10 NOVEMBER 1866, Page 9


LORD NARLLICS report on the famine in Ganjam, pub- lished on Friday, is one of the ablest papers which has ever reached England from the Indian Empire. His Lordship, it will be remembered, when once convinced that famine was impending, did not retreat to his Hill palace on the Neilgherries, but went himself among his people, stirring up the officials, consulting with the Zemindars, and pro- viding for the people. He found that the scarcity did not cover any vast population, only 240,000, and of these only 120,000 were suffering from actual starvation. Still, though only 3 per cent, of the number menaced in Bengal, Lord Napier thought that, being British subjects, he might as well save them, and like a skilful ruler he first brigaded the army of misery.

"The population may be divided into four categories :-1. The ryots. 2. The coolies, or people without land, engaged in rural labour. 3. The mendicant, vagrant, outcast, or criminal class. 4. The small traders and mechanics in the towns. Of these classes, the ryots are the most meritorious and the most to be pitied. They have suffered with great resignation and self-respect. The decency of their caste prevents them from appearing at the relief houses as sharers of pro- miscuous charity. The necessities of agricultural labour bind them to their holdings and homes, where it is difficult to search them out. There can be no doubt of the extremities of distress which they have endured and still endure. Some of the Ooryah cottages I have myself visited, where destitution and starvation might be seen in every pathetic and terrible form. The same story was told by the multitudes of persons gathering a precarious and unwholesome sustenance from half edible roots, berries, and leaves, of which Mr. Forbes, the collector, possesses a variety of specimens. The miserable condition of whole villages was attested by the emaciated appearance of their leading inhabitants, sent in numerous deputations to solicit help from the collector at Chetter- pore. The roads were full of wretched creatures prostrated on the earth. In many places I was pursued by clamorous crowds, which might be likened to flocks of skeletons or ghosts. To an unpractised European eye the distinction between the ryot in his ordinary garb, or ordinary nakedness, and the landless labourer is scarcely perceptible ; but there is no doubt that the substantial ryot, especially on Govern- ment lands, feels his social elevation as much as the farmer in England. It was pitiable to see the reduction and ruin of an industrious order of men, invested in primitive forms with all the duties and obligations of property, and to reflect that nothing less than a succession of prosperous seasons, combined with considerate usage on the part of the Revenue Department, can restore these people to physical vigour and material welfare. While the peasant farmer starves, his cattle thrive. Repeated showers had fallen in the country, and the forage was abundant. The Hindoo peasant will perish by hunger beside a fat bullock. The pre- scriptions of superstition, which appear cruel to the individual, are con- servative for the community ; and the preservation of the labouring cattle secures the power of cultivation, and the sources of future life and wealth. It may sound harsh and sad to say so, but in India it is more easy to replace a man than an ox. The chastisements of nature are rarely universal. There will still be some feature of consolation and promise. In the condition of the live stip*. I saw the attenuating circumstance' of the Ganjam famine. It was reported that the pastoral ryots, who would under no pressure kill their cows, drink the blood of their living goats, and reserve the animals for successive depletions.

"Mixed with the settled and industrious population of the Indian village, whose morals are not worse than those of any other people, and whose habits and actions are governed by inflexible social and religious laws, there exist vile and criminal castes or miscellaneous outcasts, objects of propitiation, aversion, and fear to the other inhabitants. A

numerous tribe of this sort reside in Ganjam, called Dundassis, who ail both hereditary thieves and hereditary detectives, levying in either quality contributions from the villagers. They do some menial ser- vices; they practise some casual industry in the jungles ; they live on carrion ; and do not scruple to eat the flesh of the sacred animal—in fact, they are apt to steal and kill him. The whole of these people seemed to fasten upon the relief houses, in part, no doubt, from desti- tution, but, in part, from their habits of idleness and mendicancy. They appeared in general the least emaciated of the miserable assemblage, offering a vexatious contrast to the labouring classes who sat beside, them, and to the ryots who stood afar off. I need scarcely add that the aged, infirm, deformed, and helpless persons who live in ordinary times by begging from door to door, the poorer parasites of the poor, had all recourse, under present circumstances, to the charity of the State."

The third class, the coolie or labourer, suffered more than all ; but he can emigrate, and could be drawn towards the rice depots. The first class could not be reached directly, but Lord Napier devised the means of relieving all, at least in some degree,—the peasants by remissions of taxation, by employment on public works, and by distributions of uncooked grain ; the coolies by hospital room, food, and medicine; and the wanderers by daily doles. Fourteen relief houses were established, and of these the Governor personally visited ten, a work of benevolence to which only those who know Ganjam can do adequate justice, the mere sight of their ruler stimulating both officials and people till one Zemindar maintained 2,000 tenants, refus- ingGovernment aid; till the soldiery of a native regiment actually organized a system of relief out of their own pay, an incident absolutely without a parallel. So efficacious were the means adopted, that on the 5th of October Lord Napier was enabled to report that "the number of persons of all classes receiving relief may be roughly stated at 25,000. Up to the time of my departure from the country about 1,600 persons were officially reported to have died of starvation. Many unknown wanderers have probably perished in the woods and byways. The deaths from debility and disease caused by insufficient nourish- ment have been numerous, but they will never be traced or re- corded." That number is certainly threefold the number officially reported, or say, including deaths after the Governor's depar- ture, 5,000 persons. Then, as 120,000, the number menaced in Ganjam, is to 6,000,000, the number in Orissa and the adjacent districts, so is 5,000 to the number certainly dead there of starvation. In other words, 250,000 is the lowest conceivable estimate of deaths from starvation in Orissa. But this low proportion was only secured in Ganjam, where the Governor did his duty in person, where he spent 40,000/., or 7s. 6d. a head for each man menaced with death, and where the famine was indefinitely less severe. In Orissa, where the Lieutenant-Governor did nothing personally, where the ex- penditure has not exceeded 4d. a head, and where inundation increased the severity of famine, it is neither wonderful nor improbable that half the population should have perished.

Lord Napier carries the secret commission as Viceroy always given in India since the mutinies, and the sooner it becomes a public one the better for our subjects. Had he, "the ignorant English Peer," as Indian civilians always describe a Governor not of their own sacred caste, been absolute ruler, and the " experienced " civilian the Governor of Madras, the 120,000- might have perished, but the two millions would unquestion- ably have been saved.