon respectively. 
The provincial systems differed widely ; but all that need be 
said of them here is that in all provinces except Assam there 
was a district board, whilst in Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and 
the Central Provinces there were also subdivisional boards,* 
which stood to the district board in much the same relation 
as the rural district council does to the county council in 
England. In Assam the boards have always dealt each with 
a subdivision of the district, and there are no district boards. 
Everywhere the principle of election was recognized ; but the 
president or chairman was almost always an official,! and 
usually the District Officer, who was also the board’s executive 
officer, acting directly or through officers of his own staff or 
of the board, who looked to him for guidance. As in municipal 

* Called “ taluka boards ” in Madras and Bombay, “ local boards ” 
in the Central Provinces. 

t In the United Provinces some boards were given the power to elect 
a chairman, but in fact almost invariably elected the District Officer. 


boards, a measure of official control over expenditure was 

28. Much progress had been made when the Decentraliza¬ 
tion Commission in 1909 recommended the grant of fuller 
liberty to existing local bodies, especially to municipalities, 
with an increase in the proportion of elected members, and also 
the revival of the village panchayat on a legal footing. Little, 
however, was done till 1918, when the Government of India 
issued an important resolution which affirmed the desirability 
of removing official control of local bodies by securing a large 
elective majority, by lowering the franchise, by providing for 
an elected non-official chairman, and by removing certain 
restrictions connected with the preparation of the budget, 
the imposition of taxation, and the sanction of works. It 
also reiterated the plea of the Decentralization Commission 
for revival of the village panchayat.* 

29. The last was a proposal of immense importance. The 
sense of village unity had never died out: many matters of 
common interest were still settled in a caste meeting or by a 
circle of responsible men sitting in the village meeting-house 
or under a shady tree, and certain very disputable questions, 
e.g. the distribution of a total sum, assessed as land revenue, 
over the lands of the village, or the rotation of the supply of 
canal water to the cultivators of fields on each outlet from the 
canal, were referred by the departmental representatives 
of Government to the village community, and only decided 
by official order in those cases in which no agreement was 
reached. Yet the spirit of individualism had penetrated the 
village as well as the town, and elders complained of inability 
to influence their fellow-peasants and to exact customary 
service from the village menials as in the past. Statutory 
support for their authority had manifestly become necessary, 
and a feeble but slowly growing desire was perceptible among 
other villagers for a right to manage their own local affairs. 
The World War awakened the peasant to the political and 
economic reactions of the international situation on his own 
life ; an improved standard of living, not only in the shape of 
bicycles and gramophones but also of better health and a 
broader understanding, was regarded as no longer unattain¬ 
able ; and those in particular who returned from military 
service in Europe, themselves nearly always peasants, had 

* See Chapter III, para. 14. 


seen European peasants living in a style which, though far 
from affluent, was very different from their own. Both town 
and village were ready for a move forward. 

30. The last twenty years in India have consequently 
seen a stream of amending Acts on local government in every 
province, all of which are based immediately on the resolution 
of 1918. Official presidents have disappeared from nearly 
all the municipal committees and from a number, though not 
from all, of the district or local boards. The result was at 
first a fall in efficiency, sometimes also in integrity, and pro¬ 
vincial Governments have been compelled in the public interest 
to use the power, reserved to them under the same amending 
Acts which enhanced municipal liberties, to take over the 
management of municipal affairs in several towns, replacing 
the municipal committee by their own nominee for a period 
of years, though instances of such supersession are not 
numerous.* Amendments of the provincial laws dealing with 
local government and in one case a special Act have further 
empowered the provincial Governments to insist on the 
appointment of an executive officer, resembling the American 
city manager, in those municipalities which are not satisfactorily 
managed by the councillors. This weapon has been used 
with moderation, but the provincial Government reserves to 
itself the right to approve the qualifications and salary of the 
executive officer whom the committee is to appoint, and to 
allow his removal only by a substantial majority of the com¬ 
missioners. In some provinces the Government, like the 
Ministry of Health at home,I may insist also on the appoint¬ 
ment of a secretary, an engineer, a health officer, and a sanitary 
inspector, with the same reservation as to their qualifications, 
salary, and dismissal. 

31. The duties of municipal committees and district 
boards resemble those of England and Europe. The former 
are charged with the construction and maintenance of roads, 
culverts, markets, slaughter-houses, bathing-places, and drink¬ 
ing fountains ; the maintenance of schools and hospitals, the 
regulation of offensive and dangerous trades, sewerage or other 
conservancy arrangements ; water-supply, lighting, and fire- 
protection ; provision for relief in time of famine or scarcity ; 

* Similar action has been taken in England (Poplar and elsewhere), 
the Irish Free State (Dublin), and most countries in Europe. 

f See para. 8, above. 

35 8 

the registration of births and deaths (but seldom of marriages) ; 
public vaccination and primary education. The instruction 
in the schools and the medical work in the hospitals are to a 
considerable extent subject, as in other countries, to the appro¬ 
priate departments of the provincial Government. The 
provision of transport is not specified as an important function, 
and falls in most of the Acts under a general head of “ other 
services ” * which a municipal committee may undertake. 
Since a loan for such an undertaking would presumably be 
necessary, the sanction of Government has to be obtained; 
but apart from this restriction, the municipal undertakings 
of India are less ambitious than those of England, and such 
moderation is advisable until a high standard of executive 
action and of civic responsibility is attained. 

32. Income is derived from a tax on the annual value of 
land and buildings within the municipal area, and from taxes 
on such objects as professions, vehicles, and servants. Tolls 
are sometimes levied, and octroi and a terminal tax are not 
uncommon in north India ; but these sources of income, though 
popular with the ratepayers, are discouraged and are diminish¬ 
ing.! There are also charges for domestic lighting, water-supply 
and conservancy, and possibly profit on a transport service. 
Provincial Governments make grants, mainly for education 
but also for roads and health J ; the percentage of municipal 
income from government grants varies from about 5 to 10 
per cent, of the total. It will be noted that the police are not 
municipal, but are subject to the provincial Government; 
and there is no general poor law, indigent persons in India 
being supported by their relatives and caste fellows or by 
begging. There are a number of charitable orphanages. 

33. The municipal franchise is based on a low property 
qualification, about 20 per cent, of adults being on the roll. > 
Women are qualified both as voters and councillors. The great 
majority of members are elected, but a minority (usually 

* These “ discretionary ” services include the provision of public 
parks, gardens, libraries, museums, and rest-houses, with survey, census, 
and secondary education. 

f The preference for indirect over direct taxation is even stronger in 
India than elsewhere. Many municipal or rural authorities would pro¬ 
bably return to clumsy tolls and octrois if not discouraged by Government. 

+ Mostly in the shape of a share of pay of health officers, sanitary 
inspectors, and vaccinators, and of the maintenance of hospitals and 
veterinary dispensaries. 


limited to a maximum of one-fifth) may be nominated by the 
provincial Government. Persons of position who would not 
be willing to face an election, members of the depressed classes 
who would not succeed if they did, and officials with technical 
knowledge are thus brought on to the committees, and the 
opportunity is taken to redress any grave disproportion 
between the numbers of elected commissioners from the 
various religious communities. 

34. District boards have, on paper, a list of duties very 
similar to those of municipal committees. In practice, how¬ 
ever, they are chiefly concerned with roads, the maintenance 
of hospitals and dispensaries, vaccination, primary education, 
and veterinary work, including the maintenance of dispensaries; 
the charge of pounds and ferries, and in some provinces with 
land conservation, irrigation, and agricultural farms ; whilst 
they have much less to do with preventive health measures, 
lighting, and drinking-water than the urban areas.* * * § Educa¬ 
tion is the principal business of both authorities. The sub- 
divisional boards, already mentioned, have subordinate powers; 
but the multiplication of still smaller union boards or village 
panchayats is leading to the abolition of those subdivisional 

35. District boards are financed by the cess or local rate, 
which is added, as in France, to the land tax (in India known 
as land revenue)f of the provincial Government. J The 
board may also levy fees for education, fairs, pounds, ferries, 
and other public services, for the registration of births and 
deaths,§ and may impose a few taxes. Generous grants from 
Government are made for education and health, and expendi¬ 
ture on education is sometimes as much as 50 to 60 per cent, 
of the total expenditure. The government grants vary from 
15 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the total income, and an attempt 

* Hospitals in rural districts are numerous, but prevention of disease 
and sanitation are difficult. The rural campaigns of several provinces 
on behalf of health and general welfare are discussed in the following 

t See Chapter III. 

+ The customary rate was until recently 6{- per cent, of the land 
revenue. In several provinces, however, local authorities have now 
increased the rate, in some cases to the legal maximum of 12-1- per cent. 

§ Registration of marriages, other than Christian marriages, is not 
generally undertaken in India. The persons who may celebrate a marriage 
are not exactly specified and local endeavours to secure registration have 
ended, as a rule, in failure. Registration is most desirable. 


has been made in recent years to help the weaker districts 
by “ weighting ” the grants, as in England. District boards 
are thus more dependent on State subventions than are 
municipal committees, while at the same time the members 
are less conscious of their civic responsibility (the unit of 
administration being so much larger and less coherent). 
They may, too, be less highly educated, though not necessarily 
less sound in judgment. The right of the provincial Govern¬ 
ment to nominate members is therefore fuller. Elective 
members form the majority, though elective vacancies are not 
ahvays contested. Nominated members may not exceed one 
quarter of the total in certain provinces ; elsewhere there is 
no limit. The officers of a board are the president (or chair¬ 
man), who may or may not be an elected member and in 
some provinces may be an official ; a secretary', an engineer, 
and a health officer. Sanitary inspectors are less common, 
and the District Inspector and Assistant District Inspectors of 
schools are servants of the provincial Government. 

36. Compared with foreign systems, the Indian scheme 
of local government has the obvious merit of offering the 
people a means of directing their local affairs through elected 
bodies and training their representatives in the practical work 
of administration. Its equally obvious demerit is that, except 
where the president is an officer of Government (and in that 
event the virtue of conscious self-government may be absent), 
there is frequently no vigorous executive by means of which 
efficiency can be secured.* Such an executive is not found in 
England, but in England local government is traditional, 
jealously guarded, and sustained by the public spirit of the 
councillors and of the electors. While India is gradually 
developing such a spirit—and there have been striking examples 
of non-official efficiency—many authorities are not yet strong 
enough to ensure an adequate control by unpaid councillors 
over their paid servants. The latter may be insufficiently 
paid or insufficiently controlled. Provision may be made, 
as in the Bombay Acts, for a chief officer ; but if this is 
to be the president himself, he may well lack the time, the 
will, or the ability to supervise the complicated machine 
of the local authority. If then Indian opinion is unfavour¬ 
able to the retention of a government servant as principal 

* As in America, for instance, there is much “ delinquency ” in the 
payment of municipal taxes and other dues. Severe steps against defaulters 
are unpopular. 

executive, the alternatives are either the payment of an 
unofficial president who knows or will learn how to do the 
work, or the appointment, voluntarily or under compulsion, 
of a whole-time and competent executive officer enjoying 
reasonable security of tenure. A special Act in the Punjab 
authorizes the provincial Government to demand such appoint¬ 
ment, and the same power is given by the Bengal Municipal 
Act of 1932. Executive officers, comparable with the city 
managers of America, are accordingly working in sixteen of 
the Punjab municipalities. 

37. Below the district boards and the subdivisional boards 
are the union boards and the village panchayats, representing an 
attempt to reconstitute the indigenous and informal village 
government of pre-British days on a statutory footing. The 
headmen of villages in Madras from 1819 and in Bombay 
from 1879 had been given judicial powers to try petty suits ; 
certain authority was also given to headmen in the United 
Provinces in 1889, and control over the village watchmen 
was granted to panchayats in Bengal in 1870.* These steps 
were followed by the creation of union committees (later 
called union boards) for groups of villages in Bengal in 1885, 
and of sanitary committees for cleaning villages in Bombay 
and the Central Provinces in 1889 and later in Madras ; but 
the great change came shortly after the War, when the recom¬ 
mendations of the Decentralization Commission (1909), 
reinforced by the Government of India’s resolution of 1918, 
were implemented not only by the enlargement, already 
described, of local liberties in the municipal committees and 
district boards but also by legislation in every province for the 
encouragement of village authorities. 

38. The panchayat (or the union board) may cover one 
village or many, and may perform judicial or administrative 
duties or both. There may even be separate authorities for 
these two functions, the judicial body having often a wider 
jurisdiction. The unit is the single village in the Punjab and 
the United Provinces ; in Bombay the authority may have 
jurisdiction over a single village or many, but all fall into the 
same category as panchayats. In Madras there are two cate¬ 
gories, major and minor panchayats , of which the latter have 

* See Panchayats in India, by J. G. Drummond. Headmen in other 
provinces also exercised authority over village watchmen in a less precise 

lower powers of taxation and administration. In 1936 there 
were 450 major and 5,300 minor panchayats in Madras, the 
former having more than three times the income of the latter 
and approximating in some respects to the semi-municipal 
status of the “ small towns ” * of other provinces. A small 
rural town with the adjacent villages may possess a major 
panchayat, while minor panchayats are formed in one village 
or in two or three hamlets. The union boards of Bengal t 
have ordinarily an area of 10 to 15 square miles and an 
average population of 10,000, the centre being a small town 
or large village. A panchayat or board is everywhere composed 
of five or more villagers, who may be all elected, all appointed 
by Government, or partly elected and partly appointed 
according to circumstances. In the Central Provinces there 
is adult suffrage in panchayat elections. 

39. Broadly speaking, panchayats in Bombay and Madras 
do not exercise judicial functions, but are solely administrative. 
For judicial duty there are village munsifs,% or honorary 
magistrates sitting singly or as a bench. In the Central 
Provinces, the Punjab, and the United Provinces, on the other 
hand, judicial work is the largest part of the panchayat's business, 
and in other provinces the position is intermediate. They try 
petty criminal cases, inflicting fines up to Rs. 50, and civil suits 
of a value up to Rs. 200. The advantage of such trials lies not 
so much in the chastisement of an offender as in the hearing of 
the dispute in an atmosphere and surroundings familiar to the 
parties. In a village the true facts are known to everybody, 
and there is little inducement towards that hard swearing 
which is a customary feature of litigation before a regular 
judge. Many quarrels are settled by compromise, and bitter 
feelings are soothed. With this method of peace-making and 
summary trial, (for the records are very simple, and legal 
practitioners are not admitted), maybe compared the work of 
those English justices of the peace, who do not confine them¬ 
selves to fining or imprisoning offenders, but occupy their 
time, in many districts at least, in warning and “ binding over ” 
those who err. Justices formerly administered also the 
English poor-law and the highways, and are still responsible 
for licensing premises for the sale of alcohol. The Indian 

* Such as the “ notified areas ” and “ town areas ” of the United 

f Created by the Bengal Village Self Government Act of 1919. 

J Civil court judges of the lowest grade. 

3 6 3 

panchayat is in most provinces still at this early stage, at which 
local jurisdiction and local administration are exercised by the 
same persons. There is no necessity to separate them where 
the combination works well, but a time will no doubt come 
when more specialized business, judicial or administrative, 
will have to be conducted by men chosen out of the panchayats 
rather than by the whole membership. In Bengal, for instance, 
a bench is constituted by selection of individuals from the 
union boards. 

40. In the administrative field a panchayat will deal with 
the village lanes, ponds, and wells, drainage of the village 
site and measures (e.g. vaccination) against epidemics, the 
maintenance of the school building, and measures for keeping 
a watch by night. The provincial Acts allow a panchayat 
further to undertake lighting and libraries, the improvement 
of agriculture and handicrafts, management of festivals and 
of travellers 5 houses, and a variety of similar tasks. The union 
boards of Bengal and the major panchayats of Madras are 
bolder in such enterprises than the smaller panchayats of Madras 
and other provinces. The panchayat has, it will be noted, 
powers far exceeding those of an English parish council, but 
less than those of a French commune. 

41. These powers are, nevertheless, inadequately used by 
most panchayats, and the reason is largely psychological. 
Village opinion is backward, cautious, or conservative, and the 
panchayat cannot, or cannot usefully, force on the villagers an 
improvement which they do not themselves desire. While, 
moreover, the panchayats do not lack means of raising an income 
which would pay for improved administration, the attempt 
to raise such income in the form of a rate would be highly 
unpopular. To persuade villagers to tax themselves is uphill 
work. Income from judicial fines or market fees is preferred, 
but is insufficient to meet any considerable expenditure. In 
Madras the district board is required to hand over to each 
panchayat a share of the cess or local rate which it collects 
on its own account, and this appears to be the simplest 
though not the most educative way of circumventing the 
peasant’s reluctance to pay for what he is at last beginning to 
demand. No province has yet made the levy of a village rate 
compulsory, and it would be impracticable at present to enforce 
the collection of any village tax which had not been volun¬ 
tarily imposed, except by adding it to the local rate of the 
3 % 

district (as in France or England). The total income of 
450 major panchayats in Madras in a recent year was Rs. 27 
lakhs (£202,500), but many of these are semi-urban ; 5,300 
minor panchayats received Rs. 8 lakhs (£60,000), an average oi 
£11. 6r. apiece, and over one-third of this consisted of govern¬ 
ment grants. The position is the same in those Indian States 
which have imitated the policy of the British provinces in 
creating a panchayat system. Out of 11,000 panchayats in 
Mysore State only one hundred have imposed a tax, though 
useful work is carried out in the improvement of water-supply, 
drainage, and roads. They depend for the most part on grants 
and fees. Yet the income received is not fully spent, and each 
year’s report from Mysore records an increasing unspent 
balance, now over Rs. 30 lakhs, for the whole State. Similarly 
in British provinces the funds available in the hands of District 
Officers for the purpose of aiding village improvements often 
remain idle, because the objects to which they may be devoted 
do not yet appeal to the mind of the peasant. Thus the 
panchayat, while possessing greater powers than an English 
parish council and an equal or greater opportunity of obtaining 
a revenue, does not achieve, in the majority of villages, striking 
results in the form of visible public works. 

42. Three points should, however, be remembered : 

(i) the conciliatory influence of judicial panchayats ; 

(ii) the supply of voluntary labour by Indian peasants in 

lieu of rates. The peasant has more leisure at 
various times of year than the English rural 
labourer, and village roads may be repaired by a 
levee en masse better than by a levy in cash ; 

(iii) the educative effect of possessing powers of self- 

government, even if inadequately used. The more 
progressive section of the villagers, especially the 
younger generation who may not personally be 
assessed to rate, will soon learn to demand that 
the powers be used and that the amenities of the 
village be improved. 

Future Developments 

43. It is unreasonable to expect that the Indian panchayat, 
which is a reconstitution for new purposes and on an altered 
foundation of a body which had formerly a traditional 
authority and was employed for purposes familiar to all 


residents of the village, will establish itself and succeed in 
taxing an unwilling electorate, unless both the members of 
the panchayats and the rural population as a whole are taught 
the value of the powers in their hands and trained in their 
use. Such training may be given in two ways. Firstly, several 
provinces have appointed Panchayat Officers whose duty is to 
visit the panchayats in their circles, audit their accounts, super¬ 
vise elections, advise them on administrative policy and 
procedure, and stimulate them to action. The Panchayat 
Officer has no direct control over their judicial business, but is 
in a position to make recommendations to the District Officer 
as to personnel and to comment on the impartiality and 
discretion of the bench. It seems obvious that such officers 
should be appointed in every province and State, the District 
Officer and his assistants being too busy to make more than 
occasional flying visits. Moreover, a comparative knowledge 
of other panchayats in the district and also some idea of the 
principles of local administration in India and elsewhere are 
essential. The Panchayat Officer who is to train others should 
himself be trained, and there is much for him to learn. The 
person who trains the Panchayat Officers should himself have 
studied the English parish council and the French commune 
on the spot and be familiar with the general literature on local 
government. Where is such a person to be found ? 

44. The answer will best be given by describing the 
second agency for the education of the local electorate and 
of the elected councillors, whether in the village or in the 
higher grades. It must be admitted. that the officers of 
local authorities, the councillors, and even District Officers 
and others who advise or control the authorities, have less 
knowledge of local administration in principle and in practice 
than is desirable. There are in England the associations of 
county councils, of municipal corporations, and of local 
government officers, in America the association of city 
managers, etc., and similar organizations in many countries. 
There is an international union of local authorities in Brussels, 
and there are many national unions or institutes. This 
movement has spread to India, where an Indian union of 
local authorities was founded in 1936. We have provincial 
institutes of local self-government in Bombay, Calcutta, and 
Lahore ; others will no doubt soon keep them company. 
The objects of the Bombay institute (1926) are to arrange 
for conferences ; the collection of information ; propaganda ; 

the representation of the opinion of local authorities ; and the 
promotion and improvement of local government. Grants 
are made to the institutes by the provincial Governments, 
and courses of three to four months are held for the training 
of local government officers. Resolutions have been passed 
in favour of the multiplication of panchayats, and the Bombay 
institute has organized conferences of panchayat members. 
There is a field of very beneficial activity open to such non¬ 
official institutions, supported by private citizens, by local 
authorities, and by Government. The provincial Governments 
of the three provinces have approved the affiliation of local 
bodies to the institutes and the payment of expenses to those 
who attend their conferences. Municipal and district board 
officers have much to gain from courses of training, and it is 
advisable that local bodies should give preference in appoint¬ 
ment to candidates who hold the institute’s diploma. 

45. The situation regarding the training of panchayat 
members and Panchayat Officers is at present slightly different. 
Where an institute can hold conferences of panchayat members 
in a rural locality, villagers will no doubt attend and profit 
from the discussions if the speakers are acquainted with rural 
life and the local dialect. Peasant farmers cannot go far from 
home or remain long absent, nor will they be interested in a 
discussion in urban terms. The institutes will perhaps, when 
their resources permit, employ specially selected men, and 
also women, who will visit the villages and explain to the 
peasant and his wife what a panchayat is able to do for them and 
why it is worth paying for. Until, however, the institutes 
possess funds for this purpose, only the Panchayat Officers 
employed by the provincial Governments can reach the 
village, and their approach to the subject will necessarily 
be narrower than that of an unofficial organizer. The 
Panchayat Officer has to examine books and audit accounts; 
only a portion of his time will be free for propaganda among 
the public. The wisest way of uniting the forces of Govern¬ 
ments and of the institutes would be to establish joint courses 
for Panchayat Officers, conducted by the academic leaders of 
the institutes and the practical field-workers—government 
servants in every department, missionaries, “ Servants of 
India,” or “ Servants of the Untouchables ” *—who know 
the immediate problems of the village, the point at which a 

* Non-official bodies whose functions are sufficiently indicated by 
their names. 

panchayat may attack them, and the obstacles which the 
panchayat will meet when it tries to do so. District Officers 
and their assistants and officers of the technical departments 
might themselves with advantage attend a specially arranged 
course, in which would be explained and debated (i) the 
functions of local bodies, urban and rural, higher and lower; 
and (2) the scope of voluntary societies * in carrying further 
and supporting the work of the local authorities. 

46. The District Officer, though he has ceased to be the 
president or the executive officer of local bodies in the greater 
part of India, has still certain powers of sanction, especially 
in financial matters; his opinion is also weighed when such 
sanction has to be given by a Commissioner or the provincial 
Government, for not only the merits of a proposal from the 
point of view of the local body which makes it but also its 
reactions on the remainder of the district or on other districts 
have to be taken into account. Alternative uses of water for 
irrigation or drinking, the location of secondary schools, the 
acquisition of agricultural or common land for a road, are 
examples of projects which may concern more than one 
authority. The officers of all departments, but in particular 
the District Officer and his assistants, have now more than 
ever a duty of advice, conciliation, and encouragement, and 
members of local bodies welcome the opportunity of an 
informal talk on matters of local interest. They will welcome 
it still more if the adviser has acquired a knowledge, in India 
or on leave, of the way in which local administration is 
managed elsewhere. Reference to unfortunate consequences, 
which have ensued from an ill-advised scheme in England 
and America, will be more effective in dissuading a hasty but 
sensitive councillor than a direct condemnation of his pet idea. 
The besetting evil of Indian municipalities, the failure to 
collect taxes and other dues, may gradually be overcome by 
pointing to the vigour with which London and Oxford collect 
their rates. Even the hankering after octroi may be quieted 
by explaining that Europe and even China have now aban¬ 
doned this cumbrous and costly method of indirect taxation. 
The District Officer has still great influence, but he must 
know how to use it. 

47. Again, new problems are likely to arise in Indian 
administration, on which an adviser with real knowledge will 

* See Chapter XII. 


be most useful to Government and to the people. The evils 
of vagrancy and destitution are becoming graver in the big 
towns ; and as the industrial worker cuts himself off more and 
more from his original village home, unemployment can no 
longer be ignored in times of depression. The next two or 
three decades may see proposals for the passing of a poor-law, 
applicable at least to the major towns, or for the establishment 
of health-insurance and unemployment-insurance systems. 
The time has passed when a civil servant or a legislator, 
however able and devoted, could study European systems on 
paper and transmute them into Indian terminology. Indian 
society and administration are becoming too complicated for 
such empiricism, and the imported expert, though indis¬ 
pensable when new plans of large scale are being drawn up, 
is naturally handicapped by ignorance of India. The men 
who could give the greatest help would be civil servants, 
legislators, or other citizens who had really studied local 
administration in India and abroad, by visits or by reading, 
and had no personal bias towards a particular solution of a 
problem. If some at least of these men are not found among 
the civil servants who have to work out the details of a scheme 
and also among those who have to apply it, the policy of 
unemployment relief or insurance or any similar problem 
will go sadly astray. Such policies have to be applied locally. 
The preparation of the scheme in the secretariat is relatively 
(though not absolutely) easy, its local application to individuals 
is very difficult. 

48. The tendency now visible in England, Europe, and 
America towards the amalgamation of urban or rural authori¬ 
ties or the constitution of joint committees and regional boards 
for services rendered to a large area, embracing a number of 
local jurisdictions, is likely to become increasingly strong in 
India. Even where there is no “ over-riding ” service, such 
as an electricity supply-system or (in a circle of panchayat 
villages) a tube well, the improvement of communications 
may lead to a readjustment of administrative boundaries. 
Local boards, for instance, for a part only of a district have 
become superfluous in Bengal and Madras and are dis¬ 
appearing, leaving the panchayats and the district boards in 
possession of the field. Taluka boards in Bombay are also 
characterized in official reports as unsatisfactory. The result 
may be that only the panchayats * big or small, and the district 
* Union boards in Bengal. 



boards will survive, and that groups or conferences of pan- 
chayats may be informally organized to negotiate with the 
district boards when necessary. Above the district boards a 
series of technical authorities, an electricity commission, a 
provincial highways board, a regional board for secondary 
education, may come into existence to meet particular needs, 
and be composed of representatives of Government, the local 
bodies, and possibly some co-opted persons with special 
knowledge. It will not then be necessary for the civil servant 
to have scientific knowledge on a par with his technical col¬ 
leagues on such a provincial or regional authority, but he will 
still play his part in conciliating various points of view, such as 
those of the representatives of diverse areas, and in explaining 
to the latter the major interests to which their own must in 
some degree give place. 

49. A word must be said in conclusion about the control 
of local authorities by Government. Enthusiasts for municipal 
autonomy sometimes speak and write as though local bodies 
in India were hampered and tied in a degree far exceeding that 
of Europe and America. In reality the reverse is true. The 
control of the District Officer over municipalities and district 
boards in India was, before the post-War changes in his position, 
roughly equivalent to that of a French prefect towards the 
council of the departement , and weaker than that of an Italian 
podesta or a German burgomaster of today. He has now little 
officially to say to the municipalities, except as an external 
officer representing the interests of the rest of the district, while 
he is president of the district board in certain provinces only.* 
On his withdrawal the Indian local authority, as noted above, 
only too often lacks vigour in administration ; and whereas in 
England laxity or mismanagement are corrected, there being 
no prefect or District Officer, through the action of Govern¬ 
ment by means of inspection, warning, withholding of grants, 
and very exact regulations for their use, the widespread idea 
in India that local bodies should develop a spirit of autonomy 
and the general desire to make them a training ground for 
leaders of the national life have caused the provincial Govern¬ 
ments in the last twenty years to interfere much more sparingly 
with local proceedings than would be the case in England. 
Local bodies in India, it may with a slight exaggeration be said, 

* District boards have the right to ask the provincial Government to 
introduce a system of election to the post of president. Such a request 
is ordinarily granted if made. 


are neither controlled by their own chairmen nor by an out¬ 
side authority, and one or other of these guiding agencies 
seems to be needed for those committees and boards in which 
lack of experience or of public spirit renders policy imprudent 
or administration (e.g. collection of taxes) feeble. A remedy 
has in some places been applied by the more or less compulsory 
appointment of a paid executive officer or city manager on 
American lines, but in other places the disorder has, through a 
tender regard for municipal independence, continued so long 
that the committee has in the end been suspended by Govern¬ 
ment from its functions. Inspection and control on either the 
English plan, by Government, or on the French plan, by the 
prefect, should avert such disasters and afford a better training 
in the use of civic liberties. 



Voluntary Effort and Social Welfare 

i. All the activities of Government in a civilized and 
progressive State are directed towards the welfare of the 
community. Defence against external aggression, the main¬ 
tenance of internal order by the police, the encouragement 
of trade and commerce, the construction of highways and other 
means of communication, are clearly necessary and conducive 
to the welfare of all law-abiding citizens. In a more restricted 
sense, however, social welfare is now understood to mean the 
mental and bodily health of the individual citizen, the develop¬ 
ment of his intelligence, the removal of obstacles to his economic 
freedom, and the increase of his personal happiness. These 
objects are pursued in varying degrees and by sharply con¬ 
trasted methods in every modern State, both by the authorities, 
central or local, and by voluntary associations operating under 
the law. The amount of liberty granted to voluntary bodies is 
greater in democratic and liberal countries, where the 
expression of conflicting opinions is allowed, than in authori¬ 
tarian countries where one attitude alone is regarded as 
legitimate. The work actually done by voluntary bodies, 
nevertheless, may be as great in an authoritarian as in a 
liberal country, for no government department can penetrate 
beyond a certain point into the life of the individual or be so 
flexible in administration as to meet the needs of every case. 
There remains always a wide field in which voluntary group 
organization and personal contacts are indispensable, and we 
shall mention some of the institutions which are busy in this 
field in England and in India. The experience of the last 
thirty years further shows that since the objects set before 
themselves by voluntary bodies are naturally specific and 
limited—for otherwise their energies would be dispersed and 
they would effect nothing—there is need of a coordinating 


scheme in each district or county, perhaps also in the province 
or country as a whole, to prevent overlapping of efforts and 
areas, to note gaps in the provision for welfare and to find 
the right person or institution to fill each gap, and finally to 
link up the several government departments and the local 
authorities with the voluntary societies which ought to serve 
as interpreters and intermediaries between the individual and 
the State. 

2. A voluntary society should, in principle, organize its 
own members, (who may be quite ordinary persons of modest 
status, not wealthy philanthropists), either to do something 
useful to themselves, or at least to do, as members of their 
society, something which is useful to the community. 
Examples of the former in England are co-operative, friendly 
or savings societies, men’s and women’s institutes, adult 
educational classes, societies for drama, dancing or music, 
young farmers’ clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides ; while 
among the latter are the Red Gross and similar associations 
for health service, councils for the preservation of rural 
England, prisoners’ aid societies, and rotary clubs. 

Voluntary Associations in England 

3. Voluntary associations have a long history in England, 
and continue to spring up wherever a new need is felt and has 
to be satisfied. In several cases their work has eventually 
been taken over by the State. Thousands of voluntary 
schools, for instance, preceded and provoked the creation of a 
national system of education ; private libraries were supported 
by their subscribers, including many poor persons, before 
assistance was granted to them from the rates; and the 
encouragement given to friendly and mutual aid societies under 
the official scheme of insurance suggests that these too may— 
for good or evil—finally be absorbed. 

4. Consider the ways in which English men and women in 
town or country may enlarge their interests by joining voluntary 
bodies. Since the year 1915 no less than 5,600 women’s 
institutes have been formed in villages and affiliated to county 
federations and a national federation. They are occupied 
with the instruction of women in horticulture, fruit-growing, 
handicrafts, domestic economy, health, and recreation, and are 
now organizing market stalls for the sale of garden or farmyard 
produce. In the towns the guilds of townswomen under their 


national union carry on similar business of a kind suited to 
urban residents. Men’s clubs and institutes are counted by 
thousands, but are not linked to a single centre. There are 
also dramatic societies attached to the British Drama League 
and to its county committees; folk song and dance societies 
which preserve old ballads, often with a local interest, and 
perform morris dances, sword dances, and other old dances; 
and musical societies, sometimes affiliated to county unions 
and taught by instructors from music schools. Literary and 
debating societies are innumerable. 

5. Two points in this English manner of association 
deserve the particular attention of students of Indian social 
life. In the first place, all these English organizations are 
spontaneous. They proceed from the desire of individuals 
to do things which amuse or edify or profit them, and though 
local authorities and the national government regard with 
favour the cultivation of happiness among the people, there is 
no compulsion or pressure. No public servant takes part in 
their proceedings except in his private capacity and on an equal 
footing with other members. Secondly, they are maintained 
by the subscriptions of their members, contributions from the 
State or local authorities being of very minor importance and 
usually absent from the balance sheet. The English citizen, 
though as ready as any other to find fault with his. government, 
seldom demands an initiative from the official side in social 
matters, and only expects the State to bear the cost of a social 
service when the necessity of extending it to the whole nation 
has been made manifest by the success of voluntary enterprise. 
We have seen in the last chapter that t}ie Social services which 
are now supported by the State are very great and costly, but 
private citizens and benefactors had always opened the road 
and home the maintenance charges for many years before 
the State accepted responsibility. 

6. Three types of voluntary work must be specially 
mentioned before we turn to the question of coordination. 
Thrift is represented by (1) trade unions, which collect large 
sums annually from their members as benefit contributions; 
(2) friendly societies such as the Oddfellows, Hearts of Oak, 
and the British Legion, the organization of ex-soldiers, which 
have no trade connexion but aim at good comradeship, thrift, 
and benefits; and (3) national savings associations and share- 
out clubs, some 50,000 in all, voluntary but stimulated by the 

official National Savings Committee which is appointed by the 
Treasury. It is noteworthy that in 1937 the national savings 
groups held over £500,000,000, while £850,000,000 more lay 
in the Post Office or the trustee savings banks. This is the 
money of the labourer, the artisan, the small clerk, and the 
shopkeeper’s assistant. 

7. Adult education classes are conducted in town and 
village by the English universities,* which have taken charge 
of areas surrounding their headquarters and often covering 
several counties; by the Workers’ Educational Association, 
and by a series of settlements and colleges for adults. They 
contemplate net so much a general diffusion of knowledge, 
which can be left to literary societies and to lectures arranged 
in public libraries, 'as an intensive study of a chosen subject 
(economic, literary, or scientific) by small groups of men and 
women, who pledge themselves to attend on one evening in 
each week or fortnight for one year, two years, or three years. 
The sacrifice of time and labour thus demanded is consider¬ 
able, but the large majority of students are of the labouring 
or clerical grades described above. 

8. Lastly, we should observe the multitude of clubs and 
associations for the young. Institutions intended for adults 
usually admit members at about eighteen years, but the boys’ 
clubs, of which there are 1,500 in the National Association, and 
4,300 girls’ clubs, under county federations and a National 
Council, provide a training of character, health, manual skill, 
and aesthetic taste for the drama or music which are invaluable 
to the adolescent. A more recent movement is that of the young 
farmers’ clubs, of which there are 330 in the National Associa¬ 
tion, which teach boys and girls how to keep gardens or live¬ 
stock profitably, and how to work peaceably and sensibly for 
a common purpose. The capacity for leadership is brought 
out by club management. The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides 
associations now extend throughout the world. They teach 
resource, courtesy and honesty, unselfishness, and citizenship ; 
but since they are well known in India, no fuller description 
of them is here attempted. 

9. There can be no question that some of the associations 
which are so marked a feature of English life compete with or 

* Reference throughout is made solely to England in order to 
economize space. , It is not intended to imply that other parts of the British 
Isles are in any way less progressive. 


overlap another. On grounds of principle it might be argued 
that, for example, only one educational association should 
organize adult classes in each town or country, or that Boy 
Scouts, young farmers, and boys’ clubs are doing almost identical 
work and should be merged in one another. The energy and 
personnel thus set free could be employed in localities at present 
neglected. But such a regimentation is quite unpalatable to 
the English taste and has serious disadvantages in any country. 
It leads to a control, official or semi-official, to which some of 
the keenest voluntary workers will not submit. There is value 
in local enthusiasm, even in diversity preserved for the sake 
of diversity, and value also in experiment, which a unified 
system could not freely admit. The remedy for overlapping, 
therefore, which is being more and more generally accepted 
in England, is the formation of a non-official council—the 
council of social service in a town, the rural community council 
in a county—on which all the federations of voluntary clubs 
and societies are represented, and also various institutions of 
national scope, such as the Workers’ Educational Association 
and those which have a regional connexion (e.g. the nearest 
university).* The council is non-official, but since the 
organizations affiliated to it are engaged in social service 
(agriculture, education, health, recreation, and culture), with 
which the local authorities are intimately concerned, the latter 
too are represented by officers of the borough or county council, 
in order to secure the maximum of mutual understanding and 
the minimum of wasted effort. Above all the councils of social 
service and the rural community councils stands the National 
Council of Social Service, on which are represented these 
councils themselves, the national federations of voluntary 
bodies, and the departments f of the national government. 
This too is a non-official and voluntary institution, which 
depends on private subscriptions, though it receives grants 
from the State for services rendered and from the Carnegie 
and other trusts. 

io. The problem of overlapping, which means waste, 
quarrels, and omission of work which ought to be done, may 
arise in the smallest village. Where are local clubs to meet, 
and when there is a meeting place, who is to have the first 

* There is now a tendency to unite the urban councils of social service 
with the rural co mm u ni ty council. This has already been done in Kent. 
Proposals for even wider regional unification have been put forward. 

t The Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Health, and Labour. 


choice of date and time, if several clubs prefer the same day of 
the week? A village hall,* preferably involving no obligation 
to a benevolent landowner or a religious denomination, is the 
solution of the problem, and with the assistance of the Carnegie 
trust and the National Council of Social Service, such halls 
have been built in hundreds of English villages, while the 
construction of others, by village labour and always with a 
large contribution from the villagers towards the cost, is being 
continued. Village clubs and institutions then set up a com¬ 
mittee of management for the hall, and since everyone in the 
village is able to make himself heard through one or other of 
the delegates, the net result is a village panchayat of the kind 
which a thousand years ago managed the business of an 
English village and, much more recently, of villages in India. 
In a few cases there has been created a village community 
council on the lines of the rural community council, but the 
committee of the village hall ordinarily serves the purpose. 
The proceedings not being over-formal, it is easy to introduce 
any subject which it is in the general interest to discuss. 

ii. The government departments in England come into 
contact with individuals in the welfare field through the local 
authorities rather than directly. There is a certain duplication 
in this respect as in so many others. Scholarships, for instance, 
for literary or vocational education are granted from both 
sources, agricultural advice may be obtained from travelling 
experts of the central government as well as from the county 
council, and national federations of every kind normally deal 
with the appropriate ministry, while their town or county 
branches approach borough or county councils. The day-to- 
day contact of individuals, however, is with the local body, 
and it is through the latter that the national policy is applied 
to private citizens, either individually or in voluntary groups. 
Reference has been made to young farmers’ clubs for boys 
and girls ; adult farmers are similarly brought together in 
branches of the National Farmers’ Union, in smallholders and 
allotment holders’ associations, or in specialized societies for a 
single class of livestock or crop ; and where a question of 
debatable policy arises—as distinguished from a simple order, 
enforcing the law or a regulation under the law—the town or 

* The Congress ministry in the United Provinces attaches much 
importance to the establishment, as a part of its scheme of rural develop¬ 
ment, of a panchayaighar in every village, which is apparently to serve the 
purpose of a village hall. 


county council will usually ask such associations as these for an 
opinion, in preference to consulting separately a number of 
individuals. Arrangements for education classes, in the same 
way, where negotiation is required, will be made with institu¬ 
tions rather than individuals, and the agricultural association 
or educational institution will itself consist of the individuals 
whose welfare the local authority is trying to promote. In the 
absence of such voluntary associations, representing local 
opinion and local needs, the promotion of social welfare would, 
be much more difficult. 

12. In respect of unemployment, employment, and health, 
while the voluntary association is as urgently necessary, its 
mode of operation is often different from that adopted in the 
cases of agriculture or education. It may function not so much 
as the representative of the individuals whom it affects, as for 
their benefit and instruction with little or no initiative on their 
part. The persons affected may even be suspicious of or 
hostile to it, for those who investigate unofficially (we are not 
here concerned with official action) the needs of the sick, the 
unemployed, or the indigent may be dealing with persons 
demoralized in body or mind, perhaps through no fault of their 
own, and will be compelled to discriminate in their treatment 
between the stronger and the weaker, the law-abiding and the 
anti-social individuals. Case-work, as this discriminating 
treatment of persons is termed, is the essential feature of well- 
directed charity, and its superiority to mass-treatment, to which 
official regulations inevitably lead, is emphasized with vigour 
by the London Charity Organization Society, and its branches 
or corresponding societies. It is obvious that an official staff 
cannot in any country be provided on a scale and with the 
training and attainments which would allow a detailed and 
sympathetic examination of each individual’s circumstances. 
Every rule must be general, and if it enters into details it creates 
hard cases. This may be avoided by reference to an unofficial 
group of social workers. Such groups as the personal aid 
societies of many English towns may use the unpaid services 
of their own members to visit persons in adversity, and to give 
that advice which is frequently more helpful than money. 
They know or have access to an expert who knows the law, the 
facilities offered by the authorities, the authority who should 
be approached (medical, educational, legal, or recreational), 
and the way in which an application should be presented. 
Or they may use a paid officer, where expert advice must be 

carried into the home. Public and private hospitals, for 
instance, now employ “ almoners ” to follow up patients who are 
discharged and to encourage and instruct them so to live as to 
avoid a recurrence of sickness. In the rural areas are societies 
of the same type, many but not all under a rural community 
council, such as after-care associations to watch tuberculous 
cases in the home after treatment; nursing associations for the 
maintenance of rural nurses and health visitors ; rural in¬ 
dustries guilds, which send skilled artisans about the villages 
to improve the designs and implements of handicraftsmen ; 
Borstal associations and prisoners’ aid societies (in town and 
country alike) ; temperance societies, and a host of others. 
The many organizations for urban and rural children have 
already been mentioned. A voluntary body does not cease 
to be voluntary because it receives official support, either in 
the shape of subventions or of recognition or favour ; the land 
settlement association, which places groups of men, usually 
from among the unemployed, on small agricultural holdings 
and teaches them their business, is the most prominent in this 
semi-official class. 

13. The really essential point to be noted by a reader who 
is to compare English with Indian conditions is that in England, 
when the law, the regulations under the law, and the central 
or local officers have done all that lies in their power, voluntary 
societies of private citizens go further afield, beginning where 
official effort is bound to end. They may undertake a task 
which seems to them worth performing and which no authority 
has yet attacked; such bodies are common in the aesthetic 
and adult educational spheres, though not confined to them. 
When they have proved the value of what they are doing, 
they will perhaps ask for direct or indirect grants, e.g. to rural 
industries guilds for the technical education of craftsmen. 
Or they observe, it may be, that scholarships are available but 
remain without holders, because parents are unaware of their 
existence or fear that there is a “ catch ” somewhere in the 
offer ; farmers and artisans admit the superiority of an 
implement or process and may even buy the implement, but 
it lies idle or broken ; sick men are cured for a while, but 
return to habits, possibly to a profession, which will soon renew 
the trouble ; and so forth, through every sort of missed oppor¬ 
tunity and loss. It cannot for a moment be said that all gaps 
are filled or all societies are achieving their objects; but it is 
true that the citizen in England associates himself from day to 


day with his neighbours to improve the conditions of life for 
everybody in his community, welcomes the aid of national 
and local authorities, sometimes clamours for such aid when it 
is not required or justified, but nevertheless sets himself to work 
and spends his own money for ends which he thinks good, 
whether official aid is forthcoming or not. Personal service 
and money-subscriptions—these are the tests of a genuine 
desire for social welfare in any country. 

Voluntary Associations in India 
14. The structure of Indian society was eminently well 
suited to serve the welfare of all classes, except the depressed 
castes,* in the circumstances which surrounded the Indian 
individual before contact with Europe. The caste, whether 
in the looser form of a number of persons who might be widely 
scattered but were related or believed to be related to one 
another by blood, or in the closer form of a professional guild, 
assured to each man the assistance of caste fellows f through 
his life and at his death and met the needs of which he was 
conscious. Apart from certain religious observances, J he was 
not conscious of a need for detailed regulation of the public 
health, though some sort of drainage in the cities was frequently 
provided, by the householder for his house and by authority 
for the streets, from the days of Mohenjo-Daro onwards. Nor, 
again, was the ordinary man conscious of a need for education 
as now understood. He enjoyed a cultural knowledge of 
scripture and poetry ; but his profession was predetermined, 
and literature and learning were the privileges of certain castes 
whose members lived by their possession and use. Agricultural 
improvement consisted in the fencing of crops against wild 
animals, the sinking of wells, and the breaking up of waste 
land. Primitive associations for such objects were no doubt 
created and dissolved as occasion arose, but farmers who 
cultivated principally for their own subsistence were little 
inclined to scientific research or to the production of a surplus 
for which there was no market. Broadly speaking, therefore, 
the Indian individual up to 200 years ago—and indeed much 
later—was not required to join with his neighbours in voluntary 
associations. The village meeting and his caste were non- 

* See Chapter II, paras. 19, 46-47. 

t This assistance would, in practice, be rendered by the biradari; 
see Chapter II, para. 18. 

+ See Chapter II, para. 43. 

voluntary associations, into which he was born and which 
controlled whatever the ordinary man could hope to control. 
Beyond them lay an inscrutable earthly ruler and the inscrut¬ 
able forces of nature and of God. 

15. In this general account one exception must be allowed. 
The early savings associations— Nidhis , Chit funds,* and various 
kinds of anjuman |—offered an opportunity of thrift to those 
who handled cash, i.e. for the most part the town-dwellers. 
They admitted only too often an element of chance which is 
incompatible with true thrift, but were not without value. 
The rural population dealt less often in cash, and the accumu¬ 
lation of grain or other food beyond the owner’s requirements 
was, while communications were scanty and insecure, an idle 

16. The idea, therefore, of lasting association with other 
individuals for the common good, as distinguished from 
temporary collaboration for a specific act of construction or 
production, only became familiar to India when commercial 
crops could be sold, when the proceeds could be spent on 
luxuries hitherto unknown or unattainable, when education 
opened a road to advancement in official or private occupations, 
and when medical science revealed the possibility of living 
more comfortably and living longer; in other words, when 
under British rule the country was pacified, a regular adminis¬ 
tration was established, trade began to expand, and scientific 
knowledge of the causes of health and sickness to be acquired. 
It was not unnatural, then, that voluntary associations should 
come but slowly into existence, and first in the urban areas, 
where European influence was most strongly felt. Social 
reform was in the early part of the nineteenth century ancillary 
to religious change, especially among Hindus, whose social 
and religious ideas are so intimately interconnected. The 
Brahmo Samaj and later the Arya Samaj,$ two outstanding 
Hindu movements, showed marked signs of reaction to Euro¬ 
pean influence, as well as of independent Hindu thought, in 
the religious, social, and political fields ; but Muslim society 
remained comparatively little affected before the closing 

* See Chapter X, para. 11, and note. 

■f Assembly or society. 

J The Brahmo Samaj was a religious sect, founded by Ram Mohan 
Roy in 1828. Its doctrine was theistic, and on the social side its objects 
were the spread of English education, the reform of the Hindu family, and 
the abolition of sati. For the spread of English education, see Chapter 
VIII, para. 3. For the Arya Samaj, see Chapter II, para. 33. 


decades of the century. From that time forward the principle 
of individual action through association for the common good— 
not only the good of the family, caste, or tribe—was increasingly 
applied by Indians, and was instilled into students at the 
universities and in the higher schools. The caste or tribal 
organizations, though vital and powerful in many personal 
matters, were inappropriate for business concerning India as 
a whole, and voluntary associations of the English type began 
to appear. 

17. The most numerous and most highly integrated body 
of voluntary associations are the co-operative societies, to which 
a previous chapter has been devoted. It is, however, necessary 
to remind the reader of their prominent place in the sphere of 
social welfare. As already explained, many associations which 
in Europe lie outside the co-operative fold lie within it in 
India, precisely because an association for social welfare is 
still a novelty and there is advantage in securing for it a frame¬ 
work and a backing which will induce its members and other 
people to regard it as a recognized institution and treat it 
seriously. We shall not, however, discuss co-operative societies 
here as a separate class. A social end may be achieved with¬ 
out co-operative registration as well as with it, provided that 
the members of a group hold together, observe the rules which 
they have laid down for themselves, including the payment of 
promised subscriptions, and actually carry on the work which 
they have undertaken to carry on.* Nor shall we discuss the 
operations of the several “ beneficent ” or “ nation-building ” 
departments of Government, as they are frequently called in 
India ; for these too have been set out in the preceding chapters. 
We are here only concerned with voluntary societies for the 
purpose of social welfare, and the coordination of such 
societies amongst themselves and with the departments of 
Government. The simplest method is to select, in the first 
place, a few unofficial bodies from various parts of India and 
to describe their work. 

18. The Bengal central co-operative anti-malarial f society 
of Calcutta, founded in 1912 by Dr. G. G. Chatterjee and 
reorganized in 1919 as a central institution of the anti-malarial 
societies which he and his friends were creating in the villages, 

* It should be remembered that in India, as in most other countries, 
only a registered co-operative society may call itself co-operative. The law 
of England does not impose this useful restriction. 

t For malaria, see Chapter VII, paras. 6 et seq. 

has now some 2,000 such dependent bodies affiliated to it. 
About half of these are registered co-operative societies. The 
anti-malarial movement aims at bringing together parties of 
men and women who believe in self-help and discard the 
fatalist view that malaria is unavoidable and an act of God. 
Before medical research had traced its origin to the anopheles 
mosquito, this disease was held to be due to evening mists 
arising from water, especially from stagnant water ; and Bengal 
being peculiarly subject to floods from the rivers and water¬ 
courses, the people saw no remedy for their affliction. Dr. 
Chatterjee and his disciples proceeded to impress on the 
villagers that the teaching of officials and doctors concerning 
the mosquito was really true, and to form societies for filling 
up swampy depressions, oiling pools, and taking quinine. 
All this had been preached by health experts for years ; but 
it was not until an unofficial and unpaid propagandist came 
to him in his home that the illiterate, suspicious, and apathetic 
peasant could be moved to action. The floods of Bengal in 
themselves brought no malaria, provided the water did not 
remain in stagnant pools and swamps in which the mosquito 
could breed. Consequently, the later efforts of the anti- 
malarial societies have been directed towards freeing the 
watercourses from unauthorized and unregulated dams, above 
which the water stood stagnant. Engineering schemes of this 
nature are expensive, and the voluntary societies, through 
their central society, have rightly turned to the Bengal Govern¬ 
ment for technical advice and financial help. These have 
been forthcoming, and the control of floods by this collabora¬ 
tion between voluntary and unofficial agencies has benefited 
considerable areas and afforded a striking example of co¬ 
ordinated welfare work. The village anti-malarial societies 
have also in some cases been supported by the union boards 
in the maintenance of local dispensaries, but many boards 
are uninterested, and much yet remains to be done. The 
central society derives its income from annual subscriptions 
and from the endowments collected and invested by Dr. 
Chatterjee, but its resources are small in comparison with the 
task before it. 

19. An urban institution of value in Calcutta is the Bengal 
Social Service League. This body, founded in 1915, conducts 
an industrial school, a school of popular education, and some 
adult schools to combat illiteracy. It promotes agricultural 
conferences, carries on co-operative propaganda, and organizes 

relief on the occasion of floods and famines. The first Indian 
social conference of 1916 was due to the initiative of the league. 
Its income proceeds from subscriptions and from government 
grants, but popular support is not yet sufficient to allow the 
promoters to do much outside Calcutta itself. Nevertheless it 
is evidence of a growing spirit of social service in India. 
Similar bodies, such as the Seva Sadan, may be found in other 
Indian cities; all are of recent date, for the new spirit is that 
of the new generation. 

20. Two other Bengal organizations deserve attention. 
Firstly, the women’s institutes (Mahila samitas) affiliated to the 
Saroj Nalini Dutt Association and through it allied with the 
women’s institutes of England and the world, number several 
hundreds in Bengal and Assam, with outlying societies in 
other provinces and Ceylon. They are found for the most 
part in rural towns, and encourage their members in the study 
and practice of handicrafts, horticulture, education, and 
hygiene. Organizers from the central association visit the 
local institutes; a monthly magazine is also published. The 
movement is notable not so much for what it has hitherto 
achieved, as for the natural and healthy outlet which Indian 
women enjoy in it for self-expression and for self-education in 
questions of domestic and social interest. Joint societies of 
men and women are not yet congenial to India, but in the 
atmosphere of an institute the Indian woman, urban or rural, 
feels free to speak and to learn. The women’s co-operative 
societies in the.Punjab and the United Provinces, some 300 in 
each case, are really women’s institutes under another name. 

21. The second Bengali organization is that of Bratachari, 
which in the last few years has begun to revive popular songs 
and dances and to bind its members in a national or community 
movement for knowledge, labour, truth, unity, and joy. The 
pledge includes promises to be kind to animals, to live by the 
labour of one’s body, to smile in misfortune, and not to develop 
a corporation ! Bratachari may be compared on the one side 
with the Boy Scouts and on the other with the folksong and 
dance societies of Europe. 

22. Prominent among societies for children in all parts of 
India are the Boy Scouts, numbering about 250,000 ; the 
parallel army of Seva Samiti ; and the Junior Red Gross with 
400,000 members, in which children are trained in ideas of 
health and service. The competition or overlapping of these 


three movements is regrettable. All are good, and the record 
of boys who have assisted at religious festivals,* where masses 
of people are crowded in a narrow space, has been very credit¬ 
able. Girl Guides are less numerous, because of the limitations 
on the freedom of girls and of early marriage; but they are 
advancing, and training camps are now regularly arranged 
for them. Camps for boys are also regularly held. 

23. Associations in a somewhat different category are 
those which concentrate their energies on a village “ centre ” 
and hope to pr