The Resolution on the Condition of the Population The Pioneer, Thursday October 25, 1888, p. 1,
A perusal of the text of the Resolution upon the condition of the population more than confirms the opinions we had gathered from the telegraphic summary that it is one of the feeblest presentations of a great subject that was ever put forward by the Government of India, or by any other Government for that matter. It is not, however, absolutely devoid of interest.
The appendix, which contains a summary of the opinions of the Provincial Governments and district officers consulted on the state of the people under their immediate charge, is both interesting and valuable, and will doubtless supply the material for much future discussion upon the all-important subject with which it is concerned. But as far as its value can be destroyed, it has been, by the clumsy interposition of the writer of the Resolution between his authorities and the reader. No officer can take an unfavourable view of the circumstances of the masses without the officious Secretary coming forward to explain that he is a pessimist or otherwise untrustworthy: and on the other hand when anyone is inclined to take a more cheerful view we are obtrusively invited to pay special attention to his remarks.
To take an instance or two from these Provinces. Mr. A. Harington and Mr. H. C. Irwin are both ticketed as regarded by their own Government as pessimists: and Mr. Harington’s experience, it is added, “extends only to his own Province, in respect even to which his broad assertion must be qualified by other evidence.” The broad assertion is, of course, that the people suffer from insufficiency of food: but we were not aware that Mr. Harington’s experience only extended to Oudh. For a considerable time at any rate he was Collector of Saharanpur. Much is made of the fact that Mr. Irwin, the pessimist, “takes a more cheerful view of the situation: while Mr. Crooke, who considers the peasantry to be robust and apparently well fed, is an officer “whose peculiar knowledge of agricultural life lends a great value to his remarks.”
So in Madras the Collector of North Arcot “in a burst of rhetoric suggests that grinding poverty is the widespread condition of the masses,” while “great weight is attached by the Board and the Government to the opinion “of the Collector of Anantapur who says that the people are well nourished and of a strong physique.” We can at any rate vouch for it that the opinion of officers like Messrs. Harington and Irwin and Crooke will always have much more weight than any impertinent opinion which some foolish writer at headquarters chooses to express of them.
But, we wonder that even the compiler of this summary does not see that such childish cooking injures his own case. Even to an unprejudiced man it will suggest that the Government is endeavouring to show only one side of the case: while those who have an interest in taking the opposite will at once conclude that something is being kept back. Of still more importance in the long run is the suspicion which the unpleasant tenor of such a commentary suggests, that Indian Governments do not like to be told the truth by their best and most single-minded servants. We had hoped that this spirit had vanished from the administration with the good Lord Ripon; and it will be monstrous if an understrapper in the least of the Departments is allowed to be the means of reviving it.
Much, perhaps unrelated, worry, is expressed in two Pioneer leaders on Oct. 24 and 25 about: “the propaganda that is being spread throughout the country by the working party of the National Congress … How is Government to deal with this fever that has seized on the body politic? :
… the Bengalis, who are settled or employed in large numbers in the Provinces. They are the backbone of the Congress movement. In dealing with them no arguments are of any avail. Lord Dufferin personally appealed to them to moderate the tone of their Press. The consequence was they redoubled their vituperation …
If it be seen that proposals for the advancement of the people suffer rather than gain by being debated in the Congress, the Congress will very soon collapse like a soap-bubble. But if our statesmen stand with hands joined before a spurious public opinion, always giving in a little to popular clamour, the time is possibly not far distant when they will have to make way for the men of iron with the Commander-in-Chief at their head.
©The Pioneer 1888