Speeches & Writings
IN supporting the following resolution of the eleventh Indian National Congresss held at Poona in 1895 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said:
That the congress is of opinion that the enquiry by the Expenditure Commission will not be satisfactory to the, people of this country, nor be of any practical advantage, to the Government, unless the lines of policy which regulate expenditure are enquired into, and unless facilities are afforded and arrangements made for receiving evident other than official and Anglo-Indian. And this Congress also feels that the enquiry would in all probability yield better result, if the proceedings were conducted with open doors.
Mr. President and brother delegates :-1t is a painful duty I come to perform in supporting the resolution which bas been moved by my friend Mr. Baikunthanath and which has been so well seconded by the last speaker. Gentlemen, when Her Majesty the Queen of England (Cheers.) assumed the direct government of this country, we rejoiced over the event, We rejoiced because we felt that we were taken in hand by the sovereign of a country which boasted of free institutions, the like of which did not exist in any other country. We rejoiced because we felt that, whatever might have been the events of the early days of British rule, from the moment Her Majesty adopted us as her own subjects all unpleasant recollections of the past were done away with, and we could claim to stand on an equal footing with our fellow-subjects of Great Britain and Ireland. (Cheers). We also rejoiced because we felt and believed that the English people, having fought their own constitutional battles through centuries and having got the principle of "government for the people" established firmly in their own land would not fail to see that the administration of this Country was conducted on the same principle, so as to improve the condition of the people in all material respects. I am sorry, however, to think, gentlemen, that our administrators-the bureaucracy which govern us, here and in England-compel us at times to doubt whether we were right in rejoicing at that event; and why? Because before He Majesty assumed the direct government of the country, more earnest attention was given to India affairs; there was a keener desire to see that n injustice was done which could be averted and that the interests of the people of India were properly protected and promoted,
than unfortunately often seems to be the case now. In the year 1773, when the East India Company applied for a renewal of their Charter, there was an enquiry by a Parliamentary committee into the administration of India by that Company. That enquiry was followed by another enquiry in the year 1793; and that was followed by similar enquiries every twenty years, until the Government of India passed from the company to the crown. Everyone of these enquiries led to important reforms, because it disclosed the defects which existed in the administration during the proceeding twenty years. Since Her Majesty has assumed the government of this country, no such enquiry has been held. (Shame.) We have long been crying for it, crying as hard as we could and as earnestly as we could, but I am sorry to say we have not yet been given that full and comprehensive enquiry into the administration of this country by Her Majesty's Government, which is essential to remove defects which exist in that administration, and to make those reforms which are needed in the interests of the people as well as of the Government. The necessity for such an enquiry has long been recognised. In the very first year of the Congress, then we met at Bombay, the first resolution passed related to the appointment of a Royal Commission to enquire into the administration of this country. In 1886 we had the satisfaction to note that a Royal Commission had been promised. I think Lord Randolph Churchill was then in office. There were words in the speech from the Throne which led us to hope that a Commission would be appointed. We expected it would be appointed. But years rolled away and no Commission was appointed. Our friends in Parliament tried, on every opportunity they could get to impress the necessity of such a Commission in Parliament, but unfortunately, they too did not succeed. And why did they not because it seems to me, gentlemen, to be a hard fact that the English people do not take that interest in our affairs which they take in their own. (Cheers) It seems to be a fact that they are too much occupied with their own affairs to be able to devote any attention to the proper consideration of the affairs of this country. But are not our English brethren, therefore, to blame in this matter? We have asked them to allow us to exercise the right of considering our own affairs; we have asked them to give us Legislative Councils, empowered to consider all those questions of domestic administration which, it is necessary in the interests of good Government, should be considered by the representatives of the people but they have refused to grant us those reforms. They have given us a nominal reform in the matter of these Councils, which notwithstanding all that may be said about it, leaves the Council as helpless as before so far as controlling the expenditure of the country is concerned. (Cheers.) Our Councils today are practically what they have been since their creation.
They only serve to delude the minds of the people into believing that they really have some voice in the administration of their affairs, which they have not (Cheers.)
Gentlemen, it is well to have the strength of a giant, but as Shakespeare says, it is tyrannous to use it as a giant. England has it fully in her power not to grant us anything we may ask for, but she should not abuse her power. What we say to her is this. If our request is a reasonable one, grant it; if is not, tell us why it is not reasonable. (Applause)
If you do not think us fit to govern ourselves, if you think we cannot understand our own finances, and say what we can and what we cannot spend Considering what our means are; if you think you better judges of it, pray devote a little time and attention to the consideration of these matters. If you cannot find time to do so, permit us, pray to do it. Why make us suffer by reason of your inability to attend to our concerns, and by preventing us from attending to them, from doing what we are most anxious to do, not only in our own interests but in the interests of the Government as well. (Cheers)
Gentlemen, 1 speak, I must confess, rather strongly, it may be, even bitterly, but that is because 1 feels so keenly on the subject. We believe that the existing administration is too costly for our people, that they are growing poorer and poorer under it. We that the expenditure should be reduced. We pray that a Commission may be appointed to inquire into the matter. Our prayer is not heeded; however, when much Pressure was brought to bear upon the Government, they appointed a Finance Committee, and instituted 8ccret inquiries into the condition of the people, during the time of Lord Differin. But they have never yet given us that comprehensive above-board inquiry into the whole administration, which we want, and which we believe to be essential for the betterment of our condition. Now, at last, when they have appointed a Commission. They would mar its usefulness by circumscribing the limits of its inquiry too narrowly. Why are we not satisfied with this Commission? First, because we are told it will inquire only into the propriety or otherwise of the expenditure incurred on our behalf, without inquiring into the lines of policy which necessitate it, and our ability to bear it. Secondly, because it is not coming out to take evidence here just fancy. When a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the question of retaining or not retaining the Oqium Revenue, that Commission came out to this country and took evidence. The Commissioners travelled from one part of India to the other, and that was only one item in the large account-sheet of the Government of India. But this expenditure Commission, which is to deal with the entire administration of Indian revenues, is to hold its sittings in London only! This Commission is not coming out to record any evidence in India! If anyone supposes that, under these circumstances, we can have, a fair and satisfactory inquiry, I must say I differ from him. I cannot understand how anyone could arrive at such a conclusion. Do you expect the people of India to travel in any large numbers to England to give evidence before the Commission, and would it be much use if a few of us went there to do so ? What would be the evidence of a few Indians, of however well informed they might be, before the large body of evidence which will be given before the Commission by retired Anglo-Indian officials. now living in England; who will, with a few honorable exceptions, endeavour to justify the prevailing policy and practice of the Government of India. Gentlemen, unless the Commission comes out to India, I feel satisfied that the result of its labours will prove more injurious than otherwise to the true interests of India. (Cheers) .
I suppose, gentlemen, you have heard of or read Mr. Fawcett's Parliamentary Committee which sat from 1871 to 1874 to consider the state of Indian Finances. That Committee recorded extremely valuable evidence. Two of our fellow-countrymen, one of them being no other than Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, (Loud Cheers.) and the other being Mr. Nowrozee Furdoonjee, appeared before the Committee and gave evidence. Among the other witnesses examined were some very able and renowned administrators of India, one of them being the late Lord Lawrence. The evidence they gave covered a large area. The facts, figures, and arguments they put forward. showed conclusively that it was extremely desirable to curtail Indian Expenditure; that it was extremely desirable to keep ourselves within the natural confines of the border of India; that it was extremely desirable not to enhance the taxation which even then was considered to be high, to meet the increasing expenditure, but to economies in all directions to secure the contentment of the people. All that evidence stands recorded. And I doubt if this Commission can obtain better, if not/even equally good, evidence now in England on these subjects. It ought to come out to examine witnesses in every Province and city of India, and to enquire from persons who have a direct personal knowledge of the matter, what the actual state of things here is, and how the administration, as at present carried on, is influencing the lives and happiness of the great mass of the population. If this is not done, the evidence which it will record in England, might serve, in a large measure, as a counterpoise to the evidence recorded by Mr. Fawcett's Committee, which is very favourable to the views of the party of reform here, and might be used to silence us, but it cannot afford materials for sound conclusions. If however, they want to find on simply whether the expenditure incurred is in itself not excessive, without any reference to the ability of the people of India to bear it, I must say I fail to see the wisdom of those who appointed the commission for such a purpose. Did you ever hear of anything more preposterous than this-that without inquiring into the ability of any particular individual or community to bear any given amount of expenditure, without any reference to his means, you, it enquire and decide that such and such expenditure is either proper or improper in the case of that individual or community? You cannot do it. That the Commission may be of any earthly use, and may entitle its recommendations to any weight in the minds of reasonable men, it must inquire into the capacity of the Indian people to bear the existing public expenditure-It must inquire whether their means permit of their having the civil and military services maintained at the present high scale of salaries. It must enquire and find out whether these services cannot be obtained at a cheaper rate, whether a larger employment of the children of the soil will not secure a great and s much-needed relief to the tax-paying community in India. Unless all this is done, no one should expect the Commission to be productive of any substantial good to the country. (Cheers.) (The President here touched the gong.)
I am afraid I have occupied too much of your time. (No, not) So I will close my remarks very briefly, (Cries of 'Go on!') I will not disobey the chair though I thank you for this kindly expression of your feeling. I will only say this now : I ask English gentlemen, I ask the people of England to seriously consider the position in which Indian is placed.
That position is simply this. Educated Indians, representing the cultured intelligence of the country, have been praying for an enquiry, a full and fair enquiry, into the administration of this country during the last forty years. We have impeached that administration on almost every conceivable ground. We charge the Government of England, with having saddled us with an unnecessarily costly expenditure on the Civil Service of India, we charge them with having forced upon us a crushingly heavy military expenditure. We charge them with indulging in a great waste of India's money beyond the borders of India; we charge them with want of fairness in their dealings with India in the matter of the Home Charges : nay, more, we charge them - the Government of India, the Government of England, and the people of England with them,-with being responsible by reason of their neglect to adequately perform their duty towards India, for the loss of millions of lives which are lost in every decade from starvation, largely the result of over-taxation and inefficient administration. (Cheers.) We charge the people of England because as some- one has said,
•• Hear him, ye senates, hear this truth sublime,
He who allows oppression shares the crime." (Loud Cheers.)
If the English Parliament, if the people of England, who have solemnly taken upon themselves the duty of governing India, by reason of their neglect to do that duty properly, allow any loss of life to occur in India which they could prevent, they are surely answerable before God and man for that loss of life. In the face of such an impeachment, does it become the great English people and the English Parliament to give us a lame Commission, to inquire imperfectly into one branch only of this administration? Would it not become them rather to stand up, like true English-men, and say: "We shall face all these various charges, and either prove them to be untrue, or admit that they are true and make amends for them." The charges are not of a light nature, nor are they lightly made and, if the English people do not care to inquire into them in the interests of their empire, if they care not to do so in the interests of suffering humanity, if they do it not even as a matter of duty, let them do it at least for the sake of England, which, I hope and trust. is still dear to every Englishman. (Loud and prolonged Cheers.)