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The first definite step was taken as a result of the Famine Commission of 1880. The Administrations of the provinces were then charged with the formation of agricultural departments, the main duties of which were defined as agricultural enquiry, agricultural improvement, and famine relief; and among these, while questions relating to famine occupied the first place, enquiry took precedence of improvement. In these latter days, when so much has been accomplished, it is the fashion in some quarters to minimise the importance of the detailed investigations and the elaborate statistics which were the first results of the activity of these new departments. The work was, however, rendered absolutely necessary by the diversity of conditions prevailing in the industry; and India owes a heavy debt of gratitude to the late Sir E. Buck, the first organiser of the departments, for his prescience in this respect, the result of which was that, when eventually the resources of science became available, the economic environment in which they were to be employed had been carefully studied and was, with some well-marked exceptions, accurately known.
In promoting agricultural improvement, the departments were less successful in this stage. Some work of permanent value was accomplished, but the main results of the operations of the eighties and nineties were the acquisition of knowledge of the elements of the problem, and the recognition of the strength as well as the weakness of the Indian peasant. This last point is important. Popular opinion was at this time inclined to regard the peasant as ignorant and mulish, with ideals and methods equally obsolete. The minority who knew the peasant took a different view, to which expert support was accorded in Dr Voelcker's Report on the Improvement of Indian Agriculture, issued in 1892. In that report full recognition was given to the peasant's skill and knowledge; and the evils affecting his industry were diagnosed with a degree of precision which entitles the work to high rank among the classics of the subject. Its publication was followed by renewed discussions, which were closed by the issue of a series of Resolutions by the Government of India, putting forward complete schemes for both investigation and the popularisation of the investigator's results, to be worked out gradually as resources
became available. The immediate effect, however, was not great. Financially, times were hard; all ambitious measures had to be deferred for lack of funds; and, while the number of scientific workers in the country was substantially increased, a further stimulus was necessary to induce action on a comprehensive scale.
The required stimulus was given by the report of the Famine Commission of 1901. The Commissioners, in dealing with the protective measures to be adopted in the future, laid stress in particular on the need for more irrigation, for the organisation of co-operative credit, and for the full development of the embryo agricultural departments; and this section of their report closed with the pregnant declaration that 'the steady application to agricultural problems of expert research is the crying necessity of the time.' Under the energetic rule of Lord Curzon, vigorous action followed on this report. The whole question of irrigation was examined by an expert Commission between 1901 and 1903; in 1904, the first Cooperative Credit Societies Act was passed into law; and in 1905 the expansion of the agricultural departments was definitely taken in hand. The Imperial Government provided funds on a scale not indeed adequate for all requirements, but liberal when judged by the thrifty traditions of Indian finance.
These developments came none too soon. Economic conditions were changing rapidly, and the peasant was getting left behind. A substantial rise had indeed been established in the prices of most food-grains; but the cost of labour and of cattle-power was also on the increase, and the problem of adjusting the work of a small holding to meet these novel conditions was too intricate to be left to the peasant, who needed for its solution all the help he could command. At the same time the consequences of India's participation in the commerce of the world were being demonstrated in practice. The cultivation of indigo was declining rapidly owing to the competition of the synthetic substitute, while the increasing imports of sugar threatened an even greater though less conspicuous item of the production of the country; and to many observers the future of the agricultural industry was becoming a cause for anxiety. While, however, the need for scientific assistance had increased in urgency, the
possibilities of supply were much greater than had been the case even a few years before. English institutions were now sending out a certain number of men who could rightly be called experts in the various departments of agricultural science, while recent advances in the science itself, such as the results of the study of soilbacteria and the re-discovery of the work of Mendel on heredity, had for the first time made it possible to attack various problems of the greatest practical importance with a reasonable prospect of success.
The constructive agricultural policy, the genesis of which has been sketched above, may be summarised in very few words. The object of the State is to secure that the cultivator shall have the freest scope for his energies, together with access on the easiest terms to such knowledge as he requires, and to the requisite supplies of all the factors of agricultural production. We need not enter into details regarding the elaborate departmental organisations which have been brought into existence to promote this policy; it is sufficient to say that at the present time, while much remains to be done, the claim can be fairly made that none of the larger agricultural interests of British India lies beyond the reach of expert consideration and assistance. British India, of course, is not the whole of India as represented in the maps, since more than one-third of the area of the country is included in the Native States, whose internal policy is settled by their own rulers. Some of the larger States possess agricultural and other departments of their own, more or less modelled on the lines followed in British India; and the arrangements in force tend to secure a certain amount of co-ordination between their work and that of the adjoining provinces. It is probable that the remainder of the States will gradually join in the effort for improvement, and that the extent of co-ordination will increase, until the claim which has been made above for British India becomes applicable in fact to the whole of the subcontinent. For the present, however, we are concerned only with that portion of India where the departments of the British Government carry on their operations. The departments which we have to take into account are, (1) the Irrigation Departments, which regulate the
supply of water from the larger sources; (2) the Cooperative Departments, which are charged with the promotion and regulation of credit and other forms of activity on co-operative lines; (3) the Civil Veterinary Departments, almost but not quite branches of the Agricultural Departments in each province, which have the medical and sanitary care of the animal population; and (4) the Agricultural Departments themselves. We propose to glance briefly at the results obtained by the first three, and then to consider the fourth in a little more detail.
The Irrigation Departments have charge of all the largest and most important supplies of surface-water in the country, including both the snow-fed rivers in the north, and those in the centre and south of which the flow has to be maintained by means of storage reservoirs. From these sources are maintained nearly 50,000 miles of artificial channels, which were used in the latest year for which figures are available) to irrigate an area aggregating nearly 18,000,000 acres, or substantially more than the total extent of Holland and Belgium taken together. The capital expenditure incurred on these works has been nearly 44,000,0001., and (taking productive and unproductive works together) the annual surplus income after paying expenses and interest amounts to over 1,500,0001. These figures speak for themselves, but it must not be supposed that they tell the whole story of irrigation in India. Over the greater part of the country the smaller sources of surface-water-minor rivers, streams and lakes-are utilised by the people as they think best; and this is true also of the underground sources which in the aggregate are almost the most important of all, supplying the innumerable wells which are the mainstay of much of the most profitable agriculture in the country. The area irrigated in British India from all these sources taken together exceeds 45,000,000 acres, two-fifths of which are watered by public supplies and three-fifths by works constructed by the people. At the present time the Irrigation Departments have nearly exhausted their programmes of large and remunerative works; and it is probable that, as time goes on, they will extend their operations gradually to many of the minor sources, while they are very far
from finality in matters such as economy of water, which are of the utmost importance to successful agriculture.
The Co-operative Movement in India * is distinguished by the fact that it owes its origin to State activity. In most countries where co-operation has established itself in agriculture, the pioneers have been private individuals, and at the outset the State has not always looked favourably on their undertaking; in India the pioneers—notably Nicholson in the south and Dupernex in the north-were officers of Government who were charged with the duty of studying the subject; and practically the whole of the existing organisation is the work of the Registrars of Societies, who are drawn from the ranks of the Indian Civil Service. But, while the movement owes its origin to State activity, it is very far indeed from being a creature of the State ; almost from the start it has exercised a powerful attraction outside official ranks, and no small part of the propaganda and detailed supervision has been voluntarily undertaken by Indians of culture and leisure, while the attitude of the peasants towards it, rising as it does with experience from indifference through chastened hopefulness to something very like enthusiasm, marks an epoch in the social history of the people. The movement was initiated with the definite object of providing capital for use in agriculture, thus striking at the greatest single obstacle to the improvement of the industry; and effort has been concentrated on the organisation of credit societies, which can borrow to meet their members' needs on the joint personal credit of the whole number. As the result of little more than ten years' work, the number of these societies now exceeds 16,000, with an aggregate membership of over three-quarters of a million and handling funds substantially in excess of 3,000,0001. sterling; and there appears to be no good reason why the organisation which has grown up so rapidly should not continue to expand till it embraces a substantial proportion of the 40,000,000 heads of peasant-families in the country.
The organisation of credit is not, however, the sole result of the co-operative movement. Experiments in co-operative production, sale, and purchase, and also in
* For a full account cf. 'Quarterly Review' for April 1916, No. 447.